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Critical Thinking Activities for Preschoolers

Written by: Kokotree

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critical thinking activities preschoolers

Kids are sponges. They soak up information and learn new things every day, whether we realize it or not! One of the best things we can do as parents are to help foster our children’s natural ability to think critically by providing engaging critical thinking activities for preschoolers.

Table of contents show

What is Critical Thinking for Preschoolers?

Critical thinking for preschoolers refers to their ability to process information independently, make connections, reason, and make well-thought-out decisions. It involves encouraging curiosity, asking questions, and understanding the “why” behind concepts.

Educational App for Preschool

Why Teach Preschoolers Critical Thinking?

Teaching critical thinking to preschoolers is essential as it fosters independence, boosts problem-solving skills, and prepares them for future academic and life challenges. It also enhances their creativity, adaptability, and ability to navigate complex situations.

How to Teach Preschoolers Critical Thinking?

To teach preschoolers critical thinking, introduce open-ended questions, provide hands-on experiences, encourage curiosity, engage in storytelling, promote problem-solving activities, and create an environment where they feel safe to express ideas and make mistakes.

Here’s a list of critical thinking activities suitable for preschoolers:

  1. Sorting and Categorizing: Provide a mix of objects and have them sort them by various attributes (color, size, shape, texture).
  2. Story Sequencing: Use picture cards to tell a story and ask them to arrange them in the correct order.
  3. What’s Missing? Game: Set up a few items, let the child study them, then remove one when they aren’t looking and ask which one is missing.
  4. Pattern Recognition: Use colored blocks or beads to create a pattern and have them continue it.
  5. Cause and Effect Experiments: Simple experiments like “What happens when you drop a ball?” or “What happens if you put paper in water?”
  6. True or False Questions: A type of assessment where learners decide whether a given statement is accurate, often used to test knowledge on specific facts or concepts quickly.
  7. Memory Games: Classic games like ‘Simon says’ or matching card games.
  8. Question of the Day: Start the day with an open-ended question like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “How do plants grow?”
  9. Role Play: Encourage them to act out different scenarios, which helps in understanding different perspectives.
  10. Building Challenges: Using blocks or LEGO, set a challenge like “Can you build a bridge?” or “Make a house with a garage.”
  11. Problem Solving Scenarios: Give them hypothetical problems to solve, like “What would you do if your toy broke?” or “How can you share three apples with four friends?”
  12. Picture Interpretation: Show them a complex picture and ask open-ended questions about what they see, think, and wonder.
  13. Mystery Bag: Put an object in a bag and have them feel it without looking, then guess what it is.
  14. Puzzle Time: Regular puzzles are great for problem-solving and spatial recognition.
  15. Would you Rather Questions: Fun scenarios like “Would you rather be a fish or a bird?” This encourages reasoning and justification.
  16. Exploring Nature: Nature walks where they can observe, question, and learn about the environment.
  17. Music Exploration: Play different types of music and discuss how each one makes them feel.
  18. Story Creation: Give them a start, like “There’s a dragon in the garden…” and let them continue.
  19. Sensory Bins: Bins filled with sand, water beads, rice, or other materials where they can explore, measure, and experiment.
  20. Group Discussions: After a story or activity, discuss as a group what happened, why, and what might happen next.
  21. Prediction Activities: Activities where they predict what might happen next, whether in a story or a simple experiment.

Integrating these activities into a preschooler’s daily routine will help foster an environment of curiosity, exploration, and deepened understanding.

Science Experiments

Science experiments offer a unique avenue for diving into critical thinking activities for kids. Let’s break down how you can turn simple experiments into a world of exploration and reasoning for your little one.

The Importance of Predictions

Before starting any experiment, ask your child to make a prediction. Whether it’s guessing what color will result from mixing two paints or what will happen when you add salt to ice, predictions engage your child’s anticipatory skills.

The Observation Phase

While performing the experiment and science activity, encourage your child to observe keenly. What do they see, smell, or hear? Encourage them to note these observations down or share them with you. This engages their senses and promotes active learning during preschool.

Discussing Results

After the experiment, sit down with your child and discuss what happened. Compare their initial predictions with the actual results. Did something unexpected happen? Great! This is a fantastic moment to introduce the concept of ’cause and effect,’ a cornerstone in critical thinking for preschoolers.

