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Enhance Critical Thinking Skills through Daily Engagement with Puzzles

In today’s fast-paced world, where information is readily available at our fingertips, it’s crucial to develop and enhance critical thinking skills. One effective way to achieve this is by engaging in daily puzzles. Whether it’s a crossword, Sudoku, or a brain teaser, puzzles of the day can provide a fun and challenging exercise for your mind. In this article, we will explore the benefits of daily puzzle engagement and how it can sharpen your critical thinking skills.

Mental Stimulation and Problem-Solving Abilities

Engaging in puzzles on a regular basis provides mental stimulation that keeps your brain active and alert. When you tackle puzzles of the day, you are presented with various problems that require logical reasoning and problem-solving abilities. These challenges push you to think creatively and find innovative solutions.

By consistently engaging in puzzle solving, you train your brain to approach problems from different angles, improving your ability to think critically. This skillset extends beyond puzzle-solving scenarios and becomes applicable in various real-life situations such as decision-making processes or analyzing complex issues.

Memory Retention and Cognitive Function

Puzzles not only stimulate critical thinking but also help improve memory retention and cognitive function. When solving puzzles of the day, you are required to remember patterns, rules, or clues provided within the puzzle itself.

This constant exercise of memory retrieval strengthens neural connections in the brain responsible for storing information. As a result, you will notice an improvement in your ability to recall information quickly and accurately.

Moreover, engaging in regular puzzle-solving activities has been linked to enhanced cognitive function. It has been shown that individuals who regularly engage in puzzles perform better on tasks related to memory, processing speed, and attention span compared to those who do not engage in such activities.

Increased Concentration and Focus

In today’s digital age where distractions are abundant, maintaining concentration and focus has become a challenge for many. Engaging in puzzles of the day can help combat this problem.

When solving a puzzle, you need to concentrate on the task at hand, blocking out any distractions. This focused attention allows you to delve deep into the problem and analyze it thoroughly. Over time, regular engagement with puzzles improves your ability to concentrate for longer periods and enhances your overall focus.

Stress Reduction and Mental Well-being

Puzzles provide a wonderful escape from the daily stressors of life. When you immerse yourself in solving puzzles, you enter a state of flow where time seems to fly by, and your mind is fully engaged in the task.

This state of flow promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels. As you solve each piece of the puzzle, you experience a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, boosting your mood and mental well-being.

Additionally, engaging in puzzles can serve as a form of meditation or mindfulness practice. It allows you to disconnect from technology and be present in the moment, focusing solely on the task at hand.

In conclusion, incorporating daily puzzles into your routine can have numerous benefits for enhancing critical thinking skills. From mental stimulation to improved memory retention, increased concentration to stress reduction – puzzles provide a holistic approach to sharpening your cognitive abilities while having fun along the way. So why not make “puzzle of the day” part of your daily routine? Start challenging yourself today.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


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Problem solving activities for developing critical thinking skills in kids

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Learning to think critically may be one of the most important skills that today's children will need for the future. In today’s rapidly changing world, children need to be able to do much more than repeat a list of facts; they need to be critical thinkers who can make sense of information, analyze, compare, contrast, make inferences, and generate higher order thinking skills. 

Building Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills

Building critical thinking skills happens through day-to-day interactions as you talk with your child, ask open-ended questions, and allow your child to experiment and solve problems.  Here are some tips and ideas to help children build a foundation for critical thinking: 

  • Provide opportunities for play .   Building with blocks, acting out roles with friends, or playing board games all build children’s critical thinking. 
  • Pause and wait.  Offering your child ample time to think, attempt a task, or generate a response is critical. This gives your child a chance to reflect on her response and perhaps refine, rather than responding with their very first gut reaction.
  • Don't intervene immediately.   Kids need challenges to grow. Wait and watch before you jump in to solve a problem.
  • Ask open-ended questions.  Rather than automatically giving answers to the questions your child raises, help them think critically by asking questions in return: "What ideas do you have? What do you think is happening here?" Respect their responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, "That is interesting. Tell me why you think that."
  • Help children develop hypotheses.  Taking a moment to form hypotheses during play  is a critical thinking exercise that helps develop skills. Try asking your child, "If we do this, what do you think will happen?" or "Let's predict what we think will happen next."
  • Encourage thinking in new and different ways.  By allowing children to think differently, you're helping them hone their creative  problem solving skills. Ask questions like, "What other ideas could we try?" or encourage your child to generate options by saying, "Let’s think of all the possible solutions."

