Children and philosophy, tips to train thinking

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Marie-Ange Demory
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Children / adolescents and philosophy? This is a partnership that works and needs to be encouraged. Philosophy, in fact, as Ludwig Wittgenstein, a great philosopher of the twentieth century, maintained, consists above all in working on oneself and one's way of seeing things. For this reason it can provide really fundamental tools to the little ones. 


Luca Mori, adjunct professor of History of Philosophy for the degree course in Sciences and Techniques of Clinical and Health Psychology of the University of Pisa, who has been designing and conducting philosophy workshops with children and adolescents for years, has created the book Philosophical challenges. Activities for junior high school girls and boys (Erickson), to provide young people with ideas and useful means to face the challenges that involve them "with philosophy".

The text, designed especially for teachers, presents ten situations, ten challenges inspired by the classics of thought and literature on the verge of reality, not easy to decipher as they are open to different interpretations and accompanied by questions that do not have a single answer. The problems presented have been taken from books by great thinkers and writers and proposed as puzzles to train reasoning skills.


Thanks to the ten philosophical challenges, boys and girls can train themselves to re-read their daily challenges on the sense of limit, on the relationship with oneself, on the border between reality and illusion, on social feelings, on the good use of technologies, on the most desirable world, on the art of navigating well in life, on putting oneself in the shoes of others, on strength and weakness of will, sharing and conformity. We interviewed Professor Luca Mori to find out more about his book. 

Read also: Why study philosophy from an early age

What is philosophy and how to explain it to children?

«I like to define philosophy as an exploration at the edge of our mind, along the threshold between the thoughts that we have already said and already thought and those that we have not yet thought and that - once thought - they could help us understand more about ourselves, others and the world. In this perspective, rather than explaining philosophy to the children, it is a question of leading them along that threshold with good questions, hoping that they can experience the sense of displacement and wonder that drives the research.

When the search begins, it also becomes easy to "explain" what a philosopher thought, why the philosopher then becomes a traveling companion, which can help us clarify our ideas and focus on the concepts we need to move forward ».

Ways and games to discover philosophy

“There are many ways to discover philosophy. I like to start (and I have developed a method for doing so) by proposing puzzles, questions and thought experiments that can be found in the great classics of thought and literature, however, opening multiple perspectives that highlight how often the most diverse disciplines can intersect their paths, when we face big questions ».

Read also: “I learn alone”: philosophy and practice of Unschooling in Del Paese

How can philosophy teach children inclusion?

“A lot depends on what you do, the problems you face and how they are posed, how conversations are conducted. In general, I would say that philosophy can help by broadening the horizons of thought, nurturing the sense of possibility and strengthening the ability to question oneself and the prejudices in circulation. It can also help because it introduces an unusual interactive space into the classroom, in which engaging dynamics can emerge for everyone ».

History of philosophy for children

«Epicurus, who lived between the XNUMXth and XNUMXrd centuries BC, said that one is never too young or too old to philosophize. In the nineteenth century there are texts in which children and young people are invited to ask some philosophical questions.

Ma it was at the beginning of the seventies that the most cited method of philosophy aimed at children and young people, the Philosophy for Children by Matthew Lipman, spread. I want to clarify that I do not follow that method and that today, to tell the truth, that of philosophy with children is a vast archipelago, where the approaches are like islands, sometimes well connected to each other, sometimes very distant ".

Read also: The transition to lower secondary school: how to help children cope well

How can philosophy help children stay at home (especially in this difficult historical moment)?

"This book, but also the previous Philosophical Games (published with the Erickson Editions and aimed at children aged 8 to 11, with a board game on utopia), is ultimately a collection of puzzles that give a lot to think about and which were engaging for girls and boys of the same age as potential readers.

The hope is that they will also be engaging and challenging for readers, and that they will therefore make them spend several hours in the wonderful parallel dimension of thoughts not yet thought. In particular, the book Philosophical Challenges provides spaces for putting one's own schemes and reflections on paper. Among other things, for each problem there are many thoughts of those who have already faced them, so by leafing through a few pages you put yourself (so to speak) in dialogue with unknown peers who have a lot to say. A virtual dialogue, but without the mediation of any screen ».

Read also: Teens at home, tips to help them manage their time

Tips to help kids train their thinking

Here are three fundamental ways, suggested by Luca Mori, to help kids train their thinking:

  1. INVOLVE SCHOOLS. Schools should be offered to host philosophical conversations with valid and competent experts;
  2. GROWING CURIOSITY AND TRAINING THE IMAGINATION. Children can do this by immersing themselves in reading good novels, short stories, poems (discovering the "classics"), watching good cinema, and so on;
  3. LOOKING FOR WONDERFUL REASONS AROUND YOURSELF, both in everyday experiences in the places where we live, and in the rarest experiences and travels.

L. MORI, "Philosophical Challenges"


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"Philosophical Challenges", the book

This book was born from the experiences made around the schools of different Del Paesene regions and from the observation of the fact that facing certain philosophical "enigmas" was very exciting for the girls and boys of the lower secondary school.

«The book therefore proposes a dozen" challenges "that have already worked to reflect in an unusual way on some great problems in everyone's life, which during adolescence become particularly "pressing" and urgent ».

Read also: How to handle a conflicted teenager

  • reading
  • philosophy
  • 6-14 children years
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