Often times, we think of critical thinking as a test given at the end of a lesson. However, critical thinking doesn’t have to be confined to the classroom. In addition, it doesn’t have to be reserved for older children. Toddlers are naturally inquisitive. In fact, most parents have probably experienced the “What is that” phase that many young children go through. Here are some tips on how to encourage your toddler to be a critical thinker.
There are many different questions. A lot of them require “Yes” or “No” answers. However, while surface level questions are fine, it’s good to ask questions that require a more thoughtful answer. For instance, after reading a book about the seasons, I asked my three-year-old if she had a favorite season. She picked fall. While she didn’t have a reason for her choice, she took some time thinking about her answer.
Allow them to Disagree
The other day my daughter and I were looking at insects and arachnids. She pointed to a black bug and said, “What’s that?” I replied, “It’s a beetle.” She said, “No, it’s a spider.” I then went on to explain how spiders have eight legs. She may not have agreed with me, but I could see the wheels turning.
Partake in Puzzles
Puzzles are an excellent way to get little ones thinking. Start out with the wooden puzzles and then move up to the 25 or maybe even the 100 piece puzzles. At first, toddlers may need your help but soon they will start to understand the process of putting together the pieces.
Read Thinking Books
There are so many great children’s books out there. However, some books encourage toddlers to investigate. Seek and Find books are good for kids who can’t read yet. Some of the books focus on finding differences between the pictures. Of course, reading books in general provides an opportunity to think.
Let them Explore
Nature is a great way to unleash a child’s thinking skills. There are so many different plants and creatures that are waiting to be explored. Just the other day, my daughter started to inquire about the different parts of a leaf. We talked about the stem and the veins of the leaf. It was an interesting conversation.
Overall, I think the key word should be to “encourage.” Questions should arise naturally and critical thinking moments should not be forced. At the age of three, don’t expect your child to answer like Socrates. After all, critical thinking is a process.
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