Of course, there are situations where you as a parent need to step in. At these times, it is helpful to model your own critical thinking. As you work through a decision making process, verbalize what is happening inside your mind. Children learn from observing how you think. Taking time to allow your child to navigate problems is integral to developing your child's critical thinking skills in the long run. 

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Critical Thinking Skills for Preschoolers: 4 Fun Activities to Try at Home

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For preschoolers, critical thinking involves the ability to think clearly and rationally in order to understand logical connections between ideas.

To engage in reflection and independent thought, children must be encouraged to become active learners rather than passive recipients of information.

Furthermore, rigorously questioning ideas and assumptions is all about determining whether arguments and findings represent the entirety of the facts of a situation.

While intuition and instinct can take preschoolers so far, it is critical thinking skills that allow children to identify, analyse and solve problems systematically.

Critical Thinking and the Power of Play

At our Kids Konnect preschools in Pacifica , San Mateo - Bunker Hill , San Mateo - Downtown and San Leandro we encourage children to explore cause and effect through play.

Throughout our play-based curriculum , preschoolers are provided with endless opportunities to try new things and see the resulting reactions in a safe and inclusive environment that facilitates learning.

Moreover, it is through these practical experiences of play with a purpose that children gain the integral foundations for critical thinking skills.

children learn critical thinking skills through play

That being said, how can you help your preschooler to approach problems in a consistent way so that they can understand the links between concepts and ideas and master critical thinking?

Let’s discover four activities that you can try at home with your child to guide the development of their critical thinking skills.

1. Guess the Toy

Place one of your child’s toys behind your back and ask your child to guess what you are hiding.

Give your preschooler clues and see if they can ask you questions about the color, size, and texture of the toy.

Once they have grasped the concept of the game, swap roles to help your child understand how to make guesses based on what they already know.

guessing games encourage children to think critically

2. Make a Menu

Tap into your preschooler’s love of food by compiling an extra special menu together.

Simply show your child some ingredients from the kitchen and ask them to come up with meal ideas.

Ask about which flavors they do and do not like, and if they create something delicious you could even consider giving it a try.

making a menu together can be a lot of fun

3. Food Tasting

One of the easiest ways to elicit opinions from a preschooler is by introducing them to new foods.

Just like adults, children form strong likes and dislikes so put out a selection of healthy foods with exciting tastes and textures and see what your little one thinks.

You could even let your child predict whether or not they will like a new food and ask them for reasons why.

tasting foods encourages children to form opinions

4. Browse the Family Photo Albums

Looking at photographs is an excellent way to ask your child questions that require a deeper level of thinking.

Most images have a story behind them so sit down with your preschooler and discuss what is happening in each picture.

Additionally, flicking through a photo album can give your preschooler a quick ‘who's who’ of family members and friends that can spark conversations that could lead anywhere.

look at photos together to spark conversations

The STEAM Connection

At Kids Konnect, we're super focused on finding fun ways to develop critical thinking skills in a fun way. It's all part of our play-based STEAM curriculum .

STEAM -ocused lessons prompt preschoolers to systemically work through problems and apply information about science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math to figure out solutions.

Tell Me More About STEAM

Above all, enrolling your child at a Kids Konnect preschool gives them the opportunity to be innovative by providing a joyful environment and classroom experiences that are conducive to learning.

Heading out on a play date with your preschooler some time soon? Check out our blog post for 9 quick and easy STEAM play date ideas .


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5 Ways to Encourage Critical Thinking with Your Toddler

Do you ever find yourself asking, “why doesn’t my child THINK?”

Since launching thinkLaw, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from parents curious about ways to encourage critical thinking in toddlers. Learning to think critically is a part of scientific, mathematical, historical, economic and philosophical thinking, all of which are necessary for the future development of our society. Children must know how to analyze and evaluate information that is provided, whether that information is through observation, experience or communication.

So how can we best support and teach our children to develop critical thinking skills, habits and mindsets? Here are the 5 ways we suggest:

1. Design Experiments with Your Toddler

Toddlers are addicted to asking “why,” so it’s not surprising that most parents end up spoon-feeding answers. But instead of answering “why do you put milk in the refrigerator?” with “because it will spoil and smell awful,” design a simple experiment where you pour milk into 2 cups, keeping one in the refrigerator and one on the kitchen counter. And check them in 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours so they smell and look at it to observe the differences between the two. You will never have time to do this for every single “why,” but even just picking one rabbit hole a day to go down will help your toddler develop his or her intellectual curiosity.

