How to Explain Philosophy to a Child: Engaging Young Minds with Big Ideas

  • By: admin
  • Date: September 19, 2023
  • Time to read: 10 min.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how you could introduce philosophy to a child? Philosophy is often considered a subject for adults, but it can be incredibly rewarding to engage young minds with big ideas. Teaching philosophy to kids can help develop their critical thinking skills, broaden their perspectives, and nurture their curiosity.

In this article, we will explore how to explain philosophy to a child in an accessible and engaging way. We will discuss the importance of simplifying philosophical concepts, introducing foundational topics, sparking curiosity, using storytelling, applying philosophy to everyday life, nurturing critical thinking skills, and engaging in philosophical communities. By the end of this article, you will have a toolbox of strategies and techniques to help you engage children in philosophical discussions and encourage them to explore big ideas.

Key Takeaways:

  • Teaching philosophy to children can foster critical thinking skills and curiosity.
  • Simplifying philosophical concepts is necessary to make them accessible for kids.
  • Foundational topics and real-life scenarios can help introduce philosophy concepts.
  • Storytelling can be used to teach philosophy to children.
  • Philosophy can be applied in everyday life, such as ethical decision-making.
  • Critical thinking skills can be nurtured through philosophical habits of mind.
  • Engaging in philosophical communities can broaden perspectives and foster support for philosophical discussions.

The Importance of Simplifying Philosophy for Children

As you introduce philosophy to children, it is essential to simplify the concepts for them to understand better. Abstract ideas such as morality and existentialism can be confusing and overwhelming for young minds. Simplifying these concepts not only makes them more accessible, but it also makes them engaging.

One of the most significant challenges in teaching philosophy to young children is getting them to understand complex ideas. To overcome this challenge, you can use familiar examples and tangible experiences that the child can relate to. For instance, to explain the concept of morality, you can use scenarios such as sharing toys or playing fair to help the child understand the importance of being moral.

Another strategy for simplifying philosophy for children is using language that they can comprehend. Avoid using jargon or technical words that the child may not be familiar with. Instead, use simple and clear language that they can easily understand.

The Importance of Simplifying Philosophy for Children

By simplifying philosophy for children, you make it easier for them to understand and engage in philosophical discussions. You also foster a love for learning and curiosity, which are crucial for their intellectual and emotional development.

simplify philosophy for children
“Introducing philosophy to children through simplified concepts makes it more accessible and engaging for them.”

Creating a Foundation: Introducing Philosophy Concepts to Kids

Introducing philosophy concepts to kids can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with relatable topics and everyday experiences that children can understand. Begin with simple questions like “What is truth?” or “What is it to be fair?” to start the conversation.

Young children tend to think concretely, so it’s important to provide tangible examples. For example, you could show them that a square block can’t fit into a round hole. Then, explain how this relates to the concept of truth: the square block is true to its shape, and the round hole is true to its shape.

Other philosophical concepts that can be introduced to children include knowledge, ethics, and logic. Knowledge can be explained as what we think we know about the world, and how that knowledge can change over time. Ethics can be understood as what is right and wrong, and how we make decisions based on those principles. Logic can be taught using simple puzzles and riddles to help children learn about reasoning and problem-solving.

Philosophical Concepts Explained to Children

Concept Explanation
Truth The idea that something is accurate and corresponds to reality. A square block can’t fit into a round hole, and that is true because of the shapes of the objects.
Knowledge What we think we know about the world, and how that knowledge can change over time. For example, we used to think the world was flat, but now we know it’s round.
Ethics What is right and wrong, and how we make decisions based on those principles. For instance, it is wrong to steal because it harms someone else.
Logic The study of reasoning and problem-solving. For example, a riddle like “What has a head and a tail but no body?” can help children learn logical thinking.

