Want to Improve Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills?
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning game for kids.
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning game for kids.
Ever wondered why you are exhausted and ready for bed by eight o’clock in the evening?
Apart from all the running around and cleaning up and preparing that you do, part of the exhaustion comes from constant critical thinking about what could happen if things don’t work out. What’s plan B (and C, D, E)? How will you get your toddler to eat broccoli without her noticing?
You are thinking critically! I apparently do this a lot because I’m usually ready for bed by 7:00pm. It’s critical thinking about all the details in your everyday life and that of your little ones.
But what gives regular thinking that oomph to become critical thinking? It’s eating broccoli 🙂 You can try that trick with your little ones but I have my doubts about it.
But back on track. Critical thinking becomes critical when you are thinking actively and consciously and doing so after analyzing and observing what is around you.
Critical thinking does not come out of thin air. Far from it. Critical thinking is an acquired skill, which means that you can help your little one learn it.
And when you turn these critical thinking skills into fun activities all around the house, what can go wrong? (it’s a rhetorical question so don’t answer that!)
The kitchen; the place where everything happens in our household. We cook there, we eat and you guessed it, I spend half the day trying to organise the mess left there.
But it is also the place where most of the learning and teaching takes place.
Ask children where they think the food comes from based on packaging. Grab the first 5 items in your pantry and let them have a look at the pretty pictures on the box. You can also help by giving hints such as ‘Which one do you think comes from the cow?’ And so on.
Over the years as a speech therapist, I’ve had a few children telling me that potatoes come from the freezer. To be honest, I don’t really blame them.
When picking out utensils for a meal, get your child to explain why we eat soup with a spoon and not a fork. And what would happen if we eat it with a fork?
Let them analyse the mechanics of the utensil in question and help them understand how the shape is related to the function of each object.
By now you have realised that my pots and pans are basically always out of their cupboard. Cleaning up this lot is always top of my ‘Joys of parenthood’ list.
However, they are so versatile in their use that it compensates for the extra effort to clean and store them. Apart from their normal use, let your little ones explore other possibilities using pots and pans.
Percussion instruments, toy transport, helmets; the opportunities are endless.
The room of sleep and also the place where most of my clothes mysteriously shrink in my closet. This is how you can turn a dull room into an imagination playground with a few simple activities.
Imagine the bed is a boat or an airplane. What could you put on it? How many people can you fit on a bed? Would a bed be good to float? (Can mummy ever sleep a whole night on this bed without being woken up three times a night? – that one’s for extra work).
You can also get your child to find patterns in the bedsheets (unless they are block colours and then the only patterns are just stains, and laundry day is due).
While making the bed, ask for the right sequence of fitted sheet, loose sheet, bed cover and pillows. Make them think about the process and give them reasons for the correct order.
This is a treasure trove of patterns. You can get help organising shirts from short sleeves to long sleeves, dark colours to pastels and white, winter clothes vs. summer clothes, and the list goes on.
Question everything and anything.
Why do we need long sleeves in winter and short sleeves in summer? Why are your clothes smaller than mummy and daddy’s clothes? Why are daddy’s clothes always in a mess and mummy’s clothes keep shrinking?
I’m not sure if I would really like the answer to the last one actually.
Get socks to play tic tac toe (or naughts and crosses). How, you may ask? Easy!
Five dark coloured pairs of socks and five light coloured pairs of socks (I bunch each pair in a ball for easier and more efficient storage). Use floor tiles (if visible) or use pantyhose to form a 3×3 grid and there you go, instant tic tac toe.
This helps your little one to think about what can come next and how their move can influence the rest of the game.
Socks are also great for playing spot the difference or which one doesn’t belong in that group.
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission and let your child play with this award-winning educational game. Your child will become better at critical thinking without even realizing it!
The bathroom is the one room I semi-allow messy play in for the simple reason that surfaces can be easily wiped down and if the children get messy, you can just pop them in the shower and hey presto – clean again!
The mirror comes pretty handy when exploring ourselves. The way we look and what we look like when doing different things. Go on – admit it – most of you have cried in front of a mirror just to make sure you look good while crying 🙂
One activity I always have fun doing with children and a mirror is ‘Imagine if I had…’. Get your child to stand in front of the mirror and let them come up with funny body parts they would like to have such as elephant ears, duck feet, tiger’s tail, and so on.
Get white board markers (it’s important you don’t use permanent markers… I don’t want to get any bills for damaged mirrors) and start drawing these parts onto the mirror.
You can ask your children to elaborate on the special things they can do with these enhanced features.
I find sorting to be a very good activity to do in the bath tub usually during bath times.
Get a bunch of plastic animals and ask your child to sort them out according to where they live. Animals living on land go on the edge of the bath tub while those living in the water get to go in the bath tub.
You can take this further by asking what each group has in common and how they are different from each other.
Finally your chores are done and you are in the play room (probably already exhausted but your little one just keeps pulling you to play with her).
Again this room has endless possibilities and what I find works is if you organise the room according to the type of play. Gross motor play in one corner, imaginative play things in another, books in another.
Swings and slides, if safe, are a good way of letting children explore independently. By doing so, children learn what they can climb and what they can go under.
They eventually learn what they can fit into and what they can’t anymore.
And in the case they do fall off, they will also learn about cause and effect and how not to let the same thing happen again. But please do be careful and never leave your child unattended.
Imaginative play mainly consists of your little one acting the same as you, your husband, your dog, your neighbor and anyone or anything else that she sees around her.
Through this play, they can re-evaluate problems they have experienced from the perspective of someone else and go through them over and over again and critically arrive at a possible solution to the problem (I know a few adults who would benefit from this).
Imagination is the key to problem solving and this skill will come in handy later on in life.
Our reading corner is in the playroom and therefore most books are read here. On most days, I am also graced with a lovely performance of what we’ve just read.
I always get the lead role of ‘the table’ or ‘the chair’ and the best one so far – ‘the pumpkin’ (as you can imagine I was not too thrilled about this one while my husband kept mentioning it for days).
While reading, don’t let your kids settle for just the one ending of the story. Ask them what they would have done and what could have been done differently.
Get them to relate to the story personally and name a few instances when they felt like the characters in the story. (And also why she feels I need to be the pumpkin).
Technically not in the house but part of the perimeter so we will just count it in with the rest.
Nature is excellent to teach critical thinking – particularly the questions of what happens next?, cause and effect, and developing hypotheses.
Next time you are out watering the flower beds or weeding out the vegetable garden, ask your child to help.
Get him to think about why the shovel is better at digging soil while the rake is better at gathering leaves.
Flowering plants (and anything that grows really) can help your child think and observe how a small seed can develop into something completely different given the right set of conditions.
Explore what would happen if not enough water is given or if there isn’t enough sunshine.
Now that basically every room in the house has been turned into a learning experience for your little ones, all that is left to critically think about is why the food doesn’t magically prepare itself and who of our little ones will be the next great genius to invent a self cleaning kitchen 🙂
P.S. Did you know that the Atlas Mission is the only educational game that teaches your child ALL the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century?
It covers both core skills like reading, writing & STEM, as well as 21st century skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving & coding.
Use the button below to download your free copy:
Atlas Mission – the new educational game for 3-7 year old children that increases their awareness of other countries and cultures.
Kristjana Borg creates educational content for the Atlas Mission. A speech therapist, wife and an exhausted mother, she is the founder of "The Speech Bubble" - a forum that gives parents information, tips and ideas on how to improve their children's speech and language.