2. Answer Your Toddler’s Questions with Questions

I always thought the whole point of becoming a parent was to annoy your children by not answering anything you ever ask! But there is actually so much to be gained when a toddler asks how to do something, where something is, or why something happens and your response as a parent is another, pointed question. For example, respond to “this toy is broken, how do I fix it?” with questions like, “Hmmm…what if we did this (something that is not the way to fix it, but a helpful start to the trial and error process)? Do you think that would work? Why? What should we try next? This encourages your toddler to learn to ask the right questions.

3. Play the Prediction Game with Your Toddler

If you are reading a book or watching television, pause shows at key moments and ask, what do you think is going to happen next? Why? This encourages your toddler to share their develop their ability to make inferences and to make persuasive arguments. For example (spoiler alert for the 1 toddler parent who has not watched Trolls), when the trolls are having their huge party, you can encourage deep thinking just by asking your toddler questions like “what do you think will happen next?” “Does this party seem like a good idea? Why or why not.”

4. Make Your Toddler Think About Their Thinking

Metacognition, or thinking about your thinking, is another strategy for developing critical thinking in toddlers. When my daughter first learned what an ambulance was, she saw a police car and shouted out “ambulance, someone is hurt!” I could have just said, “no, that’s a police car, not an ambulance.” But it is so more impactful to dig into this misunderstanding with questions like, “why do you think this is an ambulance?” “How is this like an ambulance?” “How is it different?”

5. Encourage Creativity in Your Toddler

The best way to help your toddler “think outside the box” is to regularly engage in activities that push their creative thinking. Have your toddler read books to you based on the pictures only, read forwards and/or backwards.

Make up stories you can orally complete together (I do a lot of stories based on this model: “Once upon a time, there was a little ___ named ___. She had a friend named _____. She like to ____ with her friend. But one day, _________. They were scared but they remembered that _______….).

What they come up with may seem silly but possibilities that seem wild might serve as a springboard for them to make an original and powerful new connection.

While these are strategies listed for toddlers, these are strategies you can use for students of all ages. Please let me know what you think about these, and feel free to add more suggestions to this list. If you find these helpful, please share!

To learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click   here   to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team, call us now at  (702) 318-7512  or join us on our next webinar;  Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students

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Love this! So appreciate the serious focus on our youngest children – so much to there – there!

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Rote Memorization & Spoon-fed Learning Are No Longer Acceptable For 21st Century Learning.

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  • April 18, 2012

Developing Thinking Skills From 24 to 36 Months

While you often hear this stage called the “terrible two’s”, it is also an amazing time when your toddler’s skills and personality continue to deepen and grow. find strategies to support the development of your toddler’s thinking skills during this year..

In this third year, you will see a big jump in your child’s thinking skills. He will start to appreciate humor and jokes. She will be able to come up with solutions to more complex problems. Toddlers are also starting to be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They know that others have thoughts and feelings that are different from their own. For example, your child may give you a hug when you are sad. It is also an amazing time when your toddler’s skills and personality continue to deepen and grow.

What Can You Do to Support Your Toddler’s Thinking Skills?

Encourage pretend play. Let your child be the “director.” This helps her develop her own ideas. It also strengthens her thinking skills as she uses logic in her play: *The dog has to go back in his house because it’s raining.* You can help her develop her ideas by asking questions: *What is the doggy feeling? Why? What might happen next?*

Offer materials that help your child act out the stories he’s creating —hats, dress-up clothing, toy dishes, child-sized brooms, pads of paper, blocks, play food, and household objects like big cardboard boxes, blankets, pillows, etc.

Ask questions during your everyday play and routines. As you go through your day together, ask your child questions about what the two of you are seeing: *Why do you think the leaves fall from the trees? Where do you think the butterfly is going?* This gets your child’s mind working and lets her know that you are interested in her ideas.

Offer lots of chances to explore in creative ways. Take nature walks. Play with sand and water. Give your child objects he can take apart and investigate. By exploring objects during play, children figure out how things work and develop problem-solving skills.

Use everyday routines to notice patterns. Using language to explain these patterns helps your child become a logical thinker and increases her vocabulary *When the buzzer rings, the clothes are dry.* Or, *You wear mittens to keep your hands warm when it’s cold.*

Sort and categorize through the day. Your child can separate laundry into piles of socks, shirts, and pants. He can help set the table and organize the forks, plates, and spoons. At clean-up time, have him put the cars on one shelf and books on another.

