5 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Think Outside the Box

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills our children can learn, and they begin honing this skill at a very young age. Being able to look at a problem in front of them, analyze their options, and come up with a solution creates a pattern of problem-solving that will carry them through life.

So how can we encourage our children to use these critical thinking and problem-solving skills? Here are three creative ways to encourage your child to think outside the box!

1. Less Screen Time, More Play Time

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Screen time is passive entertainment that requires very little thinking or creativity. Switch off your TV or put the tablet away and encourage your children to play—whether it’s in the house or outside in your yard. Kids of all ages benefit from creative play, and when they don’t have a screen in front of them doing all of the entertaining, they will find something to do that they enjoy. Keep board games, puzzles, indoor toys like blocks and dolls, and outdoor activities like balls and bubbles readily available to encourage your children to try new things.

If you are looking for creative ideas to encourage critical thinking in your children, try some outdoor games or a mystery box from Legacy Toys and surprise your child with something new and exciting to try!

2. Ask Questions

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It’s no secret that talking to your children is crucial for their development. By asking your child open-ended questions, you encourage them to think of an answer rather than giving a yes or a no. Questions like, “If you were a zookeeper, what kind of animals would you have?” or “What would you do if it started raining pancakes?” are silly ideas to get them thinking and talking, but you can also stick to more realistic questions like, “What makes someone a nice friend?” or “What do you think this book is about?” Prompting them to use their critical thinking to solve more complicated questions will tap into the creative parts of their brains while helping them develop their language skills.

3. Encourage Literacy

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Books transport us to new worlds, without us ever having to leave the couch. Babies and toddlers benefit from their parents reading to them, but seeing their parents or older children in the house reading gives them an example to look up to. Reading time can help your child express themselves better, learn to predict the outcome of a story (especially on that you read often), and encourage them to focus on details.

Make board books as accessible to your young child as plush toys, and encourage your young readers to continue reading once they learn the skill on their own. Keep a variety of subjects available, like books about bodies and emotions, books featuring their favorite characters, and Sunday school books, and let your child pick which book you read to them. This will encourage them to make their own choices, and show them that their opinions matter.

4. Make Space For Mistakes

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Let your child know that it’s okay—and completely normal—to make mistakes. Making mistakes and learning from them allows your child to assess a situation and think about the ways they could have done it better to get a different outcome. It also helps them learn to control their emotions when things don’t turn out as expected. Rather than punishing them for things they do wrong, offer them positive reinforcement for things they get right and show them that mistakes are normal by allowing them to see the mistakes that you make.

5. Foster Their Creative Interests

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Encouraging children to try new things and approach problems in a different way is important, but if they show a passion for a particular creative interest, nurture that! If your child tends to favor expressing themselves artistically with paintings and drawings, designate a creative space for them to use their imagination—and offer alternative mediums like pastels or watercolors, and fun odds and ends like glitter or feathers, to help them explore the possibilities of what they can create. If you’ve got a child who loves to build, consider investing in a LEGO table, so they always have a spot to keep their bricks off of the floor (and out of your feet) where they can create whenever they feel that creative spark.

No two children are exactly alike, but all children are alike in the sense that creativity and encouragement will help them think outside the box and strengthen the problem-solving skills that will carry them into adulthood. Talk to your children, foster their creativity, and always encourage them to look at the bigger picture—because the sooner you get them started in the right direction, the sooner these skills will take shape.