Kids: Critical Thinking
We all know critical thinking is a very important skill.
We all know it matters both for our personal and professional lives.
But we’re also aware of the fact that critical thinking isn’t something acquired overnight.
In fact, it starts in childhood, and then it slowly builds up over the years, which begs the question: why aren’t we doing more to help children improve their critical thinking skills?
We asked ourselves the same question, and decided to do something about it. We sat down, did tons of research, gathered information and data, and prepared a very detailed course on critical thinking. And, of course, we wrote this article that explains everything you need to know on the subject, so we hope you’ll not only consider signing up your kid for our online critical thinking course, but also read what we have to say about the matter at hand too!
Feel free to read on!
The Importance of Critical Thinking for Children
In her book, Mind in the Making: The seven essential life skills every child needs, Ellen Galinsky, the author, focuses on the significance of teaching kids critical thinking skills. She explains that
A child’s natural curiosity helps lay the foundation for critical thinking. Critical thinking requires us to take in information, analyze it and make judgements about it, and that type of active engagement requires imagination and inquisitiveness. As children take in new information, they fill up a library of sorts within their brain. They have to think about how the new information fits in with what they already know, or if it changes any information we already hold to be true.
With that said, although “a child’s natural curiosity” is very valuable, and indeed helps them when pursuing their critical thinking endeavors, we shouldn’t rely only on that. In other words, we need to realize that children can accomplish so much more than what we sometimes allow them to (not that they don’t take initiative on their own though).
So, no matter how willing and determined a child may be, they may very well need a “boost” in the right direction. There are many ways to do so, so let’s go over some of them in the next section.
How To Instill Critical Thinking in Children?
Critical thinking and creativity are much more related than many initially believe. And if you still find it hard to believe, just think about this: kids (as well as adults) need both rational thinking and creative reasoning to lead a fulfilling life.
You can’t have one without the other. If you opt for one, you’re basically deciding on one extreme - either completely staying stuck in your mind without listening to your gut and imagination, or completely abandoning all logic, and simply doing what feels right in the moment.
We all need balance. Kids need it too.
So, children should learn how to analyze their problems and come up with potential solutions. They should be able to pick the most adequate solution, but use a refreshing approach when applying it. Children need to reevaluate whether they applied the solution in a proper manner, but be open for improvements, suggestions, and interventions in the future.
This is what a neat blend of both creativity (creative thinking) and critical thinking would look like.
Coloring books, painting, online quizzes, learning worksheets, extra materials, or even courses for children such as the ones we offer are all great ways to engage your kid in informal education.
And the best part? They’re working on their critical thinking skills without even being fully aware of it! In other words, they’re acquiring very significant skills without feeling as though they’re “studying” or doing anything serious. This is closely related to our next point too.
What better way to engage your kid than provide them with games? And we’re not talking about video games here, but games like chess, riddles, crosswords, and associations which are not only fun, but engaging too.
Of course, kids should feel free to play games they’re fond of. For instance, chess may be a great activity to stimulate logic, decision-making, patience, and critical thinking, however, if your child doesn’t resonate with it, there’s no point in forcing them to do it, so make sure to provide them with more options.
We can’t stress the importance of encouraging your kids to ask questions.
Of course, kids ask questions all the time, like when traveling somewhere and they keep on asking “Are we there yet?”, “Are we there yet?”, “Are we there yet?”.
While there’s nothing wrong with such questions (they’re still kids, after all), we wish to encourage kids to become deep thinkers. And deep thinkers ask deep questions.
This may intimidate some parents, though. They might think their kids could ask uncomfortable questions, such as where do babies come from, or why their friends have a new backpack each school year and they don’t, and so on. Truth is, sooner or later, each parent will face questions they may not be ready to answer, but attempting to handle them will not only help your kid make sense of the world, but it will help you grow as a parent too.
That said, you don’t have to have the answer to everything. And even conveying that to your kid will be enough. What matters is, however, to empower your kid not to give up when they wish to obtain an answer. And whether that answer comes from you or someone else (or even if your kid learns things on their own), it’s up to chance and also the level of commitment on their part.
