Thinking. It’s one of the most essential skills we can develop. The sharper our minds, the more we can learn and accomplish in our lives. Aside from knowing how to read, thinking offers us the ability, tools, and confidence to be lifetime learners.
Most parents know the importance of teaching their kids to think and to pay attention, to be faithful in their tasks, and to know how to trouble-shoot challenges that arise. But many parents aren’t quite sure how to help their kids gain the tools and skills necessary to do these things. It’s not as daunting a task as it might seem. There are many ways to help kids exercise their brains through attentive parenting and daily activities.
Here are three tips that will help cultivate a child’s thinking skills:
Teach Kids to Think
Each child has great mental potential. And while they don’t need to grow up and win the Nobel Prize, they can learn to solve problems and develop their minds. We all think every day – and we have the capability to cultivate our brain power. It just takes a little practice, patience, and focused awareness.
Whether it’s doing chores with our kids or helping them with homework, we have the opportunity to guide them through the process, stretching their minds with questions and dialogue to help them learn and grow. Although it often seems easier, resist the urge to do everything for your kids. They learn by doing, from keeping their rooms neat and other simple tasks around the house to homework and beyond. In this doing of things, they are learning to think. And this is a very good thing.
For example, if they’re helping set the table for dinner, ask age-appropriate questions such as, “What silverware is right for what’s on the menu?” or “How many plates and cups do we need?” Seemingly small questions prompt young minds to put together solutions, exercising those thinking muscles.
Thinking skills are also developed through simple, everyday dialogue, such as over a meal, after a movie, running errands, or while reading a story together. Consider the story you recently read aloud with the kids. You might ask what they thought was going to happen during the peak of the action. Did they like the characters, or how the story ended? Running errands might produce some conversation about the scenery you pass along the way and generate questions like, “What do they grow on that farm?” Or, “Where do you think that delivery truck is headed?”
The approach to encouraging your kids to think doesn’t have to be a formal inquisition. Look for small opportunities throughout your time together. A thought-provoking question here and there can extend your child’s mental capacity in numerous ways.
Games are a great way to engage kids of all ages on many levels. From reading and following the rules, to counting and strategizing, game playing and a little healthy competition will teach a wonderful range of thinking skills. Card games, memory, strategy, and word games, and mobile activities such as Charades or Simon Says offer great opportunities to develop young minds and stretch thinking skills.
Informal, impromptu games are also good ways to occupy your child’s brain and pass the time on a rainy day, or while out driving together, waiting for appointments, etc. The old standby games such as “I Spy”, where players try to guess a randomly chosen item in a room, or “Twenty Questions” help kids develop observational, thinking, and other cognizant skills.
Another quick and easy game, one my grandsons and I have recently played is called, “Name Three Things”, where we chose a category such as farm animals, dinosaurs, snack foods, etc., and then have a set amount of time, like six seconds, to name three things that fall into the category. A game doesn’t have to be complicated to provide a little fun and good mental benefits.
Teach Kids How to Solve Problems
One of the biggest ways to help kids learn to think and solve problems is to set a good example. Let the kids see you trouble-shoot and work through daily issues. Enlist their help and ask questions designed to help them think through situations as they arise. Children are naturally curious; use this as a catalyst when problem solving. For instance, if the lamp isn’t working, have them help you safely investigate. Is it plugged in? Did the light bulb burn out? Is the bulb screwed in properly?
Naturally you can’t do this all day, but you can take opportunities as they arise. Use care and balance, common sense, and age-appropriate discretion. You don’t want your toddler changing the light bulb, of course. But as they grow, they can watch and learn as you and any older siblings solve problems too.
Another facet of problem solving is to be able to read and follow directions carefully. When the kids come to you with a question about a process, game, assignment or similar, ask if they’ve read the directions. If they have, then ask them what the directions said. In this way, you can help pinpoint the area of difficulty and help them work through it. If they’ve not read them, review the directions or the process guidelines together and go from there.
Balance and Patience
With a good balance, eventually your kids will solve more problems on their own. Be patient in this process, it takes time, but it’s worth the effort. You will see results in the long run. Your kids will gain knowledge, thinking skills, and confidence and will be ready for a good future as productive adults.
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