This was a question posed after I had just finished a short presentation at a parents’ evening recently. I’d been waxing lyrical (as I do) about giving children regular opportunities to practise a range of thinking skills: Opportunities to be curious, creative, problem solve, ask questions, predict, categorise and so on.
My first response was that the brain is a muscle and like any other in the body needs a regular workout if it is to stay in good shape. Children who don’t experience some challenge and structured ways to think will surely become ‘flabby’ thinkers?
I also believe thinking and feelings are so intertwined that emotional and mental good health also benefit from opportunities to think creatively and critically.
Learning to think clearly also allows children to become more emotionally resourceful - to act in considered, reasonable and resilient ways, not affected by the notion of ‘mistakes’.
Each ‘mistake' can become a step on the road to success, not a blocker that inhibits and destroys self-confidence.
To offer children a safe learning environment where they can be adventurous thinkers- where the right answer is not as important as the process is to their benefit. Creative, open ended thinking implies things like discovery, invention, imagination, experimentation and exploration which require cognitive abilities but also demand your personality. Children need to feel free and be bold enough to just ‘have a go’ and see where their thinking takes them.
In a system that increasingly demands the regurgitation of facts, and the constant consumption of knowledge rather than the production of new and exciting ways to apply that knowledge it is more important than ever that we make time to think without children.
Here’s a quick checklist – are your children:
- able to generate a quantity of possible responses to a question or problem? (rather than narrowly seeking one right answer)
- given the time and space to follow a ‘flow of thinking’ to its conclusion – even if that proves to be ‘inconclusive ‘at the moment?
- able to view an issue or problem from a variety of perspectives?
- able to wonder or puzzle over something – active daydreaming as it were?
- given time to think of many different alternative answers?
- able to combine known ideas into something new?
- able to put themselves into the shoes of another – to experience the world as someone else might?
- able to dream about things that haven’t yet happened?
- able to take a guess and listen to other people’s ‘guesses’?
- able to defend their ideas and not be worried about criticism or failure?
If we want to develop the cognitive and emotional aspects of thinking then there is no other way than to practise it, by offering lots of opportunities where children can freely think and give their brains and their hearts a real good workout.
Let's Think Homework offers a wide range of fun 'workouts' to develop thinking skills in children - visit the website for more details.
If you would like to know more about P4C training - getting going or ideas for development - have a look at the online training brochure - or get in touch to discuss your requirements.