Boost critical thinking skills

Exercise 1: “To-Do” Scavenger Hunt 

This is best done in a group of people, such as in a classroom or with other people around. You must set up a series of challenges that are then expected to be done in groups, allowing everyone to work toward the same end goal. When you do this, try to start out with groups of people and randomized tasks, but if you are by yourself, you can also do so by setting up several dozen random problem-solving exercises and then drawing out six every time you challenge yourself to this. Each of the problems that are included should be something relatively simple but will require you to work with some sort of problem solving. 

For example, maybe you challenge yourself to write a poem about one specific theme. This theme could be anything at random, and it has to rhyme, with the first of the words provided for you. Perhaps the first line of the poem must end in “Yellow,” and every other line must rhyme with it, all about the topic of winter.  

Another example could bet to drink an entire glass of liquid without spilling it—without your hands and without a straw. You then need to figure out a way to allow yourself to drink that glass without touching it.  

As you can see, the problems that must be solved do not need to be serious problems—making them into games can actually make the problem-solving that much more enjoyable. When you do this, you can encourage yourself to think outside of the box in low-stakes environments. As a bonus, if you do this in a group, it can be fun to watch people try to solve these lists together! 

Exercise 2: Will it Float? 

In this exercise, you and a group of people, if you have anyone around that can help you with this, are tasked with coming up with some sort of float with only the items that you can get your hands on in 30 seconds. When you are ready to begin, someone sets off a 30-second timer, and everyone is off to gather their ingredients. The task at hand is to create some sort of raft that will allow for a paperclip to float atop a body of water. The teams or groups are given 5 minutes to complete the challenge before competing. 

This particular exercise brings two skills to the table: Not only you require yourself to think critically, you are also forcing yourself to work in a team as well. This means that you have to use several other critical thinking skills, such as communicating well and making sure that you are listening to all suggestions in the race.  

Exercise 3: A Marble Run—with a Twist 

In this exercise, you are challenged to come up with a marble run. If you have children, you may already have a kit for this. However, you need to set up a marble run that is able to trigger something. Your marble run must be used to put out a candle that is sitting on a table. Of course, you must be mindful of danger when doing this—make sure that you are using your own fire safety skills and do not burn down the room that you are doing the challenge in. However, beyond that, the only limit here is your imagination. 

When you do this challenge, you must figure out how to use a marble run to trigger a reaction that will extinguish a candle. There are several different ways you could do this—you could have a cup fall upside-down over the candle to make the candle go out. You could try having water spilled on the candle at the end of the marble run, or you could even use the marble run to turn on a fan that blows it out. No matter the method that you choose, however, it only counts if you are able to drop the marble in the beginning and have the candle blown out. Good luck! 

This is meant to make you start thinking both critically and creatively—you have a task at hand in blowing out the candle somehow, and you have a method to do so—using a marble run. How can you, or even a group of people, figure out how best to use the marble run to trigger the candle to go out? This can be tricky to figure out at first, but once you do it, you will find that marble runs, despite being aimed toward children, can be quite fun.  

Exercise 4: The Spaghetti Bridge 

Perhaps done with your children when working on teaching them critical thinking as well, this last exercise is to make some sort of bridge using straight spaghetti noodles and anything else that you can find to create a bridge that will stand while small die-cast cars are driven over it. The trick here is to ensure that the bridge is able to withstand the weight while still standing. 

Particularly for children, this can be exciting—dry pasta is not exactly notorious for being particularly difficult to snap. Nevertheless, when you use this method, you are working together to figure out how to solve the problem, and having fun while you do it.  


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