Metacognition for Kids: 3 Strategies to Help Develop This Executive Functioning Skill

Have you heard your child say something out loud, and you thought, “Where did they come up with that?” That little voice in your head that sometimes speaks aloud is called metacognition. Metacognition may not seem like a big topic, but it’s attached to occupational therapy. Keep reading to learn what metacognition for kids is and why it is so important.

What is Metacognition For Kids?

There are two different parts of metacognition: metacognitive thinking and metacognitive skills. Each part plays a vital role in kids’ development, and metacognition is one of several executive functioning skills that need development in our kids. 

What are executive functioning skills? Read this post to learn more!

Metacognitive Skills

Metacognitive skills are a child’s ability to organize and understand their thought process, mainly related to learning and problem solving. This means they have a certain self-awareness and the ability to recognize when they know something and when they do not know something. 

Metacognition for Kids strategy: learning journal. two hands writing in a journal

These skills are also used to recall or retain information about different subjects. 

Some examples of metacognition skills are: 

  • Planning for a task
  • Gathering and organizing materials
  • Monitoring mistakes.
  • Evaluating the success

Metacognitive Thinking

Metacognitive thinking is the ability to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance. It is defined as thinking about one’s thinking or learning. 

Children need the ability to think about what they are learning, how they are learning, and what they want to learn about in the future. These skills have to be taught at home, and in the classroom. 

How Can Metacognition Help or Hurt Your Child?

Metacognition is that voice in your head that tells you, “Man, you’re awesome! You can do that again. You did a great job!” But it’s also that voice in your head that tells you, “You stink! You’re stupid. You’re dumb. Just don’t say anything because everyone’s gonna laugh at you.” 

Having either extreme thinking mentioned above will really make a difference in how your child shows up on the playground, how your child shows up at school, and how he even shows up at home. 

Thinking and figuring out how to face situations without getting upset or frustrated is extremely helpful for children with learning issues. A child who struggles to stay on task may look at a long worksheet or essay and feel anxious and feel like they won’t be able to finish it.

If this student has not worked on metacognitive thinking skills to figure out why they feel upset, they may feel as if they are just bad at writing or reading. 

Metacognitive thinking is the executive function teachers, caregivers, and parents are trying to touch upon when they discuss fixed mindset vs. growth mindset with children and how thinking in a specific way will help improve their overall mood and performance.

If you are looking to learn more about how you can help your child develop better executive functioning skills. I absolutely love the book Smart but Scattered

Metacognition Strategies to Develop Your Child’s Metacognition

Now that you know what metacognition is. Here are some metacognitive strategies you can use to help develop metacognition for kids.

#1 Successful Activities

Provide children with activities that they can be successful at. Giving a confusing and challenging task does have some benefits. When you create a struggle, children need to use metacognition and creative/critical thinking and find ways to make sense of it all.

boy doing a headstand in a shirt and shorts. metacognition and kids

But when you are first working on metacognitive skills, it is essential to set children up for success, and they will be more inclined to try harder and more complex tasks in the future. 

You can say nothing to a child to convince him that he’s wonderful, amazing, smart, or intelligent. We can do many things to provide experiences where they can realize this. “Wow, I can figure this out!

#2 Let Kids Learn

Once they complete the activity, don’t go running and state, “Oh, I’m so proud of you.” Make a shift from “I’m so proud of you!” to a conversation that may sound like this:

“Hey Johnny, hey Mary, what did you just do right there?”

“Oh, well, I was able to get on the playground, and I could climb from the slide from the bottom up. And I’d never been able to do that before.”

“Yeah, it looks like you were able to climb from the bottom up on the side. What do you think?”

“Oh, that was so awesome!”

“Cool. You want to do it again?”

Having a conversation like this will get children using metacognitive skills and thinking. They are in charge of their learning and recognize when they did something they could not do before. Metacognition for kids can be developed in a simple way like this! 

#3 Learning Journals

This strategy may be a little easier for older learners and children. Students can monitor their learning through learning journals. You may choose to assign questions each week to allow them to reflect on how they learned instead of what they learned.

Some questions you may ask are: 

  • What did I learn easiest this week and why?
  • What study strategies worked for me? 
  • What study habits will I try and improve next week?

I hope all of this information allows you to understand metacognition for kids. Try spotting your child using that little voice. Use the strategies above to help improve their metacognitive thinking and metacognitive skills. Doing so will help metacognition improve. 

Learn more about how easy it is to develop your child’s metacognition, check out my

Executive Skills Foundation Guide or Executive Skills Workshops