From a young age, children ask philosophical questions. What does it mean to be a good friend? What is death? What makes my drawing beautiful? Is it ever okay to be mean? These are open-ended questions that explore some of the most meaningful aspects of human life, yet in the United States they are rarely given a formal space for serious discussion and reflection in K-8 classrooms.
Philosophy may seem impractical, a discipline for university professors, or at least inappropriate for children. But a wide body of has shown the benefits of doing philosophy with children.
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There is now an international movement of philosophers and educators seeking to introduce philosophical practice into children’s lives. The results are promising, and we are just getting started! (More on this movement and some great resources below.)
Looking for a Book?
Whether you’re a teacher looking to bring philosophical discussions into your classroom, or a parent eager to introduce your child to some fundamental questions, there are so many wonderful children’s books out there.
Here are some of our favorites.
What makes art beautiful?
How do we know what things are?
Do you see it like I do?
What is war, and is it ever justified?
Do we have moral obligations,even to those who wish us harm?
A common practice is to guide the group of children to generate their questions, discuss their own answers, and to critically reflect on what a good answer to their own questions might be like.
Rather than learning a set of known facts, or dictated techniques, children are empowered to set the terms of their discussion together. Rather than teaching children what to think, philosophy for children focuses on helping children think about
Currently, we are introducing philosophy, ethics, and critical thinking to children at three elementary schools in our local community.
Westlake Elementary School
Tom is a leader in the international philosophy for children movement. In addition to running a decades-old P4C program for undergraduates at Mount Holyoke, he leads the major national organization PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), and maintains one of the best websites for P4C lesson plans. To see Tom at work, check out the emmy-winning documentary “Big Ideas for Little Kids”, or his book by the same name.
Write to Us
Have you ever happened to hear your elementary-aged child discussing a philosophical question with a friend? If so, we’d love to hear about it.