Five Critical Thinking Activities for Children

Our partners at Role Models share five ways you can help teach your child to think critically.

Critical thinking is a skill that is fundamental in all areas of life. It is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Simple acts such as good decision-making are based on our ability to think critically. It is a skill that is important at all stages of life.

  • As a toddler, it is the ability to evaluate risks in play and development. Most children instinctively evaluate situations, calling on their innate 'fight or flight' response to determine whether something is safe or not.
  • In education, it is the ability to reason - to be an active learner rather than passive. It enables us to be able to interpret and integrate new information and apply it appropriately. Thinking critically enables learners to access and absorb the National Curriculum on a deeper level.
  • For adults, critical thinking enables us to form healthy relationships, solve complex problems and communicate our needs whilst understanding the needs of others, impacting all areas of both personal and professional life.

So, if being able to think critically is such a vital life skill, we need to be not only modelling it to our children but teaching them how to think critically, giving them the opportunity to practise, develop, and embed it from an early age. Critical thinking activities and tasks are a great place to start.

Five Ways to Encourage Critical Thinking


  1. Thinking About Thinking

Metacognition is an awareness of one's own thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them. It can take many forms, such as reflecting on one's own ways of thinking, and knowing when and how to use strategies for problem-solving. Psychologist and philosopher, Edward De Bono identifies metacognition as one of his six modes of thinking.

Encourage your child to start thinking about their thinking. Ask them about their game/painting/creation. For example: "I would love to know how you chose that? How did you decide on this colour?" Becoming skilled at understanding our own thinking is an important step in becoming a critical thinker.

  1. Ask Open Questions

Not 'what' but 'how'. Asking open questions provides an opportunity for children to understand their thought processes. It encourages them to think laterally and consider the process, rather than focusing on a correct or incorrect answer.

  1. If You Were in Their Shoes...

Encourage your child to think about other perspectives. This can be done during conflict resolution between friends and siblings, or when reading books and thinking about how characters feel and act. For example: "You might feel this way, how do you think the other person feels?"

  1. Encourage Problem-Solving

As parents, we can be tempted to try and solve our children's problems. It may be because we don't want to see them suffer, or it may simply be quicker to help them work something out, than letting them struggle through it. Practicing problem-solving, from an early age, is hugely beneficial to not only building children's emotional resilience to challenge but their ability to critically evaluate and resolve problems.

  1. What Happens Next...

Reading is not only fantastic for the imagination, but it can also foster creativity and the ability to think critically. When reading with your child, ask them to create an alternative ending to the story. For example, Goldilocks decides to make the bears more porridge and they come home to find her cooking. Then what happens? Encourage children to think through their scenarios. How do all the characters feel and respond? Support them in thinking of solutions to problems that arise and discuss ways in which the characters might respond in certain situations.


Role Models are dedicated to providing the next generation with all the skills they need to enable them to truly thrive.

Visit the Role Models website for more information.