Fostering Thinking Skills

Monday, February 6, 2023 by Catherine Gilliland | Thinking Skills

My two-year-old granddaughter is capable of asking the question "why" over 250 times during any eight-hour period of time. I also remember one of my sons, when he was little, capitalizing on the opportunity to delay bedtime by asking countless questions about topics of interest to him.

Why do children ask "why", "what", "how", and so on? We do not need to teach very young children to be inquisitive - they are inquisitive naturally. They have a thirst for understanding the world around them, and to do so, they must acquire knowledge by asking questions.

As difficult as answering 250 "why" questions is or stretching an established bedtime hour, providing appropriate answers is one of the critical ways that we can foster a love of learning, habits of inquiry, unique problem-solving skills, creativity, and the countless benefits that come from the capacity to grow knowledge, understanding, and ultimately, wisdom.

To answer questions is one component of fostering thinking skills and empowering a child with a crucial foundation of knowledge. Another is to allow the child to answer questions that you present to them. Ask your child questions in response to theirs, such as, "What do you think the answer might be?" Expand from there by asking, "Why do you think so?" or "Why wouldn't the answer be X?" and so forth to demonstrate that you value their thinking processes and their resulting ideas, immature, incorrect, or unpolished as they may be. The goal isn't to provide them with the correct answer necessarily. The goal is to provide them with guidance they need to arrive at the correct answer themselves through inquiry. The process changes as children mature, yet is consistently satisfying to children. 

Providing an inquirer with enjoyable experiences while experimenting with creative thinking skills and patterns of more critical thinking fosters their own independent inquiry, problem solving, and a thirst for learning. Sadly, the enjoyment of learning often is discouraged by young peers. As a parent, you can stay ahead of these negative peer influences by cultivating enjoyable learning endeavors early on that will stand the storms of childhood immaturity.

Check back several times this month for more tips and strategies for fostering thinking skills in children.