Using the holidays to teach your child critical thinking

Holidays are about rest and recreation, but you can use this time creatively to develop new skills, such as critical thinking.

Reading Time: 4 minutes


It is very important for parents to use the time during the holidays wisely. The extended break is an opportunity to provide time, structure and experiences to develop critical thinking capability in your child. There are a number of important steps to undertake in order to maximise the opportunity for your child to learn to think, to reason, and to think critically.

Play time and some thinking time

It is important for both parents and children to have balance during the holidays. This means that while holidays are a time for children to get a decent break, it does not mean time away from books for five weeks. There should be days and even weeks when there is no expectation the children do any structured thinking, a balanced life means that holidays can have thinking time and as well as plenty of play time. Included in this is time for social interactions, notwithstanding that this is slightly harder in these holidays due to Omicron.


In the first instance, ensure there is appropriate structure to each day. Appropriate structure takes the form of discipline early, productive thinking with a clear mind in the morning and free play, social interaction, television watching and downtime later. Most children feel safest, best guided and also more personally fulfilled when days have predictability and balance.

Reading daily

A significant and important skill, arguably one of the fundamental tenets of critical thinking is the discipline and regularity of reading daily. Reading exposes children to language, ideas, a world of imagination, perspectives as well as the capacity to boost their overall understanding. An important aspect of reading is the capacity to read confidently out loud.

Reading out loud

Allow time for children to read out loud. Indeed, parents themselves should read out loud with their children and use this as a basis for discussing what they’re reading, assessing reading comprehension as well as using it as an opportunity to improve expression, articulation and the understanding of language.

Thinking training

Parents can invest in books that have structured problems and worked solutions. The investment in printed materials helps to provide a number of different things that can assist with thinking. Firstly, prepared materials help to provide structure. Secondly prepared materials can assist parents to know what the age and stage expectations are. This means parents can get an understanding of the kind of thinking skills that would be indicative of a child at a particular age or with a particular level of ability. Thirdly, prepared materials provide an opportunity for children to work on their own. It is often in working by themselves that children learn best how they think.

Answers matter and answers do not matter

It is very common for parents to get fixated on their children “being right.” When training children for thinking, “being right” is far less important than understanding how to do. That is, the focus should be on process not product.

Learning the right strategies

When developing thinking skills, children need to be taught a range of strategies. Whilst there are structured methodologies for answering critical thinking problems, there is also a common pattern in questions that can mean there are several different ways of reaching correct conclusions. Parents need to be open to alternative ways of problem solving, not fixated that the way they learned is the only way children learn.

Taking risks when not knowing

The real development of critical thinking occurs when children can attempt questions even if they do not know exactly where they’re going in their processing. This is evidence of children who are not afraid to take academic risks. Taking academic risks means children will attempt to solve problems through trying various methods even when the outcome at the outset is uncertain. It is through experimenting that children learn to build their confidence. When parents are too fixated on children being right, they limit or quell the capacity for children to learn to develop the capacity to try something new

Not every question needs an answer

Some parents are highly vested in answering every question a child asks. In my opinion this can lead to frenetic activity from parents and very little effort from children. Parents need to develop the capacity to discern between the questions that are important to answer and those that are simply the passing of time. If you are a parent who remembers the question that the child has forgotten and revisits it, it is possible that you need to breathe and remember to take time out. Not every question needs an answer. It is healthy to live with the uncertainty of some things being unknown.

Source: Canva

Joining a class

During the holidays there are always classes available which provide structure and materials to support children and their critical thinking. It can be very useful for parents and also supportive to enrol their child in such classes. However, prior to enrolling parents should be careful to ask questions about who wrote the materials, how well they map to an understanding of critical thinking and what the intended outcomes of such classes are. In this way parents can make informed decisions about the value of any such classes.

Telling jokes

Finally, I will often commence teaching critical thinking with a joke or a puzzle. This is entirely planned. The purpose of this is threefold. Firstly, learning should be fun. Secondly when people tell jokes it often requires a type of thinking that integrates critical and creative abilities. Thirdly humour carries expectation of further humour. Therefore, students are open and tend to look forward to what they’re learning.

In summary, the holidays are a great opportunity for providing your child with both a break from schooling and a start to developing habits that build into the capacity to think critically.

READ ALSO: Developing critical thinking skills in your kids

Mohan Dhall
Mohan Dhall
Academic leader, M2K Education and Advisory and CEO of Australian Tutoring Association and Global Tutoring Association.

What's On