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Seven Popular Critical Thinking Activities for Preschoolers

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In this post, we will discover seven critical thinking activities for preschoolers that are simple, easy to set up and fun to play.

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills that children need to master in order to become successful in tomorrow’s world.

I remember when I was a student, schools relied heavily on memorization and basically repeating as accurately as possible what the teacher or a book said. Schools praised “recorder students”.

Although things have started to change and in some schools, logical thinking is encouraged and taught, unfortunately, many schools still have this antiquated system in which children simply repeat a list of facts.

Kids need to be able to process information, analyze a situation, make inferences, compare and contrast.

As parents, we need to help our children reach a higher level of logical reasoning as it is a prized skill nowadays.

Although children will develop their thinking skills through day-to-day interactions, we can also help them build a strong foundation by playing logical thinking games with them whenever possible.

To this end, here are seven simple critical thinking activities for preschoolers that are easy to set up. Most only require building blocks, pen and paper, toys that you already have in your house or a printable.

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Thinking Games for Preschoolers

The Odd One Out

Blue toy chicken among yellow toy chickens.

The Odd One Out is a great thinking game to play with kids. It improves their critical thinking by using their knowledge of patterns, vocabulary, differences and similarities.

There are a few ways of playing The Odd One Out:

  • worksheets
  • online games
  • using toys around the house
  • as a listening activity by saying words

For those who are new to this game, let me explain it. You present the child with four objects or images. Three of those objects have something in common while the fourth is not connected in any way to the three. The child has to identify the “intruder”. Of course, the game is not limited to four objects, you can choose to have more.

What Comes Next (Patterns)

Playing patterns with building blocks

A good yet simple reasoning game for kids is What Comes Next. Patterns teach children what comes next thus teaching them to make logical connections and use their critical thinking.

Understanding patterns help us make educated guesses, assumptions and provide order in a world that may seem chaotic.

What Comes Next is a simple game that, like The Odd One Out, can be played using worksheets, toys around the house, apps and computer games.

I like playing this game with building blocks as it allows me to practice colours, sizes, numbers and more.

Use books

Books offer great opportunities to practice reasoning skills.

When reading to your child, simply stop and ask open-ended questions like “What do you think will happen to X (the character)?” or “What do you think X will do now?”

This will encourage the child to make assumptions and come up with creative answers.

Riddles

There’s nothing better than a riddle to fire up those brain cells and improve their thinking skills. Riddles are great because they help children focus on one problem until they find the solution, they exercise the brain (like any muscle, it needs to be used in order to stay in shape), they encourage children to think outside the box and come up with creative answers, not to mention that they are fun and don’t need any prep work.

The internet is full of riddles for kids so all you have to do is search for some. Here are some ideas.

Match the shadow

shadow matching game worksheet

Shadow Matching is a simple activity for young kids that helps them enhance their problem-solving skills. It is a great activity for visual discrimination and memory, observing patterns, similarities and differences.

You can download this cute Farm Animals Shadow Matching Game for free.

Tic Tac Toe

Melissa&Doug Tic Tac Toe wooden game
Melissa&Doug Tic Tac Toe game

Most of us are familiar with this game as it has been around for a very long time (ancient Egyptians have invented it, would you believe it).

Tic Tac Toe is a simple game, although apparently there are 255.000 different outcomes, that can be played with kids as young as two or three years of age.

The rules are easy to understand: there are two players, one has X as a symbol and the other one a 0. They play on a 3×3 grid and the goal is for the players to put their symbols three times in a row, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

You can play Tic Tac Toe either the traditional way, with pen and paper, or get the game with manipulatives which will definitely be more attractive for kids.

This Tic Tac Toe from Melissa&Doug looks fantastic!

Choose something…

Playing "Choose something..." with 7 toys

This is a simple, yet effective critical thinking activity for preschoolers, although it can very well be played with toddlers as well.

You can play this game using either images or toys around the house. The idea is simple: present the child with six toys (there can be more or less depending on the child’s age). Make sure that some toys have similarities (colour, shape, material etc).

The child has to choose the correct toy/image based on your description. Take the picture above as an example. Some of the sentences that I used with my boy were:

  • Choose something that is round but hasn’t got bumps on it.
  • Choose something that is a cube and made of wood.
  • Choose something that is a cube but hasn’t got numbers on it.
  • Choose something that has a square shape but it’s not a cube.
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Although it is true that children will develop their critical thinking through everyday interactions, we can always help them boost this very important skill by playing games with them like the ones presented above.


Read More:

Brain-Boosting Memory Match Games

Fun Activities for Critical Thinking

Shape Matching Activity from Recycled Paper

Activities for Thinking Skills Development


I hope you found this post useful and that these critical thinking activities for preschoolers will provide moments of fun and learning for your little one(s).

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5 thoughts on “Seven Popular Critical Thinking Activities for Preschoolers”

  1. Great ideas! My daughter is about to start preschool and one of the activities we were encouraged to do over school holidays was asking to guess what will happen next in a book. I think she’d really enjoyable the other suggestions too.

  2. These are all great ideas that are sure to get kids engaged! I know for sure my four year old loves questions, so he’ll respond really well to these. Thank you for the fantastic post 🙂

  3. Great activities. I love engaging kids in critical thinking activities and puzzle, keeps their mind sharp and help develop their problem solving skills.

  4. You have great ideas for preschool critical thinking activities! Lately, my three-year-old daughter has been into doing pattern activities. We have a large bowl of those colored glass flat stones that you find at an arts and craft store. We made really cool patterns with them by color. The other day, she made a super long pattern with them going down the hallway!

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