While common core standards focus on ensuring children meet national standards in reading, writing, math and more, recent research suggest that teaching kids critical thinking and problem solving skills at an early age can yield improvements in these core academic subjects later in life. Skills such as Planning, Organization and Time Management play a major role in preparing class material and staying up to pace with school work, while other skills such as Focus and Working Memory help kids better absorb, retain and use information learned in class.
Here at LearningWorks for Kids, we aim to bring you the latest technologies, apps and games for teaching such skills, offering fun, interactive ways to practice and reinforce critical thinking skills. Parents looking to start introducing these skills to their children can get the ball rolling by implementing some of the simple activities listed below.
Activities for Helping Kids Build Thinking Skills
1.) Plan something fun together. Whether its a camping trip, a birthday party or a trip to the zoo, work with your child to plan out all the details of a fun family outing. Try to relate all the planning and preparation that goes into an activity before it starts, and get your child to think of the time limits involved (i.e., travel time, friends curfews, the zoo’s opening and closing times). Have your child create a checklist of all needed materials, and put him into the role of “inspector,” and work with him to ensure everything is in order before the fun begins.
2.) Keep a diary. Encouraging children to keep a diary is a great way to get them tapping into their creativity and reflect on the day-today lives. Teaching kids Self-Awareness helps them understand the decisions they make during the day, and also gets them into a regulated writing routine. A traditional pen and paper diary works great, but for parents looking for a more digital approach, the app Private Journal is a great choice.
3.) Makeup cooperative stories. Play a story building game with your child where she must internalize certain aspect of the story in order to create a cohesive sentence. Provide a start to the story, such as “once there was a ten-year-old girl who loved to be outdoors,” and then you and your child will take turns adding sentences to the story. This activity helps improve Working Memory skills because each person needs to retell the story from the beginning on every turn before they add their new line. While you can attempt to tell the story by trying to repeat exactly what has been said, it is often more effective to use paraphrasing in the repetition.
4.) Work your body, work your mind. This is a technique that can be very helpful for a child when doing his homework, cleaning his room, or taking a test at school. Sometimes stretching or moving while trying to brainstorm is very helpful. Practice a few basic yoga stretches and the breathing techniques that go along with them to really make this strategy effective. If the stretches become part of a routine, they can free up mental energies for processing school work.
5.) Play games in which you estimate time. Children who struggle with time management tend to have the trait of “time blindness,” in which they lack a sense of time, don’t think about the future, or don’t properly budget time. Developing strategies for improving time management involve learning how to estimate the amount of time needed to complete different tasks and activities. Children may need examples and markers to help in practicing this skill. For example, many children understand a typical television cartoon will last 30 minutes.