A Guide to Developing Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills

Learning to think critically is an underrated skill that may just be one of the most important that children will need for the future.

As our children grow, they need to be able to make sense of finer details, synthesise what they know with what they are given, and be able to discern patterns using logic, reasoning and creativity. They need to be able to figure out if something is genuine or not - especially important to future-proof them for a world of artificial intelligence. 

Honing a child’s critical thinking skills starts from a tender age.

How do critical thinking skills help preschoolers get ready for school?

Whether they are at school, online, or socialising with their friends, our children need to be able to sift through the barrage of information and evaluate all of it effectively in order to form their own opinions and beliefs. 

This is equally important for academic success. For example, at its simplest level, pattern recognition is crucial in Mathematics and Science, and even for grammar. Critical thinking is an essential part of problem-solving, decision-making, and goal-setting. 

One study identified critical thinking as crucial in students’ self-regulatory learning by influencing their mastery of learning goals and deep information processing. The study also found that the ability to think critically significantly predicted how well students would do in school. Lastly, research indicates that children who lack critical thinking skills are more likely to have behavioral problems.

In this way, critical thinking skills form the foundation of education. If our children are unable to think critically, they will struggle in school and in life. 


How can we encourage our children to think critically?

Open-ended toys or loose parts play are both great ways to stretch children’s minds and to get them to think critically. Many toys are limited in their modes of play, such as cooking toys, compared to toys that allow children to imagine and create to their hearts’ content. Think about clay, building blocks, buttons and bottle caps, among others. 

Do your children complain of boredom on long commutes or while waiting for food? Pass the time by playing simple word or action games with them. One easy game to play is the Animal game, where you take turns to list an animal whose name starts with the last letter of the previous animal: tiger, rabbit, turtle, eagle, and so on.

Encouraging your child to ask questions and allowing them the leeway to get things wrong is very important. Talk about possible scenarios with your children as you go out and about, and ask if they understand the rationale for instructions they are given. Another way that you can get your child thinking about and making choices is to give them a say in how they want to spend their time. 


What are some critical thinking questions we can ask preschoolers?

-    Making predictions: When starting a new storybook, and before you turn the pages, ask your child “What do you think will happen next?”. Predicting makes use of prior knowledge and observations, and making an educated guess about consequences and logical sequences.

-    Giving opinions: Allow your child to share their opinions about experiences, food, or toys by asking “How do you feel about this?” or “What do you think about that?”. It is important for them to realise that different people have different opinions, which should be respected and valued. 

-    Problem solving: Rather than swooping in and fixing your children’s problems for them, ask them to troubleshoot: “How can we solve this problem?” or “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” 


Critical thinking skills in preschool

It is important for teachers to partner parents and encourage critical thinking. At KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse, the curriculum is built around the concept of inquiring minds, where the children are guided to explore with curiosity and joy. For example, the children at one centre sorted herbs and spices by scent, while another centre explored animal camouflage and matched the different patterns to different environments.

Discover how our core and specialised programmes work to stretch your child’s critical thinking skills. Book a tour with us at your preferred centre today!


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