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In This Noisy World, Kids Really Need Critical Thinking
More than 1 in 6 students in the United States are unable to solve complex thinking problems, according to the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test done on 15 year old children in 44 different countries1. Though American students did well overall, they consistently lagged behind their Asian counterparts. Unfortunately, kids who lack critical thinking problem solving skills face a higher risk of behavior and economical problems as adults.
Our modern society tends to squash essential critical thinking skills with mind-numbing television shows, video games and self-explanatory simple directions. It eliminates problem solving skills by readily spoon feeding easy accessible solutions. The death of vital critical thinking has become eminent.
Critical Thinking Comprises 4 Skills
Critical thinking skills help kids solve complex problems and think for themselves.2
Using the scientific method approach to thinking and eliminating emotion.
Learning how to find solutions backed by facts through research, using scientific data to help formulate answers.
The ability to perceive when their own bias from personal experience clouds their analysis of situations and learning to remove emotional judgments in their problem solving.
Thinking Outside the Box
Challenging rules and questioning answers. Having the capability to view the problem from different perspectives, review all of the facts, not just their own, and pick the most logical solution.
Our Education System Tends to Stifle Children’s Critical Thinking Skills
With their emphasis on memorization and fill in the bubble tests, our education system tends to stifle children’s critical thinking skills. They drill facts and support one correct-answer thinking. But the essential soft skills of critical thinking provide children with the building blocks of a better future in the real world. These necessary problem solving skills also help to develop self confidence.
Ways to Help Your Child Develop Critical Thinking Skills
You don’t need to hire a private instructor to help your child develop these essential soft skills. You can easily incorporate complex problem solving lessons into your daily life.
Ask Your Child”Why”
Remember how your kids drove you crazy when they went through the “why’ stage? They constantly bombarded you with ‘why.’ Why is the sky blue? Why is the ball round. Why? Why? Why? Now it’s time to turn the tables and ask them why. According to Marlana Martinelli at WeAreTeachers.com, asking ‘why five times helps kids build critical thinking skills to solve problems3.
When your child presents you with a problem, such as needing a new video game, ask them why. They might say because it’s popular and everyone has it. Your second ‘why’ will have them digging into what makes it popular. They might say it’s based on WWII. Ask ‘why’ again. The third ‘why’ will make them dig deeper into the reason it’s based on WWII. They might find out because it has optimum battle opportunities- again pose ‘why’. In the end they may even come out with a deeper understanding on the battles fought in WWII and the reason behind them.
Support Arguments at Home
Have your child argue their viewpoint on a subject. Do they want to have a later bedtime? Have them present their explanation on why they should stay up late. Then instead of telling them why you think they shouldn’t, put them in your shoes and have them think of the reasons why you aren’t letting them stay up late.
Brainstorm a solution. Perhaps the reason why you didn’t want them staying up past a certain time was because they couldn’t get up early for school. Hold a scientific experiment- a week of staying up later to see if they can cope with early rising. Let them collect the data for each day. Are they still too tired in the morning? Unable to concentrate in school? Analyze the data together and let them find the perfect solution. Perhaps an hour later is too much, but 30 minutes later would work? Try 30 minutes for a week and repeat the data collection and analysis process.
Incorporate Research Skills in Daily Life
Develop your child’s critical thinking skills by challenging their minds with research. You can incorporate this in daily life. If they ask to go to a movie, have them look up the times and prices at the local theaters. Don’t stop there. For older kids, have them add in the popcorn and drinks (with tax) and create a budget needed for a trip to the movie. Also have them check out the ratings and reviews and decide if it will be worth the cost of seeing it in theater or waiting for 6 months later to rent it for a fraction of the price. This teaches them research. It can be used in a myriad of situations: skating, bowling. mini-golf trips. Reading reviews on a place or movie (TripAdvisor or Yelp is good for place reviews) shows them different perspectives and things they may not have considered.
Cook with Your Kids to Practice Trial and Error
The kitchen provides the optimum place to engage critical thinking skills in children (and adults too). Every meal can be used to develop critical thinking. Ask your child their opinion on the food. What would they do to improve the dish? Ask why. Would they add something for a personal preference or because it really needs it- like salt. Would they remove something? Why?
Cooking with your child also helps to build problem solving skills. Use failures- like a fallen cake or flat cookies as an opportunity to do research- why did that happen? Come up with a solution to use the next time. Perhaps a different oven temperature was needed, the wrong type of flour used, or maybe the butter needed to be at room temperature.
By cooking with your kids, you are not only teaching them necessary critical thinking skills, but also providing them with essential life skill of cooking. A double-duty bonus!
By helping your kids to develop their critical thinking through problem solving, research, and experiments in daily life, you are providing them with vital skills that will help them become better, more capable adults
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