How to raise a critical thinker

Teaching your little one to think critically can make their day-to-day life much more manageable, while also setting them up for future success.

Critical thinking is perhaps the most fundamental skill that you can instil in your child. It helps kids to make correct decisions, develop their own opinions and separate useful information from noise. Being able to think critically will ensure that your little one is able to navigate the world safely identifying right from wrong, fostering relationships and developing a deeper understanding of themselves. This is a strength that will stand to them both academically and professionally throughout their whole life – so, let’s take a closer look at what it is.

The benefits of critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to mentally process information, assess it and determine whether or not it’s rational or factual. This can be particularly helpful in school, both from an education standpoint and from a social one.

Success in school

Learning to think critically might help your child to turn the tables on any difficulties that they’re experiencing academically. Lots of children aren’t taught to think this way and, as a result, it can be extraordinarily difficult for them to glean all of the information from their school lessons. Lack of critical thinking can lead to kids who are misinformed, have greater difficulty learning and overall, it makes for a more challenging school experience. Those who are equipped with critical thinking skills are adept at both deciphering the key takeaways from their classes and committing them to memory. They will likely perform better in exams and reach their academic potential.

Social development

Moving through the maelstrom of schoolyard social dynamics is enough to test just about anyone! It can be so hard for children to find other kids that they trust, are able to rely on and can become friends with. From drama and gossip, to lies and bullying, there are a number of pitfalls for little ones to be wary of. Critical thinking comes into play strongly here. Through this, your child will be able to spot the positive influences as well as the negative ones. They’ll be able to see through any attempts at manipulation or peer-pressure by being able to think clearly for themselves.


Critical thinking can be like a superpower for self-confidence. As mentioned, a developed ability to think critically will give your little one a real boost both academically and socially. Performing well in these two tricky arenas can go a long way towards giving your child the gift of self-confidence. Furthermore, through critical thinking your son or daughter will be able to explore themselves. They’ll gain a deeper understanding of their own thoughts and feelings, and where these come from. This knowledge of self means that they are less caught off guard by their emotions and can stay well grounded. Correctly making decisions each day is a surefire way for your child to learn to trust themselves and that is a huge piece of the puzzle with regards to developing true self-confidence.

Creating a critical thinker

The good news is that it’s very possible, and perhaps even enjoyable, to set your child on the journey to becoming a critical thinker. With a few pointers, they’ll be on their way to being their most independent, thoughtful and capable selves.


Conversation is key. Finding a way to have thought-provoking conversations with your child on a regular basis will lay the foundations for critical thinking. You needn’t fret about coming up with an endless list of topics. Simply make time for intentional conversation with your little one and leave them plenty of room to express themselves. An easy place to start is to get them to ask you questions and then, once you’ve answered, to ask your own question in turn. Then they can take time to think about your question and formulate an answer. This back and forth often produces fascinating conversations full of twists, turns and deep thinking!

Set an example

One of the most important skills in parenting is to be the example that you would like your children to follow. As their primary role model, you can strongly inform your child’s behaviour by acting the way that you’d like them to act. This directly applies to critical thinking. If your little one sees you openly thinking through an issue, identifying aspects that you suspect are untrue, researching and fact-checking, they will begin to mirror this in their own way. There is so much information available in the world right now, and being able to understand which parts are true and which parts aren’t is something that serves parents and children alike!

Practice problem-solving

Solving problems is a tangible way to practise critical thinking. These can range from simple to complex, depending on your child’s age and stage. For example, lay out the tasks that your little one has to complete on a certain day and then challenge them to arrange these tasks chronologically in the order that makes the most sense. There are also plenty of fantastic problem-solving resources available online that will test your child’s critical thinking.

Foster an open mind

Open-mindedness is a cornerstone of critical thinking. Without an open mind, many people are incapable of examining information in an unbiased manner. In order to determine if something is true or not, it’s very important to have an open mind. So many of us are conditioned to believe certain things, whether it’s a limiting belief around money or self-imposed ceilings on our ability. Foster an open mind in your child to ensure that they are always willing and able to think clearly and objectively. To do so, encourage your little one to examine one of their own opinions from the opposite point of view, and to gracefully consider that there are often two sides to every story.

Making choices

Lots of children are anxious about making decisions. They fear making the wrong choice and the negative consequences that will follow. This is a great opportunity to role play with your child. Create a hypothetical situation where they have to decide which option to take, and walk them through the process of weighing up the potential outcomes and drawbacks. Next time they have a real decision to make, assist them in thinking critically about the situation before making the final decision.

Critical thinking in the age of social media

It has, arguably, never been more important for children to be critical thinkers. Social media floods our children’s world with images and stories that present certain people as having an ideal life or being impossibly beautiful. These days, thankfully, we understand that these standards of beauty, success and happiness are, more often than not, carefully filtered and curated by the original poster to present an image of perfection. Providing our children with the skills to think critically will empower them to see through the false representations of people online. This can offset the onslaught of insecurity and self-esteem issues that overexposure to social media can bring about in kids of all ages.

Teaching your little one to be a critical thinker is one of the very best lessons you can pass on to them. It enables children to flourish into capable, confident and well-informed young adults. With some gentle input and guidance from you, they’ll be well on their way to fulfilling their potential, as well as safely steering their own way through the many challenges that go hand in hand with growing up.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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