Developing Kids Thinking Skills

What are Thinking Skills?

Thinking skills include theorizing, predicting, evaluating, memory recall, and thought organization. Everyone has them, but not everyone knows how to use them effectively. Developing practical thinking skills comes with time. We use them when solving problems, making decisions, organizing events, or processing information.

How Are Thinking Skills Important In Education?

Thinking skills enable us to process information, recall facts and apply knowledge to various situations. At a higher level, this can involve problem-solving and analysis, which are both helpful in education.

We can apply the same thinking skills in all subjects across the curriculum.

“He who thinks little errs much.”

Leonardo da Vinci

What is Cognitive Learning?

Cognitive learning involves vital teaching strategies, such as repetition, imagery, organization of facts, summarizing meaning, and contextualization to help us learn.

Different Types of Thinking Skills

There are many types of thinkers and many ways to approach learning a new skill.

Here are three examples of common thinking skills:

  • Analytical – methodical and structure-focused, analytical thinkers tend to examine individual parts of a problem before tackling the whole.
  • Creative- approaching a problem from a different angle, creative thinkers tend to follow an unconventional process that involves asking a lot of questions.
  • Critical- critical thinkers favor a careful, detailed, and open-minded evaluation of a problem.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition involves developing an awareness of your thought processes and learning strategies.

It involves using your initiative to plan how to approach learning about something new, as well as being able to monitor your understanding.

It is also a vital part of strategizing and problem-solving.

“Thinking is learning all over again how to see, directing one’s consciousness, making of every image a privileged place.”

Albert Camus

What’s the Difference Between Problem-Solving and Decision-Making?

The difference between problem-solving and decision-making might not be evident initially, and people often use the two terms interchangeably. However, although problem-solving and decision-making can typically overlap, some key differences exist.


Problem-solving is a mental process used to assess an issue and identify potential solutions. Typically, when you’re solving a problem, you have the desired outcome in mind, but you’re also faced with a challenge that could prevent that outcome from being achieved.

Therefore, you use problem-solving to find a solution to the challenge and ensure you get the desired outcome. However, problem-solving is a complex, analytical process and often requires you to use other skills, like decision-making.


So, where problem-solving is about finding the right solution, decision-making is about making choices. When you’re making a decision, you’ll be in a situation where you have multiple options. That situation won’t necessarily include a problem – you might just be deciding which flavor of ice cream you want!

Even though they tend to work for hand in hand, the difference between problem-solving and decision-making is that problem-solving focuses on finding the most appropriate solution, and decision-making focuses on deciding between multiple options.

How Can I Develop Children’s Thinking Skills?

An excellent way to help children develop thinking skills and metacognition in the classroom is to focus on one area, such as problem-solving or decision-making, depending on the subject or topic being taught.

For example, focus on decision-making if children are working on creative writing.

Or, if children are reading, get them to practice theorizing and predicting what will happen in the narrative or ask them to evaluate decisions made by certain characters.

Math lessons provide an excellent opportunity for children to practice problem-solving. Check out our range of maths problem-solving resources for ideas.

“The thought process can never be complete without articulation.”

Stephen King

Critical Thinking

How can I develop critical thinking skills for children?

Critical thinking is the ability of children and adults to analyze facts and establish a judgment based on logic and reason. Children need to develop this skill as they move through school to better their social interactions, discuss topics more deeply, and be able to work with points of view that may differ from their own.

Critical thinking encompasses many skills your child will need to access the primary school curriculum and, more so, the curriculum of their later education. These skills include inventing, making analogies, formulating hypotheses, and recommending alternatives. In addition, critical thinking skills help children filter the information they take and select which pieces are most relevant to the task.

Here are a few ways that you can promote these skills in your children:

Encourage agreement and disagreement

A sign of children’s thinking is whether they can agree or disagree with something. For example, you can encourage children to give reasons or examples as to why they agree or disagree with a topic. Pushing children to expand on their answers will help them think more deeply through their points of view.

Ask your children:

‘Do you agree?’

It will encourage them to evaluate someone else’s claim or idea.

You can also ask children whether something is right or wrong, true or false, OK or not OK – in other words, have them take a position, evaluate the information and either alter their point of view to fit the new information or discard it.

Question sequentially

Please help your child work through their reasoning by going through a series of steps.

  • Check for general principles (always/never/sometimes)
  • Listen out for counter-examples
  • Then test the concrete example

Top Critical Thinking Skills

There are many ways we can exercise critical thinking, as listed in the examples below. Here are the five essential skills that play a part in critical thinking:


Being analytical is a massive part of critical thinking. But what does being analytical mean? To analyze something is to carefully examine it, understand it, and then pass on information about it to someone else. We can explore anything, be it people, objects, problems, texts, or something else.

Here are some practical applications of analysis:

  • Asking questions
  • Researching topics
  • Interpreting a text
  • Questioning evidence that you’ve been presented with
  • Recognize patterns in data


The second skill in this list of critical thinking examples is communication. Communication is a super important skill for kids, as it will benefit all areas of their lives. This skill will also serve them throughout their life and career. For kids, communicating well with their peers will help them with group activities, conflict resolution, and sharing their ideas effectively.

Here are some of the practical applications of analysis:

  • Active listening involves giving someone your full attention, understanding what they mean, and reflecting on and responding to what’s been said.
  • Collaborating with others
  • Clearly and effectively explaining things
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Presenting information in a way that’s clear and easy to understand.
  • Having good verbal and written communication


This skill may shock some people, as creativity does not often come up in discussing critical thinking examples. However, creativity is a big part of critical thinking. Thinking does not have to involve making songs or drawing pictures; it can be thinking outside the box and spotting patterns where others may not.

Here are some of the practical applications of creative thinking:

  • Flexibility in terms of thinking
  • Coming up with new, outside-of-the-box ideas
  • Being curious and also seeking further information
  • Always looking for new ways to do things
  • Imagination
  • Predicting patterns and trends


To be effective in thinking critically, you have to be open-minded. Being open-minded means putting any preconceived ideas or judgments that you may have about a subject, person, etc., and looking objectively at the information you’ve been presented with. This way, you can analyze the report without bias swaying the outcome.

Here are some practical applications of open-mindedness

  • Being fair
  • Exercising humility
  • Encouraging diversity
  • Being inclusive
  • Looking at things objectively
  • Being observant of your surroundings and reflecting on what you see


The last up on our list of critical thinking examples is problem-solving. This skill begins with effectively analyzing a problem. Once you have performed an initial analysis of the problem, you must use problem-solving skills to devise a solution and put it into practice. The last step in practical problem-solving is to step back and assess your solution’s effectiveness.

Here are some practical applications of problem-solving:

  • Paying close attention to detail
  • Being able to make decisions quickly and with assurance
  • Evaluating problems
  • Identifying patterns between issues
  • Being innovative with new solutions
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