Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to reflect and think independently. These skills enable us to understand the logical connections between ideas, identify, construct and evaluate arguments, solve problems systematically besides being able to reflect on one’s own beliefs and values. These are the skills that also enable us to take a well thought out and informed decisions.
Learning to think critically is one of the most important skills that the children will need in future and hence need to be developed right from a young age. It is important for parents and teachers of preschoolers to enable the child to think critically. Though there is no one way to teach these skills, guiding the child to think critically improves her problem-solving ability.
To build a foundation for critical thinking we need to provide them ample opportunities for play. Children need to explore ‘cause and effect’. Opportunities for open-ended play e.g. pretend play, indoor and outdoor space give a chance to children to try out something and see the result. The child also has the freedom to try something different and see if yields a new result. It is important that the adults do not intervene too soon. If needed they should ask open-ended questions again providing an opportunity to the child to think, reflect and evaluate. We need to encourage children to develop hypotheses by asking questions like, “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” or “Let’s predict what we think will happen next.” By allowing them to think differently, we also help them develop problem-solving skills and enhance their creative thinking. It also provides an opportunity to learn that there may be more than one way to solve a problem and they chose the way that helps them the most.
Critical thinking often happens when children have time to practice making choices, plan their time, or create from nothing. Taking time to allow your child to navigate problems is integral to developing your child’s critical thinking skills in the long run. These are the skills they will require to select the subjects they want to study further, the profession they want to pursue and will help them to take all important decisions in their life.