Remember to keep the concepts age-appropriate and use language that children can understand. By introducing philosophical concepts in a relatable and simplified way, you can help children develop critical thinking skills and foster curiosity about the world around them.

how to explain philosophy to a child

Sparking Curiosity: Engaging Kids in Philosophical Discussions

Asking open-ended questions and encouraging critical thinking are some of the best ways to engage children in philosophical discussions. Here are some tips and techniques to make philosophy accessible to children:

  1. Start with a relatable topic – Use everyday experiences and situations to introduce philosophical concepts. For example, ask your child what they think the truth is and relate it to something they know.
  2. Use age-appropriate language – Simplify complex philosophical concepts and use language that your child can understand. Avoid using jargon or abstract concepts.
  3. Encourage active participation – Ask your child for their opinions and encourage them to share their thoughts. This helps to develop their confidence and critical thinking skills.

By sparking curiosity and encouraging participation, you can create a space where children can explore big ideas and develop their philosophical thinking.

engaging kids in philosophical discussions

“When we engage our children in philosophical conversations, we help them learn how to think, not what to think.” – Jana Mohr Lone, Director of the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children.

The Power of Stories: Using Literature to Teach Philosophy

Storytelling is a powerful tool for introducing philosophical concepts to children. Through age-appropriate books, kids can explore big ideas in a relatable and engaging way.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, for example, offers insights on friendship, love, and the meaning of life. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein explores the philosophical themes of generosity and sacrifice. The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth helps children reflect on the concept of wisdom.

After reading a philosophical story, encourage children to share their thoughts and opinions. Ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What did you think about the story?
  • Were there any parts that you disagree with? Why?
  • What lessons did you learn from the story?

Facilitating these discussions can help children develop their critical thinking skills and apply philosophical concepts to their own lives.

teaching philosophy through stories

Practical Applications: Applying Philosophy in Everyday Life

Philosophy is not just an abstract concept, but it can also be applied in everyday life. By introducing philosophical principles to your child, you can help them develop critical thinking skills and make better decisions.

One way to apply philosophy in your child’s life is by presenting ethical dilemmas and encouraging them to consider different perspectives. For example, you could ask them, “Is it ever okay to tell a lie? Why or why not?” This provides an opportunity for your child to reflect on their moral beliefs and consider the consequences of their actions.

Another way to apply philosophy is by promoting logical thinking and problem-solving skills. Encourage your child to ask questions and use reasoning to solve problems. For instance, you could ask them, “If you were lost in the woods, how would you find your way back home?” This challenges them to think critically and come up with creative solutions.

By applying philosophy in practical situations, you can help your child develop important life skills. They will learn to think critically, make ethical decisions, and solve problems effectively.

applying philosophy to everyday life

Nurturing Critical Thinking: Cultivating Philosophical Habits of Mind

Engaging children with philosophical concepts not only teaches them about big ideas, but also helps them develop critical thinking skills. Cultivating philosophical habits of mind can encourage children to question assumptions, consider different perspectives, and evaluate evidence.

To help your child develop these skills, try asking thought-provoking questions that encourage reflection and exploration. For example, you could ask your child to consider:

  • What is the difference between right and wrong?
  • How do we decide what is true?
  • What makes a good leader?

Encourage your child to take time to think about these questions and to consider different points of view. Listen to their ideas and provide guidance as needed.

In addition to asking questions, you can also help your child develop their critical thinking skills through practical exercises and activities. For example, you could:

  • Encourage your child to solve puzzles and brainteasers
  • Ask your child to evaluate different arguments and make a case for their point of view
  • Provide opportunities for your child to think creatively and come up with new ideas

By nurturing critical thinking skills through philosophical habits of mind, you can help your child develop the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Nurturing Critical Thinking

Collaborative Learning: Engaging in Philosophical Communities

Philosophy is more than just an individual pursuit. Engaging children in philosophical communities can foster a sense of connection and collaboration, while also enhancing their philosophical thinking skills. Here are some ways to engage your child in philosophical communities:

  • Encourage your child to participate in philosophy clubs or online forums, such as The Philosophy Foundation’s “SAPERE P4C Community” or the “Philosophy for Children” Facebook group.
  • Attend philosophy events or workshops together, such as those offered by the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children or the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization.
  • Organize a philosophy discussion group with your child’s classmates or friends, in person or virtually.

