Being able to think critically not only helps your child be a better learner but also helps her solve problems during a crisis. Here are some ways you can help develop these skills.
By Leena Ghosh
From a very early age, your child starts making decisions for himself. While in the beginning, they are simple decisions like ‘whether to have an apple or a sandwich for a snack’, later in life, he has to make decisions regarding his friends, family, education and career.
While some decisions are simple and based on instincts, others require critical thinking. Developing the ability to think critically in your child is an essential life skill, which should be taught from an early age. According to a study titled ‘Developing Critical Thinkers’ by Stephen Brookfield published by the Mankato State University in February 2007, critical thinking ‘involves three inter-related phases:
1. Discovering the assumptions that guide our decisions, actions and choices
2. Checking the accuracy of these assumptions by exploring different perspectives, viewpoints and sources — as many as possible
3. Taking informed decisions based on these researched assumptions
According to Dr Cathlyn Niranjana Bennett, Consultant Neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor, Christ University, Bengaluru, it is essential to develop critical thinking abilities in a child from an early age. “Critical thinking skills can be developed into late adolescence or early adulthood as they are closely tied to the development of the frontal lobes of the brain. However, laying the foundation to developing these skills in childhood is very important. Unless fundamental critical thinking is encouraged in children, their decision-making abilities and potential for innovation will be mediocre,” she says.
Dr Bennett explains that encouraging critical thinking in children makes them better learners. “There are several benefits of encouraging critical thinking in children. Critical thinkers are better learners, because they ask several questions during the process of learning. They make better decisions because of this process. They are also more likely to come up with new ideas and contribute to research. They are found to be self-reflective and have a balanced perspective towards life,” she says.
Here are some of the other benefits of critical thinking:
• Helps in analysing and evaluating all types of information received and arriving at a conclusion
• Helps in making informed and timely decisions
• Helps in solving complex problems and situations
• Helps in thinking rationally and not losing focus
• Makes the child’s thinking process more logical and helps him differentiate between right and wrong easily
1. Encourage play: You already know that play is essential for a child’s learning. But play also helps develop critical thinking abilities. Whether your child is building a tower out of blocks or solving a puzzle, it’s important for him to figure out on his own how things work. Free play allows him to develop his problem-solving skills and encourages him to think critically about a problem.
2. Ask questions: Asking questions is one sure way of encouraging your child to think. But, make sure you ask open-ended questions rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ones. This will prompt her to think about her answers before she says anything. As a result, she will analyse her responses before she gives them to you.
3. Wait for answers: Usually, parents are in a hurry to step in when a child takes time to answer a question. This affects the child’s ability to think for himself. Wait for the answers and ask him to be clear and precise with his responses. This will encourage him to think about his answers more logically.
4. Foster new and creative thoughts: One problem can have many solutions. It’s critical for your child to understand that. Ask her questions like, ‘What are the different ways we can solve this problem?’ or ‘Do you have any other idea on how to get this done?’ Let her come up with the solutions and you might just be surprised with her ingenuity.
5. Enable summarising: Whenever you read a story to your child, ask him to summarise his thoughts about the story and what he learnt from it. This activity will enable him to process the information, think critically and come to a conclusion on his own.
6. Urge arriving at a hypothesis: While doing an activity together or engaging in play, ask your child this question – ‘What do you think will happen if I do this?’ This will teach her that every action has a reaction and will encourage her to analyse her actions beforehand.
7. Stress on analysis of thoughts: Metacognition is the process of analysing one’s thoughts and is crucial for building critical thinking skills. It helps your child connect the dots and gives him a critical understanding of why one thing is related to the other. Therefore, emphasise to your child the importance of thought analysis.
While helping your child build his critical thinking skills, as a parent, you can also illustrate how you approach and solve a problem or how you analyse a situation. This will help him understand the process better and he will try to imitate your technique.
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