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How to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills

KidStock / Blend Images / Getty Images

  • Steps to Follow
  • Allow Consequences

Whether your child can't find their math homework or has forgotten their lunch, good problem-solving skills are the key to helping them manage their life. 

A 2010 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that kids who lack problem-solving skills may be at a higher risk of depression and suicidality.   Additionally, the researchers found that teaching a child problem-solving skills can improve mental health . 

You can begin teaching basic problem-solving skills during preschool and help your child sharpen their skills into high school and beyond.

Why Problem-Solving Skills Matter

Kids face a variety of problems every day, ranging from academic difficulties to problems on the sports field. Yet few of them have a formula for solving those problems.

Kids who lack problem-solving skills may avoid taking action when faced with a problem.

Rather than put their energy into solving the problem, they may invest their time in avoiding the issue.   That's why many kids fall behind in school or struggle to maintain friendships .

Other kids who lack problem-solving skills spring into action without recognizing their choices. A child may hit a peer who cuts in front of them in line because they are not sure what else to do.  

Or, they may walk out of class when they are being teased because they can't think of any other ways to make it stop. Those impulsive choices may create even bigger problems in the long run.

The 5 Steps of Problem-Solving

Kids who feel overwhelmed or hopeless often won't attempt to address a problem. But when you give them a clear formula for solving problems, they'll feel more confident in their ability to try. Here are the steps to problem-solving:  

  • Identify the problem . Just stating the problem out loud can make a big difference for kids who are feeling stuck. Help your child state the problem, such as, "You don't have anyone to play with at recess," or "You aren't sure if you should take the advanced math class." 
  • Develop at least five possible solutions . Brainstorm possible ways to solve the problem. Emphasize that all the solutions don't necessarily need to be good ideas (at least not at this point). Help your child develop solutions if they are struggling to come up with ideas. Even a silly answer or far-fetched idea is a possible solution. The key is to help them see that with a little creativity, they can find many different potential solutions.
  • Identify the pros and cons of each solution . Help your child identify potential positive and negative consequences for each potential solution they identified. 
  • Pick a solution. Once your child has evaluated the possible positive and negative outcomes, encourage them to pick a solution.
  • Test it out . Tell them to try a solution and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, they can always try another solution from the list that they developed in step two. 

Practice Solving Problems

When problems arise, don’t rush to solve your child’s problems for them. Instead, help them walk through the problem-solving steps. Offer guidance when they need assistance, but encourage them to solve problems on their own. If they are unable to come up with a solution, step in and help them think of some. But don't automatically tell them what to do. 

When you encounter behavioral issues, use a problem-solving approach. Sit down together and say, "You've been having difficulty getting your homework done lately. Let's problem-solve this together." You might still need to offer a consequence for misbehavior, but make it clear that you're invested in looking for a solution so they can do better next time. 

Use a problem-solving approach to help your child become more independent.

If they forgot to pack their soccer cleats for practice, ask, "What can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?" Let them try to develop some solutions on their own.

Kids often develop creative solutions. So they might say, "I'll write a note and stick it on my door so I'll remember to pack them before I leave," or "I'll pack my bag the night before and I'll keep a checklist to remind me what needs to go in my bag." 

Provide plenty of praise when your child practices their problem-solving skills.  

Allow for Natural Consequences

Natural consequences  may also teach problem-solving skills. So when it's appropriate, allow your child to face the natural consequences of their action. Just make sure it's safe to do so. 

For example, let your teenager spend all of their money during the first 10 minutes you're at an amusement park if that's what they want. Then, let them go for the rest of the day without any spending money.

This can lead to a discussion about problem-solving to help them make a better choice next time. Consider these natural consequences as a teachable moment to help work together on problem-solving.

Becker-Weidman EG, Jacobs RH, Reinecke MA, Silva SG, March JS. Social problem-solving among adolescents treated for depression . Behav Res Ther . 2010;48(1):11-18. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.08.006

Pakarinen E, Kiuru N, Lerkkanen M-K, Poikkeus A-M, Ahonen T, Nurmi J-E. Instructional support predicts childrens task avoidance in kindergarten .  Early Child Res Q . 2011;26(3):376-386. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.11.003

Schell A, Albers L, von Kries R, Hillenbrand C, Hennemann T. Preventing behavioral disorders via supporting social and emotional competence at preschool age .  Dtsch Arztebl Int . 2015;112(39):647–654. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2015.0647

Cheng SC, She HC, Huang LY. The impact of problem-solving instruction on middle school students’ physical science learning: Interplays of knowledge, reasoning, and problem solving . EJMSTE . 2018;14(3):731-743.

Vlachou A, Stavroussi P. Promoting social inclusion: A structured intervention for enhancing interpersonal problem‐solving skills in children with mild intellectual disabilities . Support Learn . 2016;31(1):27-45. doi:10.1111/1467-9604.12112

Öğülmüş S, Kargı E. The interpersonal cognitive problem solving approach for preschoolers .  Turkish J Educ . 2015;4(17347):19-28. doi:10.19128/turje.181093

American Academy of Pediatrics. What's the best way to discipline my child? .

Kashani-Vahid L, Afrooz G, Shokoohi-Yekta M, Kharrazi K, Ghobari B. Can a creative interpersonal problem solving program improve creative thinking in gifted elementary students? .  Think Skills Creat . 2017;24:175-185. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2017.02.011

Shokoohi-Yekta M, Malayeri SA. Effects of advanced parenting training on children's behavioral problems and family problem solving .  Procedia Soc Behav Sci . 2015;205:676-680. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.09.106

By Amy Morin, LCSW Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.

Raleigh Preschool

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Preschooler’s Problem-Solving Skills

As an adult, you make many decisions throughout your day without even thinking twice about some– from setting up the coffee machine at home to avoiding the long line at the drive-thru that can make you late to work to having a difficult but necessary conversation with your partner about finances. These are just a few examples of problem-solving skills and how you adapt to the situations around you and use your skills to exist on personal, professional, and social levels. 

While some problem-solving skills are innate, your ability to access a situation and take a course of action is based on the fact that when you were a child, the adults around you taught you problem-solving skills. Our Raleigh early-childhood development center is sharing our best advice for anyone looking to strengthen their pre-schoolers problem-solving skills. 

How to teach problem solving skills to preschoolers in Raleigh, NC.

What is Problem Solving in Early Childhood?

Problem-solving refers to the ability to find a solution to a problem. For preschool-aged children, this can be difficult to learn if not modeled for them through the appropriate ways to react to the issues they face. 

For instance, if two children are playing with a toy and one pushes the other in an effort to take the toy, this is clearly an inappropriate way to react to the problem. Furthermore, screaming or yelling for the child to give them the toy is also not a proper way to solve the issue. To model mature and proper problem-solving skills, adults around the child should be practicing the concept of sharing, patience, and communication while avoiding physical and emotional reactions when they don’t get what they want.

When the child learns that they can ask the other child, “Can I play with the toy next?” or understand the concept that another child was playing with the toy first, they are exhibiting the ability to problem solve. 

Why is it Important to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Early Childhood?

Children aged 3 to 5 are developmentally experiencing growth in the following areas: 

  • Cognitive 
  • Emotional 
  • Language 
  • Sensory 
  • Motor 

Because this time for preschoolers is so substantial to their intellectual, emotional, and social development, the world around them can seem overwhelming, unfair, intimidating, and even confusing. By modeling and teaching problem-solving skills to preschoolers , they can learn how to react logically, think creatively, communicate their needs, and assess how best to react to a situation at hand. 

How Can You Teach Problem Solving Skills to Your Children?

It is the responsibility of the adults who raise and teach children to provide kids with opportunities to strengthen their problem-solving skills in early childhood. If you are a parent, guardian, childcare provider, or early-childhood educator, it’s important to consider the best strategies for helping little ones adapt to the world around them and learn problem-solving skills. And remember, it can be frustrating when things do not work out as expected for anyone at any age, particularly for preschool-aged children who are just learning to adapt to their surroundings. 

When teaching your preschool-aged child how to problem solve, consider these four steps that are used in early-childhood classrooms : 

  • Identify the problem
  • Brainstorm solutions to the problem
  • Choose and implement one of the solutions
  • Evaluate how that solution resolved the problem

Following this four-step guideline can help the adults in a preschooler’s life address how a child acquires problem-solving techniques to help them navigate through the difficult and everyday situations that arise. 

When teaching problem-solving, focus on developing these key skills that relate to problem-solving: 

  • Lateral thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Persistence
  • Negotiation
  • Logical thinking
  • Analytical thinking

10 Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers

You know that you want to guide your child through developing and strengthening strategies for problem-solving, but where do you begin? Our early-childhood development school is sharing some of our favorite ways to incorporate problem-solving activities into your life so that you can teach your child to grow on a personal and social level. 

