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Igniting Imagination: Abstract Thinking in Kids

How we think is important. There are many different ways that our brains will work as it processes information. I personally think that is fascinating. I have been thinking about all of this lately as I have been working with my literal thinker on how to ask for clarification rather than just take it as face value. It also started discussions on abstract and concrete thinking. This was something fun to discuss with eight year olds. 


Abstract thinking is a process where we can think beyond what we see to deal with concepts, ideas, theories and principles. It enables us to develop new ideas and look at the bigger picture. 

We definitely need this type of thinking in our creativity, innovation and in problem solving. It also involves contemplating sentiments such as love, freedom, and compassion. These concepts can have very different interpretations! 

It is also learning to understand and manipulate ideas, symbols, and theories. 

Little girl thinking


Abstract thinking is not something that we learn like a specific subject or skill. Instead, it is a natural cognitive ability that develops over time through various experiences and stages of development.

Some people may naturally excel in this type of thinking, while others may need more practice and exposure to develop it. We need to provide these opportunities and exposure to children to make sure they develop it. 

This is where the 21st Century skills come into play. I love these skills. To develop our abstract thinking we should be engaging in activities such as problem-solving tasks, creative projects, and exploration of different perspectives. Reading, and exposure to art and music can also foster these skills.


Abstract thinking can be described to children by relating it to their everyday experiences and using simple language. Here are some examples:

  • Abstract thinking is like using your imagination to understand things that you can’t see or touch. It’s when you use your thinking powers to imagine things that are not right in front of you. For example, when you think about what you want to be when you grow up, that’s abstract thinking. You can’t see your future job right now, but you can imagine it in your mind. 
  • This is also when you connect different ideas together. It’s like putting puzzle pieces together to see the bigger picture. When you solve a tricky riddle or come up with a new way to play with your toys, that’s abstract thinking too.
  • It helps you think in a creative and imaginative way, beyond just what you can see and touch. It helps you solve problems and think about things in a whole new way!
girl playing with colorful blocks


1. Coming up with a new game: When children invent their own games, they are using abstract thinking. They combine different concepts, rules, and ideas to create something new and unique.

2. Making connections between stories: If a child can relate characters, events, or themes from different stories, it shows abstract thought. For example, noticing similarities between a fairytale and a modern-day story can demonstrate abstract thinking skills.

3. Solving riddles or puzzles: It helps children think outside the box and find creative solutions to riddles or puzzles. It involves making connections, looking for patterns, and using mental flexibility to arrive at the answer.

4. Imagining things that don’t exist: When children imagine fantastical creatures, places, or situations, it showcases abstract thinking. Their creativity allows them to think beyond what is real and engage in imaginative play.

5. Understanding metaphors: If a child comprehends metaphors, they are using abstract thinking. For instance, understanding that “the world’s a stage” means that life is like a play, where we all have roles to play.

These examples encourage children to think beyond the obvious and tap into their creative and imaginative abilities, making abstract thinking a fun and exciting skill to develop.

girl creating a wreath with paper flowers


1. Encourage open-ended questions: Ask your child questions that have multiple possible answers, such as “What can you do with a cardboard box?” or “How would you design a time machine?” This promotes creative thinking and encourages them to explore different possibilities.

2. Play with metaphors and analogies: Introduce metaphors and analogies in a playful way to help children understand abstract concepts. For example, you could compare someone’s happiness to a ray of sunshine or explain how working together is like pieces of a puzzle fitting together.

3. Engage in hands-on activities: Provide children with opportunities to engage in hands-on activities that require problem-solving and abstract thought, such as building structures with blocks, solving puzzles, or completing art projects where they have to imagine and create.

4. Expose them to diverse experiences: Encourage children to explore different environments, cultures, and perspectives. This exposure helps broaden their thinking and enables them to see things from different angles, fostering abstract thinking skills.

5. Promote divergent thinking: Encourage brainstorming sessions where there are no wrong answers and emphasize the importance of generating as many ideas as possible. This process helps children think beyond the obvious and consider multiple perspectives.

6. Provide open-ended materials: Offer materials like art supplies, building blocks, or storytelling props that can be used in various ways. This allows children to explore different possibilities, experiment, and engage in abstract thought through hands-on experiences.

7. Practice reflection and critical thinking: Encourage children to analyze and reflect on their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. This prompts them to think deeply, make connections, and develop their abstract thinking abilities.

Here are some other posts on different types of thinking:
Analytical thinking
Rational vs Emotional Thinkers
Living with Literal Thinkers

Five In A Row: A curriculum review
Unschooling Social Studies – How do we do it?


  • October 24, 2023 at 2:53 AM
    zoritoler imol

    There is noticeably a bundle to know about this. I assume you made certain nice points in features also.

  • February 24, 2024 at 10:48 PM
    Liam Williams

    In conclusion, transforming learning in the 21st century involves a holistic approach that leverages technology, embraces global connectivity, and encourages pedagogical innovation.



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