“Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination” – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka had it right. He encouraged children to imagine and expand on abstract thoughts.
He certainly could have come up with some engaging critical thinking activities for preschoolers that encourage imagination.
These days a lot of kids lack critical thinking skills. Heck, these days a lot of adults lack critical thinking skills.
We live with so much instant gratification that asking questions, finding our own connections, and thinking about thinking tends to be a chore for far too many kids and adults.
Critical thinking is something that takes effort and something we all must improve on.
It is vital to let our little nuggets explore and reach their own conclusions. In a world where so much is automatically done for us, we need to inspire our children to imagine.
Here are 8 critical thinking activities for preschoolers that encourage imagination:
1. Make your own menu
My son loves food. He also makes some very interesting concoctions with the plates of food put in front of him. Making a menu would be a great activity for him, and I can only imagine what meals he would come up with.
Show your child ingredients around the house and write a list together, then have your child brainstorm meals he can make out of the ingredients.
Lastly, sit together and design your own menu.
It’s also important that you allow your little, curious rascal to ask questions during this process.
Interesting conversations will ensue.
“Can I make an ice cream cheeseburger?”
“Ummm, sure, honey.”
2. Use Legos to create a theme
My little bugger enjoys playing with Legos. Most kids do. Legos can be used in many critical thinking activities for preschoolers. One such activity includes designing your own scene based on a theme.
One day your child could design a farm; another day, a store, etc.
You could also integrate a trip based on this theme.
Let’s say your kiddo makes that farm. You could go to a local petting zoo on that same day. Okay, let’s be realistic, that same week.
Those little preschool neurons are sure to get fired up!
3. Make a 3-D graph paper city
One of my favorite critical thinking activities from when I was a young kid was making a 3-D graph paper city.
We did it during math class, and it is a math lesson I still remember over twenty years later.
First, get a piece of cardboard for the base. Then print out or buy some graph paper. Next, tell your kid that you can make 3-D towers out of the graph paper.
These directions are meant to be minimal. Your child will have to ask more questions for more information and perform trial and error before making her first tower.
This is the point. Although it will be tempting to do it for your angel, resist the urge!
Let her figure it out.
Once she completes the first tower, she will be on her way to building a metropolis – just watch.
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4. Create tangram animals
I have only stolen two things in my life: a 25 cent kazoo and a couple of tangrams when I was in kindergarten. Embarrassing, I know, but the point is that I love tangrams!
Sidenote: Stealing is bad kids!
You can buy plastic tangrams or print your own.
There are many great critical thinking activities for preschoolers that involve tangrams. One of my favorites is creating animals. Here is an example of creating a bunny tangram.
Basically, once you have the tangrams, you tell your child to create a certain animal, and then your child is on his own.
If your little genius makes a weird blob and calls it a chicken, you may need to steer him in the right direction.
I don’t know an easier and more imaginative critical thinking experience than journaling.
All you need to do is provide your little jewel with a deep thinking question. Here is a site to get you started.
You also can print out a picture of almost anything and have your little one journal about this picture.
Then let your child (depending on her age) writes words, sentences, questions, pictures, etc. associated with her thought processes around the given question or picture.
The final product is bound to be mesmerizing.
6. Build a geometric house with stick triangles
Outdoor educational activities are awesome! You get your preschooler his daily dose of mud and air AND teach him something useful. I see no cons.
Building a geometric house with stick triangles is super easy and super fun.
All you need to do is have your kid go fetch some sticks (okay, I know our children are not dogs), and tie them into triangles.
You can use twine, yarn, etc.
Then you let your munchkin design a house.
Depending on your child’s age, you could have him make it 3-D or 2-D, but the only rule is that it has to be completely out of triangles.
This is a time to let that imagination run wild. Who knows, maybe your little architect will become the next Frank Lloyd Wright.
7. Hold an invention convention
Kids love to make things and think up crazy inventions.
Invention Convention is one of the critical thinking activities for preschoolers that will have a room roaring with laughter while also having your kid excited to make an idealistic change.
You need a bunch of random materials like construction paper, cardboard, cups, paper plates, glue, tape, markers, and whatever else you can get your hands on.
Then tell the kids that they have to come up with an invention that will do something positive for the environment.
They are responsible for building a prototype and presenting a persuasive commercial about their invention.
This becomes severely entertaining for any audience, and the ideas that some kids come up with could possibly win a Nobel Prize in the future.
8. Create your own playground
There is a very interesting playground in New York City called play:groundNYC where no parents are allowed and kids are encouraged to climb trees, play with tools, and imagine.
Now creating your own playground with your child can still require adult supervision, but your kiddo should be doing the majority of the building.
The directions are simple: tell your kid to build a playground in the backyard.
Your child’s imagination will run rampant. Perhaps she will use the old tires you have in the garage or make an obstacle course out of sticks.
The possibilities are endless, but your kiddo will be creating, thinking, and problem-solving all along the way while you sit back and sip on a much needed glass of
wine (cough) Coke.
So go and get your little Willy Wonka away from the TV and start utilizing these critical thinking activities for preschoolers to get that growing noggin prepared for changing the future.