Reading to Complement Experiments

Consider pairing these experiments with related books. Reading material can help cement the scientific concepts you’ve explored, making the learning experience well-rounded.

The Takeaway for Parents

Your role is crucial. The questions you ask and the encouragement you give can transform a simple science experiment into a treasure trove of critical thinking activities. It’s not just about the ‘doing’; it’s also about the ‘thinking’ that goes along with it.

By taking the time to prepare, observe, and discuss, you’re not just teaching science but instilling critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime.

Spatial Relationships

Understanding spatial relationships is a key aspect of critical thinking preschool activities. Not only does this skill lay the groundwork for geometry and other advanced math concepts, but it also helps your child navigate through the world more effectively. So, how can you turn understanding spatial relationships into a critical thinking exercise for your preschooler?

Toy Scenarios

Start by engaging your child with simple toy scenarios. For example, provide your child with a toy car and present a challenge: Can they position the car “under” the table or “next to” a book? This forces them to think critically about space and how different objects relate.

Relational Language

In these spatial activities, the language you use is crucial. Words like “under,” “over,” “next to,” “behind,” and “in front of” enrich their vocabulary and conceptual understanding. Make a game out of it; ask them to place their toy “beside” the couch, then “beneath” a chair, and so on.

Drawing Maps

Drawing simple maps can also be a fun way to explore spatial relationships. You and your child can draw a map of a room in your house or even a treasure map. This helps your child think critically about space on a two-dimensional scale.

Real-world Applications

Use real-world situations to apply these concepts. For example, you could ask your child to help you find the shortest path from the car to the entrance of a store. This engages them in problem-solving and turns an everyday task into a critical thinking game for kids.

Parental Involvement

Your involvement is essential. The prompts you give and the questions you ask can be geared towards understanding the reasoning behind their choices. Why did they think the car should go “under” the table and not “on top of it”? Their answers can offer insightful glimpses into their thought processes.

Integrating these activities into your child’s routine provides essential tools for their cognitive development. It’s not just about understanding spatial relationships; it’s about setting the foundation for logical reasoning and problem-solving—skills that are vital for future learning.


Patterning is an enjoyable and instructive way to introduce activities to develop critical thinking skills in preschoolers. Recognizing and creating patterns help children understand order and make predictions, essential skills for both math and everyday life. So how can you engage your child in patterning activities?

Starting Simple

Begin with straightforward activities. Give your child a set of blocks in different colors or shapes and ask them to arrange them in a simple pattern, like “red-blue-red-blue” or “circle-square-circle-square.

Adding Complexity

You can introduce more complex ones as they get comfortable with simpler patterns. For example, try a pattern that involves more than two colors or shapes, like “red-blue-green-red-blue-green.”

Story-based Patterning

To make it more engaging, try creating a story around the pattern. Maybe the colored blocks are “cars in a parade” or “fruits in a basket.” Stories make the patterns more relatable and help in creating a rich context around what might otherwise be an abstract concept.

Encourage Observations

After your child has made a pattern, ask them to describe it to you. What do they see? What comes next? Why? This forces them to articulate their thought process, thereby improving both their language and critical thinking skills.

Parent Tips

Your involvement in these patterning activities amplifies their effectiveness. Ask open-ended questions like, “Why did you choose to put the red block there?” or “What do you think comes next?” Your questions can guide them through the reasoning process, making these exercises not just patterning activities but also reasoning activities for preschoolers.

By incorporating patterning into playtime, you’re doing more than teaching colors and shapes; you’re instilling the ability to recognize relationships between objects—a skill that forms the basis of logical reasoning and critical thought.


Symmetry is not just an aesthetic concept; it’s a brilliant way to cultivate critical thinking in preschoolers. When children recognize or create symmetrical objects or arrangements, they’re learning about balance, equality, and relational properties—core elements in critical thinking preschool activities. Here’s how you can engage your child with symmetry.

Fold and Cut

The easiest way to start is by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting shapes along the folded edge. When you unfold the paper, you’ll have a symmetrical shape. Ask your child what they notice about the two halves. Are they the same or different? Why?

