If your kid is getting into STEM education and robotics for kids and coding for kids, then as a parent, you need to nurture a specific set of skills that kids naturally possess. Real-life engineers regularly use these thinking skills to develop solutions to problems.

Engineering is applying science and mathematics knowledge to develop solutions we often call technology. A typical engineer would think it is a method when faced with a problem. The problems could vary in complexity and structure, but engineers need these thinking skills to create those solutions. These skills are part of the engineering design process. 

There is no single method that engineers use. However, a commonly used technique is where engineers build models about the problems and make predictions about how a proposed solution will work, then plan about the resources required to develop the solution in terms of time, effort, money and materials, and predicting the chances of success. Once the model is developed into a prototype, it needs to be tested and evaluated for further improvements.

The Five Thinking Skills

Developing solutions this way requires the following skills:

1.Curious Thinking

Before beginning to work on any project, engineers will ask questions and gather information about the problem. Curiosity is the originating point for all these questions. They need this curiosity to make predictions about possible solutions.

Kids also love to explore their surroundings and environments. They are innately curious and this tendency can be developed into a habit of asking constructive questions about the situation.

2.Flexible Thinking

Expert engineers are adept at flexible thinking. It is the ability to change and adapt one’s strategy as per the changing situational demands in terms of time and resources. The prototype may also require changes to be made as and when new information emerges. So engineers need to be mentally flexible and adjust their ideas.

Cognitive studies on children show they are pretty flexible in their thinking and open to accepting new ideas when presented with sufficient evidence. This is also because the neuron connections in kids’ brains are still developing, unlike in adults, who are more likely to stick to a pattern of thinking. That’s why kids are also considered to be imaginative and creative. They do a lot of divergent thinking.

3.Persistent Thinking

Engineers keep persisting in their work till they arrive at the desired solution. They keep tweaking and refining at each phase of the design process, from rewriting their problem statement to building different prototypes, to deciding on the types of materials to be used etc. They work while keeping in mind their client’s requirements, engineering principles, and past experiences. All this work is the result of persistent thinking.

Children also display the persistence of working at a problem for several days, with proper support and encouragement from you and the provision of learning material,

4.Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking is the ability to evaluate and reflect upon design ideas before implementing them. Engineers continuously test the prototypes, evaluate and then make the necessary changes. The idea is to make evidence-based decision-making as that’s the foundation of engineering design. 

Kids are also adept at reflective thinking; a process researchers call remembering with analysis. It is what the kids planned to do and then comparing it with what they did. When kids display reflective thinking, they demonstrate more purposeful behaviour and have a greater chance of success.

5.Collaborative Thinking

Engineers often work in teams whenever they take on a project, and they need to be adept at teamwork, collaborative decision making and communication. They often need to engage in group tasks such as negotiation, clarification, negotiation and listening.

Research suggests that elementary school students display an excellent ability to work in teams. When working in teams, these kids engaged in the exchange of ideas, were open to suggestions to reflect upon their work, and critiqued others’ thoughts in a way that led to many changes in the final output. 

Problem Solving Framework:

The five thinking skills mentioned above provide kids with a problem-solving framework that they can make use of. That framework consists of the following steps:

1.Think about it 

2.Try it

3.Fix it

4.Share it

Thinking about the problem would involve setting the goal or the problem that the solution will solve. It also consists of brainstorming about the possible ways and solutions to the issues. 

Trying is essentially creating a solution or a prototype to solve the problem. Kids can work alone or in groups.

Fixing involves testing the solution and looking to improve the solution, all the while documenting the testing results.

Sharing is discussing and reflecting on the solution with others to make it a more collaborative process.

The Takeaway

Though kids possess this natural skill, the progress in your child on the path of STEM learning and robotics for kids and coding for kids will also depend very much on the adults they interact with, i.e. parents and also teachers.

Are you willing to elaborate, and ask questions about kids’ work and play? Kids need this guidance and involvement from adults, as with the proper scaffolding, they would be able to develop the skills to complete tasks independently.

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