13 Growth Activities To Raise Critical Thinking Toddlers

The Most Important Skills 

Hi friends! As a homeschooling mama of a busy two-year-old, I’m always looking for one more great way to nourish her growing mind. The most important skills are critical thinking skills, and  I’m incredibly passionate about helping young children grow up to be critical thinkers. 

I wanted to share the critical thinking activities for toddlers and techniques I’ve found most helpful for promoting critical thinking in my little one. As she interacts with the world around her, I try to encourage her to ask questions, make observations, and draw logical connections. 

First, I set up our learning space with open-ended toys like blocks, puzzles, and sensory bins. This gives my toddler the freedom to explore materials, test theories, and engage her problem-solving skills. I also take her outdoors often so she can examine nature up close. A nature scavenger hunt is a fun way to exercise those observation abilities! 

In our daily life, I look for chances to engage in critical thinking. Bath time becomes an opportunity for sinking/floating experiments. At mealtimes, we discuss food attributes like colors, textures, and tastes. And I try to read interactive stories that ask thought-provoking questions.  

Play is super vital besides independent play, I make time for free play, pretend play, and imaginative play.  We do group activities to build social skills and teamwork. The other day, we did a collaborative marble run challenge with some friends that required planning, testing, and creative problem-solving. So fun to see their little minds at work!

I don’t expect expert-level analysis from a toddler, but fostering this mindset from a young age builds confidence and cognitive skills over time. My kiddo seems to love exploring ideas and figuring things out. And nothing warms this homeschooling mama’s heart more than seeing that look of discovery on her face! 

Let me know if you have any favorite critical thinking activities for the toddler bunch. I love to hear different perspectives!

What is Critical Thinking for Toddlers?

For young minds, critical thinking is the ability to observe details, ask questions, problem-solve, and make connections through exploring their world. It’s about nurturing natural curiosity and independence. My daughter shows this when she examines objects like bugs or flowers up close, asks “why” questions non-stop, or figures out how to build a block tower through trial and error. 

Why Build Logical Skills Early On? 

The toddler years are the perfect time for honing basic critical thinking skills. Their brains are primed for establishing thinking pathways and making cognitive connections. When we engage toddlers in activities that exercise observation, questioning, and problem-solving, we equip them with skills that will benefit them down the road academically and socially. 

Cognitive Skills: The Building Blocks of Critical Thinking

Language Development is an essential life skill

I nurture language development by narrating our day and expanding on my toddler’s statements. This strengthens communication skills crucial for critical thinking.

Problem-Solving Abilities

Simple games that involve cause and effect, sequencing, or sorting help hone early problem-solving skills and logical reasoning skills. I see my kiddo light up when she figures something out!

Fostering an Enriching Learning Environment

Dedicated Play Space

We converted our spare room into a playroom filled with open-ended toys, art supplies, and hands-on materials like sand tables. This space encourages curiosity and discovery. 

Open-Ended Toys 

Some of our favorites include blocks, puzzles, sensory bins, and pretend play sets. These toys allow for imaginative experimentation rather than having a fixed outcome. 

Outdoor Exploration

We spend lots of time outdoors examining plants and insects, splashing in puddles, and going on nature scavenger hunts. Outdoor time spurs curiosity about the natural world.

Everyday fun Activities 

Problem-Solving activities

Puzzles, matching games, and shape sorters encourage logical thinking and perseverance through trial and error. We also love imaginary games like going on a bear hunt!

Sensory Play

Activities like playing with kinetic sand, water beads, or finger painting different objects can be a critical thinking exercise for the senses and promote open-ended experimentation and problem-solving. 


I ask thoughtful, critical thinking questions and involve my toddler when reading stories. We talk about the characters’ feelings, make predictions, and discuss creative solutions. 

Artistic Expression 

Our favorite art supplies include crayons, play-dough, paper, glue, and child-safety scissors. Creating art fosters really great skill for creative thinking and problem-solving skills in creative ways by using creative ideas. 

