Critical thinking refers to mental processes by which people use reason to solve problems and make decisions. What makes this thinking more “critical” than others is that it is a form of reasoning that looks at the validity, usefulness, and reliability of the information you have available at a given moment. It also involves the ability to recognize the fallacies in arguments and conclusions expressed in arguments.
Critical thinking is one of the essential skills that today’s kids will need for the future. In today’s highly technically advanced world, kids need to be able to do much more than repeating a list of facts. They need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers who can make sense of information, make inferences, compare, and contrast. It also includes being able to think independently and not take what others say as correct. It is a skill that can boost your child’s self-confidence and grow into adults who can succeed in whatever they do.
Before exploring the ways and strategies parents can use to nurture critical thinking for kids, it is essential to know what critical thinking entails and how it helps your kids grow into successful and responsible adults.
Why is Critical Thinking so Important?
Put it this way, it is the ability to rationally and clearly about a complex idea or topic and analyzes it in a way that helps a person solve problems. Deep analysis of a problem is key to success in our careers, as it allows us to move forward with solutions to our everyday problems. Without this skill, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t be able to solve crimes, and researchers and doctors wouldn’t be able to make different cures and therapies for common and chronic illnesses. Thus, critical thinking is essential to all of us.
When and How Does Critical Thinking Starts to Develop?
Critical thinking skills do not just magically appear at 12 years of age. Like teaching practical life skills, critical thinking should start early on so that these concepts will stick in their minds. In addition, children will have in-depth critical thinking skills if exposed to various ways of thinking while growing up.
One way to develop this skill is by exposing kids to different perspectives, questions, and different ideas on a topic by talking about them with their parents and other adults in the house. The other effective way is by exposing them to different engaging activities that help to enhance their critical thinking. Below are some of the most efficient activities you can introduce to your kids.
Engaging Activities to Nurture Critical Thinking Skills in Preschoolers
1. Real World Problem Pretend Play
Pretend play is an excellent way to develop a child’s critical thinking skills. It helps the kids learn about various aspects of a situation, problem, conflict, or other issues. For example, introduce your kid to a real-life problem like water scarcity and ask them to solve the problem independently. Then they will have to create and assess the idea of building a well to solve the issue. It will help kids develop their critical thinking skills to brainstorm, analyze, and make decisions based on facts and reason.
2. Inculcate Creativity
A creative day can help kids improve their critical thinking skills. It is a day in which children will be given a list of ideas and activities to achieve their goals. Activities that are related to the topic of the week or projects that are related to school. For example, if your child wants to learn about outer space, then they can make a craft about it in class or create several ideas for an art project during the week.
3. Teach Cause and Effect
One way of developing critical thinking is to show kids how causes lead to effects. This way, the kids will learn how different factors influence a single situation or issue and how important it is to consider each factor when analyzing. For instance, if a tree falls on your house and knocks your roof off, they should evaluate the factors that led to this effect. It will teach them that the wind blew too hard or too much rain, so the tree fell due to these factors. Making sense of different events in their lives using cause and effect helps them develop their critical thinking skills.
4. Encourage Thinking
Encourage your kid to think of answers to their questions. If they ask you a question, try to guide them to find the answers on their own. You can give them hints about where to look for the answers, like using the internet or asking other adults, but you should let them learn to formulate an answer independently. This way, they will be more inclined to think of answers and develop their critical thinking skills.
5. Allow Them to Hypothesize
Ask your kids to create hypotheses about what will happen. Then ask them to assess how likely it is that their hypothesis is correct. This way, they can think of possibilities and learn how to develop a strong hypothesis using facts. It also involves testing their hypothesis and coming up with a logical conclusion based on the results. A hypothesis is created when there is a need for solving a problem based on evidence or observation. For example, if children want to know what will happen if they don’t brush their teeth for one week, they can hypothesize that the effects of not brushing their teeth for one week will be harmful because they might get a bad breath or tooth decay.
6. Improve Memory and Observation Skills
Having good memory and observation skills is essential for all kids, but these skills are effective tools for developing critical thinking skills. For example, if you give your child a list of different items, ask them to find the item you’re looking for. It will help your kid improve their memory. Or, if you want them to develop their observation skills, tell them about the things around your house and ask them what color they are and how they are different from each other. They should be able to use their observed skills on various objects like toys, and it will also help them determine what colors match best with each other.
7. Let them Play Games
Boredom leads kids to lose interest, but fun can help them cultivate critical thinking skills. Keep your child entertained with various games and activities that stimulate their mind and help them develop good motor skills and problem-solving abilities. For example, your kids can play brain teasers, a logic game called connect four, or a word search and imagination gameplay like Hide and Seek. These games help children increase their concentration span and focus. Thus, improve their thinking abilities.
8. Board Games
Board games are excellent ways to help kids develop critical thinking skills because they make decisions based on different factors. For example, they will have to use their analytical skills to determine where they will move next and the probability of winning the game. Then, they have to reach their final destination by rolling the dice and making decisions based on different factors like the number on the dice and its relation to their surroundings.
Reading is an excellent way of improving critical thinking skills in kids, especially if they want to become writers one day or become good at writing essays. Reading different kinds of books will help them with their reading and writing skills and improve their critical thinking abilities and logical thinking.
10. Use Question and Answer
Different kinds of questions can help kids develop their critical thinking skills. For example, ask them questions like “Why is it so?” or “What do you think will happen if…?” to get them to think about the situation. Then, when they answer, ask them to explain how they got to that point and see if they understand the situation. If not, ask them why they do not understand a particular situation.
Critical thinking skills improve when children are taught to see the world around them with different perspectives and make better decisions by considering the various possibilities.