The importance of teaching critical thinking to children

teaching critical thinking to children

Could it possibly be? Are we actually teaching children to be stupid these day? As shocking as this might sound, this is the opinion of tutor Eliza Abioye (PhD) who created a workbook which specifically focuses on critical thinking – “1, 2, think! -aimed at children who are six years and older, as she believes youngsters are currently taught the ability to think critically far too late in life – potentially damaging their potential to learn. In this Q&A, I find out more about the importance of teaching critical thinking to children, and how we can get things back on track:

What is the importance of teaching critical thinking to young children?

Critical thinking grows the minds of children and in this rapidly changing world where there is a plethora of both useful and irrelevant information, children need to be able to do more than remember fun facts. They have to have a very strong critical mind-set to be able to analyse information and distinguish facts from truth. The earlier that foundation is built the earlier children can make sense of information through thorough analysis and high-level thinking. There has been evidence to show that children that had an early start in cultivating critical thinking skills have a higher performance in schools, they are more creative and are better at making good judgements independent of guardians or parents.

Why has teaching critical thinking fallen to the wayside in recent years?

There are quite a number of reasons but I will mention few. First, there is usually not enough room to actively teach critical thinking in schools because educators have a standard curriculum that they have to teach and school administrators have to ensure that this is successfully carried out. There have even been debates on whether critical thinking should be included in curriculums or be learned through social integration. Some parents and even some educators also struggle to understand the concept of critical thinking enough to translate it into something that can be taught.

What are the cornerstones in the development of critical thinking?

The main ones would be a free thought process and the ability to be inquisitive. Also, to be able to analyse information, break information down into smaller components, think through them and understand how they fit together. Finally, I will say encouraging children to not be too quick to provide answers when a question is being asked so that they can explore possible solutions.

What are your top tips for teaching critical thinking?

I suggest engaging children in thinking routines; a series of questions or scenarios that require deep thinking and provide room for explorative and creative analysis. Also, requesting as much accuracy as possible from children can allow them to take a step back to do their own research before providing an answer. Another tip is to slow down the pace when asking questions. Give more time for the child to think things through instead of being under the pressure of having to answer questions speedily. Asking “why” so many times has been proven to also help with critical thinking. At each why, children are faced with the challenge to justify their answers and then find ways to overcome that challenge.

What changes do you think need to happen so that critical thinking is prioritized?

I think the first step will be increasing its awareness and I don’t only mean what critical thinking means but to really understand its importance and how crucial it is in developing a sound thought process in children as well as the different ways it can be taught. The next step will be to find a way to formally introduce critical thinking into the curriculum so that they can be enough time to cover the curriculum while also providing room to teach critical thinking.

How can parents support critical thinking at home and in every day life in our children?

As simples as this might sound, the first thing I will suggest is to make the best use of play sessions. Play sessions can be very instrumental in improving critical thinking in kids. Parents can use this opportunity to put their children in informal and “unguarded” situations where children can explore creatively. Through this, children can examine situations and understand the principle of cause and effect. For instance how can I build a tall tower so it doesn’t fall?

Another way is to use resources such as books that are focused on critical thinking. They are mostly written in ways that make it a fun process for children to analyse information. These books usually contain instructions or exercises that are deliberately designed to for thorough and high-level thinking. An example is my 1,2, think! book that contains 70 questions that require high-level thinking to analyse thought-provoking situations. Some other books even have open ended stories where children are instructed to provide a conclusion to a story.

Even in day to day activities, parents can help children cultivate their critical thinking skills by constructively questioning their opinions; asking them why they think a certain way or what other ways could they have thought about any particular situation.

If there is only one thing you could say about the importance of critical thinking in children it would be?

Critical thinking minimizes the chances of children being brainwashed by what they are told, what they see on TV or even what they read. They can be able to differentiate the truth from hearsay. Through this, children can explore their minds at a deeper level and develop the courage to think for themselves.

Anything else you would like to add?

Teaching critical thinking is actually easier to teach than perceived and children should be deliberately propelled to cultivate this skill.

1, 2, think is available to purchase from Amazon here

The importance of teaching critical thinking to children

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