Lorem ipsum dolor amet, modus intellegebat duo dolorum graecis

Follow Us
  /  Child Development   /  Beyond the Classroom: Philosophy at Home for Children

Beyond the Classroom: Philosophy at Home for Children

By FUNdamentally Children Associate, Sally Latham


Children naturally question. Not just questioning why they need to brush their teeth or why Haribo is not an acceptable dinner, but questioning perspective, experience, reality, minds… all the things that academic philosophers are paid to think about.

The way we approach philosophical questions obviously has to adapt with age, but the fundamental questions being asked are the same.

“How can I know that other people taste jam the same as I do?”is actually the problem of other minds.

“Why should I listen to grown-ups?” is political philosophy.

“How can my drawing be good if it doesn’t actually look like a cat? is aesthetics, the philosophy of art.


How we nurture this curious questioning is so important for raising children who are critical, able to navigate a world of fake news and political rhetoric and can articulate themselves with confidence, whatever their social background. We need to start this process early, through literature, media and play. If we expect teenagers to be able to think critically when they are scrolling the dangerous world of social media, we need to foster independent thinking from the earliest age.

SAPERE (the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education) is the UK’s national charity for Philosophy for Children (P4C) and has had a huge impact in bringing philosophy to schools and in training teachers to deliver philosophy in the classroom. There have been numerous studies showing the positive impact of P4C on cognitive ability, mental health and wellbeing, social skills and resistance to extremism.


A report by the Education Endowment Foundation found the impact to be the greatest on disadvantaged pupils, as measured by Free School Meals. But if we really want to see the impact of philosophy for children, then just like with literacy and numeracy, we need to bring philosophy into the home before formal education even begins.

Nancy Richards, writing in Paul Lindley’s Raising the Nation (2024) writes about the importance of play in developing the concept and principles of democracy. She argues that through free play children learn self-governance, emotional regulation, how to develop rules, collaboration and cooperation. Yet ‘hypervigilant parenting’ and ‘overscheduled kids’ mean that free play is declining, along with the art of democracy.

By controlling our children we negate their ability to work out social problems for themselves. The same is true for free thinking as it is for free play. Unless we give children the chance to think, to find their own consistencies and recognise their own inconsistencies, we do them a disservice by not equipping them to navigate a world of uncertainty, dubious influence and untruth. 

Sophie Giblan, also writing for Paul Lindley’s Raising the Nation (2024) proposes the idea of a more developed National Play at Home Scheme providing parents with the tools and instructions on how to play effectively with their children.

I propose that we should have a similar scheme for Think at Home, where we equip parents to encourage philosophical and critical discussion with children. The most accessible way to do this would be through children’s literature. By ‘accessible’ I mean that books lend themselves so well to prompting questioning, not that all children have access to books of course. That is a separate issue.



There are many books written specifically to promote philosophical thought, for example the new Big Ideas for Little Philosophers series by Armitage, McQuerry & Rosenthal (2020). But just as useful and important is training parents to use the literature already at their disposal.

“Is it ever right to lie? Never? What about when the mouse lied to the Gruffalo?”

Tricky territory indeed, if we are potentially advocating lying to 5 year-olds, but isn’t that the point? To engage in these conversations and develop critical thinking, not to give answers? (Disclaimer… if you want an answer, perhaps it could be right to lie to save a life). 

Children’s crucial for this process of bringing philosophy into the home. There is, of course, educational children’s media that is hugely entertaining whilst still providing them with factual knowledge. But what is missing is the media that encourages children to go away and ask questions, critically evaluate the world around them and have philosophical conversations.

Although Cbeebies’ What’s The Big Idea did this in a beautifully informative and gentle way, we need programs that have characters that children engage with, that are wacky and fun like their favourite cartoons, that they want to go away and replicate by asking their own questions. This should be something that is happening from pre-school upwards. Such programs should also be provided by public broadcasting is to make sure every child can access them, for to be able to develop their voice, assess the world around them and feel that that their questions are valuable is the basic right of every child, just as much as learning to read and write. 

Finally, we should be using toys and games to encourage philosophy. Whereas there is plenty of overt and untapped potential in literature, and some limited resources in media, there is an absence of toys and games to promote philosophy for children. Like with literature, there could be bespoke philosophical games (moral dilemmas in board games for example) but training parents to create their own philosophical games at home would be the best asset to developing critical thinking through play.



“Thomas needs to get these passengers to work on time but James is stuck in the mud, what should he do?”

A Think at Home program is needed more than ever. We are told that our children are growing up in a VUCA world, one of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. We don’t need to teach them to be philosophers because at a very young age they already are. What we need to do is make sure they remain philosophers.