Talk about feelings. Help your child develop a feelings vocabulary. Put words to what you think she might be feeling. *You are so mad that we have to leave the park.* This helps your child understand and cope with her emotions. Talk about what others might be feeling: *That little girl is jumping up and down and smiling. How do you think she feels?*

Encourage your child to test out different solutions to problems , rather than doing it for him: You might suggest he try the square block in another hole in his shape-sorter, or add some blocks to the bottom of his tower to keep it from collapsing.

Browse our full suite of resources on early childhood development.

critical thinking skills toddlers

MSU Extension Child & Family Development

The importance of critical thinking for young children.

Kylie Rymanowicz, Michigan State University Extension - May 03, 2016

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Critical thinking is essential life skill. Learn why it is so important and how you can help children learn and practice these skills.

It is important to teach children critical thinking skills.

We use critical thinking skills every day. They help us to make good decisions, understand the consequences of our actions and solve problems. These incredibly important skills are used in everything from putting together puzzles to mapping out the best route to work. It’s the process of using focus and self-control to solve problems and set and follow through on goals. It utilizes other important life skills like making connections , perspective taking and communicating . Basically, critical thinking helps us make good, sound decisions.

Critical thinking

In her book, “Mind in the Making: The seven essential life skills every child needs,” author Ellen Galinsky explains the importance of teaching children critical thinking skills. A child’s natural curiosity helps lay the foundation for critical thinking. Critical thinking requires us to take in information, analyze it and make judgements about it, and that type of active engagement requires imagination and inquisitiveness. As children take in new information, they fill up a library of sorts within their brain. They have to think about how the new information fits in with what they already know, or if it changes any information we already hold to be true.

Supporting the development of critical thinking

Michigan State University Extension has some tips on helping your child learn and practice critical thinking.

  • Encourage pursuits of curiosity . The dreaded “why” phase. Help them form and test theories, experiment and try to understand how the world works. Encourage children to explore, ask questions, test their theories, think critically about results and think about changes they could make or things they could do differently.
  • Learn from others. Help children think more deeply about things by instilling a love for learning and a desire to understand how things work. Seek out the answers to all of your children’s “why” questions using books, the internet, friends, family or other experts.
  • Help children evaluate information. We are often given lots of information at a time, and it is important we evaluate that information to determine if it is true, important and whether or not we should believe it. Help children learn these skills by teaching them to evaluate new information. Have them think about where or who the information is coming from, how it relates to what they already know and why it is or is not important.
  • Promote children’s interests. When children are deeply vested in a topic or pursuit, they are more engaged and willing to experiment. The process of expanding their knowledge brings about a lot of opportunities for critical thinking, so to encourage this action helps your child invest in their interests. Whether it is learning about trucks and vehicles or a keen interest in insects, help your child follow their passion.
  • Teach problem-solving skills. When dealing with problems or conflicts, it is necessary to use critical thinking skills to understand the problem and come up with possible solutions, so teach them the steps of problem-solving and they will use critical thinking in the process of finding solutions to problems.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension . For more information, visit https://extension.msu.edu . To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters . To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts , or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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How to help your child develop critical thinking skills

Critical thinking for kids

Children are natural inquirers. Every day, they’re putting their critical thinking skills into practice, even at primary school level, and this ability to think critically is an asset that will stand your child in good stead as they move through primary school, into secondary and throughout their adult lives.

‘It’s important that children develop critical thinking skills as early as primary school age,’ explains Peter Worley, co-CEO and co-founder of educational charity The Philosophy Foundation .

‘This is because critical thinking needs to be developed and practised as a disposition. Good thinking should be a habit, and habits need to be started young.’

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Why critical thinking matters

Learning to think critically is a vital part of children’s development, helping them make sense of the world around them.

It helps them ask questions and make value judgements, and try to figure things out if they don’t make sense.

Critical thinking encompasses many of the skills your child needs to access the primary school National Curriculum , including inventing, making analogies, formulating hypotheses and suggesting alternatives. It helps them filter the information they take in and select what’s most relevant to the task in hand.

Developing good thinking habits may help your child when they come to formal exams like SATs and the 11+ . Key Stage 2 SATs in English, for example, include a reading comprehension paper, where your child will have to make inferences and deductions from set texts.

Indeed, research has suggested that children who are taught critical thinking skills do better at language comprehension and problem-solving, and even have a higher IQ than their peers.

How to develop your child’s critical thinking skills

‘Children are not only capable of critical thinking from an early age, but they actually do it, too,’ says Peter.