Examples of Critical Thinking in Everyday Lives of Children
The process of education doesn’t encourage critical thinking in children on its own. It’s the components of an educational system which are key to pupils’ critical thinking development. These include the educators and the other employees within the school, all the way to the school program, teaching methods, and your kid’s classmates.
All of these combined can either boost a child’s critical thinking process, or not stimulate it enough so it develops further.
So, how can we identify what’s happening? Put simply, how can we know if our kid is going forward with their knowledge and skills, or they’re stagnating (or worse - going backwards)?
First of all, you don’t need to know everything your kid goes through at school to know if they’re making progress. You just need to know your child and their personality, and that will be more than enough in most cases.
Next, the thing with critical thinking and the process of education is this: critical thinking isn’t measurable or assessable as other skills or subjects are. For instance, you can see where a pupil stands with their history, geography, or English subject, to name a few, if you ask them to repeat what they’ve learned so far this semester, what they memorized from previous class, or by giving them a test (although it’s questionable how much standard testing can verify someone’s true knowledge, but that’s yet another separate subject).
In essence, you can quickly see and observe where a pupil is with a particular subject.
An uncommon view of critical thinking at school
However, critical thinking doesn’t fall in any of these categories. In other words, critical thinking asks parents to take a leap of faith in their pupils’ endeavors and school undertakings. Because they won’t see any overnight results.
But the good thing is that nourishing a pupil’s critical thinking skills at school and encouraging them to improve them will not only serve them while they’re at school, but in all other areas of their lives too.
That’s what makes critical thinking so special and valuable.
And critical thinking at school doesn’t only involve thinking as we know it - it’s more so about doing, exploring, re-discovering, evaluating, and understanding.
A common view of critical thinking at school
That said, we do believe in the “traditional”, or we should probably say commonly accepted view of critical thinking in school as well! In other words, we also believe in the good old critical thinking activities where:
- a teacher uses a book to ask deep and thought-provoking questions instead of asking pupils to summarize the book;
- language teachers ask pupils to write essays, do independent language research, and make parallels between their mother tongue and the foreign language they’re learning;
- educators invite pupils to challenge the books and the materials they read from;
- carefully prepared activities and various assignments are used to provide pupils with numerous opportunities to apply their critical thinking in any subject, and so on.
All in all, how successfully the process of critical thinking in education is being implemented depends not only on how receptive the pupils are, but also how inclined towards critical thinking the educators end up being.
How to approach this?
If you’re a parent:
- How do you feel about your child’s education? Do you think they have solid teachers, nice classmates, and proper school programs?
- Would you say the current education system encourages critical thinking? If yes, how can you tell?
- If you compare the current school system with the one you were part of, what can you conclude? Which one is a better system? Why?
- How do you perceive teachers? What exactly are their responsibilities apart from teaching? Do you feel they should go beyond their curriculum, materials, and books if that helps their educatees grow? Why? Why not? Who should decide about such matters?
- Do you think teachers put a focus on “active listening” in your kid’s classroom? Is this something that’s encouraged?
- Let’s say your child is facing a challenge at school. They struggle with a specific subject, have no idea how to get a better grade, study the material, and write their homework. And things just get worse as time goes by. How can you help your child express themselves much more freely and clearly when it comes to this subject? Also, should that subject’s teacher be involved in the process too? How can you make sure your child understands that even though they may dislike a particular subject, they’re not allowed to completely neglect it (of course, if this is something that you, as a parent, agree with)?
- Do you think your school helped you become a critical thinker? How so? Do you think today’s parents have the same expectations from the school system as they used to? Why? Why not?
- Almost every parent helped their kid with their reading practice (even at a preschool age). So, when you read with your kid, do you only focus on the act of reading, or do you try to engage your child a bit deeper? In other words, do you ask questions such as:
- Can you guess what may happen next? Why?
- Does this story remind you of anything from your own life? What is it?
- Have you ever read this story before? How about a similar one?
- What do you think: why does the princess react in this way? Is she going to talk to the prince?
