Tips to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Children

Two smiling children standing in cardboard boxes playing make-believe.

Children grow and develop at their own individual pace. ( (Image: Olena Yakobchuk via Dreamstime)

Critical thinking happens when children draw on their existing knowledge and experience, as well as on their problem-solving skills, to do things like:

  • Compare and contrast
  • Explain why things happen
  • Evaluate ideas and form opinions
  • Understand the perspectives of others
  • Predict what will happen in the future
  • Think of creative solutions

Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for both language and literacy success.

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Language and critical thinking grow together and nurture each other’s development. As children engage in critical thinking, their language skills expand because they’re encouraged to develop and use more complex language with words like “because”, phrases with “if” and “then” and different verb tenses. Conversely, as children’s language development progresses, their ability to think critically grows as well.


To truly understand the meaning of a book, children must be able to do more than recognize and sound out letters and words. They must also “read between the lines” to figure things out that are not actually stated in the book. To do this, they must use critical thinking skills like problem-solving, predicting, and explaining. Encouraging this kind of thinking early in a child’s life prepares her for understanding the books she’ll read on her own later on.

Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for both language and literacy success.
Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for both language and literacy success. (Image: Chernetskaya via Dreamstime)

Noted psychologist Amanda Pickerill, involved with the Ohio State School for the Blind, says: “Not thinking carefully [and critically] can lead to information being misconstrued; [and] misconstrued information can lead to problems in school, work, and relationships. Critical thinking skills [are beneficial] in solving a maths problem, in comparing and contrasting [things], and when forming an argument.”

When and how does critical thinking develop?

Research shows that children begin to think critically at a very young age. These skills develop during the children’s natural, back and forth conversations with the important adults in their lives.

As soon as children can speak in sentences, they’re ready for you — the parent, caregiver, or educator — to nurture the critical thinking skills that will prepare them for success in school. Whether you’re reading a book or taking a walk in the park, any time is an excellent time to build critical thinking.

Boy and girl sitting outside together on the grass.
Research shows that children begin to think critically at a very young age. (Image: Thomas Holt via Dreamstime)

How to teach your children critical thinking skills

Teaching through playing games

There are very few children who do not love to play games. These could be indoor or outdoor games. Parents can play games with their children and teach them the nuances of critical thinking while playing. This makes it easy for children to absorb the teaching. Dr. Pickerill says: “You will find your child’s thinking will be more on a concrete level in the earlier years, and as they advance in age, it will become more abstract. Peer play is also helpful in developing critical thinking skills, but parents need to be available to assist when conflicts arise or when bantering takes a turn for the worse.” Give them games that require the usage of the brain more than physical movements. 

Encouraging questions

Parents should encourage their children to ask questions. The children should be encouraged to make queries on things they do not understand easily. Then, these issues should be explained to them in an easily understandable and logical way. While some children tend to ask many questions and parents may find it excessive, suppressing the queries is not a good idea either.

Encouraging problem solving

Many parents feel it is too early for children to get into problem-solving. However, child mental health experts think children should be encouraged to solve problems independently unless it is very tedious. Then, when they try solving something without being aided by others, they will learn what works and what does not. In addition, children will learn how to deal with things and analyze things logically.

Giving responsibility

Instead of pampering your children, teach them how to be responsible, as it helps enhance critical thinking skills. These can be tasks like asking them to look after a pet, taking care of a small garden, or keeping their rooms tidy. This will help in sharpening their analytical abilities.


There is no single and fixed formula for enhancing the critical thinking skill of your children. However, it is a time-consuming process, so initiating it early in life will be beneficial for your children. 

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