How to Improve Critical Thinking and Observation Skills for Kids

How to Improve Critical Thinking and Observation Skills for Kids

6 July 2022 • Words by Frank Lanigan 2 mins

There are plenty of ways to improve critical thinking and observation skills for kids, but the well-known game known as charades may be near the top of that list. Most people are familiar with the game because of its simplicity—one person chooses a word or phrase that the rest of the group should be familiar with, and then the person must nonverbally act out that selection. The group keeps guessing until the answer is spoken or time runs out. It’s a timeless game with a simple concept, but the benefits of the game are surprisingly strong.


Studies have provided evidence that participating in charades can not only positively affect vocabulary (Muhammad & Humaira, 2019), but that the game increases activity in the temporoparietal junction. This area of the brain is partially responsible for understanding perspectives and evaluating the mental states of others (Schippers et al., 2009). In addition, the game is a practical way to teach nonverbal communication, which is especially useful in special education settings.


The simplicity of the game means that it’s also highly customizable. For example, if you’re learning about animals in science class, you can design the game so that only animals can be acted out.

Here are a few more creative ideas for improving critical thinking and observation skills for kids with charades:

Emotion Charades

This variation of the game is a useful one for younger students who are working on understanding and defining emotions. If it helps, you can write some words or phrases that a person experiencing this emotion might say on the board to help guide the group’s guesses. 


Telephone Charades

In this game, you can line up five or more people at the front of the room. Have the first person in line face the opposite direction and tell them the word you choose. The first person taps the second person on the shoulder, and they watch the first person act out the word. Then, the first person faces forward and stops acting. The second person taps the third person, and the process continues. The last person in line has to guess the word that was given.


Team Charades

Split the group into at least two teams. Assign the first team a word, and give them one minute to coordinate a way to act out that word as a group. The other team or teams has to guess what the word is, and if they do, the performing group and the group that guesses correctly get a point. If the answer isn’t guessed, the performing team has a point deducted. You can set any score or time limit you choose. This variation is great as an icebreaker or if students are a little shy.


Character Charades

Place several books that you’ve read as a class at the front of the room. One person silently chooses a character from one of the books and begins acting out that character for the class. The person who guesses correctly chooses the next character.




Bafadal, M., & Humaira, H. (2019). The use of charades games in teaching vocabulary to the junior high school students. Linguistics and ELT Journal, 9(14). 


Schippers, M. B., Gazzola, V., Goebel, R., & Keysers, C. (2009). Playing charades in the fMRI: Are mirror and/or mentalizing areas involved in gestural communication? PLoS ONE, 4(8).

  • Frank Lanigan

    I’m Frank Lanigan, a Memphis-based freelance writer with experience in journalism, copywriting, technical writing, and more. No matter the type of format, I love making connections with people, telling their stories, and providing the best possible information to my readers.