- Do you think the frog in the story transforms into a prince? Does this sound real to you? Why? Why not?
- How is this story similar to the one we read yesterday? Which one do you prefer? Why?
- Do you think the owner treats their pet nicely in this book? Why? Why not? How should owners treat their pets? What would you do if you were the owner?
- What’s the moral of the story?
If you’re a child*:
- When you’re at school, do you take everything the teacher says as absolute truth? In essence, do you take it for granted without questioning it?
- Have you ever disagreed with some of your teachers about some school matters? If you have, what was it about? What exactly happened? How did your teacher(s) react? What did you say? Have you talked to your parents at home afterward? What was their reaction like?
- What do you think about the books and the materials you get at school? Do you like what you read? Do you ever try to find more information on your own, for instance, by using some reliable Internet sources or maybe even going to the library?
- Do you ever wonder if you will use the school material in your everyday life? If yes, how?
- How do you approach some of the subjects you find challenging? Do you give up or do you try to find a proper solution?
- Do you think your grades are a valid representation of your true knowledge and skills? Why? Why not?
- When you study at home, are you able to make a distinction between irrelevant information and important sections? If yes, how do you do it? If not, what seems to be the problem?
- Do you ever find yourself comparing teachers? For instance, your history teacher allows pupils to ask questions, explains information even outside the book, and isn’t afraid of admitting when they’re wrong; your geography teacher may never allow pupils to state their true opinion, and they always trust everything that’s already written in the book, and so on. What does this show you about your teachers’ teaching methods and behaviors?
- Do you think that your school can be much more modern when it comes to what subjects are being taught, what programs are adopted, and how pupils are assessed? If yes, in what way?
- Do your teachers ask you questions such as:
- Where did you read this?
- How can you be sure?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- What makes you think that?
- Would you hold the same view if you were on the opposite side?
- How can you resolve this problem? Can you do it on your own or do you need someone to help you?
- Do you agree with this?
- Why does this paragraph matter so much?
- Is this information significant in any way? If yes, in what way?
- Can you give me several examples?
- Do you have any arguments or facts to support your claims? If you have, what are they?
- Why is this actually a problem? Does it have a solution? What can we do to avoid this in the future?
- Can this cause any harm?
- Who can benefit from this?
- Who should make this decision?
- What would happen if __________?
- What would you say if someone ___________?
- What’s the point of ____________?
- Can you compare this with _________?
- What’s the other side of the argument?
- Can you find any evidence for this?
- Can you think of any similar situations?
- Is this acceptable? Why? Why not?
- Why did you say otherwise last time I asked you the same question?
* Yes, we invite your child to take part in reading these questions with you!
What time will I wake up in the morning? What time should I wake my kid up?
What am I having for lunch today? What are they having?
How do I ask for that promotion I want so badly? How was my kid’s day today? When is my mum coming for lunch? Should I buy the sneakers I’ve been eyeing for a while? Or perhaps I should buy my kid new ones instead?
No day passes without a decision needing to be made.
And you probably think - there’s no way my kid’s mind looks like this! But we can never be absolutely sure. And regardless of what their mind and thinking process may look like, they’re still there, and are very much relevant for their development.
And the earlier they become comfortable with making decisions, the easier they’ll slide through life (even when things get tough).
So, how can you, as a parent, help your kid become a critical thinker and a good decision maker? Well, there are plenty of ways.
Of course, we already outlined some of them in the How to Instill Critical Thinking in Children? section, but here we’ll add several others (which relate to the decision-making process).
First of all, when your kid tries to think about something or they’re trying to express themselves, don’t rush them, finish their sentences, and/or try to stop them without fully hearing them out. This will only make them distant and unsecure in their personal judgment.
Give them a chance to reflect on their thinking and decisions. Don’t overreact even if something troubles you. Allow them to understand some things in their own time and at their own pace. On the whole, don’t intervene right away if you see that there’s a challenge they’re faced with (of course, this doesn’t apply in more serious situations where you should intervene).
