Okay, so you never thought about the mind power of a two year old. I get it. But research shows, hands down, that helping children think about thinking … well, it just makes kids smarter. The technical term for thinking about thinking is metacognition, and as a mental health and education professional (as well as grandmother) I teach little ones to “think about thinking” from when they first speak. The benefits of doing toddler activities involving thinking about the thinker within are tremendous: Metacognition is a proven technique to support reading and math performance in school. In fact, I just gave a presentation about using Metacognition to Promote Reading Across the Common Core at a recent convention of the Council for Exceptional Children.
So, how do you teach a toddler to think about thinking? Well … asking questions is a good place to start.
Many activities for toddlers, such as singing, dancing, doing artwork, eating, and even watching television, are great opportunities to practice metacognition. Like when you are reading a book … ask “Hmmm, I wonder if you are thinking about why there is a picture of a puppy on the cover of this book?” or “Hmmm, I wonder if you are thinking about what is going to happen next?”
Over time, you can start to talk about your child’s thinking mind. Remember the old trick about asking children to put on your thinking caps? Well, it still works! Have your child put on his or her thinking cap, and begin to talk about how your child is thinking. Share how you think. “I like to think about happy things. Or ice cream. Or fluffy kittens.” Talk about how you sometimes think about questions you have about the world. “Sometimes I notice that I have a lot of questions about where stars come from or why there are so many bugs in the world.”
Exposing children to the concept of noticing their own thinking mind can really prepare them to learn metacognitive skills and promote academic success later on in life. Arts and crafts offer a great opportunity to engage your toddler in conversation about the thinker within. “Hey, honey, I wonder what you are thinking about this art project. I wonder if you noticed whether you want to paint some more or if you are thinking about using some stickers to decorate the page.”
Over time, you can be more direct with your child about metacognition. “Hey, sweetie, how about spending a few moments thinking about what thoughts you have on doing this project?” By the time they are preschool age, children can be taught to notice when they are using their thinker within to solve problems. This will prepare little ones for elementary school, where they will need to use their thinking mind to imagine HOW to solve math problems … even before they begin to find the solution.
Metacognition is a huge part of learning in many schools and about many subjects, especially math. So, Moms and Dads of toddlers, you are now prepared to take on the subject of Metacognition in Math when your child has to create problem solving strategies for math equations even before starting to do the adding and subtracting! You also know to expect your child to have to answer questions about “How are you going to learn about science” or “What is the best way for your to read this book?”
You and your child will be ahead of the class because you have already incorporated thinking about thinking into your family learning culture. So, happy thinking about thinking with your toddlers, Moms and Dads! Children are the gift of our future!
Want to stay on top of the latest research or parenting strategies?