The goal of the Little Thinkers Center is to help children improve their critical and creative thinking skills, and give them specific tools to tackle challenges academically, socially, and emotionally. We do this by giving children specific experiential thinking games that are fun yet challenging enough to build higher order thinking skills. Too many children today are identified with learning challenges and stress that inhibits learning – 2.4 million in U.S. public schools.
Unfortunately, many schools teach to standardized tests, which emphasize rote memorization rather than concept learning. To truly understand any subject, it doesn’t matter that you have the correct answers. What matters is that you know why an answer is correct. That requires concept learning, not content learning. At the Little Thinkers Center, we help children build divergent versus convergent thinking to fully comprehend the whys behind the problems.
What are some of the benefits?
The positive results of building these thinking skills include: enhanced problem-solving capabilities, stronger academic performance and curiosity, improved social interactions, and most importantly, authentic self-confidence and resiliency. All of this fosters an “I can” attitude that is needed for self-esteem. Keep in mind, the most important factor to any successful endeavor is the belief in yourself to tackle obstacles and challenges in life. In essence, it’s the Little Engine That Could. That is what we help children develop at the Little Thinkers Center.
How was the idea born?
My twin sons are the inspiration behind the Little Thinkers Center. When I was pregnant in 2016, I wanted to give my boys the best opportunity to acquire the critical and creative thinking skills necessary to feel confident and thrive in life. Having treated children with severe anxiety disorders for the last 2 decades, it was disturbing to see how many of these children didn’t have the belief in themselves to overcome obstacles. Many of the anxiety triggers stemmed from academic or social challenges, yet children often didn’t have the thinking skills necessary to efficiently solve problems from school, with peers, or even in simple everyday dilemmas. With my training from Dr. Harry Wachs and my experience in child development, the Little Thinkers Center was born.
Who is Dr. Harry Wachs?
Having learned from Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1960s, Dr. Wachs developed ‘thinking games’ to stimulate children’s intellectual growth according to Piaget’s blueprint of cognitive development. These thinking games were the basis for a school he started in West Virginia alongside Catholic University Psychologist, Hans G. Furth. He later established the Vision and Conceptual Development Center in Washington, DC in the early 1980s – a program to help children with reading and learning disorders, developmental disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders. It was here where I was fortunate enough to gain my training from Dr. Wachs in the 1990s. After moving to Los Angeles in the early 2000s, I was appointed by Dr. Wachs to train and supervise therapists at the Mind Development Center near Sacramento on his methods. These thinking games are the foundation of the Little Thinkers Center.
What kind of challenges or disorders do you address at LTC?
We help children with challenges academically, socially, in critical thinking and problem-solving, or with physical-motor skills. Any child who struggles with academic stress, anxiety, and low self-confidence can benefit from the Little Thinkers Center. Our program will also help children with specific learning disorders, such as reading, math, visual-spatial awareness, executive functioning, working memory, and non-verbal learning.
The reality is that many children struggle academically, socially, or in sports these days. Whether it’s due to perfectionism, stress, or a learning challenge, what determines success is not just about a child’s ability, it’s about a child’s belief in him or herself to overcome a challenge when it is presented. Not having that belief can be mentally and emotionally taxing and create unnecessary stress, which interferes with the learning process. What results is a vicious cycle that contributes to low self-confidence. At the Little Thinkers Center, we help children acquire the thinking skills that result in higher self-confidence and lower stress.
What are the “thinking games” exactly?
The thinking games, created by Dr Harry Wachs in the spirit of children’s play for its own sake, are fun, hands-on activities that allow children to explore higher order thinking. Play in itself requires thinking, and as Jean Piaget once said, “Play is the Work of Childhood”. The thinking games are categorized according to the following areas of development, and cultivate the belief in yourself to achieve what you set your mind to.
