Why I taught critical thinking at a young age

I love critical thinking. I think it is so very important. Perhaps I will be bold to say that not enough people use critical thinking. And that is a shame. Another bold statement is that, as I look at what CRT truly is (not what is often presented on social media), I think that is good to teach (for older children) as it looks at things critically and promotes great discussion. But I won’t go into that more. 

I started teaching critical thinking to my girls at a young age. I knew it was important for them to be able to think for themselves, problem solve and form judgements and opinions of their own. Sometimes I think it comes and bites me in the butt, because now they use it frequently to challenge what I think or say they should do. But I do not doubt that I have done the right thing for them. 


WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING?

I like this definition of critical thinking: “Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments in order to form a judgment by the application of rational, skeptical, and unbiased analyses and evaluation.” The addition of “skeptical analyses” is great to me. We need to be skeptical. We need to not just accept things but challenge them. 

Little girl thinking and looking up

MY REASONS WHY

There are 4 main reasons why I wanted to start young (and continue to work on developing these skills). 

Be a good decision maker

Being able to make good decisions is helpful all the way through life. One of the things we have declared over the girls since they were little is “you can make good choices”. In making good choices they can then also make good decisions. I want my girls to be able to make good decisions on their own – not always needing Mum and Papa to make the decisions for them.  In weighing up options and using rational thought, they will make good choices and good decisions and this will serve them through life.  

Boy and girl on tire swing

Problem solve

“What? You climbed up there and can’t get down? Why don’t you try first and then you can ask for help!” This is something I have said a few times. We follow “try and work it out yourself first, and then you can ask for help.” It is fun to watch them think through situations and how they can solve them. What is the problem? How can I solve it? How can I do it without getting hurt? Do I need help? What do I need to solve this? It really is a beautiful thing to see their pride in themselves when they solve the situation by themself. Of course they can always ask to talk through the situation and get some ideas. That is part of the process. 

Be an independent thinker

Don’t be a lemming. Think for yourself. These are statements I have heard multiple times throughout my life. You have probably heard it too. 

Independent thinkers can perceive the world around them with their own twist. They are not just going to be handed information and accept it how it is without question. They learn to evaluate a situation, challenge others’ thoughts, or handle crises with their own skills. I want this for my girls. I don’t want them to churn out other people’s opinions – let them form their own. It’s important for them to read something and then think “I should fact check that” and then go to a variety of resources to get different views so they can form their own. These are questions I am often asking, and want them to have as an automatic response: But what do YOU think? Why do you think that? What do other people say about that? Is the resource good? Can you trust it?

Human head with a question mark and lightbulb on yellow backgroundkground

Ask and don’t assume

This ties in with independent thinking. I want my girls to be in the practice of asking questions to understand rather than just assume. There is that saying “You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me (because that’s how it’s spelled).” One day I will tell it to the girls. But until then we will practice asking questions as jumping in and assuming can hurt other people, can cause frustrations, and can create issues that do not need to be there.

We practice, we learn from mistakes and we try again. This is how we go about critical thinking. It is a process, it is a skill to be developed. But I started young so that it could be developed early. I am not of the mindset that you wait for certain developmental milestones, when this can be taught in age appropriate ways from the beginning. Don’t wait. Start teaching it from a young age.


It is so important that our children know how to look at what is being presented to them and not just take it at face value. I know for my girls that I want them to be able to fact check what is posted on social media (when they finally are allowed social media accounts), and to also fact check what people say to them. It is never to late – start teaching critical thinking!

Here’s a post on teaching abstract thinking in kids.

1 Comment

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