#1 – Use Everyday Moments

You do not need a textbook or outline of how to teach your preschooler problem-solving. Simply using everyday moments to demonstrate problem-solving techniques is more useful than any “how to” book or homework assignment can teach your child. 

Going to the grocery store, driving in the car, making dinner at home, and cleaning the house are all everyday opportunities to present your child with decisions related to problem-solving. Having your child put ingredients away in the pantry while you cook, asking your child what aisle at the supermarket they think you can find a particular item, or seeing that there is a mess of toys and supplies and directing the child to initiate where they should be placed prior to starting a new activity are ways to integrate problem-solving into everyday moments. 

#2 – Look to the Child for the Solution

As your child grows up, they will not always have you by their side to solve each and every problem that arises. From issues with friends, future relationships, and future careers, the child you raise will one day become an independent adult who needs to problem-solve on their own. 

Asking children to weigh in for solutions to problems as they arise is one way to get them thinking critically early on in life. When a child is taught to not only assess an obstacle but to trust their own decision-making abilities to resolve a problem, they will be better equipped for success as they get older. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

#3 – Solve Mathematical Problems

Mathematics is a great way to engage children at an early age in problem-solving and solution-making activities. Math is logical and non-emotional, having very clear set rules and boundaries with a single solution is one prime example of problem-solving. When children are given age-appropriate mathematical problems and math word problems, they are given opportunities to troubleshoot and follow an order of operation that leads to a solution.

#4 – Ask Open-Ended Questions

As adults, we often find that the most convenient way to get through the day when caring for a preschooler is to complete tasks for them so that we can get on with our busy day. However, it’s important to pause and present your child with the opportunity to find their own solutions to problems they are faced with by using open-ended questions. 

For instance, your child cannot find their favorite pair of shoes. Rather than tear the house apart on your own looking for them, present the child with a question: “Where did you last wear those shoes?” or “When did you last see your shoes?” This requires your child to consider where they last may have placed them. Additionally, a question like, “If we can’t find those shoes right now, you’ll need to choose a different pair to wear so we aren’t late.” guides them toward finding an alternative solution to the problem. 

Giving children the opportunity to find their own solutions to issues that arise by asking open-ended questions equips them with problem-solving skills they will need throughout life when things do not always go as planned. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

#5 – Puzzles and Board Games

Puzzles and board games, much like math equations, allow children to use their cognitive problem-solving abilities to complete tasks in a fun and unique way. Pre-schoolers are often drawn to images and visual learning components as well as interactive play. Putting puzzles together allows for pattern recognition, while board games allow for interactive problem-solving techniques to be utilized through a set of rules. Incorporating puzzles and games into the lives of children are excellent ways to get them to think critically and find solutions that offer immediate results. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

#6 – Read Books and Tell Stories

Books and storytelling are always exceptional ways to build vocabulary and introduce kids to characters and situations outside of their own. When children are given the opportunity to relate to characters and situations, and then address how those characters can react and engage in their conflicts and interpersonal relationships, it not only fosters imagination and creativity but also problem-solving skills. 

#7 – Center Emotions

As adults we understand that while reacting emotionally to a situation is sometimes natural, it does not get us very far when it comes to solving a problem. Children should be taught how to center those emotions, without shame or guilt by providing an alternative to emotional responses. This is often in the form of learning communication and language. 

If your son’s best friend hurt his feelings, he should not be made to feel that he shouldn’t feel how he is feeling. Having your feelings hurt, particularly by a friend, is, well, hurtful, and there should be no shame attached to that feeling. However, when it comes to addressing those hurt feelings to the friend, it would be inappropriate to shout, “I hate you!” or “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” Rather, providing your preschool-aged child with words and phrases for when their feelings are hurt is essential to emotional and social development. 

Teaching your son to tell his friend, “It hurts my feelings when you say that” or “I get sad when you are mean to me” are great ways to help children not only process their emotional feelings but express them in appropriate ways that lead to a resolution. 

#8 – Model Problem-Solving Behaviors

Children look to the adults in their lives for how to handle the problems they face in the world. If your child sees you politely ask a waiter to return a plate of food that was incorrectly served, they will learn that proper communication, respect, and patience lead to resolution. In contrast, if a child sees their parents speak rudely and blame a waiter for an incorrect order, they will learn that emotional reactions are the way to address problems. As a parent and caretaker, it is your responsibility to use mistakes, obstacles, and hardships as learning opportunities passed on to your preschool-aged children, demonstrating first-hand that non-emotional responses, kindness, and communication are the keys to getting most issues resolved. 

#9 – Break Down Problems into Chunks

As an adult, one of the ways to get through major projects at work is to set up a schedule that breaks down a large-scale project into smaller portions. Using this technique in childhood education and development is a successful way to teach children how doing one small task can lead to an overall greater, larger picture in the long run. Since a large task can seem overwhelming or even impossible, breaking it down into smaller, easily achievable pieces that will eventually lead to the full, complete picture is a wonderful way to help children of any age, but particularly preschool-aged, tackle large issues without feeling the weight of the big picture.

#10 – Utilize Natural Curiosities and Interests 

Using natural, organic opportunities for learning and problem-solving is always one of the best ways to foster creativity as well as logical and analytical thinking. All children are naturally drawn to some interest– whether it’s unicorns, dinosaurs, airplanes, trucks, or the color blue… every child has something that they become naturally drawn to, often to the surprise of their parents. 

For example, maybe every time your daughter sees the mailman drop off the mail, she is fascinated. Maybe her face lit up with interest and excitement to check what was left in the mailbox today. This is an opportunity to ask questions that lead to analytical thinking and problem-solving. Inquiring, “what does the mail carrier drop off at other houses?” or teaching the concept of writing a letter to grandma and how it goes through the mail can continue to foster interests while teaching logical steps, planning, and problem-solving techniques. 

Enroll Your Child in an Interactive Preschool Care System 

It’s no secret that when a child is at preschool age they are naturally curious and soak up all the information around them. By teaching your child problem-solving skills, they are better equipped to handle the everyday struggles the world has to face. However, the professionals at our preschool development center understand that busy working schedules, multiple children, and life’s responsibilities do not always make it easy for parents to dedicate time to fostering and strengthening problem-solving skills in their children. 

If you have a preschool-aged child who will benefit from emotional, social, and personal development related to problem-solving, contact Primary Beginnings to enroll your child in our 5-star preschool program in Raleigh. 

Contact us today at 919-790-6888 for our Spring Forest Rd. location or 919-785-0303 for our North Hills Dr. location, or fill out our contact form below. 

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Discovery Play with Littles

Discovery Play with Littles

2:01 pm ·

15 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I looked over to her table and she’s crying. Again. While everyone else is happily working away, she sat there, unable to move, just crying. 

Not asking for help.

Not trying to solve her problem.

Just crying.

I took a deep breath before heading over. We’ve already been at this for several months…isn’t it about time the problem-solving has kicked in yet?

One glance and I could tell what her problem was. She didn’t have her pencil.

Know how I knew?

It laid on the floor beside her. In plain sight.

As a kindergarten teacher, I don’t jump right in and solve problems for kids. It’s good for them to try to solve the problem themselves. This is something she struggled with. 

I reminded myself of the need for patience and empathy as I walked up to her. “What’s wrong, Amanda?” 

“I…can’t…find…my…pencil….” she sputtered out between sobs. 

“Ok, that’s a problem we can solve. What have you tried?” 

“I don’t know.” 

After a long time trying to first, calm her down, and second, come up with some strategies she could try, she finally found her pencil. At that point, everyone else had finished the project. 

Toddlers playing with wooden blocks

What is Problem Solving?

Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution to your problem . This can be quite tricky for some young children, especially those with little experience in finding more than one way to solve a problem.

Why is Problem Solving Important? 

Problem-solving skills are used throughout childhood into adulthood. As adults, we solve problems on a daily basis. Some problems we solve without thinking much- I wanted to make tacos for dinner but forgot to buy the ground beef. What are we going to have for dinner now?

Other problems are significantly more complicated. 

Problems for kiddos can be problems with friendships, the inability to find something that’s needed, or even what to do when things don’t go your way. 

Kids who lack problem-solving skills struggle to maintain friendships or even begin to attempt to solve their own problems. 

Children who lack problem-solving skills are at a higher risk for depression as well.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are:

  • Breaking Down a Problem into Smaller Parts
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Perseverance

That’s a big list to teach toddlers and preschoolers. Where do you begin?

