Critical thinking is one of the single most important subjects you can teach your kids.
We all take in a lot of information every day — filtering out unimportant things, making sense of the rest, taking appropriate action, and forming reasoned personal opinions are all skills that kids need to learn. Thinking critically isn't something we are born with, we must cultivate it.
Some parents struggle to find quality resources and methods for teaching critical thinking, logic, logical fallacies, and more. This kind of subject isn't often taught on its own in schools, and homeschooling gives parents a great opportunity to help kids learn how to think for themselves. Even parents who aren’t homeschooling their children may want to supplement their school curricula with some of these strategies.
Here are a few resources that parents can use at home to teach their kids to critically think.
Logic games are a great way to teach kids of all ages to make connections about how their actions cause reactions and how to solve problems by thinking analytically. Here are two companies that make a number of fun options:
A prolific purveyor of logic puzzles, Thinkfun brings families games they can purchase or play for free online. They are the creators of Rush Hour and Rush Hour Jr., in which players must free a car from a grid by moving car-shaped pieces around the board, and Laser Maze, in which players must position different tools to get a ray of light to bounce from one target to another.
Smart Games creates dynamic puzzles that students must masterfully solve by using logic. Games are available for different ages and ability levels, from the relatively simple like Castle Logix — which provides blocks in different shapes for kids to construct all kinds of castles — to IQ Twist — a colorful puzzle that requires students to place colored blocks in a certain order on a board.
Kids learn more when they are having fun. Check out our suggestions for educational games: Noodle and Parents' Choice Foundation Present: The Kids' Educational Holiday Gift Guide.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of a logical fallacy when making an argument. These illustrate flaws in reasoning, and can be found everywhere. It's important to learn how to spot them so that one isn't swayed by emotional arguments or what amounts to false information.
You can use the resources in the list mentioned below to look up common examples of logical fallacies, such as ad hominem, false dilemma, red herring, and straw man. Once you’ve used the resources to explore the meanings, you can look for easy-to-understand examples around you. Some good places to find examples of such arguments are in advertisements, political campaigns and debates, or Internet comments. As your kids get older, help them identify any fallacies that crop up in their own writing.
Depending on your preference, there are both free and paid resources that cover this topic. Here are a few, but an internet search for "logical fallacies" brings up countless others.
This book is both available to view on its website for free and for purchase in hard copy. It presents a variety of fallacies with short descriptions and cute animal illustrations that depict them. Though it looks like a children's book, the concepts contained therein are more intellectually advanced and will require some explanation.
Covering a wide range of fallacies, this one is a great general reference. It’s available for free online, but you may also purchase it. The collection provides great examples that bring fallacies to life, and the website allows users to ask questions if they are having difficulty understanding any topic.
This site has a handy printable poster (or you can order one for purchase) detailing some of the most commonly used fallacies.
Books and Magazines
Several companies provide child-friendly reading material that teaches kids about patterns, connections, and analysis. Whether their materials explain concepts or require children to put them into practice by completing puzzles, the resources below are great for kids of all ages and make for fun activities on a rainy day or long flight.
This company carries educational resources across all grades and subjects, but it truly excels in its critical thinking material. It hosts resources that are valuable to learners ranging from toddlers to adults. You will find plenty of materials here, including books and games about analogies, patterns, logical fallacies, logic grid puzzles, and thorough critical-thinking curricula.
Penny Press puts out many puzzle books and magazines that include all kinds of critical thinking games, like crosswords, sudoku, and word searches. They have value packs for kids of different grade levels.
While it's important to teach our kids how to think critically, this is a topic that kids really need to be invested in to be able to learn it well. Since you know your kids best, begin with the kinds of activities they enjoy. If they love games, begin with logic games. If they prefer paper/pencil activities, try the logic grid puzzles or analogies. If they love picking holes in other people's arguments, dive into logical fallacies.
Learning how to think critically helps kids learn to think for themselves and to analyze what they take in. You may even find them picking holes in your own arguments, so you should study up as well!
Want more tips on how to successfully homeschool your kids? Check out our homeschooling page. You can ask pressing questions and read advice from Noodle Experts.