Whew, do young kids even have any? Sometimes they seem the most irrational creatures, zero logical reasoning ability, just storming whirls of pure emotion–high highs and low lows. My 18-month-old has fully entered this phase and now throws himself down with loud wails whenever he’s told not do something (which is often with an older brother who doesn’t appreciate Xander’s lesser ability but strong desire to learn whatever older brother’s doing!). There are large alligator tears and a perfectly pouted lower lip when he’s scolded. But his joy reaches the highest heights, and his laugh is quick and contagious. What a roller coaster these rocket babies are!
Analytical ability is extremely connected to brain development. No matter how great a logical-thinking teacher one may be, there are certain things a toddler just isn’t going to get. Yet. But it’s worth taking a peek at budding analysis capability and conclusion-drawing skills.
Young kids, ages 3 and 4 even, are still strongly basing their understanding of the world on what they can see and observe. And it’s not a bad place to start! This makes it so fun to offer a wide range of things to play with and explore, especially sensory experiences like sand or play-doh. Asking open-ended questions like, “What do you think might happen next?” are great for nudging them toward estimation and prediction, two essentials in analytical thought process.
Once they get a little older, they begin to have the capacity to hold information in their minds and begin to make comparisons. They still need lots of concrete interactions as abstract thought is still a challenge, but they’ll begin to draw more comparisons–even between the concrete and the abstract! (source)
Perfect example: currently, Xanderman loves playing with our wooden train Thomas set, but he gets extremely frustrated when the little magnetic train cars are aligned to repel one another. Even though we’ve shown him time and again the simple solution of turning one of the cars around so they snap together easily, he simply doesn’t have the processing power to connect what we’ve demonstrated to the next frustrating encounter with misaligned trains. Eddie, however, after a few minutes of playing with Magna-Tiles or simple magnets quickly mastered their properties and could manipulate them to attract or repel as he liked.
Basically, age matters on this one. Two practical ways we can foster analytical ability at these young stages: 1) provide lots of opportunities to explore, sorting or making patterns is a great place to start and 2) ask lots of open-ended questions, even just “Why?” makes them think about the reasoning behind the observation. Simple ways to prompt higher-level thinking. Studies even suggest explicit instruction will help develop kids’ critical thinking skills, so point out cause and effect relationships, encourage thinking of multiple explanations, and praise critical thinking and creative solutions.
As far as completely irrational tantrums go…validation and naming those big feelings is a good place to start. And then, well, distraction is our best friend! Am I right?!