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Jayne Carter

The importance of developing children’s thinking skills

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

The development of thinking skills is an essential life skill for all our children. Consider the journey a child takes as they move from a curious baby to an inquisitive pre-schooler, moving to an experimenting reception child, into a questioning KS1 child, then using their skills as a theorist and researcher in to KS2, ready to move into the next stage of their life. 

I like to think of the development of children’s thinking skills as a toolkit of strategies, ideas and resources which are slowly built up though careful support and interaction from supportive and insightful adults around them. When faced with new experiences or decisions, different pockets of their toolkit can be accessed and their different tools used. This helps children build up strong connections between situation and strategies and helps them grow a strong sense of their own identity and importance.

As the Lincolnshire lead for last year’s EEF funded Zippy’s Friends project I was in the very fortunate position to see how the programme enabled children to develop their own toolkit. Throughout the year, children grew in confidence in understanding and using the Zippy Tips to regulate their own coping strategies. It was amazing to see just how far they had developed their own thinking skills to the point that they were able to apply what they had learnt in their Zippy sessions elsewhere in their school day and also at home.

Teachers spoke with such enthusiasm about the format of the programme, highlighting specifically how the structure of Zippy provided their children with a much loved platform to check, practise and recheck their thoughts and ideas against. One teacher summed it up perfectly; “I have been fascinated to see children at playtime share their Zippy Tips with their friends. As a result of our Zippy Ambassadors, playtime falling outs have drastically reduced.”

What made this happen? Ideas included: sharing the Zippy Tips with lunchtime staff, sharing the programme in assemblies with the Zippy children taking lead roles, including in school newsletters and websites were some of the most popular. My particular favourite was to develop a whole school approach to the development of thinking skills with displays recognising this essential life skill & all lessons including this as a strategy to problem solve.

The children’s toolkits are definitely full, varied and functional!