‘For example, children as young as five and six use counter-examples (“Not all birds fly; penguins are birds, and they don’t fly”), draw distinctions (“Heroes are not the same as superheroes”), and challenge inference-making (“Just because he’s the biggest, it doesn’t mean he should get more”).’

Here’s how to help your child hone these skills as they grow.

1. Encourage agreement and disagreement

Being able to say whether they agree or disagree with something, and why, is a sign that your child is thinking critically.

‘Be aware, however, that just because someone says, “I disagree,” it doesn’t mean they’re thinking critically,’ Peter explains. ‘For thinking to be properly critical, one needs to disagree in the right way.’

For example, you can encourage your child to give reasons or examples that show why they agree or disagree with something.

‘Ask, “Do you agree?” to encourage them to evaluate someone else’s claim or idea,’ says Peter. ‘Ask them whether something is right or wrong, true or false, okay or not okay: in other words, have them take a position, evaluate and, if necessary, eliminate.’

2. Ask why?

‘Though children are able to provide reasons for their answers, they often don’t; instead, they make unsupported assertions,’ Peter explains. ‘This is easily addressed by simply asking them, “Why?”’

For instance, your child tells you that their classmate Sam snatched a ball from someone else at playtime. They say, ‘I think he should give it back.’

You can encourage them to explain why, asking, ‘Why do you think he should give it back?’

This may then prompt them to say, ‘Because it’s not his.’

3. Question sequentially

Help your child work through their reasoning by going through a series of steps. Following on from the example above:

  • Check for general principles (always/never/sometimes): ‘So, should you always give back what’s not yours?’
  • Listen out for counter-examples: ‘No, sometimes you might really need it.’
  • Then test the concrete example: ‘Does Sam really need the ball? So, should he give it back?’

4. Look for extracurricular clubs

Joining a philosophy or debating club is a good way to develop your child’s critical thinking skills and put them into practice with other children of a similar age. Some schools run these clubs, or there may be out-of-school clubs in your area.

You can find out more about philosophy clubs from The Philosophy Foundation . If there isn’t one in your area, The Philosophy Foundation can help you set one up. You can find ideas for topics that you might like to discuss in Peter’s books, The If Machine  (Continuum, £18.99) and 40 Lessons to get Children Thinking  (Bloomsbury, £19.94).

critical thinking skills toddlers

5. Encourage your child to open up

To help your child develop critical thinking skills, get into a habit of questioning them about their thoughts and opinions. There are five simple ways to do this:

  • Ask why: get them to provide justification, explanation, purpose or motivation.
  • Ask for clarification: ‘Can you say what you mean by…?’
  • Ask for more: ‘Can you say more about that?’
  • Ask for an example or counter-example: ‘Can you give me an example?
  • Ask for conditions: ‘Can you say what it would depend on?’

6. Talk about implications

Critical thinking involves thinking something through to its possible conclusions. This means considering the implications of something: ‘What would happen if you did this?’

For example, ‘What does it mean if we say one should never lie?’

This is a good habit to develop when your child is doing reading comprehension. Try stopping the story at the crisis moment or decision, and asking your child what they think will happen, and why, and what they think should happen, and why.

7. Be alert to fake news

In this culture of ‘fake news’, how can your child tell whether something they’ve heard is true or not? ‘The obvious answer is to check sources,’ Peter says.

‘However, this isn’t always helpful, because we don’t always have time to check our sources properly. ‘This is where critical thinking comes into its own, giving children the ability to see where they should apply doubt or scepticism. It acts as a kind of “room-for-doubt detector.”’

Children who think critically can get a good sense of when they really need to check a source or fact, and when it might be okay to not be certain.

‘This will depend on when it really matters: when there are real consequences to saying something is true,’ Peter explains.

8. Encourage good listening

If your child is to become a critical thinker, they need to be a good listener, with a concept called an Open Questioning Mindset (OQM).

‘OQM is listening, but not just stopping yourself from talking; it is attempting to understand, giving the other person space to think and talk, not imposing your thoughts or interpretations on them, and not questioning them to trip them up or stop them in their tracks,’ Peter says.

9. Embrace pedantry

Yes, it can be irritating when your child insists their t-shirt is aquamarine, not turquoise, or reprimands you for calling their sandals shoes, but pedantry can actually be an asset.

‘ A good critical thinker is also a pedant ,’ explains Peter. ‘As a philosopher, I often hear people say, “But isn’t that just semantics?” but semantics matter. Sometimes life and death and even wars have hinged on semantic confusion or a lack of clarity.’

