If there’s anything else we need to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic other than how to maintain good hygiene, is how to guard against the other ‘pandemic’ we see online – the surge of misinformation, biased opinions disguised as ‘news’, and outright fake news. In a world with information overload, how can parents prepare the next generation to face this?
Having the critical thinking skills to think deeply and independently is a crucial ingredient that helps us navigate the complicated, information-rich world. Critical thinking also goes hand-in-hand with other 21st century skills like problem-solving and creativity, all of which are highly in-demand skills in today and tomorrow’s workforce.
While some people may think critical thinking is a higher-order skill that should be instilled once kids are older, it doesn’t mean you can’t start young. In your day-to-day activities, parents can help children promote critical thinking from a young age with these tips.
- Give them time to respond
As parents, it’s hard to resist the urge to jump in to your child’s rescue – even for something as mundane as a social interaction. When their kid takes 1 second too long to answer someone’s question, many parents begin to help their child respond. The same goes for problems. How many parents actually wait and give their child a chance to think through and solve a problem themselves, rather than feeding them the solution?
If you want to develop critical thinking in your child, the better approach is to wait. Giving your child a few more moments to think before they respond lets them have a chance to go beyond their gut response, and form different possibilities and perspectives.
- Model critical thinking
Young children are still learning, and that includes learning how to think. What parents can do is to equip them by first demonstrating the thought process. So, the next time you are met with a problem you need to solve, you can voice out your thought process by saying things like “What happens if we try this?” When trying out an alternative, you might say something like “That didn’t work, what else can we do?”
You’ll be surprised at how good children are at mimicking your actions, and they’ll be following in your footsteps before you know it!
- Ask ‘Why’
To boost your child’s critical thinking skills, it is no longer enough to ask them ‘what’ questions. Instead, ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. A question like ‘What causes global warming?’ can be easily answered with an Internet search. But questions like ‘Why does global warming matter?’ promote deeper thinking.
Questions like ‘Why did this happen?’ also helps one get to the cause or root of a problem, and facilitates problem-solving. Another good question to ask is ‘How do we know this?’ This encourages one to evaluate the veracity of information, synthesise previously learnt information, and develops a discerning mind.
- Provide opportunities for free play
Yes, giving your child ample opportunities to play is also beneficial to their critical thinking! Free play, as opposed to structured play, lets children explore their surroundings and learn led by their own curiosity.
When not confined to a structure for play, children build up their independent thinking skills. They learn to discover by experimentation and trial and error to satisfy their own inquisitive mind, and explore things like cause and effect.
These tips are immensely helpful for parents who want to build up little critical thinkers at home. But of course, teachers also employ these strategies daily in their work with students! For a stellar example of a school that nurtures children effectively in critical thinking, you can take a look at the International School in Singapore.
With a strong focus on inquiry and play, the Singapore IB school is a wonderful environment for developing critical thinkers from the IB Primary Years Programme to the high school level. To give your child the environment and nurturing guidance to become a more confident critical thinker, you can complement your home efforts with an effective education provider!