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Supporting Critical Thinking in Toddlers

Reflections from the Field

Toddler teacher Amie Theriault shares her strategies for supporting the development of toddlers' critical thinking skills. She brings the children's attention to their thinking and prompts them to talk about their observations. Through conversation, she scaffolds their learning by supporting their ideas and challenging them to expand their thinking. She also describes her thought processes for the children's benefit.

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  • Video Transcript for Supporting Critical Thinking in Toddlers

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    Download a transcript of this video in .pdf format.

    Amie Theriault, Toddler Teacher, Child and Family Development Resource Center:
    As a toddler teacher, my goal is to really observe what they’re interested in. Throughout the day, a lot of them are still very pre-verbal, so it takes some observing and reflecting on my part on what it is that they want to know about and that they want to learn about. And then I go from there. I ask them open-ended questions. You know, “I noticed that you’re noticing something. What do you think would happen if…”

    Amie: Those are called beads. What happens when you shake it? Do you notice anything?

    Amie Theriault: Scaffolding is huge; constantly scaffolding. Especially during play. I think play is a critical time that they can learn so many skills with problem solving and critical thinking. And sometimes I also think aloud for them. So I talk about what I’m noticing.

    Amie: Oh, I noticed you’re scratching it with your fingernails.

    Amie Theriault: To get their minds really in that mindset when they’re doing things as well. So they can start thinking in those ways, too.

    © 2016 Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Produced by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.
  • Producers: Terry Surprenant, Sean Leser
    Script: Terry Surprenant
    Editing and Videography: Sean Leser
  • Special thanks to the Child and Family Resource Development Center in Willimantic, Connecticut. The development of this video was funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.