10. Be a good role model

‘Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your child become a critical thinker is to model good critical thinking yourself,’ explains Peter. ‘Notice, monitor and evaluate your own critical thinking, and, if necessary, take steps to improve it.’

There are some great books that will help you develop your critical thinking skills, including A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston (Hackett, £9.99), Thinking from A-Z by Nigel Warburton (Routledge, £14.05) and The Duck that Won the Lottery by Julian Baggini (Plume, £12.99).

The Economist Educational Foundation also produce free resource packs to help develop kids' critical thinking .

Oxplore , a digital outreach portal from the University of Oxford, aims to promote broader thinking and stimulate intellectual curiosity in children aged 11+.

Peter Worley is a Visiting Research Associate at King’s College London and author/editor of eight books on philosophy in schools, including The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom  ( Continuum, £18.99), 40 Lessons to get Children Thinking   (Bloomsbury, £19.94) and The Philosophy Shop (Independent Thinking, £17.58). His latest book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers , is out in January 2019.

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12 Critical Thinking Activities for Kids

By: Author Tanja McIlroy

Posted on Last updated: 24 April 2023

Categories Cognitive Development

critical thinking skills toddlers

Critical thinking is a valuable skill and one that young children should be actively taught. The best way to teach this to preschoolers and kindergarteners is through play activities, discussions and stories.

In this article, I’ll share some basic critical thinking activities for kids, as well as some higher-order thinking skills activities you can incorporate into your daily storytime.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is one of the higher-order thinking skills and is the process of analyzing information using logic, reasoning and creativity, in order to understand things and draw conclusions. [ source ]

Critical Thinking Activities for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

The preschool years are the time to stimulate your children with fun games and activities that will stretch their imaginations and their ability to think critically.

These 12 critical thinking games for kids are screen-free, traditional games that can be played with your preschooler anywhere, and with no prep.

Pin - 12 thinking games to play with your preschooler

The traditional game of I Spy can be played in many ways e.g. spying objects based on initial sounds ( teaching letters ) or colours ( colour recognition ).

To test your child’s thinking, play this game by using descriptive clues that don’t involve sounds or colours.

  • I spy with my little eye something that’s soft, round and can be thrown.
  • I spy with my little eye something that grows, is smooth and is found on trees.

2. Build a Story

This game is about creative thinking and language development.

Start by making up an introduction to a story:

Once upon a time, there was a little grey cat.

Your child then adds a sentence to the story, thus changing the direction of the story:

The little grey cat was lost in the woods.

Then you add a sentence and so the story continues:

Suddenly, he heard a whisper behind him and he froze.

This game usually ends in fits of laughter and a ridiculous story but uses a lot of brainpower and imagination.

3. Rhyming Game

Play this rhyming game by challenging your child to think of words that rhyme with an easy word such as cat or tap. This game is great for developing auditory perception .

Say a sentence such as “ I have a …” or “ I see a …” and add in a simple word such as cat . Your child then responds with the same sentence using an appropriate rhyming word and you continue the game until you run out of words together.

Then choose a new word.

You: I see a cat .

Child: I see a rat .

You: I see a mat .

Child: I see a hat .

4. How Many Can You Think of?

Picture of different fruits to represent a category

This game challenges children to think of words that fit into a theme or category.

Choose a category, such as colours , and put a timer on for one minute. Ask your child to name as many words as they can that fit into the category, without repeating any.

Write down the words as they are said and count the total at the end. Your child will be motivated to beat the total in the next round.

Try these fun category games too.

5. Matchstick Buildings

Build 3D structures out of matchsticks and a variety of materials that can be used to join the edges – e.g. Prestik, Blu Tack, jelly sweets, little marshmallows, tape, playdough , glue, etc.

This will teach some technology skills and encourage planning, thinking and problem-solving as your child tries to figure out how to join parts together and make things stand, balance or hold in a particular position.

6. Cloud Stories

Every child will enjoy this activity. Go outside on a nice cloudy day, lie next to each other on the grass and look for pictures in the clouds.

Once you have found a few, encourage your child to tell a story by tying all the pictures together.

7. Lego Theme

critical thinking skills toddlers

You could ask your child to build a farm theme, complete with animals and farmhouses, and then ask them to build a space station. You will be surprised by how creative children can be when challenged to think of ways to create.

8. Tangrams

critical thinking skills toddlers

Ask your child to use the shapes to create a particular image, e.g. a specific animal, and give no direction. Your child must think about how to build various parts of a body by joining shapes together.

9.  Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic-tac-toe drawn on paper

This game, also known as noughts and crosses is an excellent thinking skills game and also develops planning skills.

