Critical Thinking Games for Kids

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

Critical thinking is a crucial life skill that must be developed and applied at an early age. Learn about some games and activities that are designed to develop critical thinking skills while being fun at the same time!

Game Objectives

Critical thinking refers to a person's ability to actively reason, analyze information, and apply the appropriate response to produce a desired result. Critical thinking is also defined by the use of metacognition, or thinking about one's thinking. Games are a great way to get students engaged and develop their critical thinking skills in a fun environment. All critical thinking begins with asking questions. You must implement activities that will make your students ask themselves how they would solve a problem or express an opinion. Below are some activities and games that draw upon different critical thinking skills.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is an activity that can be done collectively as a class, or as an individual exercise. The mind map is started by writing a central topic on the board and then drawing lines from the topic to other ideas, facts or even questions as the conversation progresses. From these new bits of information, the activity can be steered in different directions with new maps, or students can remain exploring different aspects of the same topic. This activity focuses on knowledge recall, understanding, analyzation, and creativity. This would be a great activity to help students review lessons as a group, while also encouraging them to define and categorize important information on individual levels. Group mind mapping activities can even be used to develop and defend arguments. Make this fun for your students by mixing up colors, drawing images on the mind map, and having students come up and add to the mind map as they contribute.

Analogies Game

Analogies provide a means of comparison between two different subjects or ideas. When analogies are used in a game format, they provide a platform for students to generate ideas, make new comparisons, and analyze underlying concepts. The analogies game can be used in any subject. Begin by asking a creative question tailored to your desired topic and then go around the classroom asking each student their response. Questions should follow a similar format to these examples:

  • Why is a seed like a sculpture?
  • How is photosynthesis like a river?
  • How is government like a blueprint?

The more inventive the analogy, the more students will be pushed to think about how to answer the question. They will be prompted to draw upon their understanding of the subject and be creative in their response. Turn it into a friendly competition by having students, pairs or teams earn game points for the most creative answers.

Cubing Activity

Another popular activity is the cubing strategy. This is a great activity that touches upon multiple critical thinking skills and has the added benefit of being designed to be done by each individual student. Begin by having your students draw six sides of a cube. Each side of the cube will focus on a different aspect of the assigned topic by asking critical thinking prompts. The sides/prompts are outlined below:

Describe Students will describe the topic in their own words
Compare Students will compare and contrast the subject to something else they choose
Associate Students will list things related to the subject or that the subject reminds them of
Analyze Students will list the subject's components parts, meanings, effects, and defining aspects
Apply Students will brainstorm ways the topic is practically applied to the world around them
Argue Students will take a stance on the subject and defend it, citing facts and reasoning

Have your students share their cubes with the class and begin a discussion. Or turn the activity into a quick-thinking hot potato game, where each individual or team must fully respond to cube side rolled before time runs out. Like the other activities, the cubing activity also encourages a review of studied information. This activity can also be applied to any topic, question, or real world scenario!

Teaching Resources offers online resources to help you understand how critical thinking works and ways you can develop these essential skills in the classroom. Developing Critical Thinking Skills will give you some context on how to approach critical thinking skills with different ages of students. It also discusses general info on the subject and outlines additional exercises you can use in the classroom! Check out Critical Thinking Word Problems for critical thinking questions you can use to design your own games in class!

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