Some children loves puzzles and love a challenge. There are different ways to strengthen critical thinking skills at an early age. Here are 10 critical thinking activities for preschoolers and older toddlers that will help young children become critical thinkers. These are simple activities that you can try today.
Critical Thinking Games
This is a fun and creative game to play at home, in the car, on an airplane, or in the waiting room. It is a fun way to explore that there is more than one way to solve a problem and more than one right answer. Make a circle on the chalkboard or on a piece of paper and challenge your child to turn it into something else. Will they turn it into a flower, a sun, or will it become the body of an animal? There is no correct answer.
A Copy Me game is a great way to develop spatial awareness. Use different household objects to make a design and then let your child copy it using a duplicate set of materials! In this picture, I set up the design on the left and the materials on the right were for my son to arrange. After you have done this over and over again. Have your child challenge you buy making a design and having you copy it. Creating the design and checking your answer will develop those skills in a different way.
- craft sticks
- pom poms
- cookie cutters
- magnetic letters
This critical thinking activity can even be done on the go. All you need is paper and a pencil or dry erase board. Draw a picture of something and leave off a detail. Ask your child, “What’s missing?”.
- child’s name
This challenge is easier than What’s Missing – Part 1. Reuse an old magazine or ad to create this critical thinking activity. Cut out different pictures and cut part of the picture off. Challenge your child to put it back together.
Foam stickers and paper are the materials you need to set the stage in this critical thinking exercise. Arrange the stickers in a certain design on the left and challenge your child to recreate it on the right. I stuck the stickers to the paper in the design on the left, but had my son just set the stickers on the paper in the correct arrangement on the right. That way we could reuse this activity. I keep it in a bag and throw it in my purse for the restaurant or waiting room.
How can the squares fit inside these shapes? I made this activity by arranging the wooden square blocks on the page and then tracing it around the outside. Some of these are trickier than others to complete. If you don’t have any wooden blocks like those shown, try using legos.
Creative thinking is strengthened as older children design their own story with stickers. Arrange stickers on the page and then add details with crayons or markers. When your child is finished with the design, challenge them to tell you a story about what is happening in the picture. You can write the story down or just listen to it.
Open ended play is the best way to promote critical thinking! What will your child make with styrofoam pieces and toothpicks? You can also substitute marshmallows or slices of pool noodles with the styrofoam.
Younger children will love this simple puzzle made from cookie cutters or different objects. Trace the cookie cutter or specific shape and challenge your child to match them up.
Mystery bag is so much fun and gets their senses thinking! Put some fun objects in a bag (pompom, feather, plastic animals). Using deductive reasoning, your child will guess what the object is BEFORE she sees it.
Board Games and Card Games
The good news is that board games and card games are excellent for developing critical thinking skills and include the important skills of learning how to take turns and how to handle losing.
- Tic Tac Toe
- Connect Four
Trying a simple experiment or wondering how things work are also natural ways to strengthen the critical thinking mindset. The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay is a great book to get your child wondering and asking questions about how things work. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is a fun picture book that illustrates how to think outside the box (literally).
These critical thinking games are a few of our favorites. Overall, the end goal is for your child to be curious, ask their own questions, make logical connections, and to find creative solutions. The more logic and reasoning skills your child has, the better learner they will be in their own life.