The Importance of Critical Thinking for Young Minds

We hear about the importance of “critical thinking skills” all the time, but why exactly are these skills so heavily prioritized with students? Read on to learn more about the importance of critical thinking for young minds.

Skills for success

Critical thinking skills encompass a wide array of abilities we use on a daily basis. With students, the skills often prioritized are:

  • Logic and deductive reasoning
  • Problem-solving
  • Adapting to new situations
  • Forming arguments and opinions
  • Analyzing new information
  • Identifying problems
  • Creating unique solutions
  • Communicating ideas
  • Actively observing situations
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Determining relevance
  • Evaluating biases

All of these skills are used throughout our entire academic careers – through college and beyond. In addition, critical thinking skills are required for nearly all academic subjects for students of all ages.

Often underprioritized

Unfortunately, many students lack the critical thinking skills they need to reach their full potential. Recent studies of elementary school children found that the majority scored low on critical thinking skills. 

The researchers also made note of the students’ difficulties analyzing information for themselves, observing that students “simply summarized the questions” and “relied on memory, not understanding.” (Sarwanto et al, 2021)

Relying on memory, but not understanding. This is something we’ve been talking about for years; one of our most popular blogs, “The Top 5 Reasons Students Struggle with Math,” shared a very similar observation: “Concepts are learned, but not understood.”

Our best recommendation for parents is to encourage their kids to form their own interests, opinions, and original ideas. In addition – when your child is faced with a dilemma, fight the urge to solve it for them. Instead, encourage them to brainstorm solutions for themselves and discuss them together afterwards.

Here are some more great tips:

Evaluating biases

At the beginning of this blog, we listed “evaluating biases” as a critical thinking skill. Why? Throughout their educational career, students will need to rely on this skill to determine the validity of academic sources. However, there’s another reason we chose to highlight this particular skill.

Technology has broadened our access to media and information in ways history could never have predicted. At any given moment, we have access to literal libraries full of information at our fingertips. However, students need to know how to identify which sources can be trusted and which cannot – and we mean this far beyond an academic scope.

Let’s put it bluntly – a lot of stuff on the internet isn’t real. For parents, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Kids, however, often have difficulty making this distinction.

From social media pictures to viral videos, students are flooded with opinions, views, styles, news, and more on a daily basis. This is the reason critical thinking skills are so important: students need to develop their own lens of truth for evaluating content.

Unfortunately, this happens to be an area where many students are not well equipped. A recent Stanford study examined high school students’ ability to determine the legitimacy of news articles and found a near-total “inability by high schoolers to detect fake news on the internet.” 

Our best advice is to ask your kids to practice healthy skepticism – encourage them to do their own research, verify claims for themselves, and form their own opinions about a source’s validity. Here are some great places to get started:

Looking for more information on critical thinking skills? Check out Tips to Teach Your Kids to Be Awesome Critical Thinkers!