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Critical thinking activities for kids—not just repeating

Thinking critically is vital to educational achievement, and parents have a big part to play in helping children learn the skill of critical thinking.  Here are some tips.

Encourage your child to discover classical artwork, music and literature. Let them feel that reading is cool. When they’ve done well, reward them with tickets to the theatre, a movie or an exhibition. Such things are far cooler than mundane toys or sweets. Fresh experiences stir diverse emotions and nurture inspiration.

Activities that promote creativity

Art is a perfect teacher. Contact with art inspires children to create their own masterpieces and develop their creativity. Help them find that spark.

black girl thinking over chessboard at table

Questions without answers  

Socratic, or open-ended, questions are a great way to get children’s creative juices flowing. By eliminating closed questions (ones that demand simple yes and no answers) you can help a child think critically. Answering open-ended questions means having to think, analyse and decide. Choices, comparisons, entertaining new ideas and having to think of personal responses are vital ingredients for the development of creative thinking.

Creative thinking activities for students

Here are some open-ended questions you can ask children while inspiring their creativity:

  • What might happen if it always rained on Saturdays?
  • What if cars never wore out?
  • If you saw a mouse in your backyard, chewing your mother’s favourite flowers, what would you do?
  • Why don’t we wake up with our hair neat and combed?
  • What would happen if a cow, a bee and a clover got together?
  • What might happen if cats barked?
  • How would it be if all the shoes in the world were the same size?

Activities that promote creativity in adults

Avoid rewarding children for exhibiting creativity 

It might, at first, sound wrong to say, ‘avoid rewarding creativity’, because, surely, we want children to create, explore and grow? Yes, we do, but we must progress positively, so here’s a deeper explanation.

  • Offering children incentives to perform creative activities can cause reduced quality and flexibility in their thinking. So, allow your children to master the creative activities they are naturally motivated towards, rather than influencing them with rewards and incentives. In other words, don’t say, ‘Don’t do that, do this and you’ll get that reward.’
  • Don’t discourage children from creative activities. Is your child busy playing, drawing or constructing buildings with Lego while ignoring their responsibilities? Perfect! Support and encourage that interest. Don’t interrupt them with the order to, “Clean your room!” Try saying, “That’s good,” and when they’ve finished, then they can clean their room.

Trigger their curiosity  

Children are born curious; they want to know all about anything and everything. Thus, it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to provide interesting and relevant stimuli to steer a child’s curiosity in the right direction. For example, children are stimulated when exposed to the art, culture and literature of another country; they see new meanings and possibilities. Or, you could talk to them about environmental issues and how they affect the lives of humans and animals. By involving children in meaningful discussions, parents arouse a child’s curiosity and encourage them to discover more.


To enable your child to become a critical thinker and thus expand their potential, it is vital to give them space to be themselves. The key is to allow children to learn from learning, to make learning fun and to open their eyes to new horizons. Engage them in conversations with open-ended questions and allow them to experiment with new experiences in a supportive environment. This way, your children will learn to think critically for themselves.

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