At the end of last week, I enjoyed an exciting visit to our youngest pupils during their Nursery Fun Day. As part of this term’s topic, ‘People who help us’, Nursery pupils took part in a ‘detective’ fun day. Even at this very young age, 3 years old, the children are encouraged to use their problem-solving and critical thinking skills – an area which I feel is so vital to develop in our young people right from the very beginning of their school journey.

Nursery pupils arrived at School only to discover that their teddy bear, Winnie, was missing,and, in order to find him, they had to find, follow and solve clues to discover where their lost teddy bear was hiding! Using magnifying glasses and binoculars they followed footprints, an empty honeypot and a trail of ‘bees’, across the fields, where they eventually discovered the lost bear in the Forest School, trying to refill his honeypot! Pupils then celebrated finding Winnie by bringing him back to the classroom for a picnic lunch.

This is an example of how we plan critical thinking in our curriculum right across the year groups at Dean Close Pre-Prep. For children growing up in this quickly changing world, problem-solving and critical thinking are key skills for the future. Technology, scientific knowledge and the world of work will be very different in 20 years’ time, and therefore we need to ensure that our children are equipped with the mind-set and thought processes to be able to access new information, adapt to change, and relish a challenge.

At the Squirrels, our planned curriculum ensures that children are given experiences of critical thinking and problem-solving every week. For example, setting exciting investigations linked with Science, challenges linked to Literacy or Mathematics or open ended questions to ponder on. Equally as important is giving pupils the time they need to think about a problem and to test their ideas – before coming up with their answers. This has a positive difference in the way that pupils approach their own learning from Nursery to Year Two – they learn to be more confident to have a go, to work with others to find solutions and to persevere when things do not go right the first time. These are all such important characteristics for children to develop if they are to succeed, adapt to change and be leaders of tomorrow.

In addition to our curriculum thinking skills we also have a weekly thinking skills club, plan many whole school events using and developing our thinking skills and have a ‘challenge of the week’ as a fun optional activity for children to take part in. Together these build the experience that thinking and problem solving is important and a voyage of discovery; it is rewarding, exciting and fun! Having worked in educational research examining the development of thinking skills and cognitive ability, this is something I feel passionately about – children have an amazing innate ability to question, explore and discover and we need to celebrate and help them develop this for their future.