The “Why” Word :: Tips For Fostering Critical Thinking Skills At Home From A Teacher Mom
School has kicked off for most students in the Baton Rouge area. School supply lists have been labeled and shipped off in stuffed backpacks and store bags. New uniforms, clothes, and shoes have been picked with care, hoping they’ll last at least through the holiday season. For almost 15 years, I had the pleasure of feeling the hustle and bustle of the first days of school as an English teacher and eventually as a principal. Through that journey, I became a mom and the extra pressure to get my students and children ready could be a think piece in itself.
As my daughter got older, understanding the nuance of supporting the school’s efforts to educate her at home became even more significant. No one entity can do it alone. Truly, we need each other to give our children the full experience of becoming well-rounded students and more importantly, people.
Much like my students in class, I did not want to teach my children WHAT to think, but HOW to think.
In an ever-evolving world, that ability is becoming increasingly crucial. Critical thinking is a concept that is consistently addressed in professional development for teachers and administrators, a hallmark of curriculum intended to serve our students well, and seen in assessments that will determine if those skills have been sharpened. Critical thinking equips children with the skills to analyze, reason, and make informed decisions. As parents, we have a unique opportunity to partner with schools by laying the foundation for these skills from an early age. By cultivating critical thinking skills, we empower our children to become curious, adaptable, and independent thinkers who can confidently navigate challenges.
Here is a short guide on how you as a parent can foster critical thinking skills in your children at home.
1. Share your thought processes.
Children learn by example. Model critical thinking in your daily life. Share how you make decisions or solve problems. Demonstrate how to assess information, question assumptions, and draw informed conclusions.
2. Read Diverse Texts
Reading exposes children to a variety of ideas, cultures, and perspectives. Encourage them to read books, articles, and stories from different genres and time periods. If there are museums or exhibits you can visit as a family to cement this, by all means, add it to your Sunday Funday!
3. Get Cozy with Mistakes
Create a safe space for mistakes, both for yourself and your child. Encourage them to learn from failures and setbacks. Discuss what went wrong and how they can approach similar situations differently next time. Give them an opportunity to reflect and cement their learning. This cultivates resilience and a growth mindset.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Engage your child in thought-provoking conversations by asking open-ended questions. Instead of simply providing what you believe is the best answer, encourage them to think deeply and express their ideas. For example, “Why do you think that happened?” or “How would you approach it differently?”
5. Don’t dread the “W” Word
I know as a parent you hear it more times than you would care to admit: Why? This question is the bedrock of critical thinking and a sure sign that your child is engaging in deeper learning. Encourage your child’s natural inclination to ask questions. Engage in conversations that promote curiosity, and be patient as they explore and seek answers. Introduce them to other resources that can answer that question for them. Their ability to research and dig for information will serve them well as they grow older.
Fostering critical thinking skills in children is a gift that will serve them throughout their lives. By embracing curiosity, asking questions, and engaging in meaningful conversations, parents can empower their children to become independent, analytical thinkers who approach challenges with confidence and creativity.
As parents, we have the privilege of nurturing the minds of the next generation, and by prioritizing critical thinking, we equip them for success in a world that is constantly changing.