Games that’ll make critical thinking fun for kids

By Rebecca Long Pyper
For the Journal

Editor’s note: Last Thursday the Family page featured an article with tips for incorporating higher-level thinking into everyday activities with children. Today’s article highlights games that promote this kind of thinking.

Critical thinking might not sound like fun, but there are lots of games that require more advanced thinking — and they’re easy enough that even the littlest of kids can play along.

When they do, they’ll develop skills that’ll serve them for a lifetime.

“Critical thinking is not something we’re born with; it’s something we learn,” said Blackfoot School District 55 gifted-and-talented facilitator Vicki Chase.

Parents and kids can practice critical thinking every day, whether in the car, at the family dinner table or during family game night — “you want things for parents that encourage communication but can fit into a busy world,” Chase said. Here, she shares a few of her favorite games to promote better thinking:

• Observation games. Start a game of “I Spy” or break out the old Memory cards. Training your brain to remember things you’ve seen is essential to any kind of analysis. “If you can’t observe and remember stuff, then how can you critically analyze?” Chase said.

• Twenty questions or “what am I?” Ask your kids to ask questions until they figure out what thing you are thinking about. This encourages categorization.

• Charades. This game requires observation skills, analysis and interaction.

• Patterns. Move beyond A-B-A-B patterns and ask kids to identify patterns in nature or rhythm in music.

• Perspective pictures. Remember that black-and-white image of an old woman — or is it a young girl? It depends how you look at it. Find these online and have fun viewing them (and arguing about which subject is dominant).

• Set and Visual Eyes. For game-loving families, these games are quick to play and enhance categorization skills and vocabulary building. Purchase them online.

• Give directions. Blindfold one person, then have him or her give instructions to someone else for a task like making a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Require the person making the sandwich to follow the directions exactly, even if they aren’t complete, then laugh at the results.

• Logic puzzles. The online site has trivia, brainteasers and logic puzzles that require deeper thinking.

• Would you rather? Start this game, and you’ll have kids howling with laughter in no time. Here’s one to start: Would you rather swim with sharks or sleep with snakes? This game requires you to weigh your options — and you’ll naturally want to justify your decision. Stumped on questions to ask? Check your library to see if it carries the kid-friendly “You Gotta Be Kidding!” by Randy Horn.

• Fact or opinion. Pose a statement to your kids, then ask them to identify if it’s factual or an interpretation of facts.

• Pick an object. Choose a familiar item like a stapler, then brainstorm more uses for it. Could it be a doorstop? A hammer? What if you multiplied its size 10 times? What if you shrunk it 10 times?

• Good ol’ Sudoku. It’s a puzzle and one more option for keeping kids and their brains busy.

One more thing: If you’ve got a child who adores history, encourage him or her to consider taking part in National History Day. Many gifted-and-talented students in Idaho complete History Day projects as part of their schooling, but any child in fourth through 12th grade who loves to learn about the past can compete. Those who do well at the regional and state levels travel to Washington, D.C., for nationals. For more information, including important registration dates, visit

Kids playing I spy

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