Ages 10 to 12

Ages 10 to 12


Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Ages 10 to 12

Teaching your child how to think critically and how to be a critical thinker is now more than ever an important foundational responsibility of parenthood. Challenges abound and there are more pitfalls in today’s media and technology driven society.

Throughout this guide you’ll find case studies, practical exercises, resources, and informational pages designed to assist parents to better understand age specific developmental factors that influence how children can the necessary develop critical thinking skills they need to effectively navigate their formative years as well as their future adult lives.

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.

Why is it important to develop critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about your actions and your surroundings. Children, given their formative stages of development, are especially vulnerable to outside influences as they’re still developing their capacity for independent thinking and personal identities.

A strong foundation with regard to critical thinking skills allows children to better navigate their surroundings and their relationships with their parents and peers, and even with themselves. The development of these skills is a lifelong process and you may find that even you, as a parent, can gain valuable insights into your own personal development.

Ways to increase critical thinking skills

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.