Throughout childhood and adolescence, children’s brains are developing in important ways.
One sign of this development is the ability to think about abstract concepts, such as “truth” and “justice.”
During middle school, children become better at abstract thinking, but they still need guidance.
Parents can initiate activities and conversations that involve these skills. Here are some examples that have worked for others:
• Challenge accepted ideas. Ask, “Why shouldn’t athletes cheat?” or “Why don’t children go to school on the weekends?”
Making young people support their accepted beliefs helps them understand the concepts behind those beliefs.
• Talk with your child about imaginary situations. Ask: “What if you won the lottery?” or “What if eating ice cream became illegal?”
• Do science experiments, and have children guess what will happen. Ask: “If we shine a lamp on this plant, will it grow faster or slower?”
• Play games that require thinking ahead. “Battleship,” checkers, and chess are good examples of games that require some strategy.
• Let your children make choices. It’s OK if they make minor mistakes, such as spending their allowance too quickly. Use real-life situations to help your children learn from their choices.
• Play “Twenty Questions.” Use categorical questions in general terms. Ask: “Is it a city?” instead of “Is it Miami?”
All these strategies help children develop their critical thinking skills.