Critical Thinking Development: Ages 10 to 12
The four factors (basic reasoning, self-esteem, emotional management, and social norms) we examined in the first part of this guide, concerning children aged five to nine, are still relevant when considering the development of critical thinking in young people aged 10 to 12.
However, the development of critical thinking in children aged 10 to 12 will be particularly influenced by the following three factors, around which this section of the guide is organized:
The development of the ability to reason logically, allowing children to go beyond everyday argument.
Puberty and its implications for children’s interests, self-esteem, and ability to manage their emotions.
The digital universe, including video games, internet use, and the development of a new social life (or pseudo-social life) on social networks targeting young people.
These factors both deepen the child’s development in critical thinking and present new obstacles. There is much parents can do to help them further their development along productive tracks and avoid potential pitfalls.
In terms of reasoning, the big step forward at this age involves the heightened capacity for abstraction and formal logic. Where younger children apply rudimentary reasoning to concrete situations encountered in everyday life, the 10- to 12-year-old begins to draw more general conclusions from his or her everyday experience. Parents can encourage this move to greater abstraction by continually challenging their children with more complex discussions at home and by working on basic formal logic exercises with them.
This development is challenged by both the onset of puberty—along with the emotions and the process of individuation that accompany it—as well as by the new digital distractions children are increasingly exposed to during this period. Social networks, especially, can put a strain on children at this age.
But if adolescents manage to overcome some of these obstacles to cognitive development, critical thinking can itself serve as a way to channel some of their new energy, curiosity, and desire for independence. By recognizing the changes their child is going through and facilitating intellectual growth, parents can help make this challenging time an exciting and productive one, and prepare their children for the further cognitive advances to come in young adulthood.