How allowing a preschooler to choose an outfit of the day can help with critical thinking

May 13, 2022 / Learn About Osmo

Dave Blanchard is faculty in the Teacher Development Department at the College of Education and Learning Design at St. Cloud State University and on the advisory board of BYJU’s Learning. We spoke to him about some of the best ways parents can encourage critical thinking in their preschool age children. 

Getting dressed and choosing an outfit, at least for adults, is just a routine part of the morning.

But for preschoolers, it can be a key way to build independence and critical thinking – with a pretty low-stakes process.

“Critical thinking within just general life, in this age range is awesome when it comes to what clothes we might need for the day,” said Blanchard. “It requires thinking about what activities we’re going to be having and what things we might be doing. So is it going to be cold? Is it going to be wet? Hot outside? These are all things that three, four, five year olds can really think about and make good decisions.”

As a parent or caretaker, there’s also some easy backup you can provide here. Is the outfit your child picked out not quite warm enough? Grab a sweatshirt for support when they realize their clothing choice was a bit off. 

Worried about a fashion disaster? Blanchard said there are some situations where it’s important to maybe conform to a few social norms. But even that can come with some independent thinking and choices. 

Blanchard says he tells his oldest child that he can choose whatever he wants to wear, but might step in with some suggestions if the situation requires.

“Only in situations where I knew we were going to be in a picture or something where we were going to have this really big impression within a context or a relationship, those are some areas where I might provide more choice than autonomy,” he said. “So we might have three outfits pulled out and they can choose whatever shirt, whatever shoes but I know as a parent it’s also going to fit that social context that sometimes we do want to guide as adults.

“There’s other times, like if we’re going grocery shopping or to the park, I am not going to put those limits on them and probably as that parent who is a nonconformist I’m getting more and more to the point of not worrying about a fashion faux pas.” 

Another good start to helping your preschooler build critical thinking skills: Snacks! 

Have your child start planning their snacks for the day, Blanchard advised. 

“Thinking what type of food do they like,” he said. “What type of food do we want to try and what are the effects of these foods? I know as we think about what snacks we have throughout the day we’re thinking how does this stick to my teeth? How will this impact what I’m going to eat for lunch? Is my snack too close to a certain time?” 

This isn’t just about meal planning. Instead, Blanchard argues, these are all applied forms of critical thinking that can help kids build confidence and increase their autonomy – and develop some independence.

“As the parents of two littles, having independent kids is a life goal so being able to build that in early through really safe choices is a simple win,” he said. 

And of course he has some ways to build critical thinking through Osmo – a favorite in his house is the Little Genius Kit.

“When we look at critical thinking with some of our littlest learners, we want them to be questioning why things are or how things match,” he said. “One great way to do that within Osmo is to use the Little Genius Kit because we have great structure to be able to play with our children, next to our children and guide them without necessarily having to do anything for them.”

He pointed to the choices kids have to make for characters in Osmo Stories as something that builds critical thinking skills well.

“This allows them to be creative, think about the problem and what the solution might be,” he said. And similarly in Osmo Squiggle Magic, they have support when figuring out what shapes and materials they may need.”