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Critical Thinking for Kids: Why, Benefits & Tips [Completed]

Dec 26, 2020
21st Century Skills , Parenthood

Critical thinking is repeatedly mentioned and used widespread in various education materials and events. It is said that for children in the 21st centuries, critical thinking seems to be one of the most important skills for the future success. Let find out more about critical thinking for kids and answer all of your question about: what it is, how important it is for kids and how to foster critical thinking skills for kids, how do you explain critical thinking to a child? What is critical thinking for elementary students? At what age does critical thinking develop? with Skidos Educational Games for Kids!


What is critical thinking?

Although critical thinking for children concept is a popular topic, a large number of individuals may not firmly understand what it truly is and what it really means for kids.

Critical thinking can be understood as the ability to think rationally, to analyze the piece of information given to you and determine whether it is right or wrong, to think deeply in a way that helps you solve the problem. It is about being curious, innovative, open-minded to look and think differently and to come up with different ideas or solutions

Why is critical thinking skill important for kids?

Critical thinking matters for children of all ages, regardless of what their social status are. Without critical thinking, humankind would not have survived given that government authorities were not be able to set rules to maintain social security and doctors, researchers were not be able to figure out therapies for infectious diseases. It can be firmly stated that critical thinking is important to human’ lives.

In today’s competitive and fast-changing world, kids are expected to think critically, not to only learn by heart but to really understand the information given, analyze, compare, examine, innovate, debate and generate their thinking skills. According to Peter Worley, co-CEO and co-founder of educational charity group named The Philosophy Foundation, it is important that children develop critical thinking skills as early as primary school age.

Why is critical thinking skill important for kids

Critical thinking facilitates the way children see the world around them, help them ask the right questions, figure things out and make judgements. Indeed, based on numerous scientific researches, it is proposed that children who are well taught critical thinking skills will tend to perform better at language comprehension and problem-solving, and even have a higher IQ than others. Also remember that critical thinking is the most important skills of 21st century skills for kids, so don’t miss that for your child.

How to foster critical thinking for kids?

At school, kids are usually taught to answer questions to score high in exams, however, as participants in society, it is quite common that we would be asked questions which are more complicated than the multiple choice questions found in the school exams.

Therefore, giving children opportunities to learn some subjects or to be exposed to things which they normally would not be able to do outside of the classroom is necessary. For something as important as critical thinking, there are several tips Skidos would suggest you if you would like to improve your children’ critical thinking skills by asking better questions, encouraging them to answer without rushing and inspiring their imagination.

#1 Ask open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions such as WHAT, HOW or WHY can be a good strategy for school leaders and parents to follow so as to enhance your children’s critical thinking skills.

WHAT questions to develop critical thinking for kids

First, let’s start with a WHAT question but do not end there. When asking a WHAT question, it is usually a starting points. If you ask a WHAT question in class, kids usually get excited because it is the type of answer where if you get the answer, you get it and if you do not, you do not.

Students can easily give the answer to a WHAT question by searching on Internet or revising the class note. It may seem textbook-based but our job is to make our kids to move beyond the text book.

critical thinking questions for kids, students

Therefore, other than just asking a simple WHAT question, for example: “WHAT are three main causes of global warming?” what we could do instead is to have them explain, or paraphrase what they study in class by using words “explain”, “give example”.

In that way, the previous question can be turned into: “ Explain three main causes of global warming? or “Give examples of three main causes of global warming”, which requires students to try harder, take a risk to answer a WHAT question.

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Second, once we have established the WHAT, we can start making connections by asking a series of WHY questions as giving children opportunities to connect the knowledge they obtained to something personal in their lives.

WHY questions are considered difficult for many reasons. One of the reasons is that to answer a “why” question, students need to put themselves out there, think about the reponse and give supporting evidences for their answers, not just repeating the facts.

WHY Question to foster critical thinking for students

Students are expected to question back to teachers “WHY is global warming important to concern about?” “WHY should a child like me care about global warming, not the government?” “ WHY should we pay attention to global warming now, not later?”.

When students find the question relevant and value-creating, they then start asking themselves “Okay, how can I take this information, think about how this could be useful in my everyday life”. There goes the question HOW.

What are the 5 critical thinking questions for kids, students

After we have established the WHAT questions and figured out how to connect it with the WHYs, then we can proceed to ask the HOWs. Firstly, after asking the WHAT: “Explain 3 main causes of global warming” and your students have given an answer, you can continue asking “ HOW do you know?”; in that sense, kids need to back up their answers and hence, cannot get away with an easy answer. They have to provide supporting evidences and to be able to defend their answer against some logical attacks.

HOW Question to foster critical thinking for a child

Another interesting HOW question we could ask our children is “HOW might your perspectives be different from that of others?”. This will force students to empathize with others, evaluate the grounds of other people, consider their own opinions and maybe find some common grounds, which is very useful providing that they shall frequently be in a group discussion or debate later in life.

The final HOW question can be raised is “ HOW can you solve this problem?” to encourage students to synthesize all of their previous  knowledge and be figure out how to make this their own and be able to apply themselves. This is a valuable part to prepare children to types of uncertainties that they are likely to face in real life.

#2 Encourage kids to freely raise their voices and do NOT rush

While children are required to answer to questions, there are risks that they feel scared of not saying the right things or being judged by their classmates or others. As school leaders and parents, we need to do a better job of encouraging students to freely raise their voices and instill our children the grit necessary to be able to persevere against challenging topics that come their way.

nurturing critical thinking skills in kids, students

For nurturing critical thinking skills, parents and teachers should create an environment where kids would feel free to think deeply without the fear of being ridiculed or shouted at. Remember not stress the kids because it is totally fine to get the answers wrong sometimes, and the important thing is that they do try their best to answer the questions given and they can learn from their mistakes.

Besides, it will be highly expected if parents and teachers do not to rush the kid to answer quickly but wait for your kid thinking before intervening or speaking. This will give children a chance to reflect, refine their answers, rather than responding without thinking thoroughly.

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It would be better if parents or teachers to try counting silently in their heads to 60 or even longer and observe what the kid is doing before stepping in to help. Parents should also ensure their kids know that you care about them as a person, so they will be willing to take risks, think differently, and voluntarily speak out their thoughts and ideas, even if they might not be true.

#3 Inspire imagination and creativity

It can be hard to think critically about any topic that kids are not interested in. Try asking children about politics or philosophy, you may find yourself alone in the spot as most children will be bored at speaking about these topics and not be willing to answer to you. Children are known for their vast imaginations, and it is essential we exploit their imaginations to their full advantage by finding out which topics they would like to study.

Parents and school teacher can refer to project-based learning method, in which kids can be allowed to choose what topics they would like to talk about or to explore deeper in the learning curriculum.

Teach critical thinking skills for kids

Teachers are recommended to guide students to write their choices out and then teachers can choose some popular topics to put into the lesson plans for a class activity, group discussion or a particular project. With regard to parents, you can figure out what your children love doing through your children’ preferences while they are playing with toys, carrying out experiments or doing art.

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In conclusion, fostering children’ critical thinking skills might seem challenging for parents without much of teaching experiences and given that kids tend to think in a simple, literal way. This is a long process like building a castle taking many days; kids do not suddenly obtain analytical thinking skills overnight, and parents as well as school leaders need to be patient to teach and reinforce teaching method while guiding children to be more critical thinking! Use the tips above to get kids in acritical thinking mindset to prepare them for high school, university, and beyond!

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