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Teaching Your Child About Philosophy

Teaching Your Child About Philosophy

Should we teach a child about philosophy? And if so, what areas of philosophy should we teach them?

At Mini Beee, children’s education is a topic which absolutely fascinates us. 


There is so much for a child to learn, and as parents (let's face it, we’re all thrown in at the deep end), we are left with so many questions - namely, where do we even begin!? 


The topic of philosophy is an intriguing one, but it aptly summarises this debate, and the confusion that parents often feel when it comes to their child’s education. 


Should we teach a child about philosophy? And if so, what areas of philosophy should we teach them? 


Although this matter is completely up to the parent and their own beliefs, we believe that there are a lot of benefits to be gained from teaching a child about philosophy. This type of learning can be made child-friendly (so that it doesn’t include complex or unsettling adult topics), and the focus that philosophy places on questioning the given is a fantastic skill for a child to develop. 


We take great delight in being able to use our blog as a platform to showcase different forms of childcare, children’s education, and all-round ideas that have the potential to benefit development. So, in our latest installment of childcare-oriented blogs, we will be discussing philosophy for children, and giving parents some actionable tips on how they can teach it to their children at home. 


What would philosophy for children look like? 


Philosophy is all about being curious, and thinking about life’s big questions in an intellectually stimulating way. 


Generally speaking, philosophy can be better understood by thinking about where the word came from. It originates from a Greek word, which can be translated to “love of wisdom”. As such, philosophy is not about asking questions just to find concrete, actionable answers. Instead, it’s about fuelling an active mind, and helping people to see the joy to be gained in thinking about things more deeply. 


This is a skill which is undoubtedly important for people of all ages. 


The Center for Philosophy for Children is a brilliant organisation, which really showcases the importance of this type of learning for children. The organisation speaks about how:


“Although it is one of the oldest academic disciplines, traditionally philosophy has not been considered a subject for children. Yet, in many ways, young people are natural philosophers. They ask philosophical questions and are curious about philosophical issues: how do we know things?, what is beauty?, how are the mind and body connected? Young people do not need to learn philosophy; it is something they do.”

So then, the next big question would be, what topics does philosophy cover? The answer is, at once, a simple and a difficult one. Essentially, you could have a philosophical debate about almost any topic. 


Generally speaking, philosophy is all about posing big questions, which make us think about the world and our place in it. It could be about morals, time, life’s meaning, our opinion on a particular debate, our personal view of something that occurs in the world, and so on. 


According to The Center for Philosophy for Children: 


“What characterizes a philosophical question is not what it is about, but at what level it is asked. For example, someone might ask whether some social arrangement is fair; a philosopher will ask, “What is fairness?” Philosophy demonstrates that some of the simplest questions we ask are also the most difficult to answer.”


Philosophy doesn’t just have to be about stuffy old men sitting in their libraries smoking on a pipe - actually, the topics are fluid, engaging, and can differ hugely from person to person, depending on what they’re interested in. 


It’s a great way to discuss loads of different topics with a child. For example, you might wish to discuss their beliefs about what would be a fair way to resolve a hypothetical argument. Or, you might get them to think about what makes something beautiful. You could also discuss what you, personally, makes someone a ‘good’ person. 


Give it a chance - you’ll be surprised by how intelligent your child is, when they’re given the chance to showcase it. 


What are the benefits of teaching children about philosophy? 


At its purest form, philosophy is all about developing curiosity, a love of learning, and an independent, confident mindset. All skills which any parent would want to encourage their child to develop. 


In recent years, there have been a number of studies on the impact that teaching philosophy in schools can have on young people. 


In fact, according to recent research into the teaching of philosophy to children, these lessons brought about huge benefits to participants across the board. 


The Center for Philosophy for Children details these findings. In the 2007 report - conducted by Dr. Keith Topping and Dr. Steven Trickey - children in Scotland aged between 10-12 participated in one hour of philosophical discussion at school each week, over the course of 16 months. 


The report states that this was shown to boost their scores on the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT3, 2001) in the key areas of verbal, non-verbal and quantitative testing areas, all by an average of 7 points. What’s more, these benefits continued to be seen after the philosophical debate sessions ceased, and the scores of these children continued to improve. 


Then, 7 months after the start of the study, the children were found to participate in lessons more often, behave better, be more confident, empathetic and have more self-control.


It’s clear that there’s a lot to be gained by developing a child’s understanding of philosophy. 


Alongside these benefits in a school setting, the benefits of teaching a child about philosophy and engaging in philosophical discussions with them at home include: 


1. The ability to develop their self-confidence;

2. Encouraging your child to be more inquisitive, and not just take things for granted, or as a given; 

3. Fostering a love of learning;

4. Keeping the mind active and engaged;

5. Encouraging them to speak out against injustice, or things that they do not believe are fair;

6. Help them to grow into a caring, considerate and enthusiastic adult. 


How should I approach philosophical debates with my child? 


Often, these sorts of debates are tricky to enter into with our child. We tend to have that instinctive desire to correct them if they make a mistake, help them to form their answers, or to encourage them to provide a textbook answer. 


As a result, in a lot of ways, the key to engaging in a philosophical debate with your child at home would be to abandon the typical parenting urges. 


Help them to be a part of this conversation as an individual. Encourage their own sense of uniqueness, and remind them that it’s ok (better than ok, in fact) to have their own opinion about these different things. 


With that in mind, our top 5 tips for talking philosophy with your child are:


1. Be open-minded. Remember, your child is an individual, and so (despite what you might think), you have no idea what they’re going to say! Expect the unexpected. 


2. Encourage them. It can be difficult to boldly declare an answer to a difficult question, especially if your child is shy or nervous. So, encourage them to think about it carefully, and then give their answer with confidence.


3. Show them that their opinion is important. It’s crucial that your child knows that you want to hear what they have to say. Reinforce their belief that their voice and their opinions are just as valuable and important as anyone else's. 


4. Be careful not to reject them. One of the worst things that you could do would be to reject their idea, or tell them that they are wrong. This would be a huge confidence knock! So, clearly show them that you are considering their answer with phrases like, ‘That’s interesting’, or ‘I hadn’t thought about it like that, that’s a good idea’. 


5. Choose topics that interest them. As we’ve seen, philosophy covers a huge range of different things, so debate about topics which you know that they are interested in.


As you’ve seen across our blog, the development of children is a topic which hugely interests us. We love discovering how children learn, and what we can do, as parents, to foster this growth and nurture their intelligence. 


One other factor which we have seen brings huge benefits to children is outdoor play. Much like philosophy, outdoor play encourages a sense of independence, creativity and confidence, which benefit children for their entire lives. 


So, if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of outdoor play, or how our range of children’s outdoor furnishings can help you to encourage this activity, be sure to check out our online shop



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