Skip to main content

Improving Your Child's Thinking Skills

Learn about the various facets of thinking skills and how to foster them in your chilren.
By: the Council for Exceptional Children

Improving Your Child's Thinking Skills

Six Major Thinking Skills

One of the simplest and easiest ways to develop kids' thinking skills is by wording questions in the right way. When teachers and parents learn to ask questions that stimulate kids' thought processes, learning can be fun for children of all ages.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, different types of questions require us to use different kinds or levels of thinking. According to Bloom's Taxonomy, a widely recognized classification system, human thinking skills can be broken down into six categories. Click below to find out more about each category and what you can do to help your child improve her thinking skills.

Knowledge, comprehension, and application are more concrete thinking skills. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation require more abstraction and are known as critical thinking skills.

Knowledge involves remembering or recalling appropriate, previously learned information to draw out factual (usually right or wrong) answers.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words and phrases such as: how many, when, where, list, define, tell, describe, identify, etc., to draw out factual answers and test your child's recall and recognition skills.

Sample questions:
How many eggs in a dozen?
When was Abraham Lincoln president?

Comprehension involves grasping or understanding the meaning of informational materials.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words such as: describe, explain, estimate, predict, identify, differentiate, etc., to encourage your child to translate, interpret, and extrapolate.

Sample questions:
Explain how an egg becomes a chicken.
What important events occurred during the years Lincoln was president?

Application Application involves applying previously learned information (or knowledge) to new and unfamiliar situations.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words such as: demonstrate, apply, illustrate, show, solve, examine, classify, experiment, etc., to encourage your child to apply knowledge to situations that are new and unfamiliar.

Sample questions:
What do an egg and the shape of the globe have in common? Can an egg grow into a cow?
How did Abe Lincoln's personal views on slavery fit with the events of the time?

Analysis involves breaking down information into parts, or examining (and trying to understand the organizational structure of) information.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words and phrases such as: what are the differences, analyze, explain, compare, separate, classify, arrange, etc., to encourage your child to break information down into parts.

Sample questions:
What is one difference between eggs laid by a frog and a chicken?
Compare and contrast some significant contributions made by presidents during the 1800s.

Synthesis involves applying prior knowledge and skills to combine elements into a pattern not clearly there before.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words and phrases such as: combine, rearrange, substitute, create, design, invent, what if?, etc., to encourage your child to combine elements into a pattern that's new.

Sample questions:
What might happen if a cow laid eggs? Knowing what you know about egg-laying animals, what could you say about animals that don't lay eggs?
What if Abe Lincoln lived today? What problem might he solve?

Evaluation involves judging or deciding according to some set of criteria, without real right or wrong answers.

Asking the Right Questions:
Use words such as: assess, decide, measure, select, explain, conclude, compare, summarize, etc., to encourage your child to make judgements according to a set of criteria.

Sample questions:
What do egg-laying animals have in common?
What might have happened if Abe Lincoln never lived? What are some ways that history might be different?

The use of critical thinking is one of the most valuable skills we can pass on to our children. Gifted children, especially, tend to take mental leaps and you might notice that they use synthesis and evaluation without teaching or prompting. Supporting and nurturing these skills is crucial to the development of strong academic and lifelong problem-solving skills.

Remember, the most important thing is to have fun with these skills. When kids enjoy discussions with their parents and teachers, they'll love to learn.

Subscribe to Family Education

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.