Jul 20

How to develop critical thinking in kids

The need of developing critical thinking in children is widely recognised by parents, educators and wider communities. In today’s world of informational noise, the ability to analyse and arrive at reliable fact-based conclusions became a vital survival skill for many, especially for kids, given that informational pressure will continue in the future. Therefore, not only it is important to teach children critical thinking, but also equip them with valuable skills that will allow them effectively simplify and manage the data.

In many countries the development of critical thinking has been included in school curriculums from as early as foundations, where kids learn the basics of information and persuasion. This learning stretches well into high school with many tests focus on writing persuasive or critical analysis pieces.

Therefore, it became a norm to expect that educators and teachers are well prepared to expose children to situations where they learn to compare and contrast, explain why things happen, evaluate ideas and form opinions. But should this important skill be entirely outsourced to school?  

For parents who are switched on preparing children for the future and recognise the parental power of developing critical thinking as valuable intelligence, I wrote this article with suggestions for parents on how they can support the development of critical thinking in kids outside of school.  

What exactly is critical thinking

Monash University (Australia) defines critical thinking as a kind of thinking which involves questioninganalysisinterpretationevaluation and making a judgement about information people read, hear, say, or write. It may sound a bit negative, but in fact it helps to get rid of bias and manipulation, to form reliable judgements.  

We’ll leave the science to the academics and focus on individual components of critical thinking that parents can drive without special knowledge:

  • Information Analysis

Teach the child to distinguish facts from opinions, arguments from hypotheses. Encourage them to check whether information comes from a trustful source.

  • Logical Thinking  

Show how old information can be used to make new conclusions and recognise logical errors.  

  • Use of Evidence & Support  

Dialectical thinking is a part of the trivium of the classical education. It helps assess a situation from various perspectives using multiple sources of information. In practical terms, it is about doubting facts, verifying an argument and checking other opinions and their supporting evidence, to arrive to an informed conclusion.  

In the online business course for kids "Un-Marketing: Critical Thinking Skills For Kids" I teach children to analyse, logically think and use facts in assessing marketing effects, such as advertising, interpreting product labels, as well as supermarket marketing. This is a great way to learn about critical thinking using everyday examples that are familiar to kids. As a result, children are aware about techniques used to encourage certain shopping behaviours. 

From searching source information to drawing conclusions and forming their own fact-based opinions, the question about development of critical thinking in kids is not about why, but how. 

Here are a few suggestions:  

  • Critical thinking takes time to develop, but the key is for parents to demonstrate, day in and out, that they value their children’s opinions. Let them talk, ask questions and help to find clues to solve the problem instead of giving the answers.

  • Even if the child is wrong, respect their opinion and show them you value it anyway.

  • It is important not to be ashamed of not knowing something, but strive to fill the gap.

  • Play debate where you and your child take opposite sides. For instance, your child thinks that reading every day is unnecessary and you think the opposite. Let them express their opinions and support with facts or other evidence. Let them question your arguments too.

  • Speak out your thoughts and show your thinking process to children. This demonstrates to them that you prefer to form your own views rather than follow those of others.  

  • Older kids may benefit from a more structured 5-step process of problem solving, whereas younger kids look up to their parents setting the example and demonstrating how critical thinking works in life.

How about critical thinking in the online environment?

While key steps of assessing information online include checking the authority of the information source as well as cross-checking the facts and distinguishing them from opinions, it is beneficial to teach kids to read a headline to the end (which is often clickable). The reason is that often, headlines are specially written to catch readers’ attention and bring visitors to the page so the publisher gets paid.  

Another tip is to read what is written and not what we want to read or see. It is a known fact that the use of online language mirrors spoken speech to ensure easy flow for reading.

In online shopping specifically, employment of words used by customers (keywords) serves the purpose of quickly identifying whether the product is what the customer is looking for, to encourage scrolling and hitting the Buy button. I share more examples in the business course for kids "Un-Marketing: Critical Thinking Skills For Kids" about matching the selling language to the buyer. 

In conclusion  

There are many benefits of teaching critical thinking to children early (as early as they start talking in sentences). In addition to managing informational overdose, it will help them choose their path in life, form their own opinions based on the ability to source true evidence, and avoid distructive social media trends

In my opinion, this is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children.    
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