Mirror Images

Another activity is to place a small divider between two identical sets of blocks. Build a pattern or shape with one set and ask your child to replicate it as a mirror image using the other set of blocks. This not only teaches symmetry but also enhances their observational skills.

Symmetry in Nature

Take a nature walk and ask your child to find examples of symmetry, like leaves, flowers, or even animals. Discuss what makes these objects symmetrical. This offers a more dynamic, interactive approach to understanding symmetry and engages them in critical thinking games for kids.

Question and Understand

As always, your involvement and the questions you ask can bring depth to the activity. Why is it easier to find symmetry in some objects than in others? Why do they think symmetry exists in nature? These questions prompt deeper thinking and understanding.

What Parents Should Know

Symmetry activities are more than just a game; they provide a foundation for more complex mathematical concepts like geometry. Furthermore, they encourage your child to think about balance and fairness, abstract concepts that have real-world applications.

Symmetry activities offer a multi-faceted approach to critical thinking for preschoolers, combining math, nature, and everyday observations into a rich tapestry of learning experiences.


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Sequencing is an invaluable exercise that aids in developing a wide range of skills, from language and literacy to logic and problem-solving. This makes it one of the must-try critical thinking activities for preschoolers. Below are some ways you can approach sequencing with your child:

Picture Cards

Start simple by using a set of picture cards that tell a story. Scatter them and ask your child to place them in a logical order. This helps them understand the concept of beginnings, middles, and ends, crucial for both storytelling and understanding sequences in daily life.

Daily Routines

Use everyday routines as an opportunity for sequencing activities. Whether it’s getting dressed, preparing a simple snack, or cleaning up toys, ask your child to describe the sequence of actions needed to complete these tasks. This not only cements their understanding of everyday activities but also naturally integrates critical thinking into their day.

Storytime Sequencing

During storytime, pause to ask your child what they think will happen next or what came before a specific event. Encourage them to explain their reasoning. This turns storytime into an exercise in prediction and recall, both important components of sequencing and critical thinking for preschoolers.

Cooking Together

Involve your child in simple cooking or baking activities. Ask them to describe the sequence of steps involved in the recipe. This not only helps in understanding sequencing but also incorporates elements of measurement and timing, adding layers to their critical thinking skills.

Parent’s Role

Your role is to facilitate and challenge. Ask questions like, “What will happen if we change the order of these steps?” or “Why do you think this comes after that?” By doing so, you’re transforming simple sequencing activities into deeper reasoning activities for preschoolers.

A Skill for Life

Sequencing isn’t just for stories or games; it’s a skill your child will use in academic settings and everyday life. By incorporating sequencing into various activities, you’re providing your child with a toolbox of skills for organizing information, problem-solving, and critically thinking about the world around them.


The ability to classify and categorize is fundamental to human cognition and an excellent entry point for critical thinking preschool activities. Classifying allows children to make sense of the world by grouping items based on shared characteristics or qualities. Here are some ways to involve your preschooler in classifying activities:

Animal Sorting

One of the most engaging ways to introduce classification is through animals. Provide your child with a set of toy animals and ask them to group them by various criteria: type (mammals, birds, reptiles), habitat (water, land, air), or even by the number of legs. This exercise not only enhances their understanding of biology but also hones their observation and reasoning skills.

Food Categories

Another fun activity involves sorting food items. You could give your child a mix of plastic fruits, vegetables, and junk food items and ask them to separate them into corresponding categories. This also serves as a great opportunity to discuss healthy eating habits.

Color Coding

For younger children, color can be the most straightforward attribute to classify. Offer them an assortment of beads, blocks, or other multi-colored items and ask them to sort these based on color. This is a simple yet effective exercise in classification.

Advanced Classifying

As your child becomes more proficient, you can introduce multiple levels of classification. For example, they could first sort animals by type and then sort those types by size or diet. This adds layers to their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Ask Questions

Remember, your involvement is crucial. Asking questions like, “Why did you decide to group these together?” or “What makes these items similar or different?” can deepen their understanding and turn the activity into a rich discussion. This elevates it from a mere exercise into a critical thinking game for kids.

