The thinking child

The thinking child

The ‘how’ of how we are allowed to think as a child plays a fundamental role in how we think of ourselves and the world around us as we grow up. We are born into different families, with a variety of influences, rules and regulations imposed. We are surrounded by family members, family friends and family acquaintances, that might, to a lesser or larger degree, play an influential role in our lives. Amidst this influence it’s important that we responsibly allow children to find their own way too.

At what age you might ask? This is not a question easily answered, as it depends on the individual child and the situation. But I would suggest you let it be soon, with small, age appropriate situations, in a safe environment. And when I mean ‘safe’ I don’t mean wrapping your child up in cotton-wool, I mean allowing them to do their own thing, whilst supervised.

An example of this is allowing your child to go up the slide, and not only the traditional way of down. If they discover that they can conquer this harder route (a slide is harder to climb than a ladder) it provides a sense of accomplishment and independence. It also shows that there is not always only one way of looking at things in life, and it’s important to allow a child to reason and think in different ways from an early age. Taking a different path oftentimes leads to the same destination. It’s the journey that is important.

This approach is not only creative and gives a certain freedom, it embodies a child with a wonderful life skill that can only be beneficial as they go through school and enter adulthood.

When viewing a Mathematics problem to solve, letting a child find their own solution and reach the right solution is oftentimes better than telling them how they need to go about solving the problem to find that solution. It might take them longer, which is fine. What’s the rush?

Children need to think for themselves and not be spoon fed. Spoon feeding takes place when they are babies, and then only for a short while as they need to learn to grasp the spoon themselves and self feed. Yes it gets messy, but look at the bigger, long term picture and the incredible enjoyment and life learning that is taking place. It is immeasurable.

So what is the process involved with this critical thinking? It usually follows the pattern of reasoning, evaluating, problem solving, decision making and analysis. To some this will come naturally, whereas others might need to hone these skills. Practising and honing these skills from a young age can lead to future success in school, at work and in life in general.



Jennifer McQuillan is a thrice Outstanding ex childminder, who founded an award winning SW London preschool nursery. She is passionate about early years childcare and education, with a special leaning toward special needs and disabilities. She is the Africa Representative for the Preschool Learning Alliance children's charity. Now based in South Africa, she runs Imbali Early Years Consultancy and is involved in a variety of education-based projects.