Draw a simple table like the one above on paper or a chalkboard. Take turns to add a nought or a cross to the table and see who can make a row of three first.

Your child will probably catch on in no time and start thinking carefully before placing their symbol.

This game can also be played with coloured counters or different objects.

10. What is it?

Hold an object or toy behind your back. Your child must guess what it is by asking questions to extract clues.

Have your child hide an item first so you can model the kinds of questions allowed. Then swap and let your child formulate questions. With time, your child will learn how to ask targeted questions that narrow down the options.

  • Is it soft or hard?
  • Can I eat it?
  • Can it fit in my hand?
  • Does it make a sound?

11. Hide and Seek

In this game of Hide and Seek an object is hidden instead of a person.

This is a variation of the game above and involves giving directions or clues for where the object is hidden.

Hide the object then provide clues such as:

  • It is far from here.
  • It is outside the house.
  • There is water near it.
  • It is in the shade.

These clues can be easy or challenging, depending on your child’s age and ability to think.

12. What Really Happened?

This game works on imagination, creativity and thinking skills. Choose a story your child enjoys reading and knows well but have him/her make up an alternative ending to the story.

For example, Little Red Riding Hood goes into the woods with her basket but gets lost on the way and cannot find her grandmother’s house. What happens next?

Encourage your child to think of solutions to problems encountered along the way and ideas for how the characters can deal with certain situations.

Higher-Order Thinking Skills Activities for Storytime

One of the most useful activities you can do every day while reading to your children , right from the time they can understand the words, is to question them meaningfully in order to develop thinking skills.

Through the use of some very basic types of open-ended questions , you will have your child thinking , analyzing , predicting , comparing , deciding , giving opinions and deducing , amongst other skills.

There are many benefits to be gained from the simple act of reading and listening alone, however, by using the opportunity to add some questioning techniques, you will be developing important cognitive skills that will train your child to think in an advanced way.

Mother reading to her son

Examples of Higher-Order Thinking Questions for Preschoolers

There are many different types and styles of questions that can be asked, each with a different purpose and to stimulate a different thinking skill.

Here are 3 examples of the types of questions you could use while reading:

1. Questions That Ask for Predictions

These kinds of questions encourage children to make predictions for a story. They could predict, for example:

  • the genre of the story from clues on the book cover
  • what happens at the end of a story
  • what happens in the beginning (if you read the end of a story first)
  • what could happen if a character makes a certain decision (and other scenarios for decision making )

2. Questions That Require Inference

Inference means that details are not explicitly stated in a text, but there are clues that lead the reader to deduce the answer to the question. Children learn to read between the lines.

Take for example an illustration in a story of an outdoor scene where the sun is shining. If you ask your child whether it is day or night they may not find the answer in the text; however, they can find evidence in the illustration to prove that it is daytime.

This is called inference and is a great skill for developing critical thinking skills in kids.

3. Questions Asking About the Main Idea

I have worked with high school pupils who struggle to summarize the main idea of a story or text in one sentence.

If the entire text is about the migration habits of birds, for example, many children will identify the main idea as being too broad (e.g. it is about birds) or too narrow (e.g. saying it is about one of many species mentioned in the text, or simply referring to something that was stated in the first sentence).

Asking the question “Can you tell me in one sentence what this story is about?” will teach children to think clearly and formulate concise and logical ideas.

Asking these kinds of questions can take as little as 5 minutes a day and will make a huge impact on your child’s ability to think logically and solve problems.

I hope you’ll enjoy trying some of these preschool critical thinking activities and exercises.

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Sunday 15th of October 2023

I am a resource teacher and have been looking for these types of activities to use for my classes. I am excited to see how my students will respond...

Thank you so much for sharing...

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 16th of October 2023

You're welcome, Lyn!

Tuesday 8th of August 2023

What a fantastic article on critical thinking activities for kids! As a parent, I'm always on the lookout for engaging ways to nurture my child's cognitive development. These 12 activities for preschoolers and kindergarteners truly resonate with me. The way you've explained each game, from I Spy to Cloud Stories, makes it easy to understand how they stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Moreover, I found your insights on using higher-order thinking skills during storytime incredibly valuable. Encouraging kids to predict, infer, and analyze while reading is such a powerful way to enhance their cognitive abilities.

As I was reading your article, I couldn't help but think about another great resource that complements your ideas perfectly. It's an article called "Empower Your Child's Learning with Playful Critical Thinking Activities," and you can find it here: link. This article dives deeper into playful activities that foster critical thinking in kids and aligns perfectly with your approach.