Ask them questions. Make them open-ended. Persuade them to think things further. By doing so, they’ll then do the same even when they’re alone. In other words, they’ll slowly learn that they need to engage in their own process of thinking before they make up their minds.
Help them interconnect things. Say things such as, “Last time you tried this, and it didn’t really work out. Why do you think things may be different this time?”, or “If you try a different approach, what do you think can happen?”.
Just try to encourage open-mindedness and thinking in some new and distinct ways. By doing this, you allow children to expand their possibilities and come up with solutions they never considered possible.
“And why is this so important?”, you may wonder. Well, according to PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), more than 1 in 6 students in the USA aren’t capable of solving critical thinking problems.
So, if you don’t wish your child to be that one student out of six when they grow up, you need to help them work on their decision making and problem solving skills while they’re growing up.
How to approach this?
If you’re a parent:
- How do you teach your child to make decisions?
- Do you let your kid make bad decisions at times? Why? Why not?
- What do you think: at what age should a child make their own medical decisions? Why?
- Should children be involved in the home’s decision making practice? Why? Why not?
- Is children’s participation significant in any way? Perhaps it allows their voices to be heard and their opinions to be acknowledged?
- How can you make sure you’re as objective as possible when it comes to your child and the decision you need to make on their behalf? Also, how can you ensure the children are unbiased toward themselves too?
- How important is adult support when a kid struggles with a specific problem/decision? Should this support always be there? Or perhaps leaving kids “on their own” at times might help them mature and become stronger individuals? Why? Why not?
- When you were a child, did you behave in the same manner as your child when it came to making decisions? For instance, if your child hates making decisions, did/do you also hate making them? Or if they’re a highly decisive individual, were you that way too?
- Do you respect your child’s decisions? Or perhaps you find them to still be quite immature and made in the spur of the moment?
- How can you help your child make decisions about matters they know nothing or very little about?
- Before your kid makes a decision, do you encourage them to think about
- what their gut feeling is telling them to do?
- maybe prolonging making this decision?
- whether they’re feeling fear or their intuition?
- whether this decision helps their future long-term goals?
- how committed they are to make those changes?
- Let’s imagine your kid needs to make a decision, and they ask for your help. Upon talking, you discover you completely disagree with their views, opinions, and thoughts. In essence, you think they’re going to make a bad decision, but it will be too late to repent afterward (there will be no going back with this decision). What would you do in this type of situation? How would you feel as a parent? Would you think of the worst case scenario? Why? Why not?
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, 10 the highest), how independent is your child when it comes to their decision making practices? If you believe they’re a 4, or a 5, how can you help them become much more independent?
If you’re a child*:
- Do your parents’ opinions matter when you’re making a decision? Why? Why not?
- Do you appreciate your parents’ advice? Can you think of the best advice they ever gave you? What was it about? Did you follow it?
- Have you ever strongly disagreed with something that your parents may have suggested? What happened?
- Do you talk to your friends about some of the decisions you’re supposed to make? And vice versa: do they talk to you about yours? Why? Why not? Do you mutually help each other? How much do you appreciate your friends’ opinions?
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest), how confident are you when it comes to making decisions? If you’re somewhere below 6 on the scale - how can you start feeling much more confident? Put simply, what changes do you need to make to feel more comfortable making decisions?
- What is the cost of making a bad decision?
- Do you always consult your parents before you decide on something? Why? Why not?
- Are you an indecisive person? On the whole, do you struggle with making decisions?
- Do you ever wonder how your decisions affect your parents, friends, grandparents, and the other people around you?
- Are there some decisions that you make in the wink of an eye and others that you just take your time with? If yes, why is that so?
- What’s the most serious decision you’ve ever made? What was it about? Did you consult others? What was the most difficult thing about it? Would you do anything differently if you could? If yes, what exactly would you change?
- When your parents give you money, do you usually spend all of it or do you manage to save some?
- When you go to a shop to buy something, does the shop assistant say the following things to you:
- “It looks really well on you.”
- “The color matches your eyes.”
- “All the other kids have it.”
- “It’s now on discount so you can ask your mom or dad to buy it for you.”
