It’s less than a week before Christmas (eek!). Most of us are trying to curb our shopping trips, and mail service has been (understandably) running way behind. Even those who started the hunt for gifts early are still waiting for something to arrive.
There’s really nothing we can do to help with all of that, but we can reassure you, as a parent, that there’s an amazing gift you can still give your child over the holiday. It doesn’t require delivery or batteries, it’s free, and it works fabulously well, even during a lockdown. It’s more useful than new socks and underwear, and it lasts longer than store-bought fruitcake. It’s actually pretty fun too.
Your child needs to learn to think, and if you’re going to be spending more time together at home this year, well, you’ve got a golden opportunity make it happen.
Here are some guidelines for this cultivating this particular “gift”:
- Being a good thinker is all about learning how to think, instead of what to think. Memorizing bare facts isn’t sufficient. There has to be a “why” involved, and a genuine effort to dive beneath surface details.
- Your child will ask you tricky questions. You probably won’t know the answers to all of them. You might not know the answers to any of them. Admit you don’t know, keep an open mind, and suggest that you think about these things together.
- Your child will need to know that you take them seriously, even if they’re still quite little. There’s no patting them on the head and telling them their ideas are cute or amusing. They need to be able to trust that you’ll hear them out.
- There are as many different answers to big questions as there are people to ask them, and your child is bound to run across one or two that take some time to process. The point isn’t to agree with everything. The point is to give every new idea consideration, disagree peacefully, and keep the conversation going.
- Learning to think well is an on-going process. It takes a lifetime, and it requires commitment, but it’s worth it. Anything worth having is worth working for.
- Children (thank goodness) don’t really separate work and play, and this applies to thinking as well. Their path to becoming a better thinker can be littered with silly jokes, songs, dancing, craft projects, sports, and cartoons, and they’ll still learn. They’ll probably even learn more effectively.
One of the best parts of giving your child this amazing gift is that you give it to yourself as well. Thinking together is a lasting, bonding experience that will bring you closer to this amazing little person. Like your child, you’ll learn to play with ideas, and delight in dialogue. You’ll get to tidy up your own thinking skills too, and get rid of some of the bad habits you’ve picked up over time.
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, including youngsters. With any luck, they’ll use the experiences of the past 10 months to become resilient critical thinkers, and active problem solvers. Making sure they have thinking tools at their disposal is a powerful way to help them navigate whatever comes next, both at home and at school.
Let us help! Check out our “Wall of Wonder” learning portal for all kinds of free learning resources for kids and their families.