Digital Activities in Moderation

Educational Apps 

I limit screen time but do let my toddler play with a few trusted apps focused on critical thinking, like simple puzzle games and creative drawing programs. 

Balance with Offline Play

While some digital activities can engage her mind, hands-on exploration, movement, and social play are crucial. I aim for minimal screen time.  

Incorporating Critical Thinking Into Everyday Life

critical thinking activities for toddlers

Mealtime Choices 

I present two healthy food options and ask my toddler questions to help her consider the choices. This gets her thinking and promotes autonomy in simple ways, but it makes a huge impact.

Bathtime Experiments  

Bath time becomes a chance for critical thinking with sink/float challenges, pouring games, and even some supervised mixing of water and bubbles is an excellent way to practice problem solving.

Using Bedtime Stories To Enhance Critical Thinking

critical thinking activities for toddlers

I’ve found bedtime stories to be a fantastic way to nurture critical thinking in my toddler before she drifts off to sleep. 

When we crack open a book at bedtime, I make sure to choose stories that have some problem-solving element or dilemma for the characters. 

Then I engage my toddler in the story by asking the right questions that are open-ended questions about what she thinks will happen next or what she would do if she were the character. We talk through different choices the characters could make and the potential consequences. This helps my little one learn to be an active learner and think critically about decision-making and reasoning without just accepting things at face value and ultimately make good decisions in life. 

After we finish reading, I sometimes have her retell parts of the story in her own words to build her comprehension and narrative skills. Reading interactively at bedtime stretches her thinking and lets her snuggle up with a curious mind.

 I recommend choosing picture books with fun problem-solving plots if you want to turn bedtime stories into stimulating brain-building sessions!

As parents, we can model critical thinking and problem-solving in our everyday actions to demonstrate these skills for our toddlers. When tackling problems, I think out loud so my toddler can follow my thought process. For example, when building something I might say “Hmm, this piece doesn’t fit here. I wonder if turning it this way would work better?” I narrate how I’m testing different solutions so she can see the step-by-step reasoning. 

During daily tasks like cooking or cleaning, I also involve my toddler in the problem-solving. If I’m trying to organize my toolbox, I’ll ask her questions like “Which of these tools is the biggest? Where do you think it should go?”Guiding her through the decision analysis demonstrates how to work through a challenge. I always explain my rationale for the choices I make too. The more I demonstrate thoughtful problem-solving, the more my toddler sees critical thinking in action. Leading by example helps these cognitive skills become ingrained from an early age.

Nurturing A Critical thinking Mindset At Home

critical thinking activities for toddlers

Here are some of the techniques I use to nurture critical thinking:

– We turn daily routines like cooking, laundry, or errands into learning opportunities by talking through the steps and asking questions.

– I provide open-ended toys like blocks, puzzles, crayons and other art supplies that allow for creativity. 

– We read interactive stories where my toddler can fill in the blanks or make predictions. 

– Outside time is great for curiosity and critical thinking – we examine flowers, clouds, and insects up close during nature walk. 

– Independent play allows my toddler to problem-solve without interference as she explores the world. 

I’m careful not to provide too much direct instruction at this young age. Instead, I see my role as setting up an enriching environment and letting her imagination take flight!

These early thinking skills will give her confidence in preschool and beyond. I’m so proud to see her make connections or figure something out independently. The toddler years are fleeting so I’m cherishing each “aha” moment!

