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Developing Your Child’s Metacognitive Skills

To help your child become a better problem-solver, critical thinker, and learner, it helps them develop their metacognitive skills.

Children who practice metacognition can evaluate and adjust their approach to learning, choose appropriate strategies to tackle a challenging task, and make wise decisions when resolving a problem. If you want your child to have the tools necessary for future success, you should prioritize developing metacognitive skills.

What is metacognition?

Metacognition was coined by John H. Flavell, an American developmental psychologist, in the late 1970s. According to Flavell, metacognition is “one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them.”

While this concept might seem complicated, it is used to describe something that almost every single person does every day, often without even realizing they are doing it: thinking about thinking.

In the 1980s, American psychologist Donald Meichenbaum expanded on this theory by adding that metacognition involves not only awareness of one’s own knowledge but also the “ability to understand, control, and manipulate one’s cognitive processes.”

As a result, our current understanding of metacognition is that it is a two-step process. To engage in this process, people need to be aware of what they are thinking and willing to modify their thought processes if necessary.

What are metacognitive skills?

Practicing metacognition involves being able to plan, track, and assess one’s own performance. Each of these steps is crucial for helping your child think about his own thought process and make any necessary adjustments.


Before solving a problem or approaching a task, your child needs to be able to plan. This should involve your child asking herself several questions:

  • What should I be looking for in this passage/reading/assignment?

  • What do I already know about this topic that will help me understand the new information I am learning?

  • What am I supposed to learn from this task?

  • What information should I pay close attention to as I’m reading?

  • How can I best organize my thoughts or brainstorming for this task?

Asking these questions will help your child know what to pay attention to as they undergo this learning task and help them decide which strategies would likely be the most effective for success.


As the child is completing the task, they should be tracking their progress. This will ensure they can complete the task successfully, even if their original plan needs some adjustments. This skill involves children asking:

  • How am I doing? 

  • How could I be doing this better?

  • What should I do next?

  • Is there anything I should change or do differently?

If your child can ask these questions while working on an assignment or other task, they will be more likely to accomplish their goals and achieve success.


Arguably the most important metacognitive skill, evaluation, involve your child thinking about and learning from the task they just finished. With this skill, kids will know if they need to go back and make any changes or what they should do differently next time if they want better results. Children with this skill will ask:

  • Did I learn what I was supposed to learn?

  • What could I do better next time?

  • Can I apply the strategy I used for this task to another task in the future?

  • How can I use this knowledge to help me in other situations?

This skill is important because it allows your child to learn from his mistakes and solidify strategies that work for his own unique learning style.

Helping your child develop metacognitive skills

As your child grows and develops, he will go through several different learning stages: The Intellectual Baby, the Intellectual Toddler, and the Intellectual Child. While his metacognitive may skill look different in each of these stages, your child takes steps during each one that will help him practice metacognition.

Here are some practical tools and strategies that you can use to help your child develop his metacognitive skills during each learning stage:

The Intellectual Baby

During the ages of 0-2, your child is typically in the Intellectual Baby learning stage. During this stage, your child soaks up new information like a sponge, making it the perfect time to set the foundation for the development of strong metacognitive skills.

Here are some ways you can help your child practice metacognition during the Intellectual Baby learning stage:

Explain everything

Help your Intellectual Baby know how important it is to think about thinking by explaining thoughts and observations about everything around you. This will help your child start learning language that will support their metacognitive growth.

Simple actions like saying, “You must be hungry” when your infant starts crying will slowly but surely get your child to start thinking about the various feelings and emotions going on in their heads.

Practice organizational skills

Children in the Intellectual Baby learning stage start to learn basic organization skills as they learn about letter sounds, shapes, and numbers and the rules that these different categories follow. These skills are the building blocks for metacognition, which requires children to organize and analyze their thoughts.

You can help your child develop early organizational skills in Intellectual Baby stage when you use _____________________________________.

The Intellectual Toddler

Once your child moves out of the Intellectual Baby stage, she will head into the Intellectual Toddler stage. Children in this learning stage are typically between the ages of 3 and 5. 

During this learning stage, children can comprehend and express information better than ever before. Please take advantage of your child’s ability to acquire and think about new information during this stage to help them develop their metacognitive skills.

Here are some ways you can help your child practice metacognition during this Intellectual Toddler learning stage:

Ask reading comprehension questions.

