Critical thinking skills are one of the most important traits parents and teachers can help children develop for the future. The ability to compare, contrast, analyze, and make inferences will help children learn and develop more in the long run than simply being able to recite a list of facts from memory.
Developing critical thinking skills can begin with preschool aged children and continue through high school. The following tips can help you improve your child’s critical thinking skills.
Provide opportunities for play. While play is often emphasized in early childhood education, play sometimes falls by the wayside after children enter school. Provide ample opportunities for play; play allows children to try something, see the reaction, and then try again. Even young babies are beginning to develop critical thinking skills when they drop a spoon over the side of their high chair over and over!
Develop hypothesis. A simple “What do you think will happen next?” can help children pause and reflect on the information they already have and use this to predict what will happen next. An especially important skill in reading comprehension, making a hypothesis can be used in everyday life when cooking, playing a game, or even when watching a television show or movie.
Avoid immediately intervening. When our children are in trouble, our first instinct as parents is often to step in and fix things for them. However, it is important to give our children the opportunity to attempt to solve the problems on their own. For younger children, patience is key; for older children, provide enough guidance or information for them to avoid frustration without directly solving the problem for them.
Create and solve riddles. Riddles may seem like play, but they are actually a fun way to practice critical thinking skills. By analyzing the information, children learn to look deeper into what is written and think about what they have read. Writing their own riddles can be a fun and silly way to further practice these skills.
Ask open-ended questions. Instead of directly answering a question, help develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions in return. “What do you think is happening?” or “What ideas do you have?” can open a discussion and help your child express their own ideas. Likewise, instead of immediately telling them they are right or wrong, encourage them to explain their own thinking by asking questions such as “Why do you think that?”