Exposing children to ideas, viewpoints, and opinions other than the ones continually fed them by family, school, and community is an intrinsic part of promoting creative thinking and lifelong learning. It gets children in the habit of seeking information outside of what they already know.
Attending cultural events, film screenings, and museums offer opportunities for new learning, but with the few hours of the day left between routine and sleep, parents may find it difficult to incorporate these activities into their schedules.
Fortunately, there are ways parents can bring new ideas and concepts to their children in the comfort of their own homes. Below are several online sources and strategies to expose children to diverse thought in order to broaden their understanding of the world and how it works.
Most of the time our children receive information from secondary sources. News that happened 10 minutes ago is currently being circulated with someone else’s take on it through Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs. Allow your child to receive information and form their own opinion instead. They can do this by using the Library of Congress’ Primary Source Sets. This site contains PDFs or audio files of documents, songs, speeches, and other primary sources related to specific eras, persons, and topics in American history.
To encourage creative thinking, have your child explore primary sources from a given topic and ask them what can be concluded about the subject based on the primary source. For example, footage from a college football game in 1903 could give your child ideas about how significant advances in technology attempt to protect today’s players from head and body injuries. Besides producing creative thinking, The Library of Congress’ Primary Source Sets will also expose your child to news and information they do not currently study in school and cultural groups which they barely encounter. This resource is a great tool to fuel your child’s creative thinking.
Austin Weekly News
Not to toot our own horn, but the online edition of the Austin Weekly News features diverse topics written by columnists and reporters of diverse opinions. Have your child use the search button at the top right corner of the site to search for topics of interest. This will more than likely pull up several news stories, opinion pieces, and reader comments about the subject. After skimming through a few, have your child determine the various viewpoints and angles given to the subject. For example, a search on school closings may reveal one writer’s focus on the incidents that lead to the closures, another writer’s focus on how the school closings affect the community, and a third writer’s focus on helping children cope with the closings. Seeing varied perspectives broadens understanding about ideas and allows them to apply this diverse thinking to other stories they will encounter.
When you grow up in a community of individuals who share the same identity, culture, and religion, it is sometimes difficult to access different ideas. Challenge your child’s thinking by introducing him to TED talks. TED is a site that features over 1,900 enlightening and powerful talks on diverse topics, from skateboarding to slavery. These talks are appealing and engaging, often infused with research and presented by experts in their field. TED talks normally range from 5 to 20 minutes, a time frame appropriate for children with short attention spans and little time on their hands.
TED talks not only allow you to manage the diverse opinions they take in. For example, when speakers talk about topics like religion and sexuality, you can always compare the speakers’ opinions to your own family’s values and beliefs. In addition, children can also use this site to view other TED-related sites, such as TED Ed, which creates lessons out of some of the most popular talks.
Continual growth requires continual learning, and learning involves challenging what you already know. Help your children become lifelong learners by exposing them to the resources above in order to identify new ways of consuming information, new ideas about what is already known, and new perspectives on the world as we know it.