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Keeping Children Curious

You make sure your kids stay hydrated and well fed. But what about your child’s thirst for learning? A child’s need to learn never ends.

Words by Esther Grillo, Director of Cranium Academy

Children are naturally curious. Did you know that all of those questions, which may try your patience at times, are actually making your child smarter? Curiosity is the desire to learn more and look for evidence. It also means being open to new ideas. Experts often say curiosity is the driving force of intellect and the start of critical thinking.

Encouraging Critical Thinking 

We hear about critical thinking often. So what does it mean, and how can it help your child? Critical thinking involves a number of different skills that help us learn to make decisions. It allows us to evaluate information to figure out whether it is right or wrong. To think critically about a problem means to be open-minded and consider different ways of looking at solutions. And it may be one of the most important skills that today’s children need for the future. 

So can children as young as preschoolers be taught critical thinking? Lisa Brown, curriculum and training director at Cranium Academy, says YES, and most experts agree. “Critical thinking starts with curiosity. Whether it’s learning how to do something new, how to react to a friend, or whether or not to listen to a teacher, children face opportunities to solve problems and use their judgment every day,” says Brown. As they grow, their critical thinking skills will help them make judgments on their own, independently of parents or peers.

According to Brown, “Children can be taught in a way that encourages curiosity and discovery, allowing them to comprehend what they are learning so they are able to apply it to real-world situations.” Take the scientific method, for example. Traditional teaching methods might have kids memorize each step, then move on. “To encourage critical thinking in our students, we learn why scientists make observations, then use each of our five senses to observe grapes as a class. How do they look, smell and taste? Do they make any sounds? What would happen if we squeezed one? Working through each step of the scientific method in a fun way helps to ensure children comprehend and retain what they are learning,” says Brown. 

TIPS TO REINFORCE CRITICAL THINKING AT HOME:

If you don’t think your child’s school is encouraging critical thinking, then it will be even more important for you to work on these skills at home. Here are some tips to help:

  • Start early. Preschoolers may not be ready for formal logic, but they can learn to give reasons for their conclusions and evaluate the reasons that they are given.
  • Give explanations. Avoid telling kids to do things a certain way without explaining why.
  • Encourage questions. We all know kids love asking questions! Foster their curiosity. If something doesn’t make sense to them, encourage them to ask questions about it. 
  • Don’t give them answers. Rather than giving children answers to all questions, ask them: “What do you think?” or “How would you solve this problem?”
  • Ask kids to consider different solutions. Many problems have multiple solutions. Considering different solutions may help children become flexible thinkers who are more likely to think ‘outside of the box.

If we can encourage a child’s natural curiosity, we can inspire the next generation of leaders and critical thinkers!

Cranium Academy is a small private school for children in preschool through fifth grade with two locations in Winter Garden and the Lake Nona area. Students benefit from a unique combination of advanced curriculum featuring custom learning paths, critical thinking, innovative technology and creative play experiences. Summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs and more are also available. Learn more at craniumacademy.com

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