- In such situations, do you wonder if the person is:
- really competent in what they’re saying?
- saying the same things to all their customers?
- Before you buy something (or you ask your parents to buy it for you), do you ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Do I need this at the moment? How can I be sure?
- What changes is this product/service/thing going to make in my life?
- How much do I know about this brand/company? Where can I learn more?
- What are the pros and cons when it comes to buying this product/service/thing?
- Is buying it really worth it?
- Is there a cheaper alternative?
- Do I like the product or perhaps I like the product’s advertisement more?
- Can I ask my parents to buy me something much more meaningful than this? Why? Why not?
* same as above
Children learn about interpersonal relationships from the moment they’re born. They form a bond with their parents, their siblings, grandparents, (of course, this varies from person to person, as not everybody is born in the same conditions) and as they go through life, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, teachers, and partners are added to the mix.
However, having children form bonds and various different connections in life doesn’t necessarily mean they’re critical towards them. In other words, it doesn’t mean that each child is aware of the other person’s true intentions.
For example, if a child goes to school and a classmate keeps asking them about the new pen they got, wants to try using it, or they want to touch it, and so on, the owner of the pen may think that they simply have a nice pen and that their classmate is trying to pay them a compliment.
And while that may be true in some cases, in other cases this could be an example of a kid expressing their jealousy. What’s more, let’s imagine for the sake of our example that if the kid steals the other kid’s pen, if the “pen owner kid” didn’t realize the other child’s intentions, they may not even think it was them who had stolen it. In essence, they may be baffled as to where their pen might have gone.
Children approached by strangers
There are other tricky situations too. For instance, a stranger may approach your child on the street. And although you may have probably taught your child not to give their phone to strangers, walk away with strangers, accept gifts from strangers, and so on, you can never be sure they’re not going to be swayed by other people.
That said, kids should also learn to communicate with people they meet on a daily basis on their own terms. In other words, you won’t always be there with your kids, so part of each person’s individual development and interpersonal skills is to learn to interact with others independently. That doesn’t mean they’ll always be able to approach every situation critically though.
That’s why it matters for kids to remain inquisitive not only about the world itself, but other people too. In other words, they should understand people’s words, beliefs, various cultures, body language, facial expressions, and so on.
Addressing kids’ close relationships
However, critical thinking isn’t important ONLY in situations when we meet people for the first time. It matters even with our loved ones. Some even go so far to say that we need to be even more critical when we communicate with our close friends and family members than when we’re with people we don’t necessarily know that well.
This is so because we tend to be much more neutral and unbiased in the presence of acquaintances anyway. The opposite applies when we deal with our loved ones. This is, of course, because we add our affection, feelings, and biased thoughts in the mix. Put simply, we tend to comply much more easily with those we truly love and appreciate. After all, it’s only logical to conclude that
We are more likely to ignore faults and comply with wishes of our friends or lovers rather than random strangers. We favor people, products, and actions associated with our favorite celebrities. Sometimes we even distort facts to facilitate love. The influence that our friends, parents, lovers, and idols exert on us can be enormous.
And kids, of course, may not be aware of that on such a conscious level (yet). They may lack relevant life experience, are more naive than others, or are simply overprotected (by their parents). Whatever the case may be, it’s never too late to turn things around.
Finally, let’s not forget about one of the most important connections children are required to nurture - the connection to themselves. By exploring the world and remaining inquisitive about other people and the things that surround them, children not only learn how to connect with those, but they learn how to stay in tune with themselves too.
And if such accompaniments are considered magnificent in the adult world, can you imagine how much more special and appreciated they are when a child is able to master them?
How to approach this?
If you’re a parent:
- What’s the most significant thing to teach your child about interpersonal relationships? Why?
- Is a good marriage and a stable family prerequisite for a child to build solid connections with other people? Why? Why not? Are there any expectations?
- What should a child look for in a friendship? Is it just having fun, finding a person they can rely on later on in life, someone they can trust in, or is it something entirely different?
