TIP #71: 10 Critical Thinking Skills for Kids

TIP #71 10 Critical Thinking Skills for Kids

Good critical thinking skills can help kids take their creative thinking to the next level. 

Critical thinking and creative thinking are two very distinct cognitive processes yet they complement each other in an amazing way. Together they help kids become better thinkers, creators, and learners.

While creative thinking involves generating new and original ideas, critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating those ideas. Both skill sets are necessary for tomorrow’s creators and innovators.

Creative thinking involves coming up with a variety of ideas, thinking “outside the box”, brainstorming, and exploring different perspectives. This is also known as divergent thinking

In contrast, critical thinking involves convergent thinking, or the ability to reach a best answer or solution based on reasoning and evidence. Critical thinking helps kids evaluate and refine their ideas. It enables them to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of different options, consider the implications and consequences, and make informed decisions.

Creative problem solving benefits from both creative and critical thinking skills. So how do we develop both of these skill sets in our students? 

Both can be developed through practice. You can find ideas for helping kids develop their creative thinking skills here

Then keep reading for 10 critical thinking skills that can be practiced in the Art Room and across the curriculum. 

1. Ordering

Have kids practice putting things in order according to a criteria, such as large to small or general to specific. For example, they could line up their paint brushes by size. Or take a general concept like “art at the MOMA and narrow it down to something specific, like paintings… portraits… by Van Gogh… “Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin”. Or try it in reverse!

2. Comparing & Contrasting

Have students group seemingly unrelated art works in different ways using Venn diagrams. Or give them a noun and challenge them to see how many different comparisons they can make to other things. For example, a paint set is like a restaurant because it has lots of choices, or like a flower shop because it’s colorful, etc.

3. Categorizing

List some random items and have students place them into larger groups or categories. For example, red is a color, charcoal is a medium, “Starry Night” is a painting, etc. Or, list some different art materials and have students chose two or more and tell why they go together.

4. Recognizing Relevancy

Help students recognize the real world application of what they are learning. You could talk with students about how being creative with their art projects can strengthen their’ “outside the box” thinking skills in other areas of life, too.

5. Connecting & Completing

Teach kids to see relationships by connecting parts, or completing something that’s only just been started. They could turn a “scribble” into a picture of something they “see” in it, or complete a list of famous artists’ names by filling in missing letters. Or, students could work in pairs where each writes half of a story about a famous painting and the other finishes it.

6. Combining

Help students make connections between ideas and concepts, such as putting two unlikely items together to solve a problem.

7. Sequencing

Have students order events, such as the steps to complete a project. Or, they could list the specific times that things happen during art class. For example, 9:00 class begins, 9:05 project is explained, 9:10 watch demo, 9:25 work on project begins, 9:50 clean-up.

8. Classifying

Choose a category and have students think of something in that category starting with every letter of the alphabet. For example, you could ask kids to list things they could draw with, or list subjects for paintings.

9. Predicting

Challenge kids to predict possible outcomes. You could show them a landscape and ask what the artist might have seen beyond where they chose to stop at each edge of the painting. Or, zoom in and take a photo of a very small part of a painting and have students try to figure out what it is. 

10. Questioning

Pose questions and plan activities that address the higher level thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Ask questions like, “What would happen if…?”, “What other ways can…?”, “What else can be added to…?”, etc.

Practicing these 10 critical thinking skills will help kids cultivate their creativity, problem-solving, and logical reasoning abilities. Then they can apply these skills to any situation they encounter in life that requires decision-making.

inspiring quotes

“Critical thinking narrows and creative thinking expands, but they must work in tandem for problem solving and decision making.”  ~ Pearl Zhu

“Learn to use your brain power. Critical thinking is the key to creative problem solving in business.”  

~ Richard Branson

These two quotes illustrate how critical thinking and creative thinking work together. Both are essential for kids as they grow in their creativity, problem-solving, and logical reasoning abilities. 

Richard Branson applied this truth to business, because he’s immersed in that field. But no matter what path a child takes in life, these skills will serve them well. 

Encouraging kids to develop both creative and critical thinking skills will help them become well-rounded thinkers, learners, and problem solvers.

a question to consider

What are some other ways you can help kids practice these 10 critical thinking skills?