There’s no denying STEM careers are seeing phenomenal growth while other industries seem to be struggling. Every day, we hear certain career paths are going to be obsolete in a few years’ time, and that can be a scary prospect for parents as they try to help their children navigate towards the right choices.

The good news is that if you’ve been considering STEM camp and similar technology-focused activities for your children, you’re on the right track. Careers in these fields start early, and it all begins with what is known as foundational or critical thinking.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a term that describes careful, logical, rational, and most importantly, analytical thinking. It’s a type of thought that continues to ask the question “why” until the root issue of a problem is identified, and is a core feature of STEM careers.

Why Is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking is important in all careers and in all areas of life, but it’s especially important in STEM careers, because these occupations are so often founded on problem solving.

In STEM fields scientists, engineers and technologists aren’t so much applying a known solution as they are inventing one as they go along. Being able to get to the root cause of a problem, and then applying “first principles” to work towards a final solution, is very often the core of the job. It’s exciting, and it helps to change the world in very real ways.

Teaching Kids to Think Critically

The good news for parents who want to raise kids with strong future STEM careers is that children are naturally critical thinkers. Ask any parent who has ever had to answer the question “Why is grass green?” or “Why do birds fly?” and they’ll tell you that kids have enquiring minds that are constantly seeking to understand how the world works. There are many ways that you, as a parent, can keep that inquiring nature alive and well, including:

  • Look for answers together: Just because you don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean you can’t learn more along with your kids. Whether it’s at the library or online or anywhere in between, working together to solve life’s mysteries is a great way to foster critical thinking.
  • Ask questions: When your child makes a surprising choice to solve a problem, ask them to describe the thought process. They might not have realized the exact steps that took them to the answer, and talking about it can help to encourage them to use the same process in future.
  • Take things apart to learn how they work, visit museums, and discuss the thought process of other people. Why was it done that way? How does it work? How could it be made better?

The most important aspect of foundational or critical thinking is to never stop questioning. Encourage your children to always ask why, and to always look for the root cause of any problem; that is the starting point for every solution, in STEM and in life.