Keeping Children Curious Over the Summer – Encouraging Critical Thinking

With the long, hot days of summer upon us, parents often ensure kids stay hydrated with plenty of water. But what about your child’s thirst for learning?  Although school is out, their need for learning continues.

Children are naturally curious. Did you know that all of those questions, which may try your patience at times, are actually making your child smarter?  Curiosity is the desire to learn more and to look for evidence. It also means being open to new ideas.  Experts often say curiosity is the driving force of intellect.

Critical Thinking – The Cranium Way

Cranium Academy was founded with a vision to encourage the natural curiosity within each child, preparing students to become the best critical thinkers of their generation.  But what exactly is critical thinking, and how can it help your child?

Critical thinking involves a number of different skills that help us learn to make decisions. It allows us to evaluate information to figure out whether it is right or wrong.  To think critically about a problem means to be open-minded and consider different ways of looking at solutions. And it may be one of the most important skills that today’s children will need for the future.

So can children as young as preschoolers be taught critical thinking?  Cranium Academy says YES! Critical thinking starts with curiosity.  Whether it’s learning how to do something new, how to react to a friend, or whether or not to listen to a teacher, children face opportunities to solve problems and use their judgment every day.  As they grow, their critical thinking skills will help them make judgments on their own, independently of parents or peers.

Teaching Critical Thinking ‘The Cranium Way’

Teaching ‘The Cranium Way’ involves a modern Montessori approach to critical thinking. Children are taught in a way that encourages curiosity and discovery, allowing them to truly comprehend what they are learning so they are able to apply it to real-world situations.

Our teachers focus on moving beyond ‘what,’ into ‘how’ and ‘why,’ and our exclusive curriculum is designed to go beyond memorization to a higher goal of active critical thinking.  So what does this look like in a classroom?

Let’s use the scientific method as an example. Traditional teaching techniques might have a child memorize the steps of the scientific method.  In teaching ‘the Cranium Way,’ students don’t just memorize each step, they go through each step as they become official Cranium Scientists!  After learning why scientists make observations, they use each of their five senses to observe grapes as a class.  How do they look?  How do they smell? Do they make any sounds?  What would happen if we squeezed one?  How do they taste? Working through each step of the scientific method in a fun way helps to ensure children comprehend and retain what they are learning.

Tips to Reinforce Critical Thinking at Home

If you don’t think your child’s school is encouraging critical thinking, then it will be even more important for you to work on critical thinking skills at home. Here are some tips to help:

Start early:  Preschoolers may not be ready for formal logic, but they can learn to give reasons for their conclusions.  And they can learn to evaluate the reasons that others give them.

Give them reasons:  Rather than telling them to do things a certain way without explaining why, give them a simple reason or explanation.

Encourage kids to ask questions:  It may drive you a little crazy but parents and teachers should foster curiosity in children. If something doesn’t make sense to a child, they should be encouraged to voice their questions or objections about it.

Don’t give them the answers:  Rather than automatically giving children the answers to their questions, help them think critically by asking them questions in return.  You can simply ask “What do you think?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Or you could say something like, “That is interesting. Can you tell me why you think that?”

Ask kids to consider different solutions: Getting the answer ‘right’ is nice, but for many problems it’s possible to have more than one solution. Considering different solutions may help children become more flexible thinkers who are more likely to think ‘outside of the box.’

At Cranium Academy, we share weekly tips and ideas with parents to reinforce critical thinking and the lessons we are learning in the classroom.  Here are some examples of how parents can use ‘the Cranium Way’ to bring natural science to life at home:

Think of a question together, something your child is curious about (like which of my toy cars is the fastest?). Then come up with a hypothesis. Work with your child to come up with steps for an experiment to test, and try it. Let them record data by drawing a picture showing what happened. Come up with a conclusion together and share your findings with the family!

Cook together, following a simple recipe. What might happen if you skipped a step in the recipe? Have your child make predictions about what will happen next, and what the final product will look like.  Follow the recipe, then use all of your five senses to observe what you made together!

In Conclusion

Just like any sound science experiment, this post must come to a conclusion! Children are naturally curious.  Together, we can encourage that curiosity and inspire the next generation of leaders and critical thinkers.

How can you keep curious minds active over the summer? Cranium Academy offers summer camps which are the perfect combination of learning and fun!

Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience, plus unforgettable summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more! Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere location and a new location opening August 2015 in East Orlando near Lake Nona, FL.