The Problem-Solving Steps

Sometimes kids are so overwhelmed with frustration that it affects their ability to solve problems.

Kids feel safe in routines, and routines help them learn and grow. After a few times of repeating this routine, you’ll find your kiddo starts to do this on their own. 

It’s important not to skip straight to solving the problem , because your kiddo needs to be in a calm state of mind to solve the problem, and also they need to know their feelings are valid. 

  • The first thing to do when your kiddo is struggling with problem-solving is to validate their emotions.

In doing this, they will feel more understood and learn that their emotions are okay. There are no bad feelings, and we must learn how to manage our emotions. 

This might sound something like “Oh, I can see you are really frustrated that the block won’t fit on there right. Let’s take some deep breaths to help us calm down before we think about what to do next.”

  • Next, work through your calm-down process . This may be taking some deep breaths together, hugging a stuffie, or giving your kiddo some quiet time to calm down their heart and mind.
  • Identify the problem . This sounds like something you may have already done (before the meltdown) but it’s important to be very clear on the problem you’re solving. Have the child tell you their problem out loud.
  • Move on to solution-finding . When your kiddo is ready, talk about what the problem is and three possible solutions. When possible, let your kiddo do all of the talking. This allows him to practice his problem-solving skills. It’s important to remind him that the first thing he tries may not work, and that’s ok. There’s always another way to solve the problem. If he’s prepared for this, solutions that don’t work won’t be such a frustrating experience. 
  • After you’ve done that, test your solutions one by one. See what works. If you haven’t found a solution yet, go back and think of different ways you might be able to solve your problem and try again.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Are you tired of hearing “It’s TOO HARD!” followed by a meltdown?

Using this one simple phrase you’ll get in this powerful lesson, you’ll not only be able to help your kiddo not give up but you’ll:

>Activate their superpower of perseverance so that they can turn around a meltdown and keep trying

>Inspire them to use perseverance …even when it’s hard

>Teach them to recognize the warning signs of giving up , and how to turn it around by taking control of their choices.

Grab your powerful FREE video lesson to teach your kiddo one of the most powerful keys to perseverance.

Powerful Activities that Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Toddlers & Preschoolers

These activities below may look simple, but don’t let that deter you from trying them. A lot happens in little developing brains and these powerful activities help toddlers and preschoolers make connections and develop {many} essential skills-more than just problem-solving.

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Puzzles are fun and a great way to encourage cognitive development in children. They are great for spacial reasoning and strengthening problem-solving skills. They also develop memory skills, critical thinking, and the ability to plan and execute the plan. Toddlers will enjoy the simple puzzles, and preschoolers will do great with floor puzzles with larger puzzle pieces.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Doing Simple Chores

Doing simple chores is a great way to teach children problem-solving skills, and it strengthens responsibility and perseverance as well. 

During the toddler years , you may start with just picking up their toys, or helping you put their dirty clothes in the hamper. 

Preschoolers can take their dirty dishes to the sink (or load them in the dishwasher), collect the trash, dust, wipe baseboards, and do their own personal care items like making their bed, taking care of their dirty clothes, and putting clean clothes away.

Stacking Rings

When watching a toddler play with stacking rings it doesn’t look like much is happening, but playing with these toys is full of ways to encourage development. It helps with visual and spacial perception and planning ahead, but it also with balance control, crossing the midline, creative play, and gross motor skills. Not to mention it’s a great opportunity to practice problem-solving. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Playing Hide-and-Seek

Hide and seek has many surprising benefits for kids. Playing hide and seek is like a treasure hunt that helps develop gross motor skills and encourages physical development, as well as problem-solving skills. It also helps young children develop visual tracking, working memory, and social-emotional skills.

Preschooler playing construction worker

Imaginative Play

Imaginative play (also called role-play) builds important skills. Through pretending to be in different situations, kids develop social skills, emotional skills, better communication, and problem-solving skills. Imaginative play is a great idea for young toddlers all the way to older children.

Free Play 

Many young children don’t have {enough} time for free play. Free play is important for healthy brain development , not only developing imagination, cooperation, physical skills, and independence but also providing a great opportunity to strengthen problem-solving skills. 

Playing with Wooden Blocks

Building blocks are a fun way for children to develop creative thinking, imagination, problem-solving, fine motor skills, and if working with others, cooperation, communication, and friendship.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Playing Memory

Memory games improve attention, focus, visual recognition, and concentration. It helps children recognize details and of course, strengthens problem-solving skills. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Ask Questions

When I see my son struggling with something, my first instinct is to give him choices or at least lead him in the right direction. The better thing to do is to ask very open-ended questions that lead his process, not his thoughts.

Questions like “What’s one way to solve your problem?” are much more effective in teaching problem-solving skills than “Well, where did you last see your stuffy?” 

Read Books and Social Stories

Reading books is one of my favorite ways to teach any skill. It’s extremely effective at teaching, and it’s also an amazing bonding time with kids.

When we read stories, our brain reacts as if we’re living in the story. This is why reading books about skills such as problem-solving is so effective. 

Kids of all ages learn from the people they love . (Yes, even those older kids who you don’t think are paying attention.) Often as adults, we’re too busy going through our daily routine to think about talking about the way we solved the problem at work that day.

Talking about how you use skills such as problem-solving, perseverance, and integrity is a great way to set an example, and an expectation that this is how we do things, and it will provide encouragement for your kiddo to do the same.

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are a great group activity that can strengthen your child’s logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

When Your Kiddo is Ready, Add These Activities

Preschoolers would benefit from all of the fun activities on the list above and when they’re ready, feel free to add in the following activities.   

Mazes are great for problem-solving and perseverance, but your kiddo will need to have decent fine motor skills to do these activities. Mazes are one of our favorite activities. We love to take our activity book of mazes in the car with us for road trips. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Board Games  

Board games are a good way to strengthen problem-solving, teamwork, planning skills, patience, sportsmanship, and communication skills. They also strengthen family relationships by providing some intentional time of connection .

Any board game can also be turned into an academic game with just a deck of cards for whatever skill you’re working on. If you’re working on the alphabet, put one letter on each card. Before each player’s turn, they draw a letter card and say the letter’s name. (You may accidentally forget the name of a letter every now and then to see if your kiddo is really paying attention!) 

Allow Opportunities for Hands-On Investigations

Kids are tactile. They love to touch and explore things with their hands. This is a good activity for toddlers also, as long as they are out of the putting everything in their mouth stage. Hands-on exploration is great for language development, sensory exploration, and problem-solving.

Allowing kids to investigate with their hands allows them to see how the world works up close. It also gives them time and space to try to make things work…and problem-solve when it doesn’t go as they think it should.

The Most Difficult Way (and Most Important Way) To Strengthen Problem-Solving Skills

Watching our kids struggle is hard ! We don’t want to see them having a hard time…and most of the time we don’t want to deal with the impending meltdown. Standing back and giving our kids time and space to work through even simple problems is hard to do. It’s also the most important way to strengthen problem-solving skills. 

As parents, we’re like frogs in boiling water. When our kids are infants, they need us to recognize their needs and solve them immediately. As they get older, they can point to what they want, but we still have a lot of interpreting and problem-solving to do on our own. If we aren’t careful, we stay in this stage and don’t teach our kiddos the steps to problem-solving for themselves. 

The next most difficult thing? Allowing natural consequences to happen. (As long as your child is safe of course.) If your child saves their money for a long time to buy a new toy, but walks down the toy aisle and picks up something you know they’ll be disappointed with, let it happen. It will teach a valuable lesson that will last for years to come.

Another Essential Part of Problem-Solving

Perseverance is a big part of problem-solving. We are rarely able to solve problems the first time, and it’s essential that kids can find more than one solution to a problem. Studies have found that perseverance is actually the biggest predictor of success, even more than aptitude or raw talent. 

An entire module is dedicated to perseverance in our course for kids, Super Kid Adventures . Your kiddo will get 25 teacher-led lessons on character traits (perseverance, empathy, friendship, responsibility, and wellness) and activities that take their learning further. 

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Problem Solving for Preschoolers: 9 Ways to Strengthen Their Skills

By Carrie Mesrobian on 12/20/2021

Photo of an adult interacting with preschoolers who are coloring and asking questions.

As an adult, you likely run into dozens of small issues every day that require problem-solving skills. While you might not give much thought to the process of figuring out the best way to put groceries away or how to run errands without backtracking all over town anymore, these basic problem-solving abilities weren’t always so simple. You refined these skills as a child with practice and guidance from adults.

Building problem-solving skills in preschool-age children is a foundational duty of all parents and early childhood educators. But it can be easy to lose sight of how to incorporate these skills, especially when family life gets hectic or classrooms become busy.

