Critical thinking for kids helps children think beyond the obvious. It is an essential life skill which is required across all walks of life.
Critical Thinking is a tool that aids us in making informed, rational decisions. It enables us ‘how’ to think and make sense of the data and information presented to us.
Simply put, it is the ability to analyse the existing information to make a logical decision.
A child with a critical thinking mindset is able to question, interlink information & ideas, make rational choices and most importantly justify their own decisions.
This is crucial for development of the human brain as it shifts the focus from being a passive listener to an active learner.
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Why Critical Thinking Matters?
As we go further into the future, this skill will be valued more than ever. With Artificial Intelligence and Automation doing most of the processing and knowledge based jobs, it is this skill that will keep the need of humans for a job ticking.
For young children, this ability translates into a mindset that is conducive for growth and lifelong learning.
Critical thinking empowers kids to cultivate a growth mindset that is ready to absorb new information, make meaningful connections between the existent knowledge and newly acquired information and most importantly use their knowledge bank to solve problems.
This makes critical thinking a formidable weapon in the mental ancillary. So much is the significance of Critical Thinking that it has become one of the most vital skills of the 21st century.
That said, young children, according to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, are concrete thinkers until the age of 12years. They learn mostly through trial and error approach and are unable to think ‘critically’ unless explicitly encouraged.
While young learners may not have the inherent circuitry in place to think critically, a guiding caretaker or an encouraging parent can certainly make a difference in wiring them to think logically.
That’s where we as parents and caretakers need to work. We need to coach our kids to think critically so they can survive the challenges of future. Here are our suggestions.
Critical Thinking Activities for Kids
1. Inculcate Creativity
Encourage your child to draw a scene to explain her thoughts. We need critical thinking skills to depict our thoughts into pictures.
That is the reason why art is valued. It is not an easy task. For older children, play games like Pictionary and ask them to justify what they draw.
2. Play Sorting Games
Classification and sorting skills are great for logical reasoning.
Ask your child to sort same list of animals/objects using different attributes like size, color, geometry, shape etc. Group animals into categories based on their habitats, eating habits, body structure, reproduction mechanism etc.
These sorting activities help children see the differences and similarities across various groups, thus enhancing their understanding.
3. Solve Puzzles and Brainteasers Together
These are great for problem-solving in kids. Be it jig-saw, tic-tac-toe, mazes or whatever your child loves.
Solving puzzles and brainteasers together helps your children learn from you and formulate a strategy of their own.
While doing these activities alone may be frustrating for kids, a playful encouraging parent can make a great difference.
Throw in some Math Jokes in between to lighten the mood and add humour to your brain building session.
4. Real Problem Pretend Play
Bring in a real world problem like water scarcity to pretend play and ask them to think of solutions. Such games help children learn about their environment and surrounding.
It also aids them to understand the challenges faced in real world. Motivate them not only to think of solutions but also to implement at their level.
Like we thought how using a steel straw could reduce the waste generated by straws and save so many marine lives. For plastic bags, we brainstormed and made reusable cloth bags out of an old t-shirt.
Related: Read how Design Thinking for Kids is helping raise the next generation of problem solvers.
5. Get Creative with Blocks
Blocks are great at building logical skills. They help children give a sense to their imagination. Also they are great for loose parts play.
Every time you encourage your kindergartener to repurpose old blocks into new games, neurons fire up in her brain.
6. Inspire Thinking
Ask them to think of answers to their own questions. Aid the process of arriving at the answer rather than providing the answer.
Once they have arrived at a possible explanation, ask them to reason with their own answers.
This process of thinking about thinking – Metacognition, will help them find flaws (or support) in their own arguments and fine tune their opinion. Thus, making them better critical thinkers.
7. Teach Cause and Effect
Let them explore and test independently in a safe environment. Lot of discoveries were made by simple explorations. Such expeditions often teach a good lesson on cause and effect.
A great game for teaching cause and effect is the old classical Marbles. Same goes for Pool and Snookers.
Related: Science Experiments are a perfect way to teach cause and effect. Try a few from our vast list of Preschool Science Experiments.
8. Let Them Hypothesise
When reading a story, stop midway and ask them what they think is going to happen, how is the story going to end?
Open ended questions like these fire up the grey cells and force them to think of logical and creative outcomes. Give them time to think and come up with an elaborated answer.
You can even use real life situations to ask open-ended questions like, when struck in a traffic jam, ask them to think of a solution that could help ease congestion.
Guessing games are excellent at building reasoning skills. Our favorite is ‘Animal Guess Who’. Drop hints describing the animal and then let your child guess it out.
10. Riddle Them
Riddles are a great way to fire up neurons and get your child thinking logically and critically. And the best part – riddles are SUPER fun!
Your kiddos wouldn’t even know that you are secretly working at their critical thinking skills. Here is an exhaustive list of riddles to get you started.
11. Dumb Charades
This is another simple family game wherein the child is asked to guess the name of the movie (STEM or sci-fi movies make it harder) — or anything else — by decoding the sign language of his team mate.
