Teaching children critical thinking skills will help them immensely later on in life as they learn to navigate adulthood. Unfortunately, many schools don’t emphasize critical thinking, focusing their curriculums instead of memorizing, and stating facts or data. Schools often fail to teach children the vital skills they need to thrive as adults. Therefore, it falls on the parents to pick up the slack.
According to The Foundation for Critical Thinking, a non-profit organization, critical thinking is “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
In other words, it involves analyzing and interpreting data and information to come to a judgment or opinion. As children learn various critical thinking skills, it will help them make more informed decisions later on in life.
Below, we’ll go over some essential critical thinking skills that parents should teach their children, as well as various ways to incorporate the teachings in children’s lives.
Here are six critical thinking skills all parents should teach their kids:
Compare and contrast
This skill involves looking at similarities and differences in two objects, systems, events, processes, or subjects, to identify relevant factors for comparison. Children need to learn this critical thinking skill so they can understand how smaller pieces of a system relate to the whole.
Most children use this skill every day when they compare and contrast menu items at lunch, choose a game to play after school or pick an outfit to wear. Parents can easily teach their children this skill in the following ways:
- Venn diagram. This aid is perhaps one of the best tools for teaching this skill. The teaching aid allows kids to list differences between two objects, with the similarities overlapping in the middle. An excellent visual tool, the Venn diagram, will enable children to learn how to categorize things. Thus, they will understand what makes them similar or different.
- This method teaches children quantitative skills while also allowing them to conclude from the graphs. Parents can choose a simple set of data, such as their kid’s favorite ice creams and how many times they’ve eaten them over the past month. A bar graph will help them see differences in the data and understand how to organize it. Education.com offers fun games for children to learn the essential compare and contrasting skills.
- Compare and contrast cards. You could use flashcards to get children to compare and contrast two different ideas or objects. For example, you could write down two different professions, foods, animals, or sports, and ask them to list what makes the two alike and different. You can expand this into specific subjects such as books they’ve read or history facts so your children can learn to use their critical thinking skills effectively.
Explain why things happen
After children have learned how to compare and contrast different data, they need to understand why things occur as they do. You can apply this to practically anything, such as asking your kids why the sky is blue or why they have a nose, eyes, or ears. It may sound silly, but the point is to spark their curiosity about the world around them.
As children naturally have an inquisitive nature, you might have already noticed that they ask a million questions about the littlest things. Encourage them to do this regularly so they can draw conclusions about the world around them and expand upon their knowledge of the world.
Analyze ideas and form an opinion
After they’ve asked questions and tried to understand what makes things alike and different, children should learn how to take this knowledge and formulate an opinion. You can ask them questions such as why they like a particular food better than another or what makes a sport harder to play than another. Choose simple topics that they come into contact with every day to make it easier for them.
Understand others’ viewpoints
Another essential part of critical thinking, children need to learn how to listen to and learn from other people’s opinions as well. In parenting, you’ll want to make sure your children have a well-rounded view of the world and can easily relate to other people. Part of this involves teaching them to consider other people’s thoughts and feelings and that everyone perceives the world in different ways.
You can do this by asking your child questions about characters in a book, such as “How do you think he/she feels about what happened?” or “What do you think he’s thinking/feeling right now?” This will get them in the habit of paying attention to others and including them in their views and opinions.
Make predictions for the future.
Part of parenting involves teaching children how to predict future events based on present circumstances. This critical thinking skill will help children to analyze situations and make better decisions in the future. You can start small by asking them to predict what will happen in a book they’re reading, or how a show they’re watching will end.
Think of creative solutions
Children use critical thinking skills to essentially come up with a solution to a perceived problem. In life, they’ll learn that every day comes with a new set of problems, but critical thinking skills will help solve them much easier.
For example, you could ask them to come up with solutions to simple problems that come up in daily life, such as how they can remember to take their lunch to school every day. They might say they can write a note before bed and stick it to the fridge. Or, they might get up earlier and help pack it in the morning before school.
Problem-solving, researchers say, helps students improve mental health and tackle problems head-on rather than avoiding them. Studies have shown that children who don’t have problem-solving skills have a higher risk of developing depression. So, make sure to keep your kid’s mind stimulated by asking them to solve problems regularly; this will strengthen their critical thinking skills immensely.
Other ways to teach critical thinking skills to your children
According to Walden University, here are a few more ways to engage your children in critical thinking:
- Ask them questions. Part of parenting involves getting your children to think by asking them questions throughout the day. Make it fun and allow them to use creativity in their thinking process. Also, make sure to reinforce new skills by asking follow-up questions to make sure they’ve absorbed the information.
- Get them to make decisions. With your guidance, of course, let your children make more decisions to teach them independence. Your parenting shouldn’t smother your kids nor give them too much freedom, but give them gentle guidance. Let them make relatively easy decisions. These choices can be what they want in their lunch or play board games with them, where they can see how their decisions influence reality.
- Get them to work in groups. Children learn best from experience, and part of growing up involves working with others in a constructive manner. Set up playdates with other kids. This socializing helps your child learn how to get along well with others. And this knowledge will take them far in life.
- Incorporate different viewpoints. As we stated above, children need to learn that situations can have many different approaches and answers. Teach them to see things from different perspectives, so they become flexible and open to new ideas. This will help teach them empathy and compassion as they consider others’ viewpoints as well.
- Support their creative side. Make sure you expose them to the arts of some sort so they can develop their creative skills. In general, allow your children the freedom to explore interests, such as music, drawing, writing, or whatever else they seem to enjoy. Children naturally want to learn new things, and creative pursuits can serve as a healthy outlet for them.
- Teach them to brainstorm. If a problem comes up, show them how to brainstorm for solutions. They can use other critical thinking skills, such as comparing and contrasting and making predictions. This skillset helps to find answers to difficult problems.
As you can see, critical thinking helps children grow and learn in numerous ways. They need to know not just to think, but how to think. Memorizing and spouting out facts or answers to math problems will get them to pass tests. However, it won’t help them understand and introspect about the world around them. Make sure as a parent to spend time with your child in truly developing their thinking skills. This interaction will provide them with a solid foundation for the future.