- What can children learn from people with “troubling” values and an “inverted moral system” (feel free to interpret this in a way that resonates with you as a parent)? Should they be near such people? Why? Why not? Can children really be “saved” from coming across such people?
- If you ever made a mistake as a parent, would you apologize to your child? Why? Why not?
- Has your kid ever said bad words to you and then refused to apologize? What did you say? How did you react? What was their reaction like? How was the issue resolved?
- Do you ever fight with your kid over household chores? Why? Who “wins” in the end?
- Do you feel you’ve made many sacrifices for your child’s happiness? Do you think they’ll be able to appreciate them once they grow up and understand more?
- How can a parent make sure their child will become a good parent once they grow up (of course, if they decide to form a family)? Or perhaps you feel that an individual who’s been brought up properly will automatically be a good parent?
- Do you talk about your parenting methods with your own kid? Why? Why not?
- Can you think of a specific moment or event which made you closer to your child? What was it about? What makes that moment/event so memorable?
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you’ve become a parent?
- What’s something you feel like you’re still in the process of learning? Why?
- Have you ever gotten mad at your kid? How long were you able to go without talking to them? How did you two eventually reconcile? What advice do you have to give your child regarding relationships?
- What’s the best advice you were given while growing up? Who gave it to you? Is it still relevant? Have you shared it with your own kid? What feedback did you get?
- Do you sometimes feel like you may be over protecting your child? For instance, you don’t want them to get their heart broken, be bullied, get into a fight, hear someone say mean things about them, and so on? How can a parent draw a fine line between when they should intervene and when should they allow their kids to learn the world in a harsher way?
If you’re a child*:
- Do you think the connections we form with people throughout our lives matter the most? Can people exist without forming any deep connections? Why? Why not?
- How many close friends do you have? Do you trust them? Do you think people can have a lot of best friends or such friends can only be a few? Why?
- Did you have an imaginary friend while you were growing up? If you did, what was your friend’s name? What did you two talk about? When did you stop “hanging out” with your imaginary friend? Did your parents know about it?
- How did you meet your current friends? Was it at school, sport activity, in your neighborhood, or somewhere else?
- Do you think your pet can be your best friend? Why? Why not?
- When you hang out with friends, are you the one to initiate things? For instance, if you’re sitting outside with your friends, and all of you want to eat an ice cream, do you suggest sitting in the nearest patisserie or do you wait for someone else to take the first step?
- How would you describe the relationship you have with your parents? Do you trust them with your secrets and problems? For instance, if someone bullies you at school, will you let them know? Also, if you’re the one who did something bad to someone else, will you be honest with them?
- How would you feel if you knew your best friend was lying to you about something? Would you confront them? Will you continue hanging out with them? Why? Why not? Is it okay to lie in certain situations? Also, will you tell your parents?
- What do you respect the most about your parents?
- Have you ever gotten into a fight with someone? What happened? How did you resolve the issue? Whose fault was it?
- Do you forgive people easily? Also, do others forgive you if you’re the one who’s made a mistake? What’s more, do you struggle to admit you may have made a mistake? Is it difficult for you to say “Sorry”? If it is, why is that so?
- Were you ever in a situation where you got mad at your parents and didn’t want to talk to them? If you were, what made you feel that way? Also, who was the one to break the ice and start communicating again?
- When your parents get old, are you willing to take care of them? Why? Why not?
- Do you wish to live far or near your relatives? Why?
- Would you like to be a parent once you grow up? Why? Why not?
- Do you have any siblings? If you have, are you close with them? If you’re not, why is that so? Do you think siblings love each other unconditionally although they might be fighting all the time? Is this your experience too?
* same as above
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my child is a critical thinker?
Your child is probably a great critical thinker if they:
- approach the process of learning with curiosity and an open mind;
- understand that sometimes there’s not a right or wrong answer;
- look for facts, arguments, and stats to support their ideas and claims;
- ask meaningful questions;
- are able to notice if someone’s not saying the truth or trying to manipulate them;
- want to be well-informed about a wide range of topics;
- are interested in hearing what others have to say, even if they don’t fully agree with them (they want to listen to various perspectives before they make up their minds);
- can defined their views, ideas, and thoughts with confidence;
- demonstrate mature thinking when it comes to solving complex issues;
- aren’t afraid to recognize they don’t know something or aren’t sure how to do/approach a specific situation;
- know when to ask for help and when to take matters into their own hands.
