Critical thinking comprises a number of different skills that help us learn to make decisions. It is the ability to evaluate information to determine whether it is right or wrong.
As children grow, their critical thinking skills will help them make judgments independently of parents. At Tinkergarden STEM Discovery Centre we are constantly working on improving critical thinking skills in the children who spend time with us, what we have found is that the basis for these skills begin now at this young age.
Recently I was engaged in a discussion about critical thinking skills in adults in Trinidad and Tobago. The point was raised that most times adults come into the work place and they cannot work through simple scenarios and think critically to make adjustments and solve problems. It appears that we were schooled in the art of regurgitating information from the moment we enter primary school all the way to university and this is now having a negative impact in the workplace and by extension our country.
As a parent, it is important to help your child develop these skills to be successful and reach their highest potential. Even when they enter primary school, they should be encouraged and allowed to ask the teacher “why” and be allowed to have a different expression or view on a topic and be encouraged to explore and test their theory without being told that “this is it and there is no other way” or “Just put the answer that is in the text book if you want a good grade”.
Parents and facilitators of the education experience must teach children to be smart and precise when thinking through everyday problems and scenarios. Allow them to think outside of the box, to try and fail and try again. Let them invent, take apart, redesign and be an out of the box thinker.
At Tinkergarden STEM Discovery Centre we offer programs even from the infant program to facilitate critical thinking skills. In our classrooms the kids understand the importance of being independent. Basic actions such as pushing in their chairs, solving playground struggles all helps in the development of critical thinking skills. We also took that approach in our Saturday Kids Tinkering Studio, STEM sessions for children to tinker and figure out how things work, to find solutions to their design challenges and it is so amazing to see them work together to solve a challenge!
We have a few suggestions for helping your child develop critical thinking skills and push them toward finding answers for many everyday situations on their own.
Read to your child
Stories open your child’s imagination and are a wonderful tool to teach about chronological order of events, characters, morals and much more. When you read, ask them questions about the story and the characters. The more you can engage your child into reading and answering your questions, the more they can develop their own critical thinking skills.
2. Encourage questions
It can be exhausting to answer a million daily questions from your inquisitive child. However, these questions show that your child is thinking about the world they live in. It is important to take the time to answer these questions and not push them aside. On a daily bases Julie and I are flooded with questions and sometimes we have to stop, listen and smile when we hear some of the facinating questions these little minds come up with.
3. Help your child research
If your child is thinking and asking questions, teach them how to find answers on their own. Learning how to research thoroughly is a valuable skill that can develop critical thinking skills. It can create new questions, new thoughts and new ideas. There are also numerous resources you and your children can use to research. The Internet, books, even asking grand mom can be a great way for them to figure things out. Take the time to do the research with them and not just answer off the bat.
4. Let your child be independent
Those of you who know me at Tinkergarden know that this is my mantra! If you want your children to think on their own, you can’t do everything for them. Children must learn to be independent. If not, they will try to take the shortcut and lean on others and you to solve problems for them. You can help your children be independent by providing chores, encourage them to sit down and do their projects with minimal help from you, establishing rules and consequences when those rules are broken.
By being a parent who opens the bags, lifts them up even though they can walk, pick up their toys when they can, you can damage the success of your child without even realizing it.
Keep working with your young explorers and fan their curiosity of the world in which they live.