Participating in philosophical communities can provide your child with the opportunity to share and exchange their philosophical ideas with like-minded peers, as well as learn from different perspectives and approaches. It can also help your child develop their social skills and cultivate a sense of community and belonging.

Collaborative Learning: Engaging in Philosophical Communities
“The community aspect of philosophy is perhaps one of its most important and often overlooked aspects. It is in the back-and-forth of philosophical conversation, argument, and critique that we clarify our ideas, seek new insights, and develop our ability to think critically.”

By engaging in philosophical communities, your child can also gain valuable experience in collaborative learning and develop their communication and interpersonal skills. This can be beneficial not only in their philosophical pursuits, but also in their academic and personal lives.


By now, you have learned how to explain philosophy to a child in a way that engages their young minds and facilitates their understanding of big ideas. You understand the importance of simplifying philosophical concepts and introducing relatable topics that make philosophy accessible and interesting for children.

You have discovered various strategies for engaging children in philosophical discussions, including using literature and practical applications to everyday life. You have also learned how to nurture critical thinking skills and cultivate philosophical habits of mind in children, and the benefits of engaging in philosophical communities with other young thinkers.

Remember, introducing philosophy to children is a valuable way to enhance their cognitive and intellectual development. By encouraging them to ask questions, evaluate evidence, and consider different perspectives, you are helping to foster critical thinking skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

So go ahead and start exploring philosophical concepts with your child today! Encourage them to think deeply and reflect on their experiences, and watch as their philosophical curiosity sparks a lifelong love of learning.

Can the Same Approach be Used to Explain Philosophy to Kids as Logic?

When it comes to teaching logic to kids, the same approach may not be suitable for explaining philosophy. While logic focuses on reasoning and critical thinking, philosophy delves into abstract concepts of existence, knowledge, and ethics. Simplifying philosophy for children requires a more creative and age-appropriate approach that incorporates storytelling and engaging activities to stimulate their curiosity and understanding.


Q: How can I explain philosophy to a child?

A: Explaining philosophy to a child can be done by simplifying complex concepts and using relatable examples. Start with everyday experiences and gradually introduce philosophical ideas.

Q: Why is it important to engage young minds with big ideas?

A: Engaging young minds with big ideas through philosophy helps develop critical thinking skills, fosters curiosity, and encourages deeper reflections on life’s questions.

Q: How can I simplify philosophy for children?

A: Simplifying philosophy for children involves breaking down abstract concepts into child-friendly language, using storytelling, and incorporating interactive activities to make it more accessible and engaging.

Q: What philosophical concepts can I introduce to kids?

A: You can introduce philosophical concepts such as truth, knowledge, ethics, and logic to kids. Start by explaining these concepts in simplified terms, using examples and relatable situations.

Q: How can I engage kids in philosophical discussions?

A: You can engage kids in philosophical discussions by asking open-ended questions, encouraging critical thinking, and promoting active participation. Thought-provoking questions and stimulating activities can also spark their curiosity.

Q: How can I use literature to teach philosophy to children?

A: You can use literature to teach philosophy to children by reading age-appropriate books that introduce philosophical concepts. Facilitate discussions and reflections after reading to encourage deeper understanding.

Q: How can philosophy be applied in everyday life?

A: Philosophy can be applied in everyday life by helping children navigate ethical dilemmas, make decisions, and solve problems. Encourage reflection on actions and choices using philosophical principles.

Q: How can I nurture critical thinking in children?

A: You can nurture critical thinking in children by cultivating philosophical habits of mind, such as questioning assumptions, considering different perspectives, and evaluating evidence. Provide practical exercises and activities to enhance their critical thinking abilities.

Q: How can children engage in philosophical communities?

A: Children can engage in philosophical communities by participating in platforms and resources that facilitate philosophical discussions. Collaborative learning environments provide opportunities for connecting with other young thinkers and sharing philosophical ideas.

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