For some fresh perspective on how to look at problem solving from a preschooler lens, we asked several experts in the early childhood education (ECE) field how they teach skills in their own classrooms. Read on for some insight on helping the young ones in your life figure out creative and workable solutions.

9 Tried-and-true ways to develop problem-solving skills in preschoolers

1. use everyday moments.

The handy thing about teaching problem-solving skills at this age is that there are no textbooks, worksheets or special equipment involved. Every day, normal situations provide all the materials you’ll need to practice.

“Parents can help their children develop problem-solving skills through ongoing interactions with their children throughout their day,” explains Paula Polito, owner of Beary Cherry Tree Child Development Center. “At home, in the grocery store and in everyday routines, such as mealtime or bath time.”

Rebecah Freeling, parent coach and child behavior expert at Wits’ End Parenting ®, believes household chores are an excellent way to teach problem solving.

“Housework is a matter of solving one problem after another. All these things go wrong when you’re doing housework,” Freeling explains. “Kids get this idea that problems are no big deal. Problems happen all the time and we just solve them.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean making a chore chart, though Freeling says some kids respond well to them. Instead, she encourages parents to try to integrate kids into the everyday maintenance of the home, and when possible, work alongside them.

“Say, ‘What would you like to be in charge of today?’” Freeling advises. “It’s the difference between getting to do something versus having to do it.”

While a grocery store trip can sometimes be a stressful rush, there are infinite opportunities to practice problem solving, says Dr. Elizabeth DeWitt, senior curriculum and implementation specialist at Learning Without Tears . DeWitt suggests using a list or a recipe of ingredients and asking your child to help you find certain items.

“Say, ‘I have this recipe that says we need chicken, rice and soup. I see chicken and soup in our cart. What are we missing? What could we or should we add?’” DeWitt says.

Taking the time to simply talk children through the thought process—no matter how simple it seems—helps reinforce and show them how you came to that conclusion.

2. Ask open-ended questions

As in the grocery store situation, just asking questions is a powerful way to foster both problem solving and creativity in young children.

“When your child comes across a difficult task, like zipping their coat, it can often be faster and easier to stop what you're doing and zip it for them,” says Becky Loftfield, an ECE teacher at Community of Saints Preschool .

If a child says, “I can't do this,” Loftfield advises asking “how come?” This lets them answer in their own words. “Asking ‘how come’ usually works better than ‘why’ for young children,” Loftfield adds.

Pausing to listen to the child’s explanation of the problem in their own words guides what happens next.

“Perhaps they don't know how zippers line up at the bottom for the mechanism to slide,” says Loftfield. “Maybe the zipper itself is too small for them to grip. Encourage your child to explore what the problem actually is beyond ‘I can't zip my coat.’”

Polito also believes in the power of conversational questions to build problem-solving skills.

“For example, parents can ask a child to explain why they did something a certain way,” Polito explains. “Providing hints to children as opposed to giving them the answer is also another way for children to think deeper about a concept.”

“We promote more learning when we allow them to think through the question,” Polito says.

3. Center emotions

All problem solving involves emotions. In the zipping-up-the-coat situation, a child might act frustrated, get angry or start crying. Handling the emotion is often the key to the child sorting out the situation, as well as learning that they are capable of finding solutions.

“We are not born knowing how to solve problems or having the vocabulary to express our feelings,” says Torri Parker, a pre-K instructor at Aspen Academy . “Often I hear a student telling another child ‘You’re not my friend,’ when what the child is meaning is that they are hurt by something their friend did, or they would like some space.”

Parker suggests picture books that focus on emotions and offer multiple ways to express them can be a powerful way to help kids not only problem solve but also identify emotions in their peers and develop greater empathy.

“By providing the words needed to convey those feelings, a child learns what that feeling feels like and can then have the vocabulary in the future to solve a conflict like that,” Parker says.

4. Read books and tell stories

Sometimes, not having to tackle a problem that’s happening in the moment is a good way to practice these skills. This is where reading books and telling stories come into play.

“Books have the opportunity to build incredible social-emotional skills,” DeWitt says. Not only are kids looking for solutions to the characters’ problems, they’re also building vocabulary, narrative skills and critical thinking as well.

Nicole Evert, a pre-K teacher and ECE trainer at Creating Butterflies, recommends the use of “ social stories ” for preschool problem solving.

“A social story introduces a problem, then shows successful ways to solve the problem,” Evert explains. “Sometimes a social story will include silly pages that show how to not solve the problem.”

Social stories can be especially helpful for children with anxiety about certain activities or routines, as well as kids with disabilities.

“Parents and educators can even make their own social stories using pictures of the specific child and their environment, which can be so powerful,” adds Evert.

5. Take advantage of natural curiosities and interests

One approach to helping young children practice problem-solving skills is in the discovery of something they are authentically interested in learning about. Adam Cole, music director at The Willow School , explains his school’s Reggio Emilia -inspired philosophy where a teacher gives students “provocations.”

“Provocations are opportunities for them to encounter something for which they may then express further interest,” Cole explains. “For instance, a teacher may set up a drawing provocation, and the children may draw buildings. The teacher may pick up on this and talk with the children about buildings, asking how they are built and where they can find more. This may lead to research or trips to see buildings and will continue on until the thread plays itself out.”

Because the focus is centered on topics or activities that already capture the child’s interest, the problem-solving aspect is more meaningful and compelling for many children. Because the teacher works alongside the child to problem solve, it offers space for the teacher to ask questions and encourage further creativity.

“This is an organic way to learn to solve problems, bolstered by the intrinsic desire of the child to learn more,” Cole adds.

6. Model problem solving

Preschoolers are always observing our behavior as parents and teachers.

“Given that 90% of brain development occurs between birth and four years of age, we have an opportunity during these preschool years to set our children up for success,” says Polito.

It may seem obvious, but our strategies and methods provide kids with in-the-moment examples of how to handle life with things go wrong.

“From a teaching perspective, you can think, ‘I’m teaching this child how to be who they are, how to live life,’” says Freeling. “A spill derails you a bit. So, stop and ask the child, ‘How should I clean this up?’”

Loftfield agrees. “Parents and educators can act as guides for a child’s experience, demonstrating how they problem solve and modeling what they want to see.”

This doesn’t mean that the adult must do everything perfectly or without emotions, however. Managing feelings is all part of learning to problem solve. “Allow time for mistakes, time for meltdowns and time for celebration,” Loftfield advises.

7. Look to the child for the solution

This last one might seem counter to number six above, but Freeling believes that parents and teachers can help children learn to problem solve by removing themselves from the process.

“Moving past your instincts to fix or smooth over problems helps a lot,” Freeling says. “Project the kid’s age in your mind. Think of a 25-year-old graduating from college. I want them to be able to ask for a higher salary, to vocalize what they want. You’re not just getting kids to be obedient—you’re teaching them how to negotiate the world.”

This is why Freeling advises adults to try coming into a problem-solving situation with children without a ready-made solution. She offers an example: there’s only one red truck, and two children both want to play with it.

“You’re really looking to the child and trusting their thinking and intelligence for solutions you hadn’t thought of,” Freeling says. She recommends repeating questions until the kids come to a decision and as long as no one’s at risk of injury, standing by the children’s solution.

“They might say, ‘We have to paint all the trucks red, since everyone wants a red truck,’” Freeling says. This might seem odd to an adult. But the point is to make the children a vital part of the creative process instead of just getting them to comply with the adult’s idea.

Developing empathy also factors into this scenario, especially in situations where problems stem from hurt feelings or other emotional conflicts. Freeling believes that finding ways to make restitution to others they’ve hurt is a better practice than forcing kids to apologize. She suggests having a child draw a picture of something the upset child likes as a way to make amends and help them recognize the other’s individuality.

“We don’t want kids to feel guilt for hurting someone; we want them to feel compassion,” Freeling says. “And solving problems in a relationship requires empathy.”

Is an early childhood education career right for you?

Enjoying the process of seeing life through a little one’s eyes? Early childhood education is an exciting, dynamic field full of creativity and potential to positively impact the lives of children and their families. If helping kids learn and grow sounds like something you’d be good at, check out our article “9 Signs You Should Be Teaching Preschool.”

Related Articles: 

Working with Defiant Preschoolers: What Educators Should Know

Wits’ End Parenting is a registered trademark of Wits’ End Parenting, Inc. This program does not prepare students for licensed teaching positions in elementary or secondary schools . A Bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license are typically required to work as a teacher in most school settings; however, states, municipalities, districts or individual schools may have more stringent licensing requirements. Childcare facilities and states establish qualifications for staff who work with children, and often implement guidelines regarding age, education, experience and professional development. Students must determine the licensure requirements for the state and facilities in which they intend to work.