As you and your child read together, please make time to stop, and ask him reading comprehension questions. This will get him to stop and think about what is going on in the book. Take this a step further by asking him to explain his answer. This will help him think about what is happening in the book and why he thinks that is what is happening.

You can also incorporate questions that require your child to make predictions and inferences. Try asking questions like:

  • What problem is Jimmy having in the book? How do you know?

  • Why is Susie upset? How can you tell? What can Susie’s friends do to make everything better?

  • What do you think is going to happen next? Why?

  • Is Bob a good friend? Why not? What should he do instead?

By asking these questions, you help your child learn to think critically and develop strategies for solving problems that arise in the book. This will help him think about and solve problems when he faces challenges in an academic setting.

If you are unsure of how to begin ____________________________ is a great resource that you can use to get started.

Organize books with a genre-specific focus

A huge component of metacognition is the ability to recall and build upon prior knowledge as a strategy to solve problems. You can allow your child to improve in this area by making sure you organize his reading and learning materials by genre.

A genre is a category that is used to classify information based on a specific set of criteria or characteristics. Children’s books typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Realistic fiction

  • Historical fiction

  • Informational texts

  • Biography

  • Picture books

  • Fantasy

  • Traditional literature

Each of these genres has certain rules that apply to the books within that category. For instance, biographies almost always present information in chronological order. 

When you teach your child about different genres and sort his books with a genre-specific focus, he will begin to understand each genre's rules, allowing him to make informed and educational guesses based on prior knowledge when faced with the information he does not already know. A child that knows all biographies follow a chronological order will know that looking at the beginning of a biography is the best strategy for finding information about a person’s birthplace, even if he is unfamiliar with the particular book.

Try using ______________________________ when your child is in the Intellectual Toddler, or even the Intellectual Child learning stage to help them learn information about a variety of different genres.

The Intellectual Child

From the ages of 6-12, your child will likely be in the Intellectual Child stage. During this learning stage, your child will handle more complex strategies for developing metacognitive skills. They are better able to evaluate and analyze themselves and the world around them.

Here are some of the best ways to help your child process their thinking during the Intellectual Child learning stage:

Teach your child about metacognition

At this stage in your child’s development, she will understand if you explain metacognition and why it is important. Define metacognition using terms appropriate for her age-level, and show her how thinking about her thinking will help her become a better learner.

Teaching your child about metacognition will ensure that she becomes more aware of her thought processes and learning strategies.

Practice goal setting

One of the simplest ways to get your child to start thinking about their thought process and strategies for overcoming challenges is to encourage them to set goals. After they set a particular goal, you can then help them brainstorm strategies that they can use to reach their goal.


For instance, a child who wants to finish the school year without any missing assignments will have to actively think about what has caused them to forget about assignments in the past and figure out how they can make changes to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

This self-regulation and strategy implementation is a key element of metacognition.

Ask reflection questions 

When your child is reading a book, working on homework, or trying to solve an academic problem, you can help her practice metacognition by asking her to stop and reflect on what she is doing. 

If she is solving math problems, encourage her to show her work or ask her how she found the solution to a certain problem. If she is reading a book, ask her reading comprehension questions, and make sure she can explain how she figured out the answer to each question.

Try using supplemental learning materials like ___________________ that incorporate reflection questions and analysis for your child to practice.

Use organizational tools

Organizational tools like concept maps and graphic organizers can help children map out what they are thinking and plan to develop the best strategy to complete a paper, assignment, project, or even a non-academic goal.

You can use learning materials like ____________________________ that provide the tools your child needs to improve the organization and analysis of their thought and planning processes.

Using The Intellectual Child

The Intellectual Child has the resources and learning materials you need to help your child start developing her metacognitive skills. 

Metacognition is important because it will help your child plan, monitor, and evaluate the various learning strategies and thought processes she uses to solve problems and achieve academic success. These skills will help your child in several areas, including reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving, and organization.

Whether your child is in the Intellectual Baby, Intellectual Toddler, or the Intellectual Child learning stage, there are tools available to you to help you aid your child in the growth of her metacognitive skills. 

Find out more about books, graphic organizers, and other learning materials you can use to make sure your child can plan, monitor, and evaluate her thinking process when you visit our website.



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The Intellectual BookShop is an independent educational publisher and resource company committed to providing simple learning solutions for use at home or school.


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