Thank you for sharing your expertise and insights – your work is greatly appreciated by parents like me who are passionate about our children's development! 🌟

Wednesday 9th of August 2023

Thanks for your kind comment, Marina!

Connie Strand

Saturday 22nd of June 2019

Tanja , I have enjoyed all the articles you have written! The background information is so very important. Why we teach certain concepts along with the activities ,I think, has been invaluable! I hope other parents, educators and people involved with little ones, appreciate the extensive job you have done. Sincerely, Connie

Sunday 23rd of June 2019

Hi Connie, thank you so much for your kind words. I love writing about how young minds learn and it's wonderful when parents and teachers get involved and really understand the value of play for their children. Enjoy the journey! Tanja

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

I m very much satisfied with your ansure do u take sessions I need to meet u personaly so u can help me more about my daughter eira thank you very much

Hi Minaz, thank you for your comment. You are welcome to email me your queries at [email protected]


5 Activities for Your Child That Teach Critical Thinking


Critical thinking is one of the most crucial life skills to have. It not only builds a strong character, but also creates a wise person that is humble, and successful. However, most schools are not able to nurture critical thinking abilities due to a standardized syllabus. Yet, as a parent, you can nurture your children to think critically with some activities that you can do at home.

Here are some examples of activities that you and your children can start on right away!

1. Creating art.

Encouraging your child to express their thoughts through artistic outlets is an incredible way to nurture critical thinking skills. As children draw pictures or compose music to express things they might not know how to do in words, this requires a degree of critical thinking skills.

Practicing artistic skills and nurturing creativity is an indispensable activity for children to build their critical thinking skills. It is by no means a simple task. This is one of the many factors as to why art has been highly valued throughout history.

2. Solve puzzles together.

Puzzles are proven to be a great activity for children to build their neurons up. Whether it is Monopoly, tic tac toe, connect 4, jigsaw puzzles, snakes and ladder, and many others, your child will actively be building their critical thinking skills by playing these games.

Through puzzles and brain teasers, your child slowly learns how to formulate strategies, understand the fundamentals of game theory, and gradually build up these skills until it is second nature.

When it comes to puzzles, your presence is also incredibly important. These puzzles might seem daunting and unenjoyable if you let your child play alone, but it can become a fun and wonderful bonding experience when you are playing together.

3. Teach them how to create a hypothesis.

You can actively teach your child how to come up with their own ideas and theories when you are spending time with them. For example, if you are reading them a story, you could stop halfway through and start to question them about things such as what do they think about the characters, what do they think will happen later and why do they think so. Ask them how they feel the story would finish.

Impromptu and open-ended questions such as these give your child the chance to think logically, and outside the box. Sometimes, their creative answers might even surprise you! Encourage them, ask them open-ended questions, and give them ample time to come up with a great answer.

You could even use real-life situations to ask questions like these. For example, if you are having dinner together, you could ask them how they think these noodles were made, and what was the process involved. Or if you are stuck in traffic, you could ask them if they have any input on how they would fix congestion problems if they were the prime minister.

4. Play with building blocks.

Building blocks and LEGOs are great toys to build critical thinking. The endless possibilities allow your child to let their imaginations loose. By building various things with them, you are also encouraging them to utilize more of their brainpower to bring their ideas to life. From dinosaurs and buildings to space ships and model homes, as your child builds their imaginations into reality, they are actively firing up those neurons throughout the whole process.

You can also achieve great results by playing Minecraft with them. Essentially a virtual world made out of building blocks, you and your child have a great bonding experience that is both fun and educational. If Minecraft isn’t your thing – programs like Engineering For Kids encourage creativity and critical thinking in their STEM camps, classes, and events.

5. Real problems, pretend play.

Bring up a real-world problem such as world hunger or global warming to pretend play and ask them to think of solutions. For example, if they were the president of the United States of America, how would they solve these issues? Such games allow children to learn about their surroundings and be aware of their environment, while also critically thinking about the issues and how to work around them.

These games also allow your children to understand the real challenges that are faced by people in the world. Through your encouragement, you can even motivate them to not only think heavily about these problems but also actively think of solutions, which might have an incredibly beneficial impact on their future careers and ideologies.

Critical thinking is the key to success

Critical thinking abilities are crucial in order to achieve success in life. It allows an individual to live their life to the fullest and to always think ahead of their actions and the consequences that will come. By nurturing critical thinking skills in your children, they will undoubtedly have a bright future ahead.

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