Critical thinking is often a phrase bounced around the broadsheets and education supplements. Every publication has a for or against argument (sometimes both) around the controversial replacement to what used to be called ‘general studies’.
However, the funding which schools used to receive to keep critical thinking on the agenda has been removed. The argument is that it lets schools focus on the core subjects that get valuable UCAS points.
This does leave a gap in the curriculum for certain life skills you simply won’t get through any other subject. Critical thinking covers observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.
So how can you help your child at home to add these invaluable skills to their mindset? We’ve come up with a few ideas that are easy to implement in everyday life.
If you’re of a certain age you will no doubt remember sitting down at a weekend to try and remember all the items that went down the conveyor belt on a well-known TV show – don’t forget that cuddly toy! This can also be done using a tray and is a great game for all the family to play across the ages.
Get a tray and place a selection of different objects on it. Leave it on the table for everyone to look at for maybe 60 seconds – depending on the number of objects – then cover it over with a tea towel. The object of the game is to remember as many items on the tray as possible and say them aloud. You can’t write them down, you have to hold them in your head.
You can also mix things up by taking items away and seeing who can guess what was taken each time and who can still remember the rest of the items. This simple and fun game will tap into your child’s observation skills.
Decision making is a vital skill for any child to have and it doesn’t come easy. For a lot of adults, it’s a skill they still haven’t mastered. But there are ways to add decision making into everyday life.
Giving your child control of the weekly shopping budget, allowing them to work out how to buy the essentials, but still have cash left for treats and working out which ones. This a great way to get them used to making decisions and also problem solving and learning responsibility at the same time.
You can also let them choose the best route to get somewhere. Is it best to walk, take the train or drive? How long will each take? How much do they cost?
All of these are skills we often refer to as ‘adulting’ yet, without being taught them, when a child finally has to undertake them on their own, they can be terrifying!
It’s all in the eye of the beholder
Analysis, interpretation, reflection and explanation can all be used when looking at art or prose. Every single piece is totally up to interpretation and no one can tell you you’re wrong.
Some will say the Mona Lisa is the most iconic piece of art of its time. Others will ask why a picture of an unhappy woman is so popular and still boasts huge queues today? The same can be said of Banksy? Some will say his art defines a generation and shows politics, the state of the world and a sense of youth. Others will simply class it as graffiti.
Take a trip to your local art gallery and ask your children what they like and, most importantly, ask them why. Get them to describe it to you.
The great line ‘how does it make you feel’ will open up their minds.
If art isn’t their ‘thing’, why not find a local street art venue or skatepark? Street art can often be about politics and society and can open up discussions about larger problems in society.
If reading is more your child’s thing, read a book together and then discuss what you thought of it. Or, if you can’t get away with art or books, there’s always film or the film variants of well-known classics like Romeo and Juliet. You can watch the classic and the modern versions and debate the changes between the two. Which did they like best and why?
After all, if our schools are no longer able to offer these valuable skills within the curriculum it’s our job as parents to find ways to integrate them into everyday life.