12. Let Them Play Detective
Hone your kid’s critical reasoning and thinking skills by letting them don the detective hat.
A simple treasure hunt to find a hidden object of joy could translate into great fun and critical thinking activity for kids.
For older kids, introduce the basis of kid appropriate Crime Scene Investigation to give them the taste of real thrill and a safe playground to practice their critical thinking.
13. Rebus Puzzles
These creative visual puzzles are perfect for polishing critical thinking skills in children. They are great for visual learners and secretly work at literacy skills as well.
Critical Thinking Games for Kids
1. Guess Who
This is a great family board game that works at boosting critical reasoning. The task at hand is to guess the opponent’s card by asking her/him the valid questions. Suitable for kids 6year and above.
2. Connect Four
Connect 4 is a classic game of strategy that will encourage your child to think critically and plan her moves to win the game. Super easy to learn and play, connect 4 does a great job at boosting thinking skills while having fun.
Another critical thinking game for kids 6years and above, Othello packs a whole lot of fun! Besides being highly addictive, this classic game is great at boosting spatial reasoning and logical thinking skills.
Looking for Board Games? Check out our Giant List of Board Games for Kids for a fun family game session.
This single player game is great boredom buster and is a perfect brain building game for kids 5years and above. It comes with an increasing level of challenges that gradually build up logical reasoning skills. Neatly packed, it makes up for a nice travel game as well!
Parking Puzzle works at reasoning and critical thinking skills in children 6years and above. The task is to assign parking spaces to the cars according to the challenge cards.
The challenge cards start from an easy level and scale up to expert level to keep children (and adults!) genuinely scratching their heads.
This marble eliminating game is a pure delight and a perfect game for the entire family. This brain bending game is simple enough to understand but packs a great challenge.
Got a brainy kid? Check out Trivia Questions for Kids to test their knowledge.
Take on the role of a code breaker with this game of Mastermind. Thrilling and exciting, this game boosts deduction and logical skills.
Adapted for younger kids, this version comes with jungle animal pegs and 3 levels of play to make it more apt for kids 6years and above.
8. Domino Maze
Domino maze does a great job at gamifying logical and critical reasoning skills. This single player game is challenge based wherein the player has to add indicated tokens on the board to trigger domino effect. Suitable for kids, 8years and above.
This is a wonderful critical thinking card game for kids 8 years and above. One of the few games that is equally loved by kids and adults, Swish is an award winning game!
Dragon Dash is a cooperative game that not only teaches team building but also works at developing critical thinking skills. Targeted at kids 5 years and above, this critical thinking game is quick to play and understand and is loads of fun!
Critical Thinking Books for Kids
This is a lovely book to introduce critical thinking to kids in the most matter-of-factly way!
Your kids wouldn’t even realise the skills they are picking up while reading this heartwarming story of a boy, who has discovered the joy of origami and is ready to dive deep into the art of paper folding.
This is another gem of a book when it comes to teaching children the importance of critical thinking. Flat Earth? Round Earth? encourages children to ask questions and not take things for their face value. Highly recommended!
Also see Inspiring STEM Books for Kids to add STEM to your child’s reading.
What better way to encourage curiosity and critical thinking than by introducing children to the long-standing questions about life.
Children often wonder about these truths of life and more than often are shushed than encouraged. Here is your chance to inspire thinking about the greater things of life!
Turn your children into innovators with this charming book that wonders what all can be done with a cardboard box.
This book will encourage your children to question, wonder and give life to their ideas…just the perfect way to encourage critical thinking skills in kids.
Thingamabob is a cute, humorous book that is sure to inspire critical thinking in kids as young as 3year old. Join the protagonist as it wonders what really thingamabob is and questions its own assumptions.
This is a story about an unlikely friendship between a man and a penguin, which believes it can fly!
Together they question, design and build to discover the secrets of flying. Highly recommended, this book is a real treasure!
If there could be a short course of critical thinking for kids, this book tops the list. It is the perfect guide to critical thinking.
It delivers great tricks on how to spot the phony facts from real science. Fun and interactive, this book is simply delightful!
This is a beautiful story of friendship and how critical thinking can be used not only to solve scientific problems but also help a friend. A great book on various accounts – literacy, illustrations and the important lessons it delivers. Perfect for kids 5years and above.
If you are looking for a book to put your child’s critical thinking skills to test, look no further. Perfectly logical is packed with 100 mind benders and puzzles that will progressively challenge your child.
Coming form teacher-turned-attorney-turned-educationist-turned-innovator, you can expect a lot from this book and rightly so! One of the best books to introduce critical thinking tools to kids.
Children are great thinkers and often have out of the box creative ideas which we lack. So to develop critical thinking skills in kids, we really just have to listen and be more open to our children’s thought process.
We need to assure that we do not dumb them down with our standardized way of thinking. These simple, fun games and play ideas can go a long way in nurturing this essential skill.