In the age of digital technology, children are exposed to more information than ever before. It’s important to help them approach information critically while maintaining a sense of respect for all opinions and perspectives.
The Australian Curriculum places a big emphasis on critical thinking and media literacy skills, and parents play an important role in developing these skills at home from an early age.
Now more than ever in the age of fake news and social media, these skills are crucial in navigating misleading information and questionable practices by business leaders, media personalities and politicians.
Here are some fun activities to develop critical thinking and media literacy skills in a fun and engaging way at home.
1. Stage a UFO sighting
Talk to your child about conspiracy theories like UFOs, fairies and Bigfoot sightings. Sit down with them on the computer and do an online search for photographic evidence of these sighting (there are many convincing pictures out there!). Remember to make it a fun exercise, and try not to ridicule any of the theories – you can even let them 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
Show your child 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 to 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 about how animals that are raised for food do not experience these freedoms. You can use age-appropriate resources like the ‘Life of a Chicken’ homeschool worksheets, ‘Amazing Animal Mums’ homeschool lesson and ‘Trotsky the Pig’ homeschool lesson.
Help your child draft a letter to the local supermarket, voicing their concern over the treatment of food animals and asking them to stock more vegan and vegetarian items, or animal products with higher welfare standards (e.g. free range eggs over cage eggs). Encourage them 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 kids to know how important it is to use their voice, especially when it comes to challenging the norm.
Talk about 14-year-old Angelina Popovski’s incredible effort to get ALDI to phase out the sales of cage eggs in Australia. She created a petition asking ALDI to stop selling cage eggs, which sparked a massive campaign that attracted the attention of the whole country. In just days, over 40,000 people signed it! Read the Herald Sun article here.
4. Create an ad
Look at some advertisements together – 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.
Come up with an advertisement together to sell an unappetising product, like holed socks, an empty cardboard box or a used tissue. Get creative with coloured pencils, stickers or a design program like Canva 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 write misleading information about your product.
5. Search for answers
This is an ongoing habit to encourage your child to ask questions and maintain curiosity. Instead of answering questions directly, encourage them to ask even more questions and seek answers on their own. Make the process of questioning a fun and stimulating habit from an early age.
For example when your child has a question, do an online search together, ask a neighbour or relative who might have an interesting opinion or take a trip to a museum, park or landmark that may relate to their question. When you find initial answers, use them as a springboard for even more questions. It’s all about making the quest for answers a fun and highly rewarding experience!