For a baby, life is one big experiment. Trial and error is how they live their days. But have you ever wondered how to teach critical thinking to your child?
Our biggest experiment of our own as parents on this front has been related to child-proofing our house.
Quite simply put, we chose not to child-proof our house.
Our rationale was simple.
We want Hailey to learn what she’s allowed and not allowed to do, right from wrong, what is safe and unsafe, and we don’t always want to be the ones making those decisions for her.
We also don’t want to have to worry about lack of child-proofing if we’re visiting other people’s houses.
Decision making and critically assessing the situation is a skill that we want Hailey to have.
And we’ve had fun on the no-child-proofing adventure!
I always enjoy watching Hailey roaming around the house and exploring every little inch of our home.
I do my best to place as few limitations on her as possible.
She’s allowed to roam from room to room and I don’t feel the need to follow.
We have no baby gates on the stairs so she can go up when she wants (I still spot her). And she doesn’t try to go down anymore. I’m sure she will at some point but for now she just stops at the top of the stairs.
She can open all drawers and cupboards in our entire house with the exception of 2: the medicine cabinet and the china cabinet.
I let her explore the kitchen cupboards every night while we’re making dinner. And we keep glass bottles and dishes in those cupboards.
She knows what she can play with and what she can’t play with.
For example, we keep all of our cooking oils in one of the lower cupboards. The majority of them are glass with the exception of two: the vegetable oil and the coconut oil. Even though they are all kept together, Hailey only pulls out those two oils.
We keep an assortment of lids on a rack inside one of the cupboards. We have plastic lids and glass lids intermingled. Hailey will pull out only the plastic lids even if they’re behind the glass lids.
Now, this is not to say that she never ever pulls out anything glass. Because she does. But it happens maybe once per week.
I’m there to stop her when she does. I always explain to her why I don’t want her to play with glass.
I say something like “You know you’re not supposed to play with glass. It could break and hurt you and we don’t want that to happen. There’s lots of other things to play with all around you. Why don’t we play with something else?”
This is the most important part – explaining why and then redirecting.
Babies understand SO much more than we think they do. They are so smart.
I began noticing her comprehension when she was only a few months old and I imagine it was there long before I noticed.
So I treat her as if she understands me 100%. I talk to her like she’s an older child.
If your house is baby-proofed and you’re used to containing your baby to one area then my approach may seem completely off the wall and like it could be a ton of work.
Yes, I have to pay attention to what she’s doing. But in all honesty, it hasn’t taken her long to catch on.
My intention for her and what I want her to feel from my approach is that she’s free to make her own choices. Yes, I will guide her and I may tell her no. But I also trust that she is capable of making good choices if left to her own devises.
And she may not be 100% capable yet, but we’re headed in that direction.
So how do you teach critical thinking to a baby?
You let them experiment, explore, and learn for themselves through trial and error.
You share your insights with them about what you’ve learned so far in life.
You let them make decisions. You let them fail and learn from those failures. You trust that they will be fine and it’s not the end of the world if they get it wrong.