Tip 167: August 2022 Fostering Critical Thinking Skills
All young children are investigators, and just like inventors and
scientists children depend on others to support their exploration and make
sense of their discoveries. Adults can support children’s critical thinking
and problem-solving skills by offering materials and experiences that build
on children’s interests.
Infants inborn curiosity provides the initial fuel for their learning and
development. A muffin pan accompanied by a variety of small objects can be
an excellent first puzzle for infants. A muffin pan puzzle allows infants
to feel a sense of success since all the cups are the same size. Adults
should offer items that fit easily inside such as plastic jar tops, toy
cars and boats. Adults can build on the infant’s developing cognitive
skills by making it more complicated and putting pictures from a magazine
in the cup and asking the infant to match the picture with the items from a
basket or box.
Toddlers can gain an understanding of cognitive connections through spatial
relationships as they are learning how to balance and fit blocks together.
Blocks made of wood are one option but adults can also offer many others
such as shoeboxes, 1/2 gallon milk cartons, cereal boxes, and plastic bowls
or boxes to name a few. Toddlers can explore, move, and hold blocks before
beginning to stack them vertically or line them up horizontally to form
simple structures or complex designs like bridges, train tracks, or a zoo
for their stuffed animals.
Preschoolers: Making Mistakes:
Everyone makes mistakes. Preschoolers should see mistakes as part of life,
not something that derails them. Seeing mistakes as normal helps them to
stay calm, and as an opportunity to do something differently and learn.
Practice makes better not perfect, preschoolers need to see that “The more
you do it, the more you can do it.” Adults should give children a chance to
solve problems on their own and when that is not possible, encourage them
to help each other by asking one another for help. Adults can foster
critical thinking skills by guiding children in a problem-solving routine
that involves the following five steps: (1) Identify the problem; (2)
brainstorm three ways to handle it; (3) choose one way to try first, and
decide on a back-up plan; (4) try out the strategy; (5) evaluate how well
the strategy works.
The Partnership for the 21st Century is a national organization
promoting skills such as self-directed learning, flexibility, creative
thinking, and problem solving. They support an education agenda that
teaches the 4 C’s: (1) Critical thinking and problem solving,
(2) Communication, (3) Collaboration, (4) Creativity and innovation. They
believe that these set of four skills enable children to see themselves as
problem solvers capable of addressing any challenges.
Education Is Not A Preparation
For Life; Education Is Life Itself.