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Teaching Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

So how can we best support and teach our children as they are developing critical thinking skills? Here are some tips and ideas to help children build a foundation for critical thinking and grow them into problem solvers: Provide opportunities to play. It is during play that children test their thinking whether dropping a spoon over and over again off the side of a high chair tray; rolling two marbles down a chute to see which is faster; seeing what happens when you dip chalk in water; or mixing cornstarch and water to make “goop” Providing space for playing, including time for outdoor or pretend play, can provide open-ended opportunities, to try something and see the reaction; try something else and see if you get a different reaction.

This informal process of testing how things work is crucial to critical thinking

Help children view themselves as problem solvers and thinkers by asking open-ended questions. Rather than automatically giving answers to the questions your child raises, help them think critically by asking questions in return: “What ideas do you have

What do you think is happening here?” Respect his or her responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, “That is interesting tell me why you think that.” Use phrases like “I am interested to hear your thinking about this.” “How would you solve this problem “Where do you think we might get more information about this problem. Don’t solve all problems immediately for children. Instead ask some of the questions above and provide enough information so children don’t get frustrated, but not so much information that you solve the problem for them.

Help children develop hypotheses. “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” “Let’s predict what we think will happen next.

Encourage thinking in new and different ways. By allowing children to think differently, you’re helping them hone their creative problem solving skills. Ask questions like, “What other ideas could we try?” or encourage coming up with other options, “Let’s think of all the possible solutions.

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