Thinking skills are such an important part of your child’s development. Good thinking skills can help your child make good choices, come up with creative ideas and try to solve their problems independently.
Here are 10 simple techniques you can use throughout the day to stimulate your child’s thinking skills:
1. Schedule ‘free-time’: This may seem counter-intuitive. Children growing up in Bangkok usually go from school to a series of after-school lessons. While this stimulates a child’s learning and gives them new skills, it is important to realize that this is all structured time with little opportunities to think independently. So, try to leave a daily time open in your child’s schedule for unstructured ‘free time’.
2. Pretend-play: Play serves as an important foundation for thinking and language. When your child pretends during play, they learn to associate a toy, or a pretend-event, with a real object or a real event. Pretend-play helps your child think about the world around them and understand it better.
3. Limit and rotate toys: Good news – there is no need to constantly buy new toys. No matter how many toys you buy, your child will eventually become bored of all of them. Instead, keep toys the same and rotate the toys, every few days. Encourage your child to use these same toys to create new situations or to use them in new ways. For example, your child can use a toy-rock as a phone during play, or use a sheet of paper as a blanket. This is called substitution-play and it is great for expanding your child’s thinking through their imagination.
4. Familiar stories with new endings: More good news – you also do not have to keep buying new books. Yes, your child might become familiar with the stories that you read to them, or that they have started reading by themselves. But, you can keep these books interesting by stopping half-way or towards the end and asking your child, “how do you want the story to end this time? Why do you want this to happen?” This will make your child think more than if they are simply listening to a story.
5. Stop and Wait: When your child has a question or a small problem, it is intuitive to immediately step-in and help. Instead, try to stop and wait first. This will give your child the chance to think for themselves and attempt to solve their problem creatively or independently. By assuming competence, you empower your child to think independently.
6. Teach reasons, as well as rules: During speech therapy sessions, I usually explain the reason behind each rule I give. I have found that this helps children understand the purpose of rules, which makes them more likely to follow the rules. So, the next time you give your child a rule, try to explain the reason why this rule exists. You might be surprised at how they respond once you expand their thinking and understanding this way.
7. Ask open-ended questions: Questions like ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if’ will help your child to expand their thinking and creativity. One way you can do this is after watching a movie together. For example, “why do you think this happened in the movie?” Another way you can do this is when your child asks you for something, “why do you want a new bike?”
8. Think out loud: You can model thinking to your child by thinking out loud. You can do this throughout the day during your routines or when you make a decision. For example, before leaving home together, “look at the clouds in the sky, it’s going to rain today. I think we should take the umbrella”.
9. Teach a second language: Research studies have shown that being bilingual has many cognitive benefits, including improved memory, ability to learn new things and flexibility between tasks. Interestingly, there is research showing that the cognitive benefits of being bilingual start from the young age of 7-months (Kovacs & Mehler, 2009) .
10. Finally, encourage your child to ‘explore’ their surroundings outside. After all, thinking and creativity is limited between four walls!
The Expat Speechie
Kovacs, A., & Mehler, J. (2009). Cognitive Gains in 7-month old Bilingual Infants. PNAS, 106, 6556–6560.
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