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Critical thinking activities for kids

Critical thinking is a skill that is fundamental in all areas of life. It is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Simple acts such as good decision making are based on our ability to think critically. It is a skill that is important at all stages of life.

  • As a toddler it is the ability to evaluate risks in play and developing. Children instinctively evaluate situations, calling on their innate ‘fight or flight’ response to determine whether something is safe or not.
  • In education it is the ability to reason – to be an active learner rather than passive. It enables us to be able to interpret and integrate new information and apply it appropriately. Thinking critically enables learners to access and absorb the National Curriculum on a deeper level.
  • For adults, critical thinking enables us to form healthy relationships, solve complex problems and communicate our needs whilst understanding the needs of others, impacting all areas of both personal and professional life.

Empowering children and giving them the necessary life skills to support their wellbeing and enable them to thrive, is at the very heart of what we do at Role Models. Through a range of both online and face-to-face courses, we provide children with the opportunity to develop life changing skills – and the ability to think critically is just one of them.

questions marks around boy

According to the University of Essex, a successful critical thinker questions perceived knowledge, rejects anecdotal or non-scientific evidence and examines the source of all information. He or she is open-minded and well-informed, able to judge the quality of an argument and draw cautious yet evidence-based conclusions.

Now, more than ever, we have an information overload. News is available to us 24 hours a day from a wide range of both reputable and non-reputable sources. We need to be able to think critically; to interpret, analyse, explain and evaluate the information we are constantly receiving. In a paper on The Use of Critical Thinking to Identify Fake News Machete and Turpin explain how, with the introduction of social media, ‘it is not easy to distinguish real news from fake news.’ The paper discusses how critical thinking methods are used to detect news stories that are untrue or otherwise, and how important it is to help to develop a critical attitude to online news and information.

There has been much research done on the ways in which we can teach children to think critically. The University of Cambridge published a study on Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Objectives and the importance of skills such as analysing and evaluating in the development of critical thinking.

Lack of critical thinking can have a negative impact across all areas of life. It can lead to making repeated mistakes, making bad decisions, having poor judgements, unreached potential, loss of opportunities etc. The list goes on!

So, if being able to think critically is such a vital life skill, we need to be not only modelling it to our children but teaching them how to think critically; giving children the opportunity to practise it and develop and embed it from an early age. Critical Thinking activities and tasks are a great place to start.

Critical thinking activities for kids

  • Thinking about thinking

Metacognition is an awareness of one's own thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them. It can take many forms, such as reflecting on one's own ways of thinking, and knowing when and how to use particular strategies for problem-solving. Psychologist and philosopher, Edward de Bono identifies metacognition as one of his six modes of thinking.

Get your child to start thinking about their thinking. Ask them about their game/painting/creation. ‘I would love to know how you chose that? How did you decide on this colour? etc. Becoming skilled at understanding our own thinking is an important step in becoming a critical thinker.

  • Ask open questions

Not ‘what’ but ‘how’. Asking open questions provides an opportunity for children to understand their thought process. It encourages them to think laterally and consider the process, rather than focussing on a correct or incorrect answer.

  • If you were in their shoes…

Encourage children to think about other perspectives. ‘You might feel this way, how do you think the other person feels?’ This can be done during conflict resolution between friends and siblings, when reading books and thinking about how characters feel and act etc.

  • Encourage problem solving

As parents, we can be tempted to try and solve our children’s problems. It may be because we don’t want to see them suffer, or it may simply be quicker to help them work something out, than letting them struggle through it. Practicing problem solving, from an early age, is hugely beneficial to not only building children’s emotional resilience to challenge, but their ability to critically evaluate and resolve problems.

  • What happens next…

Reading is not only fantastic for the imagination, but it can also foster creativity and the ability to think critically. When reading with your child, ask them to create an alternative ending to the story. For example, Goldilocks decides to make the bears more porridge and they come home to find her cooking? Then what happens? Encourage children to think through their scenario. How do all the characters feel and respond? Support them in thinking of solutions to problems that arise and discuss ways in which the characters might respond in certain situations.

At Role Models, we are dedicated to providing the next generation with all the skills they need to enable them to truly thrive. Our courses, such as Creative Problem Solving, Collaboration and Leadership provide children with the opportunity to learn and develop skills fundamental to understanding themselves and others. We also host fun and interactive face-to-face courses, enabling children to practice and embed these skills in a fun and supportive environment.

Have a look at our homepage for more information about the broad range of areas and themes we cover.

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