Cheat Sheet: How To Foster Critical Thinking in Toddlers

SectionKey Points & Techniques
Importance of critical thinking in toddlersToddler brains are primed for establishing thinking pathways and making cognitive connections.
DefinitionCritical thinking for toddlers: observation, asking questions, problem-solving, making connections.
Benefits of Early Learning– Brain primed for thinking pathways & cognitive connections. – Benefits academically and socially.
Cognitive Skills– Language Development: Narrating daily activities, expanding on toddler’s statements. – Problem-Solving Abilities: Cause-effect, sequencing, and sorting games.
Learning Environment– Dedicated playroom with open-ended toys. – Open-ended toys: blocks, puzzles, sensory bins. – Outdoor exploration: examining nature, scavenger hunts.
Everyday Learning Activities– Problem-Solving Games: Puzzles, matching games, shape sorters. – Sensory Play: Kinetic sand, water beads. – Storytelling: Engaging questions during reading. – Artistic Expression: Crayons, play-dough, scissors.
Digital Activities– Limited screen time with educational apps focused on critical thinking. – Emphasis on offline play.
Daily Routine Inclusion– Mealtime: Choices between two healthy food options. – Bath time: Sink/float experiments, pouring games.
Bedtime Stories– Stories with problem-solving elements. – Open-ended questions about the story. – Letting toddler retell parts of the story.
Tips for Parents– Turn routines into learning opportunities.  Provide open-ended toys. – Encourage independent play. – Limit direct instruction and foster imagination.
Cheat Sheet: Fostering Critical Thinking in Toddlers

Chart: 13 Critical Thinking Activities For Toddlers Chart

critical thinking activities for toddlers

13 activities that promote critical thinking skills for toddlers, preschoolers and young children.

#Activity CategorySpecific Activities/Techniques
1Open-Ended Toys Play– Using blocks – Solving puzzles – Engaging with sensory bins
2Outdoor Activities– Nature scavenger hunts – Examining plants and insects up close – Splashing in puddles
3Daily Routine Engagement– Sinking/floating experiments during bath time – Discussing food attributes at mealtimes – Reading interactive stories
4Group Activities– Collaborative marble run challenge with friends
5Problem-Solving Games– Matching games – Shape sorters – Imaginary games like going on a bear hunt
6Sensory Play– Playing with kinetic sand – Experimenting with water beads – Using finger paints
7Interactive Storytelling– Discussing characters’ feelings – Making predictions about the story – Discussing creative solutions
8Artistic Expression– Drawing with crayons – Molding with play-dough – Cutting paper
9Digital Activities– Playing with educational apps like puzzle games and creative drawing programs
10Mealtime Critical Thinking– Presenting two healthy food options and discussing the choices
11Bathtime Experiments– Sink/float challenges – Pouring games – Supervised mixing of water and bubbles
12Bedtime Stories Enhancement– Choosing stories with problem-solving elements – Engaging with open-ended questions – Retelling parts of the story
13Learning Opportunities in Routines– Discussing steps and asking questions during daily tasks like cooking, laundry, or errands
Chart: 13 Critical Thinking Activities for Toddlers

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I teach my toddler critical thinking?

You can teach critical thinking skills by encouraging observation, curiosity, and hands-on exploration. Provide open-ended toys and ask questions that stimulate reasoning. Allow time for independent play and problem-solving. Narrate thought processes during daily activities. Set up cause-and-effect experiments. Introduce age-appropriate logic puzzles and games. 

What activities develop critical thinking?

Activities that promote critical thinking include sensory play, imaginative play, sorting/matching games, open-ended art projects, reading interactive stories, participating in daily tasks, outdoor scavenger hunts, science experiments, and any opportunity for your toddler to ask questions and figure things out independently.

What are creative thinking activities for toddlers? 

Creative thinking activities allow toddlers to come up with innovative solutions. Examples include: open-ended art like painting or play-dough, building structures with blocks, pretend play scenarios, completing puzzles in different ways, exploring musical instruments, storytelling, and hands-on science experiments. 

What is an example of critical thinking for preschoolers?

An example of critical thinking for preschoolers is asking them to figure out how to retrieve a ball that rolled under a piece of furniture. They must analyze the situation, strategize a solution, and problem-solve based on logic. Other examples include sorting toys by specific attributes, arranging sequences of pictures, and answering reasoning questions after reading a story.

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