Critical Thinking


Jump Inside the Circle

Best played with a group of children. Have everyone sit in a large circle facing each other. One adult describes a child in the circle using visual clues, and everyone tries to guess which child it is. Example: "This person is wearing a red sweater and blue pants, and has flip flops on." When the children guess who it is, that child stands up and jumps up ...(read more)

What's in the Sock?

Place a small object inside a large tube sock. then, have your child will stick his or her hand inside the sock, feel the object, and try to guess what it is. This activity helps children focus on their sense of touch. Select items such as a Q-tip, rock, penny, or button.(read more)

Fun with Flashlights

Hide one of your child's favorite toys, turn off the lights, and let her find it with a flashlight. Start out with obvious hiding places and then make it harder. Be sure to give your child clues like "you're getting closer" or "it is behind you." These will help develop your child's vocabulary and listening skills.(read more)


5 Senses Game

This is a great activity for kids to do on a car trip. Name an object that you see while driving, for example, a tree, a cow, a tire, etc. Have your child describe it using the 5 senses: what does the object look like, does it make a sound, what would it taste like, etc. This encourages your child to think creatively and analytically about ...(read more)


Step into the Story

Next time you read a story to your preschooler, try this activity to develop his problem solving and creative thinking skills. When you get to a point in the story where the character faces a problem or needs to make a decision, stop reading and ask your child to describe what he might do in a similar situation. Encourage him to explain his choices.(read more)

What's Missing?

On a cookie sheet, place 5 or 6 small objects, such as a spoon, brush, book, toy, sock, or crayon. Allow your child to look at all the items on the cookie sheet. Have your child turn around, so you can remove one of the objects from the tray and hide it out of sight. Your child will try to guess which item is missing. You ...(read more)


Around-Town Scavenger Hunt

Pick one of your favorite places to visit: the aquarium, arboretum, or museum. Go to their website, and with your child, find pictures of 5-10 different things to look for. Then create a list for your child, adding pictures may be helpful for young ones. When you go to the place, you and your child will have a great time looking for those items. An alternate ...(read more)

What's That Sound?

Try this activity to help your child learn to identify different sounds. Gather different noisemaking props in advance and don't let your child see them. Stand behind your child's back and make different noises with your props. Then see if he or she can guess what is making the noise. If your child has trouble guessing, make the sound again and give him or her clues: ...(read more)

Key match

Using a variety of keys, trace their shapes onto a piece of construction paper. Then give the paper and the keys to your child and have them try to match the correct key with the outlined shape on the paper. A great challenge for older kids! (read more)


You're Getting Hotter!

Find an object that you want to hide. An object that is small, but not too small, will work best -- something such as a small stuffed animal or figurine. Hide the figurine somewhere in a room and take turns with your child being the 'finder' and the 'hider.' If you are the one who hid the object, explain to your child that he needs to search ...(read more)


Spying the ABC's

While in the car ask your child to look at billboards, road signs, license plates and buildings to find the letters of the alphabet in order. For instance, to find an 'A'-the child might see Applebee's and say it aloud, then move on to finding a sign or billboard with the letter B. To make it more challenging, if the child is old enough, she can write ...(read more)

That Stinks!

Explore the sense of smell with your preschooler or school-age child. You'll need to gather up some distinctly smelly items, such as pickle juice, cinnamon, baby powder, perfume, vanilla, ginger, cocoa powder,coffee, etc. Shake or spray a little of each on cotton balls (one cotton ball per scent). Then see if your child can guess what each cotton ball smells like.(read more)

Matching Grab Bags

This game is great fun for both preschoolers and school-age kids, and helps develop fine motor skills. Gather up various small objects -- you'll need 2 of each item (one for you and one for your child). Examples of items that you can use: buttons, pennies (and other change), beans, cotton balls, Lego pieces, paper clips, etc. Divide the items into 2 paper lunch sacks so ...(read more)

At-Home Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt for your child by creating a photo list of his or her favorite things. An easy way to create the list is to take photos of your child's things with a digital camera and then print the pictures onto plain paper -- alternately, you can find photos of similar things on the internet. Once you have gathered your pictures, cut them out and paste ...(read more)


Fill it Up!