At what age does the process of critical thinking begin?
Much has been written about critical thinking development, and different experts come forward with different claims. That said, many believe that ages 5-9 is when the foundation for critical thinking is laid. And although these children may still be very young to engage in complex reasoning and deep thinking, it’s still a period when a lot of skills and mental models are being developed.
In order for a child to think critically, they need to focus on having basic reasoning skills (even more than just basic later on in life), work on their self-esteem and high self-confidence levels, emotional management skills, be able to distinguish between socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and so on. We have to mention the act of making informed decisions too.
Now, a lot of parents get caught up in following specific rules, and applying them once a child reaches a specific age. Or they “freak out” if they haven’t done something, and yet some guidebook suggested they should have helped the child achieve a specific skill by age 5, 6, or 8.
And while this most certainly applies for certain things in life, such as learning how to write, read, eat, and so on (and even these may vary from kid to kid), we can’t apply the same expectations for a skill such as critical thinking, maturity, emotional intelligence, and so on.
These are things that unravel a bit more organically in a child’s life. That said, we do have the power as parents to assist our kids in improving these skills and feeling much more confident in themselves.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Mokokoma Mokhonoana, a philosopher, social critic, graphic designer, poet, satirist, and a social critic, said: “Our books can know and remember for us, but cannot think for us.”
Whether the first part of the statement makes absolute sense (about our books being able to “know and remember to us”, may be up for debate, however, we can all agree that books definitely “cannot think for us.
But guess what? We don’t need them to.
We need books to trigger our inner-knowing.
We need books to stimulate outside-of-the-box thinking.
We need them to nurture our creativity, as well as question what it is we’re reading.
We need books that unleash our curiosity.
And our kids need them too!
That’s why we’ve prepared a detailed reading list for your children. The first part focuses on books that deal with critical thinking itself, whereas the second one provides books that prompt kids to think critically.
Books about critical thinking
- It's Okay to Ask: A Book to Promote Kids Critical Thinking!, by Temi Díaz
- Critical Thinking Activities for Kids: Fun and Challenging Games to Boost Brain Power, by Taylor Lang
- Teaching Kids to Think Critically: Effective Problem-Solving and Better Decisions, by Clifton Chadwick
- The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills, by Hans Bluedorn and Nathaniel Bluedorn
- Perfectly Logical!: Challenging Fun Brain Teasers and Logic Puzzles for Smart Kids, by Jenn Larson
- Growth Mindset Workbook for Kids: 55 Fun Activities to Think Creatively, Solve Problems, and Love Learning (Health and Wellness Workbooks for Kids), by Peyton Curley
- Logic Puzzles for Clever Kids: Fun Brain Games for Ages 4 & Up, by Molly Lynch
- Getting Beyond I Like the Book: Creating Space for Critical Literacy in K-6 Classrooms (Kids Insight Series), by Vivian Maria Vasquez, Michael R. Muise, Susan C. Adamson, Lee Heffernan, and David Chiola-Nakai
- Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers, by Carol Carter, and Maureen Breeze
Books to stimulate children to think critically
- The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires
- On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, by Jennifer Berne
- What To Do With a Box, by Jane Yolen
- What Do You Do with an Idea?, by Kobi Yamada
- Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty
- Learning to Fly, by Sebastian Meschenmoser
Has your kid perhaps already read some of them? Do you have other book suggestions that you believe deserve to be on the list(s)?
Do let us know! We always appreciate our readers’ reading input!
A Little Something for You Before You Go….
Yes, we love them and are always appreciative of them! Besides, what more can trigger your critical thinking skills than reading a good quote?
And yes, we do mean your critical skills! Of course, your kid is invited to join you, however, we wanted to make sure this article was engaging enough for you too!