- General Movement and Discriminative Movement
General Movement Thinking games help children master the body awareness and control needed for efficient movement, such as skipping, jumping rope, climbing hills, and playing sports. While Discriminative Movement Thinking games help build fine motor skills needed for drawing, building blocks, tying shoelaces, and using kitchen cutlery or woodworking tools.
- Visual Thinking
Visual Thinking helps children to interpret what they see and to manipulate that interpretation visual-spatially. Our visual thinking games utilize objects, such as parquetry blocks, pegs, inch cubes, and Cuisenaire rods, to form specific 2- and 3-dimensional designs for children to replicate, mentally manipulate, and reproduce from different perspectives. Visual thinking skills are required in many life competencies, including being able to read a map, driving, drawing a representation, catching a ball or hitting it with a bat, and following instructions to build an object. Children with visual-spatial challenges will have difficulties with math and science fluency.
- Hand Thinking
Children learn through their sensory inputs. This is why very young children want to touch and mouth everything, because that is how they understand their world – through touch. Developing hand thinking skills help to differentiate various tactile experiences, such as texture and shape. Having this tactile perception and awareness adds to overall thinking abilities. For example, pottery, putting puzzle pieces together, or finding and turning on a light switch in a dark room all requires Hand Thinking skills.
- Auditory Thinking
To learn any language, you must have an ear for the specific sounds unique to that language. When toddlers learn to speak, they must first be able to interpret and discriminate the sounds they hear before being able to utilize and sequence various sounds in a meaningful way. For example, a child learning to speak or read may have a hard time differentiating between the words solution and seclusion. This is no different than when you hear a foreign language that sounds like Charlie Brown speaking, because you are unable to differentiate the specific sounds. Auditory thinking games improve such auditory processing challenges that often interfere with reading and spelling.
- Graphic Thinking
Graphic Thinking games include drawing, coloring, writing, cutting, or any other activity that involves your arm-hand-finger-visual processes. These activities integrate Movement and Visual Thinking, and help children with difficulties coloring within the boundaries, cutting on the line, or writing smoothly and legibly.
- Logical Thinking
The ability to think logically is the foundation for all critical thinking skills, and facilitates higher-order reasoning. Our logical thinking games give children the opportunity for trial-and-error exploration to fully comprehend why a solution may or may not work. This helps them build logical thinking skills that are needed in all areas of life, whether academically, socially, or interpersonally.
- Social Thinking
Interpreting receptive and expressive communication is an intricate task even for many adults, and especially in this digital age where social interactions often occur indirectly. Social Thinking games help children minimize this challenge by providing opportunities to understand others’ perspectives, build empathy, expand social skills, and develop healthy self-expressions.
Are the thinking games suitable for children of any age?
Our thinking games are most beneficial for children who are past their sensorimotor stage of development, which occurs around age 2 give or take. Children in the sensorimotor stage are still absorbing so much knowledge through their senses and interactions with their natural environment that it is best to continue giving them those opportunities to keep exploring. An important point is that our program does not focus on chronological age, and instead tailors the thinking games to each child’s developmental level and readiness.
How often will my child come to therapy? How long are sessions?
Each session is 45mins long and prescribed at least once a week in the beginning. Children requiring a more intense regimen may come several times a week. As the thinking skills strengthen and the child is able to engage in activities with more ease, sessions are then tapered and eventually terminated.
What is the assessment process like? How do I schedule an appointment?
Before sessions can begin, an initial 30-minute phone consultation is scheduled to determine the appropriateness of our program. This is followed by a 2-hour evaluation to assess the child’s developmental level, and identify specific challenges and learning gaps to be addressed. The evaluation is a necessary component that guides the individually-tailored program for each child. To get started with the initial phone consult, just call or email us, and our Clinical Coordinator will walk you through the process.
How soon can we expect progress?
Like most skills in life, progress is individually based and depends largely on the developmental and maturity level a child presents with. We do offer follow-up evaluations every 3 to 6 months to determine each child’s progress and update the program as needed.
To learn more about the Little Thinkers Center or schedule your initial consult, please visit www.LittleThinkersCenter.com.