Skill Building

Classification activities offer much more than just an understanding of categories. They help build logical thinking, improve vocabulary, and can even introduce basic scientific concepts. These are all essential stepping stones in developing robust critical thinking skills for your preschooler.

By regularly incorporating classifying exercises into your child’s playtime, you are actively helping them construct a framework for understanding the world in a more organized and logical manner.


Analogies are one of the more advanced yet highly effective critical thinking activities for kids. They challenge children to identify relationships between disparate things by finding a common thread. While it may seem like a complex skill, it can be broken down into simpler components for preschoolers to understand. Here’s how to make analogies an accessible and engaging activity for your little one.

Simple Pairings

Begin with objects that are obviously related but different, like an apple and an orange. Ask your child to explain how they are similar or different. The goal is to get them thinking about attributes that aren’t immediately obvious, like the fact that both are fruits despite differing in color, taste, and texture.

Attribute Matching

Provide your child with a collection of assorted items and ask them to match them based on one common attribute. For example, a spoon and a fork could be matched because they’re both utensils, even though one is used for scooping and the other for piercing food.

Word Pairings

As your child becomes more comfortable with the concept, move on to word-based analogies. You could start with opposites like hot/cold or day/night. Ask your child what makes these pairs opposites and to think of other examples.

“What Doesn’t Belong?”

A fun twist on analogies is the “What doesn’t belong?” game. Present your child with a group of three or four items where one item is notably different. Ask them to identify the odd one out and explain why it doesn’t belong. This game turns analogies into critical thinking games for kids that are both educational and engaging.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

As always, your participation enhances the activity. Ask open-ended questions like, “Why do you think these two are alike?” or “Can you think of other things that are similar in this way?” These questions encourage a deeper exploration of the concept, making it an excellent activity to develop critical thinking skills.

Why Analogies Matter

Analogies help build a variety of skills including vocabulary, reasoning abilities, and problem-solving skills. They encourage children to make connections between different pieces of information, a critical skill not just in academic settings but in everyday decision-making.

By incorporating analogies into your routine, you help your child develop an essential tool for interpreting the world around them, boosting their critical thinking and cognitive abilities.

Sorting and Categorizing

Sorting and categorizing activities are foundational for preschool-aged children and serve as a cornerstone for developing critical thinking skills. They not only help kids recognize patterns but also teach them how to make educated judgments. Here’s how you can make sorting and categorizing a fun and enlightening experience for your little one.

By Shape

Sorting by shape is one of the simplest ways to begin. Provide your child with an array of different shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. You can use household items like buttons, blocks, or even cut-out paper shapes. Ask your child to separate these items into different piles based on their shapes.

By Color

Colors offer another straightforward criterion for sorting. You can use colored balls, beads, or toys and ask your child to group them based on their color. This is a simple but effective way to get children to focus on characteristics, thereby introducing them to the basics of categorization.

By Size

Sorting by size provides a slightly more advanced challenge and introduces the concept of relativity. Give your child a mix of big and small objects, and ask them to sort them into ‘big’ and ‘small’ groups. As they get better at this, you can introduce medium-sized items for a greater challenge.

Mixed Criteria

As your child becomes more proficient, you can make the activity more complex by mixing criteria. For instance, they can sort by both color and size, creating groups of small red items, large red items, small blue items, and so on. This type of multi-criteria sorting is a great way to sharpen their critical thinking abilities.

Question and Discuss

Make sure to ask questions during these activities. Queries like, “Why did you put this here?” or “What makes these two items the same?” promote reasoning and dialogue. You can thereby elevate sorting and categorizing from a simple task to one of the essential critical thinking activities for preschoolers.

Importance for Cognitive Development

Sorting and categorizing lay the groundwork for mathematical concepts and logical reasoning. These activities train the mind to identify, compare, and analyze objects based on specific characteristics, making them powerful tools in shaping a child’s cognitive abilities.

Sorting and categorizing can be as simple or as complex as you make them, but their benefits for critical thinking and overall cognitive development are immense. By incorporating these activities into your child’s routine, you’re setting the stage for more complex intellectual feats as they grow.


Counting may appear to be a simple skill, but it’s much more than just reciting numbers. It’s a fundamental aspect of early education that sets the stage for more advanced math and critical thinking skills. Here’s how to make counting a multifaceted learning experience for your preschooler.

