Some days I wonder, “What was he thinking?”
“I had too many socks. The drawer wouldn’t close so I threw the extras in the trash,” beams my little guy as if that was the perfect solution to the problem.
Teaching kids critical thinking skills can be almost as hard as teaching them that pants are not an optional piece of clothing and goggles and an umbrella alone do not make a complete outfit either.
Here are some tried-and-true preschool critical thinking activities that my preschooler loves.
1. Guess What I Have
With a small toy in one hand, place both hands behind your back. Ask your child to guess what is in your hand. As they make attempts to guess, give them clues such as: “It’s not blue, it’s red,” or “it doesn’t have wheels, it has legs.” This allows them to make guesses based on what they already know.
Be ready to dodge in case they get frustrated and throw things at you. It happens.
2. Play the ‘Is It True?’ Game
Ask your child a question that starts with ‘Is it true that…’. When they answer, ask them how they know that it is true or not.
I asked my preschooler “How do you know if someone is sleeping?”
“Because they slobber on their pillow,” he answered brilliantly.
Don’t worry about perfect answers, just praise any effort.
3. Work in Groups
Getting my kids to work together in a group is one of the best preschool critical thinking activities that I know of. The hardest part of this activity is getting everyone’s attention.
Just join the game of ‘Who can say “No, me” the loudest’, and maybe they will hear you.
When I can ever get my kids to interact with each other, they realize that there is more than one way of doing things and they are introduced to a variety of different approaches and ideas.
Cleaning up or cooking a meal together are great ways to get kids to work in groups.
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4. Play “Good Idea/Bad Idea”
Take two of your child’s favorite stuffed animals (and when they throw a fit for them, take two that they don’t like instead) and put on a show with them.
Act out scenarios and let your child predict the outcomes of their actions. Ask them at each phase of the game if what the characters are going to do is a good idea or a bad idea and why.
5. Food Tasting
Forming an opinion is an important preschool critical thinking skill. Kids have strong opinions about food. It’s usually a love/hate relationship.
It is widely known in preschool circles that no two kids are allowed to have the same favorite food. This is cause for war.
Bring out some foods that you know your child hates or loves. My son hates chicken and loves yogurt so we used those.
Now ask them if they like that food or not and why or why not. Then bring out a new food that your child will love (we used blue cupcakes with sprinkles) and let them predict whether or not they will like it and why.
6. Find Similarities and Differences
My preschooler and I often play a game of pointing out similarities and differences in things. He tells me how similar Dad and I are because we both drive under stop lights and how different Dad is from me because he thinks a yellow light means hurry up and I think it means slow down.
Challenge your child to find things that are similar and different at the same time like a fork and a spoon. Both are utensils but one is for eating salad and one is for digging in the backyard when Mom’s not looking (or something like that).
7. Go On a Picnic
One of our favorite preschool critical thinking activities often includes an outdoor picnic. Give your child a lunch box to pack and suggest items that are both relevant and irrelevant to a picnic, and let them tell you which items are relevant, and why.
Yes, they will probably want to include their pet goldfish and two left mittens. If they can explain the relevance, I guess it can get packed.
8. Make ‘Get Well’ Cards
Making ‘Get Well Soon’ cards for people who are sick can help kids relate situations back to themselves. As you make the cards, ask them if they have ever been sick or hurt.
They will probably have a hundred stories but don’t worry. We all know that every Mom has a secret super power: the pretend listening skill.
“I never knew that.”
“You’re kidding? Tell me more.”
Oh, yeah, we’re good.
9. Hide the Thimble
We have played this game for years to develop critical thinking skills. We never hide a thimble, though. I can just see my preschooler popping that thing in his mouth and me attempting to do the Heimlich maneuver on him.
No, we use a baseball instead. There’s no chance of him getting that whole thing in his mouth. Although, I’ve seen him try.
Everyone closes their eyes while the ball is being hidden. Then, I give clues and let the kids know if they are getting closer to the ball or further away.
I also give clues like, “It’s near the sofa.”
10. Ask ‘What Happened and Why’
No, I’m not talking about when you hear a loud noise and run into the room to investigate. For this activity, you only need a family photo album.
Sit down with your child and look at some funny photos of the family. Choose photos that have a story behind them and then ask your child, “What happened in this picture and why?”
My little guy likes the photo of my sister when she spilled melted chocolate all over the kitchen. Yup, that’s a keeper.
I’m sure you have some photos of your family that you can make fun of, too.
I hope you enjoy some of these preschool critical thinking activities with your little one just like I have. I just keep telling myself that one day they’ll pay off. But for now, I must go get those socks out of the trashcan.