Critical thinking is a tool which helps us think beyond the obvious. Critical thinking enables us ‘how’ to think and make sense of the data and information presented to us. It is an essential life skill which is required across all walks of life. That said, as we go further into the future, this skill will be valued more than ever. With Artificial Intelligence and Automation doing most of the processing and knowledge based jobs, it is this skill that will keep the need of humans for a job ticking. And that’s where we as parents and caretakers need to work. We need to coach our kids to think critically so they can survive the challenges of future.
Here are our suggestions:
1. Inculcate Creativity: Encourage your child to draw a scene to explain her thoughts. We need critical thinking skills to depict our thoughts into pictures. That is the reason why art is valued. It is not an easy task. For older children, play games like Pictionary and ask them to justify what they draw.
2. Play sorting games of all sorts : Classification and sorting skills are great for logical reasoning. Ask your child to sort same list of animals/objects using different attributes like size, color, geometry, shape etc. Group animals into categories based on their habitats, eating habits, body structure, reproduction mechanism etc. These sorting activities help children see the differences and similarities across various groups, thus enhancing their understanding.
3. Solve puzzles and brainteasers together: These are great for problem-solving in kids. Be it jig-saw, tic-tac-toe, riddles, mazes or whatever your child loves.
4. Real Problem Pretend Play: Bring in a real world problem like water scarcity to pretend play and ask them to think of solutions. Such games help children learn about their environment and surrounding. And at the same time helps them understand the challenges faced in real world. Motivate them not only to think of solutions but also to implement at their level. Like we thought how using a steel straw could reduce the waste generated by straws and save so many marine lives. For plastic bags, we brainstormed and made reusable cloth bags out of an old t-shirt.
5. Get creative with blocks: Blocks are great at building logical skills. They help children give a sense to their imagination. Also they are great for loose parts play. Every time, you encourage your kindergartener to repurpose old blocks into new games, neurons fire up in her brain.
6. Inspire Thinking: Ask them to think of answers to their own questions. Aid the process of arriving at the answer rather than providing the answer.
7. Teach cause and Effect: Let them explore and test independently in a safe environment. Lot of discoveries were made by simple explorations. Such expeditions often teach a good lesson on cause and effect. A great game for teaching cause and effect is the old classical Marbles. Same goes for Pool and Snookers.
8. Let them hypothesise: When reading a story, stop midway and ask them what they think is going to happen, how is the story going to end? Open ended questions like these fire up the grey cells and force them to think of logical and creative outcomes.
9. Play Guessing games: Guessing games are excellent at building reasoning skills. Our favorite is ‘Animal Guess Who’. Drop hints describing the animal and then let your child guess it out.
10. Dumb Charades: This is another simple family game wherein the child is asked to guess the name of the movie (STEM or sci-fi movies make it harder) — or anything else — by decoding the sign language of his team mate.
Children are great thinkers and often have out of the box creative ideas which we lack. So to develop critical thinking skills, we really just have to listen and be more open to our children’s thought process. We need to assure that we do not dumb them down with our standardized way of thinking. These simple, fun games and play ideas can go a long way in nurturing this essential skill.