Whether you realize it or not, we are constantly thinking and making decisions every day. As adults, we make daily decisions about what to eat, how to use our time, what to spend our money on, how to interact with others, when and how to act in a situation, and so on.
Children may not be fully aware of their decisions, nor are they expected to make the same types of decisions as adults. However, teaching children how to think critically and use good judgment earlier in life is essential to their overall development. So, how do you teach critical decision making to children?
Promoting critical thinking and decision making is something we do in our classrooms here at Meadow Montessori in Richmond, TX. We believe a child’s education should never stop, which is why we’re here to share ways you can teach critical decision making at home. Let’s get started.
Why Does Critical Thinking & Decision Making Matter?
Critical thinking entails the processing of information, analyzing that information, forming a conclusion, and making a subsequent decision off that conclusion.
Children are naturally curious at a young age, which means they already have the foundation for critical thinking and decision making. But without nurturing their ability to think critically and make good judgments, we can set our children up to struggle later in life.
Children who don’t learn critical thinking and decision making will often act impulsively or engage in dangerous activities. They can be combative or disruptive at home or in school. They can also struggle to exert their independence and understand responsibility as they get older.
Luckily, there are lots of ways we can engage our children to learn critical thinking and good decision making.
Teaching Cause & Effect
Understanding cause and effect is a major component of critical decision making because it shows children how they can make things happen through their own behaviors and responses.
Playtime presents vast opportunities to teach children about cause and effect. Anything as simple as building a block tower and knocking it down to dropping both lightweight and heavy objects in a tank of water can show children the effects of their actions.
Through these types of activities, children can begin to form conclusions and decide how to act to yield the desired outcome. Repetition of these activities is also important; you want to provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to try different things and experience different reactions.
Toys that make noises or movements are great tools you can use to teach cause and effect. For younger toddlers and babies, try switching lights on and off, flushing the toilet, blowing bubbles, and pushing and pulling certain objects.
Patience & Unstructured Playtime
As parents, we often want to intervene when we see our children struggling with a task or challenge. However, by being patient and waiting to intervene, we allow our children the chance to solve the challenge for themselves through trial and error.
Of course, children will need help and redirection when they’re encountering a new challenge or task. Parents can intervene effectively by engaging with their child and completing the task or challenge together.
Although parents should supervise, unstructured playtime provides children the freedom to use their imaginations, creativity, and communication skills to solve problems and make decisions. Unstructured playtime also encourages children to practice courtesy and peace in their environment.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions encourage children to think more broadly and consider all of the possibilities. As children begin to think this way, they gain a deeper understanding of real-life situations and the world around them. This can help them make good judgments and decisions as they get older.
There’s no shortage of open-ended questions you can ask your child on a daily basis at the dinner table, during bath time, in the car, or before bed. Here are some examples:
- “What can you tell me about your day?”
- “What happened…?”
- “Why do you think…?”
- “How can you say that differently?”
- “Tell me about a time when you were happy or sad.”
- “What else could you do instead?”
- “Why did you choose to do this and not that?”
When practicing open-ended questions and dialogue, be patient with your child. Allow them to think about what they want to say and articulate themselves, and try to keep the conversation going for as long as you can.
Lead By Example
Children observe how everyone around them acts and treats one another. Your direct and indirect interactions with your child can have a lasting impact on their brain development, behavior, and how they make decisions in certain situations.
Nurturing your child’s ability to think critically and make decisions is important; but so is modeling the behavior yourself as a parent. Showing respect to others and responding well to conflict and criticism can demonstrate how to properly react under stress. Giving your full attention consistently (to all, not just to your child) will show them how to be thoughtful and considerate in their decisions.
Nurturing Critical Decision Making Every Day
Teaching children how to think and make critical decisions early on in life can pave the way for a successful, happy, and healthy future.
If you’d like to learn more about how we teach critical decision making at Meadow Montessori in Richmond, TX, reach out to us! We look forward to speaking with you.