Basic Counting with Objects

Start with the basics by using everyday objects like toys, fruits, or even items in a room. Ask your child to count them and tell you how many there are in total. This not only teaches them to associate numbers with quantities but also introduces them to the concept of ‘totality’—an important foundational idea for future math skills.

Count and Compare

Once your child can count confidently, introduce them to the concept of comparing quantities. Place two groups of objects in front of them and ask questions like, “Which group has more?” or “How many more cars are there than trucks?” This introduces them to the skill of evaluating quantities, an essential part of critical thinking.

Counting Games

Turn counting into critical thinking games for kids. Whether it’s counting the number of steps in a staircase as they climb or counting the number of red cars they see while on a drive, games make the counting process engaging and fun.

Skip Counting

As your child becomes more proficient, you can introduce the concept of skip counting—counting by twos, fives, or tens. This helps them understand multiplication at an early age and strengthens their number sense, paving the way for more complex math skills.

The “Guess the Number” Game

For a fun twist, you can play the “Guess the Number” game where you think of a number within a range they can understand, and they have to guess it. This helps them understand the concepts of ‘greater than’ and ‘less than,’ valuable tools for reasoning activities for preschoolers.

Subtraction and Addition

Simple addition and subtraction can also be introduced through counting. For example, you can start with five apples, take two away, and then ask how many are left. Or you could add two more and ask how many there are now. This helps your child understand the principles of arithmetic in a hands-on manner.

Why Counting Matters

Counting isn’t just a math skill; it’s a critical thinking skill. It lays the groundwork for understanding more complex relationships between numbers and fosters logical reasoning skills that will be crucial in later stages of education.

By incorporating these various counting activities into your child’s routine, you’ll be helping them develop not just their ability to count but also their critical thinking abilities, making it a quintessential activity for their cognitive development.

Comparing Quantities

The ability to compare and contrast different quantities is not just a math skill; it’s one of the important activities to develop critical thinking skills. This skill helps children understand relationships between different sets, a critical component for problem-solving and logical reasoning. Here are some ways to explore this concept with your preschooler.

Starting Simple

Begin with two sets of clearly different quantities. For instance, you could use four apples and two oranges. Ask your child to point out which set has more and which has fewer items. Reinforce the terms “more,” “less,” and “equal” to build their comparative vocabulary.

Using Everyday Scenarios

Use day-to-day experiences to create comparative situations. For example, you could ask, “Are there more people in the living room or the kitchen?” or “Do we have more forks or more spoons?” These questions not only hone their observational skills but also make them critically evaluate their surroundings.

Hands-On Activities

Use toys or building blocks to physically create sets of different quantities. Ask your child to compare them. This hands-on approach can make abstract concepts more concrete for young minds.

Beyond Just Numbers

Expand the concept of comparison beyond mere numerical quantities. For instance, ask them to compare the heights of different family members, the size of different rooms, or the loudness of different sounds. This broadens the scope of comparison and enhances their critical thinking skills.

Make it a Game

Introduce critical thinking games for kids that focus on comparing quantities. For example, play a game where they have to divide a set of toys among siblings or friends, ensuring everyone gets an “equal” number. This not only reinforces the concept of comparison but also introduces the idea of fairness.

Questions to Prompt Thinking

Always remember to ask follow-up questions. Inquire, “How did you know this set has more?” or “What makes you think there are fewer blocks here?” This encourages them to articulate their thought process, deepening their understanding and reasoning abilities.

Importance in Daily Life

Understanding the skill of comparing quantities is essential in daily decision-making. It aids in evaluating choices and in forming reasoned judgments. Therefore, it is an indispensable skill, relevant not just as a form of critical thinking for preschoolers but as a life skill.

Teaching your child to compare quantities provides them with the tools to make better decisions, solve problems, and navigate the world more effectively. It’s a cornerstone activity in developing their overall cognitive abilities.

Critical Thinking Activities for Preschoolers

Overall, preschoolers can engage in many different critical thinking activities to help develop their cognitive abilities. By providing your child with opportunities to learn, explore, and think critically, you can help them become more confident and capable learners throughout their lives!

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