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Teaching Children the Difference between Facts and Opinions

Teaching Children the Difference between Facts and Opinions

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With so much “information” available these days and seemingly endless “sources,” it can be difficult for children and even adults to sift through and separate unbiased, objective facts from personal, subjective opinions. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to teach children the difference between facts and opinions. Understanding these concepts will help your child develop critical thinking skills and reasoning, in addition to preparing them to use different ways to interpret and express their own thoughts and feelings.

What Is the Difference between Fact and Opinion?

Most adults understand the difference between fact and opinion, but it may be difficult for them to teach such concepts to children. Thankfully, there are straightforward methods of explaining the difference so kids can understand:

  • Facts are statements that tell people about the world, such as Earth is a planet.
  • Opinions are statements that tell people what other people think about the world, such as Jupiter is my brother’s favorite planet.

Facts are objective and contain information that can be proven as true or not true. They are based on information, not feelings. Opinions are subjective and cannot be proven as true or false. They are based on feelings, which aren’t necessarily right or wrong. With opinions, you can agree or disagree with the statement. With facts, you can determine if the statement is true or false.

One way to illustrate the difference between these two concepts is to use examples from the child’s own environment for comparison. You can make it into a simple game by sharing statements and determining if they are fact or opinion. Here’s an example:

  1. Find something that is a solid orange color (possibly a block, piece of construction paper, marker, etc.)
  2. Make two statements about the color of the item, one fact and one opinion. For example, This item is orange in color (fact). Or, Orange is the best color for this item (opinion).
  3. Then, you can work together to decide which statement is fact and which is opinion by asking 2 “test” questions: a) Can the statement be proven and is there evidence to support it? If yes, the statement is a fact. b) Is the statement showing someone’s feeling or perspective that can be agreed or disagreed with? If yes, the statement is an opinion.

You can take turns with your child coming up with fact and opinion statements and talk about each other’s thinking processes. As your child gets older, you can make the fact and opinion statements a little more complex and challenging—even utilizing statements that others make in books, on television, etc. This will not only benefit your child in learning the difference between these concepts, but it will also reinforce their reasoning and logic skills.

Importance of Teaching the Difference to Children

It’s important for children to learn the difference between facts and opinions so they can think critically for themselves. Many people offer their opinions as factual statements, so it’s essential that children are empowered to recognize what can be proven as true and what is someone’s preference or perspective. This can enhance your child’s resistance to attempts at influence or persuasion through marketing and advertising or even peer pressure.

It can be difficult for children to assert and embrace their independent thoughts and beliefs, especially if they are outside what appears to be in line with the majority. For example, if a television commercial portrays kids enjoying a certain kind of toy or snack, your child may be persuaded to believe such products are objectively fun or appealing. This is an excellent opportunity to allow your child to determine if the commercial being advertised presents facts or opinions, giving them the chance to make up their minds based in logic and reason rather than the subjective influence of marketing tools.

Benefits of Critical Thinking

Some experts in child development are concerned that today’s children have fewer opportunities to engage in critical thinking, whether through problem solving, situational analysis, or evaluation. There may be several reasons for this, but the access of “answers” through the internet plays a large part. Children as young as toddlers are capable of using technology to understand and figure out the world around them. Of course, this can be beneficial in some ways. However, this online access can also interfere with real-world trial and error, questioning, and other strategies that make up a large part of critical thinking skills. The result may be that children become much more dependent on information they find online to understand the world rather than reaching their own independent conclusions, potentially blurring the lines between fact and opinion.

One of the best ways to foster critical thinking in children of all ages is offering activities that challenge their minds, such as strategic board games and interesting puzzles. At Cognisprings, we support parents and their children with games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed, educational, and unique. Our products allow families to create memories of togetherness and enhance a child’s understanding of the world. They are also excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and exploration.