The Reflective Educator

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Philosophy for Children

I read this article today about philosophy for children, which was shared in last night’s discussion about math in the real world. I thought it was pretty appropriate because my own son has started asking some difficult questions, and I’d like to find some more resources for exploring them with him. Obviously, I can give him my perspective on the issues, but I think it would be better to find resources which are more familiar to him.

Here are some of the questions he has asked me in the past few months, which are in my mind a sign he has entered a period of philosophical reflection.

  • Why don’t we fly away from the Earth, if it is spinning so fast?
  • Does the Earth spin this fast (starts to spin himself very slowly)?
  • Are people on the other side of the Earth sleeping when we are awake?
  • How did monkeys become people?
  • Where does the universe end? Does it go on forever? How did it start?
  • Is Earth in outer space?
  • Why does gravity happen?
  • Were you alive before I was born?

My son is 4. I don’t want to stop his questioning of the world, because I see his curiousity as something to nurture and help thrive. I’m worried that if I give him none of the answers to these questions, he’ll stop asking. Similarly, if I give him all of the answers, will he see me as the primary source of information? Will he stop asking other people? 

I can give explanations for all of these. It’s sometimes hard not to answer in terms of other things he doesn’t know yet, but I suppose that can lead to more questions. Still with effort I could help my son find all of the answers to these questions. I’m wondering if it is better to leave some of them unanswered though, to leave space for him to continue to question, and to grow.

One way I’m going to encourage this kind of thinking is by reading books which ask some of the same kinds of questions, and encouraging thinking about "big ideas."

Here is a suggestion of books you can read with your kid (or give them to read) with a philosophical perspective:

Thanks to all who shared these suggestions on Twitter earlier. For more information on teaching philosophy to children, you can also check out this useful wiki.