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Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie is a freelance copywriter at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles, on behalf of Rasmussen University, to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.


Posted in Early Childhood Education

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Empowered Parents

10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

By: Author Tanja McIlroy

Posted on Last updated: 7 April 2024

Categories Activities for Preschoolers & Kindergarteners

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

During the first years of a child’s life, an important set of cognitive skills known as problem-solving abilities are developed. These skills are used throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Find out what problem solving is, why it’s important and how you can develop these skills with 10 problem-solving games and activities.

What is Problem Solving in Early Childhood?

So, what exactly is problem solving? Quite simply, it refers to the process of finding a solution to a problem .

A person uses their own knowledge and experience, as well as the information at hand to try and reach a solution. Problem solving is therefore about the thought processes involved in finding a solution.

This could be as complex as an adult working out how to get out of a financial crisis or as simple as a child working out how two blocks fit together.

Problem Solving Skills for Kids

Problem-solving skills refer to the specific thinking skills a person uses when faced with a challenge. Some problems require the use of many skills, while others are simple and may only require one or two skills.

These are some examples of problem-solving skills for preschoolers , as listed by kent.ac.uk .

  • Lateral thinking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Decision-making skills
  • Logical reasoning
  • Persistence
  • Communication skills
  • Negotiation skills

The Importance of Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Early Childhood

Problem solving is a skill that would be difficult to suddenly develop as an adult. While you can still improve a skill at any age, the majority of learning occurs during the early years.

Boy thinking about a problem

Preschool is the best time for a child to learn to problem solve in a fun way. The benefits of learning early will last a lifetime and the beauty of learning anything at a young age is that it is effortless .

It is like learning to play an instrument or picking up a new language – it’s just much easier and more natural at an early age.

Of all the many things preschoolers need to learn , what makes problem solving so important?

There aren’t many situations in life, at work or at school that don’t require some level of problem resolution.

Child’s play itself is filled with opportunity upon opportunity to solve all kinds of tricky situations and come up with solutions to challenges.

Problem Solving in Preschool

During the foundational years, children are constantly solving problems as they play .

Here are just a few examples of problem solving in early childhood :

  • Resolving a fight over the same toy
  • Reaching a ball that’s stuck in the tree
  • Forming a circle while holding hands
  • Making a bridge to connect two block towers
  • Tying or untying a shoe
  • Making up rules for a new game
  • Trying to get the consistency of a mud cake right so it stops falling over

The more creative play opportunities and challenges children are given, the more they get to exercise their problem-solving muscles.

During free play , there are non-stop experiences for this, and parents and teachers can also encourage specific problem-solving skills through guided activities .

Problem Solving for Older Children

During the grades, children experience problems in many forms, some of which may be related to their academic, social and emotional well-being at school. Problems may come in the form of dealing with life issues, such as:

  • Problems with friendships
  • Struggling to understand something during a lesson
  • Learning to balance the demands of sport and homework
  • Finding the best way to study for a test
  • Asking a teacher for help when needed

Problems will also form a large part of academic life as teachers will be actively developing this skill through various activities, for example:

  • Solving a riddle or understanding a work of literature
  • Working on projects with a friend
  • Finding solutions during science experiments
  • Solving mathematical problems
  • Solving hypothetical problems during lessons
  • Answering questions and completing exam papers

Children who have had practice during preschool will be a lot more capable when facing these challenges.

Solving Problems in Mathematics

Mathematics needs to be mentioned separately as although it is part of schooling, it is such a huge part and it depends heavily on a child’s ability to solve problems.

The entire subject of mathematics is based on solving problems. Whether you are adding 2 and 3, working out how many eggs will fit into each basket, or solving an algebraic expression, there is a problem in every question.

Mathematics is just a series of problems that need to be solved.

What we refer to as problem solving in Maths is usually answering word problems .

The reason many children find these so difficult to answer is that the question is presented as a problem through a story, rather than just numbers with symbols telling you what operation to use (addition, division, etc.)

This means a child is forced to think carefully, understand the problem and determine the best way to solve it.

These problems can involve various units (e.g. mass, capacity or currency) as well as fractions, decimals, equations and angles, to name a few. Problems tend to become more and more complex over the years.

My experience in the classroom has shown that many, many children struggle with solving word problems, from the early grades right into the senior years.

They struggle to analyze the question, understand it, determine what information they’ve been given, and what exactly they are required to solve.

The good news is that exposing a child to regular problem-solving activities and games in preschool can greatly help him to solve word problems later on in school.

If you need one good reason to do these kinds of activities, let it be for a smoother experience in mathematics – a subject so many children unnecessarily fear.

Problem Solving in the Workplace

Lady at work doing problem solving

Adults in the workplace seldom thrive without problem-solving skills. They are required to regularly solve problems .

As adults, employees are expected to independently deal with the frequent challenges, setbacks and problems that are a big part of every working environment.

Those who can face and solve their own problems will go further and cope better than those who seek constant help from others or cannot show initiative.

Some  career websites even refer to problem solving as a universal job skill. They also mention that many employees are not good at it. 

Again, although it may seem far removed, learning this skill at a young age will help a child cope right into adulthood and in the working world.

Pinterest image - 10 simple activities to teach problem solving.

How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills

If early childhood is the best time to grow these skills in your young children, then how does one go about teaching them to toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners?

Mom and child constructing

Problem solving can be taught in such a way that you expose your child to various opportunities where they will be faced with challenges.

You would not necessarily sit your 3-year-old down and tell or “teach” him all about fixing problems. Instead, you want to create opportunities for your child to grow this skill .

Using the brain to think and find solutions is a bit like working a muscle over time. Eventually, your muscle gets stronger and can handle more “ weight. ” Your child will learn to problem solve in two ways:

  • Incidentally – through free play
  • Through guided opportunities provided by a parent or teacher

If you make a point of encouraging thinking through games and activities, your child will develop stronger skills than if you let it all happen incidentally.

Problem-Solving Strategies and Steps

If we take a look at the steps involved in solving a problem, we can see that there are many layers involved and different types of skills. Here are the problem-solving steps according to the University of Ken. 

Step 1: Identify the problem

Step 2: Define the problem

Step 3: Examine the options

Step 4: Act on a plan

Step 5: Look at the consequences

Therefore, activities at a preschool level need not present complicated high-level problems.

  • A simple activity such as identifying differences in a picture can work on the first skill needed – identifying a problem.
  • Playing with construction toys can develop a child’s ability to try various solutions and examine the options when faced with a problem such as trying to find the best way to build something.
  • Playing Tic-Tac-Toe would make a child predict the consequences of placing their mark in a particular square.

The most basic of activities can work on all these skills and make children competent solution finders.

How to Teach Problem Solving with Questions

The language you use around your child and your questioning technique will also greatly affect their understanding of a problem or challenge as merely something waiting for a solution to be found .

While your child is playing or when she comes to you with a problem, ask open-ended questions that will guide her in finding a potential answer independently. Use the steps listed above to formulate your questions.

Here are some examples of questions:

  • What do you think made the tower of blocks fall down?
  • If we build it again, how can we change the structure so that it won’t fall down next time?
  • Is there a better way we can do it? If you think of a different way, we can both try it and see which works better.
  • Did that work? The tower fell again so let’s try another solution.

Resist the temptation to fix every one of your child’s problems, including conflict with friends or siblings. These are important opportunities for children to learn how to resolve things by negotiating, thinking and reasoning.

With time, your child will get used to seeing a problem, understanding it, weighing up the options, taking action and evaluating the consequences.

Problems will be seen as challenges to be faced logically and not “problems.”

This post contains affiliate links for educational products that I personally recommend. If you purchase through one of them, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the terms and conditions for more details.

10 Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Here are 10 simple, easy games and problem solving activities for kids at home or at school. Many of them are the kinds of activities children should have daily exposure to.

Puzzles are one of the best thinking activities out there. Each puzzle is basically one big set of muddled-up things to be sorted out and put back together again. Find out why puzzles are important for development .

Children should have regular exposure to puzzles. They are great for developing thinking skills.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

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2. Memory games

Memory games will develop your child’s memory and attention to detail.

Get your own memory game cards by downloading the FREE set of printables at the end of the post.

Use pairs of matching pictures and turn them all face down, shuffled, on a table. Take turns choosing any two cards and turning them face up on the table. If you turn over a matching pair you keep the cards and if the pair doesn’t match, turn the cards back over until it is your turn to try again.

Encourage your child to concentrate and pay attention to where the pictures are and try to find a matching pair on each turn. 

