We are raising our children in times that are completely different from what we have seen or what we can even imagine. When in parent workshops, I ask parents what are their dreams for their children. I get answers like good human beings, able to tackle any situation, street smart skilled communicators, creative and so on. Then we get into a discussion on How do I raise my kids during these exponential times? What is it that I can give them in these formative years that will become a precious long time possession? The answer that naturally comes to me is we need to develop our children as effective thinkers, who are able to seek information, ask good questions, critically evaluate alternatives and make informed decisions, which could be an ideal gift for our precious little ones.
Research in the area of brain development clearly indicates that thinking can be directly taught and the earlier we engage in training children to think, the more are the synaptic connections lead to sharper cognitive processes.
Let's take a minute to understand what exactly is "thinking". To quote a leading Psychologist Dr. De Bono, Thinking is an operating skill with which intelligence acts upon experience. This means thinking is a tool to use the intelligence. If thinking is not developed, it automatically means that the power of intelligence is not being completely explored. So, there are cases where students with high intelligence are poor thinkers and also cases where children with low intelligence are effective thinkers. Intelligence is innate while thinking has to be learnt.
From four to six years of age, children's thought processes develop from being concrete to abstract. Language as a tool to think is fast developing, hence during this period it's crucial to expose children to experiences that stimulate their grey matter.
Here are some activities that encourage thinking and set the tone for development of effective thinking as a skill. Discussion, dialogue and questions play a very important role in developing thinking skills. So encourage your child to ask questions, and I am sure that's not much effort for the parents as toddlerhood is the Questioning age and you could even play a games like:
1. Questioning game:
Introduce him to the 5 ‘Wh' questions and encourage him to ask five questions everyday which surely he does, but the twist is to tell him the target word and ask him to develop questions such that the answer is the target word. For example: "Mummy" is the target answer word so what the question could be? The response could be something like -who bathes me /dresses me/carries me? Who cooks food? Brainstorm with the child with as a many questions as possible to get the target word as the answer.
Another example ‘dog' as a target word could generate questions like: who has four legs? What is "kutta" called in English?
2. The good and the bad:
Discuss with the child the good and the not so good aspects of different objects. For example: a four year old was talking about the bad aspects of a football when he said -it hit me in the face once. And the good part is that it gets friends together.
3. Classification games:
Where you ask the child to put objects in groups of living, non-living, fruits-vegetables, relatives-friends, birds-insects. Example: aunt is a friend or relative?, plant is living or non-living?. A variation could be to list all things that are red, or all those things that circular.
4. Comprehension games:
Here you talk about hypothetical situations and brainstorm with the child for all the possible courses of action. Example: what shall we do if our pet is sick? Or what should be done if your friend trips over and hurts himself?
5. Cause-effect games:
Here the parent has to give the child a situations and the child is asked to think about a possible cause, example "you come into the room and see that the floor is wet, what do you think must have happened? "The neighbor is limping today, what could be the possible reason? Similarly, the parent can exchange roles and let the child set up a hypothetical situation.
The list of thinking activities that a parent can engage in with kids can be endless. At this point I wish to conclude by saying that our focus must be to teach the child HOW to think and not WHAT to think? Happy thinking!
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