Thinking begins with wondering

By JUDY LYDEN Scripps Howard News Service

- Getting kids to think is a major project for teachers. It's a lot like opening a window that's been painted shut.

Thinking begins with wondering. Why do the clouds move? Why does a cat feel soft? What makes a fish want to stay under the water? Why is it darker in a woods than in a field? Being aware that there are clouds, that cats do have fur, that fish swim and that the sun shines from the sky are called "first steps."

"Look at that cloud, Jackie. It looks like a big dinosaur."

A 3-year-old will look and see the clouds. He's seen them before, but perhaps he's never looked at them as looking like anything but white against blue. He knows what a dinosaur is because he's seen enough cartoons or played with toy dinosaurs. The key to real thinking is to get him to transpose the plastic dinosaur from the carpet to the sky. It's an idea; it's abstract; it's reaching.

Reaching into ideas takes a lot of teaching time.

"If there was a fire in your house, and you crawled out of your bed, across the floor, touched the back of the door with the back of your hand to check for heat and opened the door, where would you be?"

It was the question from Mars. Most of the children had never imagined being in their homes and moving around. The keyword here is "imagined." If you can't imagine being in your own home, how can you hope to imagine being in Oz or on Mars?

Experiences help. That's why taking children from TV and routines as often as possible and showing them the world is so important. If a child is never outdoors, he will never see clouds. If he is never talked to, he won't be able to imagine.

Many parents use TV as a substitute talker to kids. TV does not require an answer. No required answers can result in "processing problems." When a child can't process information, when the information goes in and doesn't come out in a recognizable format - in other words, he speaks but doesn't make sense - a child's mind is not functioning properly.

Want to know what a child is thinking about? Give a child crayons and a roll of shelf paper. What's going on in there should come out onto the paper. It's the expression of the information your child has gathered in the last few days. Now ask: Who gave him that information?

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to

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