3. Building with Construction Toys

Construction toys such as engineering blocks, a proper set of wooden blocks or Legos (shown below) should be a daily staple in your home.

Everything your child builds is a challenge because it requires thinking about what to build and how to put the pieces together to get a design that works and is functional.

Leave your child to construct freely and occasionally set a challenge and ask him to build a specific structure, with conditions. For example:

  • Make two towers with a bridge joining them together
  • Build a creature that stands on its own and has 3 arms.

Then watch your child wracking his brain until he finds a way to make his structure work.

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4.  Activity Books

These activity books are really fun and develop a child’s ability to identify problems and search for information.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

  • Pomaska, Anna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

  • Handford, Martin (Author)

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  • Books, Webber (Author)

5. Following Patterns

This simple activity can be played with a set of coloured blocks, shapes or counters.

Simply make a pattern with the blocks and ask your child to continue it. Vary the pattern by changing the colours, shapes or sizes.

This activity will train your child to analyse the given information, make sense of it, recognise the pattern and re-create it.

6. Story Time Questions

Get into the habit of asking questions during your daily story time that develop higher-order thinking skills . Instead of just reading and your child passively listening, ask questions throughout, concentrating on solving problems.

Here are some examples:

  • Why do you think the bear did that?
  • Do you think his friend will be happy? Why?
  • What would you do if you were the monkey?
  • How do you think Peter can make things better with his friend?
  • If the crocodile had decided not to eat the rabbit, how could the story have ended?

7. Board Games

Board games are an excellent way to develop problem-solving skills.

Start off with simple games like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to teach the skill of following rules and moving in a logical sequence.

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how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Card games like Go Fish are also great for teaching young children to think ahead and solve problems.

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8.  Tic-Tac-Toe

This is a perfect game to teach decision-making skills , thinking before acting and weighing up the possible consequences.

Tic-tac-toe game

Use a Tic Tac Toe Board or d raw a simple table like the one above on paper or a chalkboard.

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Take turns to add a nought or a cross to the table and see who can make a row of three first.

Your child will probably catch on in no time and start thinking carefully before placing their symbol. This game can also be played with coloured counters or different objects.

9. Classifying and Grouping Activities

This activity can be done with a tin of buttons or beads or even by unpacking the dishwasher. The idea is to teach the skill of classifying and categorizing information by learning with physical objects. Here are some other ideas for categorizing:

  • Separate the washing – mom’s clothes, dad’s clothes, etc; or socks, tops, shorts, etc.
  • Empty out the cutlery drawer for cleaning, mix all the utensils up and then sort into knives, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.
  • Classify and sort out the toys in your child’s bedroom together – all books, construction toys, soft toys, etc.
  • Play category games .

Here are more button activities for kids .

10. Building a Maze

This activity is lots of fun and suitable for any age. It is also going to be way more fun than doing a maze in an activity book, especially for younger children.

Draw a big maze on the paving with sidewalk chalk . Make passages, including one or two that end in a dead-end. Teach your child to find her way out .

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As your child gets better at figuring out a route and finding the way out, make the maze more complex and add more dead-end passages.

Are you a preschool teacher or working in Early Childhood Education? Would you like to receive regular emails with useful tips and play-based activity ideas to try with your children? Sign up for the newsletter!

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Friday 3rd of June 2022

hi maam , This Is Uma from India,Can i get this in pdf format or a book. Thank You

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 6th of June 2022

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How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens

  • By Ashley Cullins

Whether it’s a toy-related conflict, a tough math equation, or negative peer pressure, kids of ALL ages face problems and challenges on a daily basis.

As parents or teachers, we can’t always be there to solve every problem for our children. In fact, this isn’t our job. Our job is to TEACH our children how to solve problems by themselves . This way, they can become confident , independent, and successful individuals.

Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, kids with problem-solving skills manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist until they find a solution. Naturally, these abilities go hand-in-hand with a  growth mindset .

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit . With these 10 one-page parenting guides, you will know exactly how to speak to your child to help them stand up for themselves, be more confident, and develop a growth mindset.

So HOW do you teach problem-solving skills to kids?

Well, it depends on their age . As cognitive abilities and the size of the child’s challenges grow/evolve over time, so should your approach to teaching problem-solving skills.

Read on to learn key strategies for teaching problem-solving to kids, as well as some age-by-age ideas and activities.

How to teach problem solving skills by age group

3 General Strategies to Teach Problem-Solving at Any Age

1. model effective problem-solving .

When YOU encounter a challenge, do a “think-aloud” for the benefit of your child. MODEL how to apply the same problem-solving skills you’ve been working on together, giving the real-world examples that she can implement in her own life.

At the same time, show your child a willingness to make mistakes . Everyone encounters problems, and that’s okay. Sometimes the first solution you try won’t work, and that’s okay too!  

When you model problem-solving, explain that there are some things that are out of our control. As we're solving a problem at hand we should focus on the things we CAN actually control.

You and your child can listen to Episode 35  of the Big Life Kids Podcast to learn about focusing on what you can control.

2. Ask for Advice

Ask your kids for advice when you have a problem. This teaches them that it’s common to make mistakes and face challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to practice problem-solving skills.

Plus, when you indicate that their ideas are valued ,  they’ll gain the confidence to attempt solving problems on their own.

3. Don’t Provide “The Answer”

As difficult as it may be, allow your child to struggle, sometimes fail , and ultimately LEARN  from experiencing consequences.

Now, let’s take a look at some age-specific strategies and activities. The ages listed below are general guidelines, feel free to choose any strategies or activities that you feel will work for YOUR child.

Use Emotion Coaching

To step into a problem-solving mindset, young children need to first learn to  manage their emotions . After all, it’s difficult for a small child to logically consider solutions to a problem if he’s mid-tantrum.

One way to accomplish this is by using the  emotion coaching process  outlined by John Gottman.

First,  teach your kids that ALL emotions are acceptable. There are NO “bad” emotions. Even seemingly negative emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration can teach us valuable lessons. What matters is how we  respond  to these emotions.

Second,   follow this process:

  • Step One: Naming and validating emotions.  When your child is upset, help her process the way she’s feeling. Say something like,  “I understand that you’re upset because Jessica is playing with the toy you wanted.”
  • Step Two:   Processing  emotions.  Guide your child to her  calming space. If she doesn't have one, it's a good idea to create one.  Let her calm her body and process her emotions so she can problem-solve, learn, and grow. 
  • Step Three: Problem Solving.  Brainstorm solutions with your child, doing more   LISTENING   than talking during the conversation. This allows your child to practice her problem-solving skills, and she’s more likely to actually implement the solutions she came up with herself.

Say, “Show Me the Hard Part”

When your child struggles or feels frustrated, try a technique suggested by mom and parenting blogger Lauren Tamm . Simply say, “Show me the hard part.”

This helps your child identify the ROOT   of the problem, making it less intimidating and easier to solve.

Repeat back what your child says,  “So you’re saying…”

Once you both understand the real problem, prompt your child to come up with solutions . “There must be some way you can fix that…” or  “There must be something you can do…”

Now that your child has identified “the hard part,” she’ll likely be able to come up with a solution. If not, help her brainstorm some ideas. You may try asking the question, “If you DID  know, what would you think?” and see what she comes up with.

Problem-Solve with Creative Play

Allow your child to choose activities and games based on her  interests . Free play provides plenty of opportunities to navigate and creatively solve problems.

Children often learn best through play. Playing with items like blocks, simple puzzles, and dress-up clothes can teach your child the process of problem-solving.

Even while playing, your child thinks critically:  Where does this puzzle piece fit? What does this do? I want to dress up as a queen. What should I wear?   Where did I put my tiara? Is it under the couch?

Problem-Solve with Storybooks

Read age-appropriate stories featuring characters who experience problems, such as:

  • Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Jacky Davis: The story of two friends who want to play together but can’t find a game to agree on. After taking turns making suggestions, they arrive at a game they both want to play: Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy.
  • The Curious George Series by Margaret and H.E. Rey: A curious little monkey gets into and out of dilemmas, teaching kids to find solutions to problems of their own.
  • Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber: Ira’s thrilled to have a sleepover at his friend Reggie’s house. But there’s one problem: Should he or should he not bring his teddy bear? It may seem small, but this is the type of early social problem your child might relate to.

Connect these experiences to similar events in your child’s own life, and ASK your child HOW the characters in these stories could solve their problems. Encourage a variety of solutions, and discuss the possible outcomes of each.

This is a form of dialogue reading , or actively ENGAGING   your child in the reading experience. Interacting with the text instead of passively listening can “turbocharge” the development of literacy skills such as comprehension in preschool-aged children.

