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How to cultivate critical thinking in children

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Critical thinking is one of the most important competencies we can teach our children. Being a critical thinker helps children to navigate the world around them and understand their experiences in meaningful ways. Critical thinking helps children to process information, make decisions that support their goals and best interests, compare and contrast, understand subtle cues from others, analyse information, build discernment, and strengthen their thinking skills. While it’s important to teach children to build knowledge and recite facts, teaching critical thinking skills to children is crucial for their lifelong development, learning abilities, and success in life.

Ask questions

Children can have surprising levels of conviction at times. If your child is convinced of something or has made up their mind, encourage them to talk through why they hold their beliefs so strongly. Asking probing questions that will stimulate your child to think critically may help them to unpack the situation and see a range of perspectives that can expand their thinking. Try asking your child some of the below questions to prompt critical thinking about a situation:

  • 'What has happened?'
  • 'What will happen if we do xyz?'
  • 'Why do you feel that way?’
  • ‘How does person x feel about this?’
  • ‘What would change your mind?’
  • ‘What made you think that?'
  • ‘What could have caused that to happen?’

Encourage problem solving

Critical thinking is particularly useful when it comes to problem-solving. Problem-solving requires analytical thinking and analysis of the problem, as well as open-mindedness and skepticism of accepting all information as fact. When your child runs into a problem, help them to work through it with critical thinking. Critical thinking helps children understand an issue, what has caused it, what the future implications of the problem are, and help them form a judgement based on fact. With this information, they can make future decisions that serve them and resolve or prevent issues. Problem-solving is a skill that is useful throughout life and goes hand in hand with critical thinking.

Encourage disagreement

Disagreements provide us with the opportunity to see other perspectives. Exposure to other perspectives broadens our world view and allows us to look at situations in new ways. Disagreements encourage us to compare our ideas with others and analyse both our own opinions and the opinions of others. By encouraging disagreements, you are giving your child permission to disagree with you and challenge other people’s ideas. This is crucial to cultivating critical thinking, which has its basis in questioning and analysing information rather than accepting new information as fact.

Critical thinking is a useful life skill and is also fundamental to academic success, particularly in English and maths - subjects that lay the foundations for other areas of study. If you are considering maths or English tutoring for your child, get in touch! We offer comprehensive learning assessments free of charge and expert advice to help your child reach their full potential. To learn more about the assessment process, or tutoring with NumberWorks’nWords, contact your local centre today!


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