Ask your child to fill a container such as a sand bucket up with rocks until it is completely full. Then ask them to find out if the container full of rocks has room for some sand by adding as much sand as they can until it spills over. Now the container is really full, right? Will it hold some water? Pour some water in and see ...(read more)


Tiny Treasure Hunt

Loosely hide some tempting objects in your garden for your toddler to find and investigate. For little ones, you might use bigger objects and give a few hints; older children will enjoy more of a challenge. Try a folded-up dish towel with some toys hidden inside, a box to open with a snack inside, an upside down basket to turn over and discover a favorite stuffed animal 'hiding,' ...(read more)


Photograph Memory Game

A good way to get kids to remember faces and names of relatives is to take pictures of family members. When the film is developed ask for double prints. Use these photos to play the game of memory. Put all pictures face-down, and have your children turn pictures over two at a time, trying to make a pair. As they turn over the pictures, name the ...(read more)

True or False?

Teach your child the meaning of truth and exaggeration. Say two sentences and ask her to tell which one is true. For instance: 1. We went to the grocery store to buy eggs or 2. We flew a space ship to the grocery store to buy a tiger. The older a child is, the more nuanced you can make differences between the sentences. (read more)


How Many Will Fit?

Here's a twist on a common game of guessing how many of an item are in a container. Have your child look at an empty, small, clear plastic jar and a group of small objects (such as peanuts, cottonballs, marbles, or Goldfish crackers) and estimate how many of the objects will fit inside the container. Your child can then check their estimation by counting the objects as they ...(read more)

What's Missing?

On a piece of paper draw a picture with something missing. On a picture of a face, leave off an eyebrow or on a picture of a car, leave off a wheel. Ask your child if he or she can figure out what is missing and finish the drawing by adding the missing piece. (read more)


Hunting for Dinosaurs

This game can be played indoors or outdoors, but we usually save it for a rainy day. Give a child a large basket and have her gather all of her plastic toy dinosaurs. Once she is convinced that she has them all, count them according to size (e.g., 11 large, 8 medium and 7 small). Then send the child into another room, close the door and have ...(read more)

Two Scoops of Sugar ...or One or Three?

When you are out at a restaurant and want to occupy the kids, try this activity at the table as an alternative to Tic Tac Toe. Place ten (white) packets of sugar and one (pink) packet of artificial sweetener on the table. (Or you could use coins -- ten pennies and one nickel.) Players take turns choosing to remove one,two,or three packets. The object is to force ...(read more)


Crayon Games

While out and about, I always keep a bag of crayons in my purse for those moments in the day when like it or not, my kids are just forced to wait. When they tire of drawing and coloring pictures, we play crayon games (this is especially good for restaurants). Take a handful of used crayons of various sizes and spread them on a table. If your ...(read more)

Indoor treasure hunt

Tell the kids to hide in one room of the house. Then take some toy cars, action figures, or other non-breakable toys and objects and hide them in a different room. Once you are done hiding, give each kid a brown paper bag and then have them come into the room and try to find all the hidden objects. A way to make this game fun and ...(read more)

Itty Bitty Bye... About So High

This is a great treasure hunt game that can be played indoors or out with older children and ones as young as 2. My 7, 5, and 3 year olds love it. Pick an object to hide and show it to your child. Your child covers their eyes while you stash the object anywhere you like. When ready, you say 'Itty bitty bye, about so high' ...(read more)

Being Savvy Today

Tips for Choosing "After-Preschool" Activities and Classes


More and more, it seems, there are so many different kinds of activities and classes geared to the little ones. Deciding which ones to try and which to pass on sometimes gets confusing. There are all the wonderful music classes that encourage you to bring your baby before

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