Most parents and educators would agree that the 21st Century Skills (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) are essential for children to learn and develop. These skills prepare kids for a changing world, along with any unknown future.
Despite the name “21st Century Skills,” these skills are not new; nor are they exclusive to learners of this century. These are skills that have been essential to learners all along, and they are the driving force behind some of the greatest innovators in history.
Your child is already a “21st Century” learner; they can likely already demonstrate the four essential skills above. As a parent, you can help your child refine these skills by learning to recognize when they appear naturally, and offer your encouragement and support to continue their growth.
Communicators Are Collaborators
When it comes to 21st Century Skills (or the four C’s), there’s a lot of overlap—kids often demonstrate their understanding of multiple skills simultaneously.
Communication and collaboration are typically developed side-by-side; you can’t have successful collaboration without good communication skills, and vice versa.
If you look carefully, you’ll likely see that your child is already developing their communication and collaboration abilities. Below are just five ways you may notice your kids demonstrating these skills, and how you can help encourage them:
What they know: Imaginative play
We know that kids often do much of their learning through play. When their imaginative play includes other kids, or even imaginary characters, they are engaging with their communication and collaboration skills.
Help them grow: Encourage kids to talk through their imaginative play in more depth; some of the learning that happens during playtime may be subconscious, so it can help to bring it to the surface.
Try to remove the “adult” lens through which we look at children’s play, and really understand the intricacies of their game. Then, you can help build upon the skills they already have!
What they know: Storytelling
Whether they are retelling stories they’ve been told, making up new ones, or reflecting on their day, kids love becoming storytellers! Stories offer an opportunity to communicate life lessons and demonstrate strong command of language.
Help them grow: Return the favor! Read and tell your children many varied stories to familiarize them with story structures and encourage them to develop their narrative skills. If they see your enthusiasm, they’ll likely follow suit!
What they know: Arguing
Children aren’t always going to agree, and that’s okay—neither will adults! When kids argue, they’re learning to communicate their opinions and collaborate on solutions.
Rather than telling kids to “stop arguing,” we can help develop their communication skills by teaching them how to disagree respectfully and focus on collaborating to find solutions.
Help them grow: Remove all blame from an argument (even if you think someone is clearly in the wrong). Instead of blaming the other person, ask kids to identify the underlying problem behind the argument and come up with a solution for it together.
What they know: Sharing their discoveries
When kids are excited about learning, they love to communicate their discoveries. Whether they’ve learned a new word, discovered a new plant in the backyard, or solved a difficult math problem, kids are proud to share their explorations of the world.
Help them grow: Return their enthusiasm, and try breaking away from broad questions like “What did you learn in school today?” Instead, tune in to your child’s own enthusiasm.
As much as possible, let them lead discussions about their education, and ask genuine questions about their favorite subjects to extend their thinking further.
What they know: Helping with family chores and decisions
Whether they like it or not, most kids are involved in some way with helping around the house. Household chores teach kids responsibility, and working together can also encourage their collaboration skills.
And believe it or not, kids want to be responsible! They like being involved in decisions that will affect their family and home life, which in turn can help them become better communicators and collaborators.
Help them grow: Whenever possible, allow your children to be part of the decision-making process for your family. Family meetings can be a great method of having everyone collaborate on solutions together.