By asking questions about the characters’ challenges, you can also give your child’s problem-solving abilities a boost.

You can even have your child role-play the problem and potential solutions to reinforce the lesson.  

For book suggestions, refer to our Top 85 Growth Mindset Books for Children & Adults list.

Teach the Problem-Solving Steps

Come up with a simple problem-solving process for your child, one that you can consistently implement. For example, you might try the following five steps:

  • Step 1: What am I feeling?  Help your child understand what she’s feeling in the moment (frustration, anger, curiosity, disappointment, excitement, etc.)  Noticing and naming emotions will diffuse  their charge and give your child a chance to take a step back.
  • Step 2: What’s the problem?  Guide your child to identify the specific problem. In most cases, help her take responsibility for what happened rather than pointing fingers. For instance, instead of, “Joey got me in trouble at recess,” your child might say, “I got in trouble at recess for arguing with Joey.”
  • Step 3:   What are the solutions?  Encourage your child to come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, they don’t even need to be “good” solutions. They’re just brainstorming here, not yet evaluating the ideas they’ve generated.
  • Step 4: What would happen if…? What would happen if your child attempted each of these solutions? Is the solution safe and fair? How will it make others feel? You can also try role-playing at this step. It’s important for your child to consider BOTH  positive and negative consequences of her actions.
  • Step 5: Which one will I try?  Ask your child to pick one or more solutions to try. If the solution didn't work, discuss WHY and move on to another one. Encourage your child to keep trying until the problem is solved. 

Consistently practice these steps so that they become second nature, and model solving problems of your own the same way.  It's a good idea to   reflect :   What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?

Problem-Solve with Craft Materials

Crafting is another form of play that can teach kids to solve problems creatively.

Provide your child with markers, modeling clay, cardboard boxes, tape, paper, etc. They’ll come up with all sorts of interesting creations and inventive games with these simple materials.

These “open-ended toys” don’t have a “right way to play,” allowing your child to get creative and generate ideas independently .

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions improves a child’s ability to think critically and creatively, ultimately making them better problem-solvers. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • How could we work together to solve this?
  • How did you work it out? or How do you know that?
  • Tell me about what you built, made, or created.
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What do you think would happen if…?
  • What did you learn?
  • What was easy? What was hard?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Open-ended questions have no right answer and can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”

You can ask open-ended questions even when your child isn’t currently solving a problem to help her practice her thinking skills, which will come in handy when she does have a problem to solve.

If you need some tips on how to encourage a growth mindset in your child, don't forget to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit .

Free Your Words Matter Printable Kit

Break Down Problems into Chunks

This strategy is a more advanced version of “Show me the hard part.”

The bigger your child gets, the bigger her problems get too. When your child is facing a challenge that seems overwhelming or insurmountable, encourage her to break it into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For instance, let’s say your child has a poor grade in history class. Why is the grade so low? What are the causes of this problem?

As usual, LISTEN as your child brainstorms, asking open-ended questions to help if she gets stuck.

If the low grade is the result of missing assignments, perhaps your child can make a list of these assignments and tackle them one at a time. Or if tests are the issue, what’s causing your child to struggle on exams?

Perhaps she’s distracted by friends in the class, has trouble asking for help, and doesn’t spend enough time studying at home. Once you’ve identified these “chunks,” help your child tackle them one at a time until the problem is solved.

Show “ The Broken Escalator Video ”

Discuss the importance of embracing challenges and solving problems independently with the “broken escalator video.”

In the video, an escalator unexpectedly breaks. The people on the escalator are “stuck” and yelling for help. At this age, it’s likely that your child will find the video funny and immediately offer a solution: “Just walk! Get off the escalator!”

Tell your child that this is a simple example of how people sometimes act in difficult situations. Ask, “Why do you think they didn’t get off the escalator?” (they didn’t know how, they were waiting for help, etc.)

Sometimes, your child might feel “stuck” when facing problems. They may stop and ask for help before even attempting to find a solution. Encourage your child to embrace challenges and work through problems instead.

Problem-Solve with Prompts

Provide your child or a group of children with materials such as straws, cotton balls, yarn, clothespins, tape, paper clips, sticky notes, Popsicle sticks, etc.

With just these materials, challenge your kids to solve unusual problems like:

  • Make a leprechaun trap
  • Create a jump ramp for cars
  • Design your own game with rules
  • Make a device for two people to communicate with one another

This is a fun way to practice critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Most likely, it will take multiple attempts to find a solution that works, which can apply to just about any aspect of life.

Make Them Work for It

When your child asks for a new toy, technology, or clothes, have her make a plan to obtain the desired item herself. Not only will your child have to brainstorm and evaluate solutions, but she’ll also gain confidence .

Ask your child HOW she can earn the money for the item that she wants, and encourage her as she works toward her goal .

Put It on Paper

Have your child write out their problems on paper and brainstorm some potential solutions.

But now, she takes this process a step further: After attempting each solution, which succeeded? Which were unsuccessful? Why ?

This helps your child reflect on various outcomes, learning what works and what doesn’t. The lessons she learns here will be useful when she encounters similar problems in the future.

Play Chess Together

Learning to play chess is a great way for kids to learn problem-solving AND build their brains at the same time. It requires players to use critical thinking, creativity, analysis of the board, recognize patterns, and more. There are online versions of the game, books on how to play, videos, and other resources. Don’t know how to play? Learn with your teen to connect and problem solve together!

Have Them Learn To Code

Our teens and tweens are already tech-savvy and can use their skills to solve problems by learning to code. Coding promotes creativity, logic, planning, and persistence . There are many great tools and online or in-person programs that can boost your child’s coding skills.

Encourage to Start a Meaningful Project

This project has to be meaningful to your teen, for example starting a YouTube channel. Your teen will practice problem-solving skills as they’re figuring out how to grow their audience, how to have their videos discovered, and much more. 

In the Big Life Journal - Teen Edition , there’s a section that guides them through planning their YouTube channel and beginning the problem-solving process.

Apply the SODAS Method

Looking for a game plan that your teen can employ when faced with a problem? The SODAS method can be used for big or small problems. Just remember this simple acronym and follow these ideas:

  • D isadvantages
  • A dvantages

Encourage to Join Problem-Solving Groups

Does your teen enjoy solving problems in a team? Have them join a group or club that helps them hone their skills in a variety of settings--from science and robotics to debating and international affairs. Some examples of groups include: 

  • Odyssey of the Mind
  • Debate team
  • Science Olympiad

Looking for additional resources?  The Bestseller’s Bundle includes our three most popular printable kits packed with science-based activities, guides, and crafts for children. Our Growth Mindset Kit, Resilience Kit, and Challenges Kit work together as a comprehensive system designed specifically for children ages 5-11.

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25 thoughts on “ How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens ”


I love, love, love the point about emotional coaching. It’s so important to identify how children are feeling about a problem and then approach the solutions accordingly.

Thank you for putting this together. I wrote an article on problem-solving specifically from the point of view of developing a STEM aptitude in kids, if you like to check it out – https://kidpillar.com/how-to-teach-problem-solving-to-your-kids-5-8-years/


I feel that these techniques will work for my kid.. Worthy.. Thank you


I love you guys

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Mastery Motivation: Persistence and Problem Solving in Preschool

Child enjoying math activities.

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Mastery motivation is persistence—continuing to do or to try to do something that is difficult—at mastering challenging tasks or activities.

Problem solving is natural for preschoolers. As teachers know, everyday routines can bring difficult challenges, like learning how to zip up a coat or ask for help before frustration sets in. Each challenge builds children’s skills in different areas of development: language, social and emotional, cognitive, and physical. But sometimes a problem can seem too challenging.

You may have seen this scenario play out in your classroom: Two preschoolers are trying to solve the same puzzle. Both make a mistake, but while one child gives up, the other child keeps trying different ways to solve the puzzle. Early childhood researchers call this persistence at mastering challenging tasks  mastery motivation , and it plays a key role in children’s learning and in their later academic achievement. Early childhood teachers are in a great position to help children foster this important skill.

Here are five ways to support mastery motivation:

  • Provide lots of different types of challenging activities, like math games that have more than one way to solve a problem.
  • Support children’s independence and let them make their own choices in activities or during play.
  • Try to resist the urge to fix the problem—it can take away children’s sense that they are capable problem solvers.
  • Do provide gentle guidance when frustration starts to set in, such as holding the puzzle board steady while a child adds a puzzle piece or offering a well-timed, “What if you turned that piece the other way?”
  • Give children positive feedback by praising the problem-solving process and encouraging them to keep trying.

