As the world evolves, so does our need to adapt. One of those adaptations is the development of critical thinking skills in children. According to a National Science Foundation survey, in America, only 29% of 4th graders can work on mathematical problems competently, and just under half are proficient in reading comprehension.
It concerns that so many children lack these crucial skills, but it's not too late for them to learn. On the contrary, many people think that critical thinking skills are something we can only develop as adults. However, this is not the case! We need to teach the kids how to question everything and believe what they find reliable.
If you would like your child to be a better thinker in the future, here, in this blog post, are five strategies for teaching them critical thinking skills.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking skills are simply the power to think critically, or "to look at things from many points of view, and to put them all together in some way and see what you can see."
Shortly put, it is a form of problem-solving with two primary characteristics.
First, it poses problems as questions that one answers by identifying and classifying elements that are relevant for a given purpose;
Second, it requires judgments about relevance and significance and an understanding of inherent constraints such as finite space and time. The goal is not necessarily just the correct answer but also an understanding that would provide insights into related issues or provide information about other possible solutions.
Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important For Kids?
Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, said, “Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching “the four Cs”—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. More broadly, they believe schools should downplay technical skills and emphasize general-purpose life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, learn new things, and preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.”
Doesn't this statement outline the importance of learning and imbibing critical thinking skills? Yes, it does.
Critical thinking skills are essential for kids because we live in a world that is constantly changing. The 21st century, coupled with the changing work environment, advancement in technology, sky-rocketing competition, and health epidemics, have raised the bar that humans must set for themselves. Therefore, a high level of critical thinking skills will help young leaders (children) keep up with these changes and make better decisions.
Consider an example of the environment: if someone told a child that littering was terrible but continues to throw garbage on the ground anyway, this child would likely run into problems.
A second student who knows about recycling would either never do such a thing despite not being forbidden from doing so or know enough about the current environmental situation around them not to litter at all.
Strategies For Teaching Critical Thinking Skills To Kids
1. Teach Them How To Ask Questions
The best way to help children develop critical thinking skills and learning dispositions is to teach them how to ask questions. Knowledge comes from asking so many types of questions on a wide variety of topics. It also includes answering the same kinds of questions by using knowledge from various sources.
For example, if you're presenting a theory in class and your students don't understand it, asking, "can we break this down into smaller steps?" or "what does that mean?" will help get their brains working.
Another way is to encourage people who have opinions to defend them and figure out the evidence for different points. If they ask correctly, they might learn something new themselves! There are even exercises, books through which you can improve critical thinking skills in kids.
2. Talk About Implications
Talking with kids about the what-ifs of life helps them better understand concepts and make decisions. Some strategies on how to speak to children include:
Knowing that they will always have new perspectives.
Being mindful of their age relative to development levels.
Not overwhelming them with too many details or leading questions.
Not preemptively defining good and bad solutions before a discussion has even taken place.
It is an ongoing process since more insights arise as children grow and develop.
It's also essential for parents to create a safe space where kids can candidly communicate about complex topics. The exercise builds relationships and fosters feelings of love in families. Parents should be mindful of the environment they are creating so that kids feel comfortable.
3. Encourage Project-based Learning
Project-based Learning significantly improves college readiness and helps prepare kids for a future in which they will think critically and make decisions on their behalf.
It offers many opportunities for children to be actively engaged in conceptualizing and solving complex problems. It requires a considerable time commitment and is challenging to teach to a large group of students who will ultimately need different challenges at different times. This kind of education progresses a student faster compared to traditional.
Projects can allow children an opportunity for cognitive stimulation beyond the confines of assigned work, promoting critical thinking skills outside textbook requirements - some professors say it's "the new reading comprehension."
4. Teach Design Thinking
For sure, a well-designed object looks aesthetically pleasing. Design thinking encourages lateral and innovative problem-solving instead of looking for specific solutions to existing problems. Children trained in design thinking are likely to learn the meta-skill of creativity, which can come in handy if they face a situation where they don't have a solution off the top of their heads.
Design thinking is different from creative inventions because it emphasizes solving a problem collaboratively with other people. Design thinkers learn techniques to solve unexpected issues by constantly thinking outside the box and redefining constraints or workarounds strategically around obstacles until they find possible solutions.
5. Assign Responsibilities
Assigning responsibilities to kids increases their critical thinking skills. Studies show that children who engage in regular household chores are more resourceful, more comfortable with risk-taking, and better problem solvers than those who don't do any work. And when adults give these tasks to kids each day without assistance from "grown-ups," it helps them develop decision-making skills for the future years they will be working on their own.
These conditions teach empathy and responsibility, an understanding of what it means to be selfless. Even though you care about yourself, someone else depends upon your actions. Teaching these values by asking children to care for a younger sibling or pet can positively affect other areas like communication.
Critical thinking skills are essential for kids to develop, but they can often be challenging to teach. The five strategies we've shared in this blog should help you better understand how children think and what methods work best to increase their critical thinking abilities.
If you want more information on the importance of developing these skills or need help figuring out which strategy will be most effective with your child, contact our team today!
We have experts specialized in teaching and training who would love to chat with you about increasing your child's critical thinking skills at home or school. You can also surf our webpage to explore our offerings to kids.
What is one thing that has helped you improve your children's critical-thinking skills? Tell us in the comment section below!