Naïve Nancy, Fair-Minded Fran, and Selfish Sam are the three styles in which preschool children think, according to the Foundation for Critical Thinking.
Naïve Nancy is a follower who goes along with the crowd and agrees with decisions made by others. Selfish Sam knows how to get what he wants, usually through manipulation. Sam’s primary goal is to satisfy his own needs.
Fair-minded Fran takes time to think about herself and others before making decisions. She considers the feelings and situations of others, does not believe everything she sees or hears, and knows right from wrong.
Do you know any of these children? As parents and educators, you have likely met all three. And it’s no surprise to you that Fran exhibits better critical thinking skills.
Our goal? To teach young children how to develop critical thinking skills like Fran. Scholastic said it best, “it’s important to teach children how to think, not what to think.”
If we start now, when they are in preschool, their critical thinking skills can improve throughout childhood and into adolescence and adulthood.
What Are Critical Thinking Skills?
Using information available, combined with skills acquired, can help make good decisions. That’s the basic process of critical thinking. Critical thinkers can solve problems by keeping a clear mind and rational thoughts that will help you analyze a situation and make a sound decision.
Okay, yes, this is way over a preschooler’s head. A young child won’t achieve a high level of critical thinking until at least middle or high school.
However, you can start planting the seeds of critical thinking at an early age.
The idea is that the more time a child can practice, the better their critical thinking skills will develop as they grow and mature. Over time, they will start asking more questions before deciding or providing an answer.
They will investigate the possibility of more than one answer to a question. They will think about consequences before they act. They become eager to learn more.
There are many fun ways to start this process.
Encourage Critical Thinking Skills
Whether at home or school, you have access to tools you can use when teaching critical thinking skills.
Have Real Conversations With Kids
Children like to ask and answer questions. They are curious, and curiosity is a wonderful trait for developing critical thinking. When you’re busy, and we know you are, it can be easy to cut a conversation short or avoid answering a kid’s question with a lengthy but honest response.
However, taking the time to hold meaningful, truthful conversations with kids will contribute to developing positive critical thinking skills.
Allow Children To Make Decisions
The best way to learn something is to do it, including when making decisions. Allow children to make decisions in the classroom and at home. For example, let them participate in setting rules, choosing meal plans, reading materials, games, and chores.
Not only does this make kids feel important, but it also builds self-confidence.
Let Them Create
Find ways to let children be inventive and use their minds to create. Kits like micro:bit and programmable robots are perfect for the home and classroom. They allow kids to take the ideas swirling around in their minds and turn them into reality.
You’ve likely heard the word “STEM,” programs geared to engage young children in activities that can help them adapt to a changing world.
In conclusion, children are learning all the time how to think and behave. This can be good and bad, depending on the child’s environment.
As a teacher and parent, you can improve a child’s critical thinking skills by being a great role model. Through observation, a child will adapt the skills you exhibit. Assess your critical thinking skills, openly practice them, and include a child in the process.
You can become better thinkers together.
Price-Mitchell, Marilyn. Ph.D. (2018). Roots of Action. Critical Thinking: How To Grow Your Child’s Mind. https://www.rootsofaction.com/critical-thinking-ways-to-improve-your-childs-mind-this-summer/
Scholastic Parents. (2021). Think About It: Critical Thinking Skills. Use These Tips To Encourage Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills. https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/creativity-and-critical-thinking/learning-skills-for-kids/think-about-it-critical-thinking.html
Patel, Deep. (2018). Entrepreneur. 16 Characteristics of Critical Thinkers. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/321660