Must-have skill for children #14: critical thinking

“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart;
intelligence is not information alone but also judgment,
the manner in which information is collected and used.”
– Carl Sagan

Critical thinking is beyond learning facts and finding the right answer. It is the ability to analyze and understand various concepts and issues, and it is a must-have skill for children. They will use it to complete everyday tasks as adults, move up in their careers, solve problems, and make decisions big or small. Unfortunately, there may not be a direct focus on critical thinking in a traditional school setting, so it is up to you to make sure your child hones this skill and makes the best of their thinking capability.

There are many ways that kids can practice their critical thinking skill, which is really made up of multiple smaller skills. These include analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, and problem solving. When your child faces a problem, they should approach it with an open mind. This means exploring all possibilities, accepting that there may be more than one answer, asking questions, practicing trial and error, and making sure they tackle any assumptions that are blocking them from an understanding.

However, all children could use assistance. Parents or guardians can help them exercise their critical thinking skills in a variety of ways.

Ask the Right Questions

There are a lot of different questions you could ask your child to foster critical thinking. One type is the open-ended question, which teaches them that there isn’t always one answer or solution. This also prods them to think outside the box and provide an answer that is not a simple yes or no.

You can ask for thoughts, opinions, and clarification, too. When a child tries to explain something, like what they think or how they feel about a topic, they have to exercise their rational thinking to convey ideas in a way the other person can understand. Talking it out also allows them to clear up any confusions they may have.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes, less is more when it comes to parenting. Whether you’re asking them questions or helping your child with schoolwork, avoid pushing one specific method or answer. Instead, allow room for experimentation and healthy debate. Experimentation allows your child to reach their own conclusions in their unique ways, which is an exercise in critical thinking.

As for healthy debates, be open to your child disagreeing with you. It can also help to not intervene right away when siblings are arguing but to guide them toward a resolution using sound reasoning. Make sure to give your child the space and opportunity to resolve their issues and solve problems on their own.

Promote a Healthy Curiosity

Another important point is to encourage their inquisitiveness, so they seek answers and ponder concepts on their own. This is a great opportunity to put previous tips into effect. For example, when they ask “Why?” you can respond with an open-ended question that encourages them to look for the answer themselves as well as seek more questions.

Another example is when they seem interested in a particular topic. You can step back, giving them the full reigns to explore it all on their own instead of telling them what you know. Their curiosity will drive them toward independent, lifelong learning, which goes hand in hand with critical thinking.

Provide Mental Exercises

Introduce logic practices into their daily life through puzzles, games, and brain teasers. Chess is the archetypal logic game, but there are many others like checkers, Chinese checkers, and Go, all of which challenge the player to predict movements and strategize. This is why learning from gameplay is another must-have skill for children!

Then, there are activities like Sudoku, rebus puzzles, mystery nights, and Escape Rooms. Another fun way to work on critical thinking is to build something together, like a robot or treehouse. There is no limit to how your child can apply their critical thinking skills.

For added help, look to none other than JEI Learning Center, which recognizes the importance of improving the overall cognitive abilities of our students. That’s why we have created unique programs like JEI Problem Solving Math and Brain Safari that challenge students to think outside of the box to solve the problems they face. Additionally, we share weekly brain teasers and host events and critical thinking workshops. We focus on how your child arrives at an answer and encourage creative thinking, fostering an eagerness to learn like no other learning center!

Find a center near you and ask them about how these programs will boost your child’s critical thinking skills and motivation to learn.