Five Activities to Raise Freethinking Children
In the digital age, children are exposed to more information than ever before. This is a fantastic thing, however it’s important for young children to understand the importance of questioning information, while maintaining a sense of respect for all opinions and perspectives.
Schools are a great place to develop these skills, with the ACARA National Curriculum placing great value on critical thinking and evaluating the knowledge children generate throughout their lives. But parents play the most important role in raising freethinking children. With the school holidays coming up, here are some fun activities the family can do to help nurture these valuable skills:
1) Stage a UFO sighting
Talk to your children about conspiracy theories like UFOs, fairies and Bigfoot sightings. Sit down with them on the computer and do a Google search for photographic evidence of these sighting (there’s a lot of convincing pictures out there!). Remember to make it a fun exercise, and try not to ridicule any of the theories – let your children decide whether they want to believe them or not. Afterwards, grab a digital camera and some ordinary objects (frisbees, aluminium foul etc), and together stage the best possible “UFO sighting”.
2) Rewrite the Rules
Sit down with your children and show them a set of draft rules you would like them to look over. Explain to them that their input matters and ask them how they feel about them. However, include some obviously unfair and nonsensical rules, such as “you’re not allowed to go into the bathroom without supervision to avoid slipping and falling”, or “you’re not allowed to tease anybody because of their hair or eye colour, but you are allowed to tease them about their clothes”. When they protest, ask them to help fix the rules so they are fair and just. Try to encourage them to think about the differences between rules and principles, i.e. doing something because they are rules, or doing something because you feel it is the right thing to do.
3) Write a letter to your local supermarket
Read the Five Freedoms for Animals and talk to your children about how animals that are raised for food do not experience these freedoms. It’s up to you how detailed you want to be, but you can discuss things like caged eggs, bobby calves and sow stalls. Help your children draft a letter to the local supermarket, voicing your concern over the treatment of food animals and asking them to improve the welfare of cows, pigs and chickens. Encourage your children to be creative and polite in their letter, and try to come up with solutions together about how to fix these problems. Writing their letter is a great way for children to understand that their voice is important, especially when it comes to challenging the norm.
4) Create an ad
Look at some advertisements with your children – you can take a trip to the local supermarket, open up a magazine or turn on the television. Discuss how advertisers get paid to make certain products look good, such as junk food, beauty products and cleaning products. Talk about the use of photo editing, persuasive language, camera tricks and makeup to make products appear better than they are. Afterwards, come up with an advertisement together to sell an unappetizing product, such as holed socks, an empty cardboard box or a used tissue. Get creative with coloured pencils, stickers or even Microsoft Paint to design an eye-catching advertisement to sell your useless product. You can take photos or draw pictures of your product to make it look better than it is, use powerful advertising words like ‘NEW’, ‘SAVE’, ‘GUARANTEE’, and ‘RESULTS’, and even write completely misleading information about your product. Check out the Don’t Buy It website for more ideas.
5) Search for answers TOGETHER
This is an ongoing thing to do with your children to encourage them to ask a lot of questions. Instead of answering questions, which often seems like the most obvious thing to do, encourage children to continue asking more questions and seeking answers on their own. Make the process of questioning a fun and pleasurable habit for your children. When your child asks a question, do a Google search together, ask a neighbour or relative who might have an interesting opinion, or take a trip to a museum, park or other place that may relate to their question. When you find answers, use them to spring even more questions. Make the quest for answers a fun and rewarding experience!
“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” – Last words of Gautama Buddha