Tips to Improve Children's Problem Solving & Critical Thinking

15 December 2022
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Impulsive decision-making results in a lot of mental health problems in adults, such as anxiety. This is due to the unexpected consequences caused by their weak critical thinking skills. As a parent, it is no easy task to steer critical thinking for kids. It requires patience, evaluation of pros and cons, and a goal-oriented vision. Developing thinking skills takes time but will greatly help your child in the long run. The skill on the whole is a cumulation of powerful habits such as analysing, comparing and controlling emotional influence. Cultivating these requires repetition and constant guidance. That said, some tips to improve your child's critical thinking and problem-solving skills can help make it easier for you.

Hand them small responsibilities
Critical thinking and problem-solving can be learnt first-hand by directly dealing with problems. Talk to a child psychologist about how to improve the thinking skills of a child by giving them responsibilities. These depend on the child's age group since you do not want to overwhelm them. However, figuring out how to spend their allowance, working out a time to tidy their room or planning homework so they can go out to play are some incidents that foster problem-solving. The key is to encourage responsibilities that make them consider the pros and cons, an act that develops into a habit.

Make them play games
There are plenty of games that challenge the player to think critically. Multiplayer video games are one of the best critical thinking activities. Apart from online games, you can even encourage certain board games such as Chess, Sudoku, and Crosswords that can help reduce screen time and encourage problem-solving. When children realise they lose something every time they make a mistake, it can take them longer to make a decision. Apart from that, whenever they feel stuck, like a potential checkmate or a tough situation in a video game, it encourages analytical skills for kids. These instances can cultivate a strong solution-oriented mindset in the long run.

Make a chart
While there are plenty of early years critical thinking activities for your child, the most effective one is to make a chart. Put together a step-by-step plan for whenever your child has a difficult decision to make. For example, if they can't decide whether they want to go out to play or stay in and finish their homework, sit down with them. Instead of letting them know what they should do, guide them to follow the steps. Let them know how easy and useful it was in the end and how proud you are of them for doing it. A rough outline of a chart could be as follows:

  1. Specify the problem
  2. List the pros and cons (will someone feel bad, is the child tired etc)
  3. Analyse them
  4. Consider possible solutions and their consequences
  5. Pick one that feels the most efficient

Encourage them to work in groups
While most kids dislike teamwork, it plays a huge role in developing leadership skills in them. One of the primary traits that define a leader is an ability to think critically and solve problems. Plan group projects at home, organise treasure hunts in teams and schedule other discussions that facilitate team-building and interaction. When children are made to work together, they are forced to compromise and make decisions that put the group's interests first. This can cultivate goal-oriented reasoning skills encouraging them to discard all choices that do not meet their needs. Moreover, when they exchange ideas and opinions, they also get to see how there are multiple ways to solve a problem but only one fits best.

Every parent wonders how to develop critical thinking skills in students. You cannot be too imposing or sound too boring since it can either stress them or make them lose interest. The goal is to keep it fun but also retain communication throughout. By making them be part of groups, handle small responsibilities and maintain a chart with easy-to-follow steps, you could build a habit. This will definitely take time and might even test your patience, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

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