Spoiler: your kid is already in love with philosophy. They (and maybe you) just don’t know it yet.
Yup, that’s right. The little person who dumps their toys all over the living room floor and has to be reminded (repeatedly) to put on socks is, in all likelihood, already head over heels for one of human kind’s oldest pursuits. Kids need to eat, and sleep, and move, and in most cases, they have a deep-seated need to ask questions. Big questions. Many, many big questions. Over and over and over again. What’s more, they seem to want answers, and are willing to throw all kinds of crazy ideas into a discussion in pursuit of these answers. Maybe asking (really) big questions isn’t all there is to philosophy, but it’s certainly at the heart of it.
It’s a good thing to be a philosopher, even a kid philosopher. Philosophers can dig their way through difficult, complex ideas, and come up with unique and timely solutions to problems. Philosophers can communicate effectively, and think logically. Philosophers want to know about themselves, other people and the world around them. Philosophers can dig through large amounts of information and find what’s true and useful. Sounds like things you’d like your kid to be able to do too, right?
So how does a big thinker nurture a little thinker’s love of philosophy? Well..
- Always insist on giving reasons. Avoid saying things like “just because” and “because I said so”. A cardinal rule of philosophy is that everyone has to explain themselves.
- Make it clear that it’s fine to say “I don’t know”, as long as it’s followed by “Let’s find out together.”
- Encourage your child to find as many answers as possible to the big questions they ask. Compare answers and see which ones seem to hold up better than others. Be prepared to revisit them later on, as more new answers come up.
- Allow your little thinker to use whatever medium they need to. Philosophy for kids can be done with crayons and paper, with songs and poems, with a nature hike, or through dramatic monologues and interpretive dance numbers. It can be done over dinner, or on your way to hockey practice. Whatever works.
- Take their ideas seriously. Child thinkers come up with surprisingly good questions and answers (really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Empower them by letting them know that you value what they bring to the conversation, and that you’re ready to listen.
- Enjoy it yourself too! Philosophy is cool. Your kid is cool. Putting them together is a joyful, delightful act, and one that is likely to bring you even closer together.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of the thinkers out there, both big and little!