Philosophy for Kids

A student of mine has bravely ventured out into the Real World, where he is working with third graders in a low-income area.  Here's what he writes--
I would love to find a way to introduce my students to philosophy in some sense to give them a taste of what it is that I like to do. This has been hard for me to figure out though for multiple reasons. First, since it is a public school, I am always careful of what I say and don't want to get in trouble for anything I tell to a kid that may upset a parent. I also struggle because it is difficult for me to translate a lot of the ideas that philosophy covers into terms that can be understood by elementary aged children. I did not know if you had any suggestions of a good way to introduce philosophy to kids or if you knew of any resources that I may be able to find online that could help me? Please just let me know and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Back when I blogged at Talking Philosophy, I wrote some "philosophy for kids" posts,  There was one about the little red hen and one about what we'd do if we discovered little people like The Borrowers living under our floorboards. Would we treat them as second class citizens, just because of their size?

I think using children's literature as a springboard for talking about philosophy is a cool idea.  That's what happens very naturally--you read with kids, and certain books lead to good discussions.  But which books have that potential?  I think I recall someone publishing a story-oriented philosophy book for kids, but I can't think who that is.

Anyone have ideas about how to introduce young kids to philosophy, using fiction, or not using fiction, or using online resources?  Your assistance much appreciated!


Wayne said...

Magic tricks, optical illusions, etc are fantastic ways of getting kids to think about reality, vs appearances.

You can try to actually perform some famous thought experiments. Descartes' wax example in Meditation 2 can be recreated with gumballs (I do this with my students all the time).

You can let them read a short mystery (encyclopedia brown sort of mystery) and then go through the logic of the detective.

Pick up something like Harry Potter and philosophy, Star Wars and Philosophy, etc, for ideas on how to make popular culture they're familiar with philosophical and interesting.

Deijivan said...

Have you ever heard of Matthew Lipman?

He is recognized as the founder of Philosophy for Children. His decision to bring philosophy to young people came from his experience as a professor at Columbia University, where he witnessed underdeveloped reasoning skills in his students.

His interest was particularly on developing reasoning skills by teaching logic. The belief that children possess the ability to think abstractly from an early age, led him to the conviction that bringing logic to children's education earlier would help them to improve their reasoning skills.

This site shows a lot of research developed by him and can help design a lesson plan to introduce philosophy in children's thinking:


curious_jim said...

Questions they are now asking children in British primary schools:

Is it possible to think of nothing?
Is the universe infinite?
Is the mind and brain the same thing? (Used with Year 1 upwards!)
Would a prisoner who has everything he wants and has no desire to leave the prison be free? (Paraphrase)
If you and I swapped brains where would you be? (Paraphrase)
Is it better to be an unhappy boy or a happy pig?

Anonymous said...

You should contact Peter Shea in Minnesota. He did this for many years in the tradition of Lipman. He has a lot of video of it.


Aeolus said...

Here's an illustrated philosophy ABC for children by a former student of mine:

Brett Hetherington said...

In my Theory of Knowledge course I have used (and found useful:)




Jean Kazez said...

This came in by email:


is a website for materials to use in doing philosophy with children.

The If Machine, By Peter Worley


is a book for young children that seemed to get good reviews (I don't know what age group third-grade is).

The Philosophy Shop is a charity promoting philosophy in schools they may be able to offer some advice.

They have recommended reading here:




here is an article on the TPM site on teaching philoosphy in schools from last year in case you've missed it:


There was another article I'd come across during a recent blog: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/dec/04/highereducation.news

SAPERE is another not-for-profir organisation promoting philosophy in schools, they have examples of the philosophical questions young children often ask here (they are connected up with P4C used in the states) and their site may be worth purusing


curious_jim said...


May be of interest thee BBC on "Teaching philosophy with Spider-Man"

"...philosophy professors are finding superheroes and comic books to be exceptionally useful tools in helping students think about the complex moral and ethical debates that have occupied philosophers for centuries. Moreover, superheroes are attracting students to a discipline often perceived as overrun by musty books, suede elbow patches and bow ties..."