Philosophy for Children: How To

It has been said over and over that children are philosophers by nature. Less often said is that they aren’t particularly good philosophers. I don’t mean that as a criticism; after all, they’re just children. So what can we grown-up philosophers do to nurture their philosophical inquisitiveness and develop their reasoning skills–all while making sure they don’t use these gifts to become even more awful teenagers? I don’t know. But these people might. And they can teach you what they know about it at a seminar this summer.

UPDATE (March 13, 2014): An article in the Seattle Times discusses University of Washington’s Jana Mohr Lone and the Center for Philosophy for Children, which she founded. Here is Jana Mohr Lone talking about how to raise a philosophical child. She’s a fan of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series, and so am I. One of my favorites is “Cookies”, from Frog and Toad Together, in which Frog and Toad figure out what willpower is. The text of that volume is reproduced at this site, with “Cookies” starting on page 10. The trick is to read it slow.

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10 years ago

Thanks for the pointer. Mohr Lone is able to approach in a professional and careful way the “philosophy with children” issue. And conveys her contagious enthousiasm together with her thoughtful observations.
I am personally very attracted to the idea, and consider taking an official course, just to get started and then gradually develop my own method while experimenting with children themselves. The problem is that in my (European) country, the examples of “philosophical” activities and lessons with children I met seemed to me
1) either very little philosophical – by which I do NOT mean the teacher didn’t talk about historical figures and arguments in philosophy, I mean the activities proposed where playful and fun but just the same you can offer without any training whatsoever, and without any interest under the “ordinary game” surface;
2) or too much influenced by a particular philosophical view the teacher held, so that instead of focusing on questions and problems that naturally raise the teacher made an effort to shape the dialogue so that it resulted in a “nice” dialogue and tried to demostrate that her idea of “philosophical” activity (informed by the thoeries of philosopher X) was magically taking place;
3) or both. With the major problems emerging with pre-school and primary school children. which you do need a specific training to help approaching philosophical questions in an attractive way.
As a result, I now refrain from some – I am not generalizing – programs in the field. I still hope to gradually develop the necessary abilities, also thanks to the rich and valuable material (especially stories) we do have. Yet some first-hand experience and Exchange with Others would be precious.

Cindy Scheopner
10 years ago

The University of Hawaii has just created an Institute from its long-standing P4C (Philosophy for Children) initiative: “P4C Hawai’i: A Project of the UH Uehiro Academy” is on Facebook.

Maughn Gregory
9 years ago

The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University is hosting a two-session Symposium: “Philosophy of Childhood: Exploring the Boundaries,” Chaired by Dr. David Kennedy at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, December 28-29, 2014 at the Downtown Marriott in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The papers for each session are linked from our Symposium web page, and all participants and attendees are encouraged to read the papers before Symposium:

Please direct questions and responses to Dr. David Kennedy at

Maughn Gregory, Director
Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children