The Benefits of Philosophy for Children

06 September, 2018

Despite being one of the most hated subjects at school among teenagers, philosophy is something that many people become extremely passionate about. In today’s article we’ll be asking if philosophy for children is of any real benefit.

Those who like to analyze the essential issues of human existence can spend hours talking about it. However, can we awaken a similar interest in philosophy in the lives of children? Let’s look at this in more depth.

Philosophy is a teaching that seeks an explanation for fundamental questions about human existence. It is based on reasoning, and seeks to determine general principles about reality itself and the purpose of man’s life on Earth.

It is a very abstract field and requires a lot of research and reflection, only to find sometimes that there isn’t a solution to the problem. Because of that, so many teenagers hate this subject!

However, there is a way we can apply it that can arouse interest in children. Philosophy for children opens the door to a world that they could never have imagined.

“Philosophy is the science that complicates things that everyone knows”

–Juan Benet–

Philosophy for children: what is it?

Since young children still haven’t developed their abstract thinking (or at least not fully), we can’t expect deep or reflective reasoning from them. But, on the other hand, we can see that there are many things that arouse their curiosity. This is the whole area that philosophy works in.

In what way are they similar? Quite simply because philosophers seek to explain everything that happens around us. In the same way, children want to know what is happening, why, and what will happen next. As we can see, the essence of thought here is almost the same.

These are some issues that arouse interest in children:

  • How did life originate?
  • What is death, and where do people go when they die?
  • Who is God?
  • How can I know if an action is good or bad?
  • What values are most important in life?
The Benefits of Philosophy for Children


Benefits of philosophy for children

Philosophy for children can provide great benefits. In the first place there are benefits in the cognitive field. Children will develop critical thinking skills that will lead them to understand what happens around them better.

But it will also help them emotionally, and will increase their confidence and satisfaction in finding out more about what is all around them.

So, in summary, philosophy can enable children to:

  • start using critical and analytical thinking.
  • interpret people’s actions and processes.
  • compare good and bad actions and choose the best ones.
  • reflect on our own actions, to either stop doing them or to improve them.
  • understand the feelings of others.
  • feel empathy and the ability to put themselves in the place of others.
  • foster creativity and lateral thinking, and help them to think “outside the box.”

“I cannot teach anything to anyone. I can only make you think “
–Socrates–

How is philosophy for children implemented?

The main places we can teach philosophy for children are at home and at school. There are a lot of books and papers written by experts that aim to introduce children to this subject.

The objective here is to “plant” inside them essential methods and ideas such as those previously mentioned. This is done through books and stories in which the main characters are also children. Once children read and analyze the story, then the hope is that they will adopt the same concerns as the characters in the books.

In addition, these books often come with manuals for teachers and parents. This way, adults will know what sort of teaching and learning they should be aiming for. This will depend on the content of the books.

Some topics could include: how their baby brothers or sisters are born, where their grandparents go when they die, who God is, and why it is important to be a good person and how they can become one.

The best thing about this educational model is that it breaks with the most frequent way of thinking which teaches them that knowledge can’t be questioned. On the contrary, it encourages children to question everything they encounter.

The Benefits of Philosophy for Children


The origin of philosophy for children

Philosophy for Children was a program created by American psychologist Matthew Lipman in the 1960s. To train teachers who wanted to apply this method in their work, Lipman founded the IAPC, the Institute for the Development of Philosophy for Children.

Lipman and his colleagues had the main aim of transforming education into a global experience, one that is not only limited to the school environment. Its purpose should not only be to communicate information and lists, but also to help children question and seek their own answers.

As we’ve seen in our article today, philosophy for children can produce a way of thinking that is totally different from the one that the current education system promotes. That’s why it’s such an innovative method that is being considered by more and more educational institutions. Personalized teaching and dialogue are central factors to facilitate this type of learning in children.