We’ve basically included seven thought-provoking quotes to inspire you, but also to “tickle” your mind. We invite you to approach them with the three Cs: critically, creatively, and collaboratively (yes, although this is technically for you, we don’t mind you including your child into this).
So, onto the quotes!
- “Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”
How independent are you in your thinking practice? In other words, do you rely on your own reasoning and beliefs, or do you allow other people’s suggestions, advice, and thoughts to influence you? If you do, does it happen occasionally, frequently or always? Do you feel you “respect and use your own brains and instincts”? Why? Why not?
- “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”
Have you ever observed your own thinking? Put simply, is your brain usually running wild with random thoughts, or perhaps you have a much calmer mind and you need to take your time with making decisions? Which option do you think is better? Why? What about your child? Based on how they behave, what can you conclude about them and their thinking process?
- “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”
How can you teach your children to think for themselves? Also, do you think you should do it indirectly? In other words, do they need to feel like you’re trying to teach them something, or should it be more or less a spontaneous approach? Why? Why not? Do you talk with your child openly about matters you may disagree with? For instance, if they want to stay up late, but you think they should go to bed because they have school tomorrow, do you try to explain where you stand, invite them to discuss it with you, and provide argument for their own beliefs, or do you end things with “because I said so”, “no more discussion about this”, “it’s already been decided”?
- “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better.”
Is this an unnecessarily uncomplicated quote? What do you think? Can you say the same thing in a much clearer manner? If yes, how would you phrase it? That said, do you perhaps find the quote to be highly intellectual and clear the way it is? How so?
- “If we are not prepared to think for ourselves, and to make the effort to learn how to do this well, we will always be in danger of becoming slaves to the ideas and values of others due to our own ignorance.”
What’s Hughes’ main purpose with this quote? What is he trying to express here? Have you felt like a slave to other people’s ideas and values? If you have, when did it happen and what exactly happened? What did you learn from it? Is there any event in your life which taught you that you need to rely on your own judgment more rather than expect other people’s thoughts and advice to “save you”? With that said, when do you feel others’ suggestions and advice are welcomed?
- “You are not the sum of your Google searches, Amazon purchases, and Facebook likes. Your online activities should not define you as a person. But, increasingly, they do.”
How does this quote relate to what we’re trying to accomplish with the notion of critical thinking here? Do you think people use social media channels critically? Are they able to differentiate between real news and fake news on social media? Why? Why not? What are some of the challenges that come with using social media? How can we be more critical about it? Also, what do you teach your kid when it comes to using social media with proper discernment? Can a child’s naivete be abused on such platforms? If it can, how can this be prevented/resolved?
- “Critical thinking is often very uncomfortable, at least in my opinion. You have to reevaluate yourself, which means that, heaven forbid, you might be wrong sometimes. Most people don't like neutral. They want you to have an opinion. And I've always been of the mind that opinions are only useful if you're willing to change them very rapidly. I feel like the stronger your opinion, the weaker you should hold it.”
Why would critical thinking be uncomfortable? Do you think people have a problem with being wrong at times? Why is that? Perhaps because it affects their egos? Maybe because it affects their judgment? What do you think? Do you usually have strong views about things or are you much more flexible? Can you think of specific examples?
Mitta Xinindlu said: “Parenthood is a lesson on its own. But the best lessons in parenthood are from our children. Let's cherish them, appreciate them, and recognise their special roles in our lives.”
Yet sometimes we want to do so much more for our children than just show appreciation and recognition. In other words, we wish to see our kids become the best versions of themselves. And that’s something that can be done in countless ways, so we’re happy to say we provide our clients with one of “those ways”, which is informal education.
Through our courses, we hope to empower as many children as possible. More specifically, with this course about critical thinking, we aim at:
- helping children think critically about critical thinking itself;
- assisting kids with talking about their ideas, emotions, and thoughts in a meaningful manner;
- explaining what bias is, how to read in an objective manner, how to process information and understand where ideas come from;
- helping children make much more logical decisions;
- making kids understand the significance of validity, reliability, and the reason behind misinformation.
So, when is your kid joining us? :)
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