Using Critical Thinking Exercises to Develop Higher Order Thinking in Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Critical thinking exercises and activities are key to getting children to learn how to analyze problems from different angles. While memorization is a great way for children to learn the basics, developing their ability to think and analyze is vital to teaching them how to make good decisions. The younger children are when parents and teachers start to develop these skills, the more natural decision making will become.
As we want to avoid constant repetition and memorization, there are a number of different activities that parents and teachers can use to ensure that the child’s thinking is challenged. Of course, it is also important to revisit similar problems from time to time to see if the child can come up with a new way to solve the problem. Remember that critical thinking exercises should be just that, exercises. They should stretch a child’s current knowledge, pushing it just a little further without making them too frustrating for the child.

The following critical thinking exercises can be done on worksheets, online, or even created by you. Each category includes a few examples of games and activities for young children.

Critical Thinking Exercises and Activities

Puzzle for Critical Thinking exercises
Puzzles are one of the easiest and most entertaining activities for critical thinking skills. There is a wide variety of different types of puzzle types, from the traditional jigsaw puzzles to more advanced types of picture Sudoku. This makes it easy to work puzzles into a regular routine without making it feel like work for the child. You can even provide a different set of puzzle types and let the child choose which one he or she wants to do that day. If they are really interested, children can even choose to do a couple of puzzles each day to engage different parts of their brains.

The following are a few puzzle types for young children that offer a range of skill levels.

  • The jigsaw puzzle is a great way to help train the brain to take information and process pieces into a whole. They can also be used to teach other lessons as well. For example, a map of the US can be used as a jigsaw puzzle for Kindergarteners to teach them about the different states, as well as the puzzle.

  • Crosswords are an interesting option, but it is important to remember to keep them simple. These types of puzzles help children to learn to work with clues and hints while working out how to stay within set parameters.

  • Picture Sudoku is one of the new and more interesting types of puzzles because it can be more difficult to explain to a child. Sudoku accesses some of the highest levels of cognitive ability, so it should not be pushed every day, particularly if a child becomes frustrated while working with the puzzle.
Patterns and Pairing
This is one of the very basic but extremely important type of critical thinking exercises. Learning to recognize patterns is something that most people have trouble with because it requires the ability to think ahead based on available information.

While not quite as challenging, pairing helps children to understand the relationships between what is in front of them. This can be pictures of mother animals and their babies, words, or even pictures of objects and their uses. There are a number of possibilities for pairings, making it an interesting exercise for adults as well as children.
Mazes are a staple for critical thinking exercises. It teaches children how to think about getting from one place to another. While technology has made it easier to go from one place to another without thinking as an adult, mazes also teach children to plan ahead. They learn that blindly moving ahead will result in more dead ends, so they have to trace ahead with their eyes or fingers before moving forward with the writing utensil.
Like puzzles, comparisons can be really fun for children. They usually involve both difficult and easy aspects. One example of a comparison is the set of two pictures with a specific number of differences. There are almost always a few differences that are easy to spot, and then the child must focus harder on the details to find the remaining differences. Comparisons can also be combined with patterns and pairings to offer a real challenge.
Do check out these Educational Kids' Printables to entertain children and help them to develop their mental skills.


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