When we think of critical thinking, we tend to think of writing essays and creating hypotheses as school-age students. However, did you know that laying the foundation for critical thinking actually begins in the preschool years?
For preschoolers, critical thinking involves the ability to think clearly in order to understand logical connections between ideas. Children must be encouraged to become active learners rather than passive recipients of the information. As Dr. Maria Montessori said, "Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it...If you show them, they will want to do it themselves."
How do we encourage critical thinking?
Ask open-ended questions: Look at photos and ask what is happening in the photos. "Why did this happen?" or "What do you think will happen next?" are always great to ask while reading a book to develop critical thinking skills.
Develop a hypothesis: Put out a selection of healthy foods with exciting tastes and textures. Children can develop a hypothesis by predicting whether or not they will like the new food and ask them for reasons why.
Problem-solve: Conflict resolution in the Montessori classroom is a skill that preschoolers begin to learn. Teachers guide children to think through "How would you feel if..." and "What do you think will make your friend feel better?"
Mystery bag: Teachers will place random objects inside a bag. Children will put their hand in the bag and try to guess what items are in the bag without looking. They must think critically about the size, texture, and shape of the object to be able to guess the objects in the mystery bag.
Critical thinking skills allow children to identify, analyze and solve problems systematically.