We know that children who are not provided with challenging activities or who receive negative or harsh feedback tend to show less mastery motivation. The same holds true for children receiving praise like “You’re so smart” and children whose environment is overly controlling.

When teachers appreciate children’s efforts, children learn that working hard and persisting are positive behaviors. As children grow, they will face more and more difficult problems. They need to know that it’s okay to struggle—it’s part of the learning process.

Photo © EDC

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Jessica Mercer Young  is a research scientist and developmental and educational psychologist specializing in early learning at Education Development Center.

Kristen E. Reed,  project director at EDC, has worked as a teacher, curriculum developer, professional development facilitator, and researcher. For more ways to make math engaging, challenging, and fun, visit ym.edc.org .  [email protected]

Vol. 11, No. 1

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Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: 10+ Games, Activities & Worksheets

Teaching Problem Solving Skills for Kids is about more than just solving math problems or deciding who gets the last piece of pizza. It’s about preparing them for real life, where they face many situations every day that require quick and effective decision-making.

It’s important for parents and educators to guide children to think creatively and keep trying, rather than solving every problem for them.

For example, if two children want the same toy, instead of deciding for them, encourage them to talk and come up with a sharing plan. This approach not only solves the immediate issue but also teaches valuable lessons in negotiation and fairness.

Kids who learn problem-solving skills become good at seeing challenges as chances to learn and grow, not just obstacles.

Table of Contents

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Think about a time when you had a messy pile of shoelaces or blocks. It might have seemed tough at first, but then you figured out how to sort it all step by step. That’s problem-solving!

Problem-solving skills are like superpowers for handling all kinds of challenges. Whether it’s sharing toys with friends or choosing a game that everyone enjoys, these skills help you find smart solutions.

It’s not just about solving problems.

It’s about understanding them, thinking creatively, and sometimes working together.

So, the next time you face a tricky puzzle or situation, remember you’re ready to use your problem-solving skills.

Are you ready to be a problem-solving hero?

Why Kids Need Problem-Solving Skills?

Imagine you’re on a team, tasked with building the tallest tower using blocks. Everyone has ideas, but how do you choose the best one? This is where problem-solving skills are essential.

Problem-solving is not just about figuring things out by yourself; it involves teamwork, understanding various perspectives, and finding solutions that satisfy everyone. It’s like being a detective in everyday life, solving puzzles that make life smoother and more enjoyable for you and your friends.

Being good at solving problems means you can better manage difficult situations, like sharing fairly or adjusting when plans change. This skill boosts your independence and confidence because you know you can tackle any challenge.

Plus, excellent problem solvers are valuable team members and friends that everyone appreciates.

Building Resilience

When children tackle problems and figure out solutions, they become more resilient. This resilience allows them to recover from difficulties and adopt a positive, growth-focused attitude.

As children handle more challenges by themselves, they start to see problems as hidden opportunities.

Fostering Independence

Problem-solving skills help kids become more independent. By learning to think critically and make their own decisions, children grow to rely on themselves.

This self-reliance is key to becoming a responsible adult. When parents and teachers support these skills, they empower kids to manage their own lives.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration involve kids working together to find solutions and reach goals. It teaches them to share ideas, listen to each other, and work as a team.

During problem-solving, they come up with ideas, talk about them, and choose the best one. Everyone plays a part and their ideas are important.

Teamwork helps kids learn to cooperate, respect different opinions, and use each other’s strengths. This way, they can overcome challenges and come up with creative solutions together.

Academic Success

Helping kids succeed in school is about more than just learning facts. it’s about teaching them how to solve problems. These skills allow kids to think deeply, understand different situations, and come up with solutions on their own.

Through group projects, tough puzzles, and hands-on experiences, kids learn to face challenges with creativity and determination.

As they get better at solving problems, they become more confident and flexible, which helps them do well in school and encourages a lasting passion for learning.

Types of Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills for kids include critical thinking, creativity, and resilience. They learn to analyze complex problems by breaking them into smaller parts. Creativity helps them think of different solutions.

Being able to communicate well allows them to share ideas and work with others. Persistence and resilience teach them to keep going, even when things get tough.

These skills help children confidently solve problems on their own, which helps them grow and develop.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is all about seeing things from a new perspective. When kids learn to think creatively, they can come up with innovative solutions to problems.

This skill is valuable not just in academics but in all areas of life.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing information and evaluating different solutions. It’s essential for problem-solving because it helps kids make informed decisions.

Teaching kids to ask questions, seek evidence, and consider different viewpoints enhances their critical thinking skills .

Decision Making

Decision-making is the process of choosing between different options. This skill is closely related to problem-solving because it involves weighing the pros and cons of various choices.

Helping kids understand the impact of their decisions and guiding them through the process strengthens their problem-solving abilities.

Strategies to Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Ready to help your kids learn problem-solving? It’s a valuable skill that can be enjoyable to teach. Here are some great ways to help your children become skilled problem solvers.

Start with guided play, where you create scenarios or games that pose challenges. For example, building a bridge with blocks to avoid a “lava floor” or figuring out how to share snacks equally. Guided play offers a safe environment for children to experiment and discover solutions.

Then, try story-based problem-solving. Use stories to present problems, and after reading, ask, “What would you do in this situation? ” This encourages kids to think critically and creatively about the issues in the story.

Encourage them to ask questions like “What if?” and “ Why not? ” This boosts their curiosity and enhances their problem-solving skills as they explore different outcomes.

Also, lead by example. When you encounter a problem, share your thought process out loud. Show how you consider options and consequences before making a decision.

This real-life demonstration can greatly influence their learning.

By using these strategies, you’re not only teaching your children to solve problems, you’re also equipping them with skills to handle school, friendships, and future careers

Encourage Curiosity

Encouraging kids to be curious helps them get better at solving problems. When kids are free to ask questions and find answers, they start thinking more deeply and creatively.

This is important for solving problems well. If kids have a safe space to explore and make mistakes, they learn a lot from those mistakes.

Role-Playing Activities

Role-playing activities are fun and interactive games where kids pretend to be different characters, like detectives or doctors.

They face various challenges that require them to think creatively, solve problems, and make decisions. This helps them develop important skills such as understanding situations, working together with others , and effective communication.

Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are those that kids can’t simply answer with a “yes” or “no.” They help children think creatively and critically, boosting their problem-solving abilities.

By asking such questions, adults encourage kids to express their ideas and reasoning, which deepens their understanding and helps them come up with their own solutions.

This not only improves their communication skills but also helps them see different viewpoints and explain their thoughts. Overall, this method nurtures curiosity and equips kids to approach problems with confidence and creativity.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice in problem-solving helps kids think about how they solved a problem. They learn which strategies worked and which didn’t.

This reflection helps them get better at solving problems, builds critical thinking, and teaches them to keep improving. It makes them stronger and more effective problem solvers as they grow.

Problem-Solving Games and Activities

Problem-solving games are not only fun; they’re also excellent brain training, helping you become quicker and more creative at solving problems.

Consider playing a treasure hunt where you solve riddles to find clues or building a maze for a toy car that you navigate using a straw. These activities require quick thinking, strategy, and foresight, mirroring real-life problem-solving.

Activities range from puzzles, where you piece things together, to strategic board games . Even team sports and pretend adventures teach you to observe, analyze, and act on key problem-solving skills.

Why not try these engaging games? Each puzzle you solve or strategy you perfect helps you become a better problem solver.

Ready to learn while playing? Let’s start and discover the great solutions you can create!

Puzzles and Brain Teasers

Puzzles and brain teasers are fun ways to boost kids’ problem-solving skills. These challenges can be jigsaw puzzles, tricky riddles, or math puzzles, all designed to make kids think critically and creatively.

By solving them, kids learn to break down problems, be persistent, and find different solutions.

Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, Rubik’s cubes or Riddle Generator

STEM Challenges

Set up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) challenges in which kids build structures with blocks , design paper airplanes, or create simple machines using household items.

Websites like NASA’s “STEM Activities for Kids” offer great resources.

Indoor/ Outdoor Scavenger Hunt:

Create a scavenger hunt in your backyard or a nearby park. Give kids a list of items to find or clues to follow, encouraging teamwork and problem-solving.

Learn More here at : Indoor scavenger Hunt , Nature Scavenger Hunt . Halloween Scavenger hunt

Scenario-based Activities

While problem-solving activities are fantastic for developing cognitive skills, it’s equally crucial to equip kids with the tools to handle social challenges.

One way to cultivate these skills is by engaging kids in scenario-based activities. Present various social situations and ask, “What will you do?” Then, offer four alternatives to choose from. like

  • Your friend wants to play with your favorite toy, but you don’t want to share it. What will you do?
  • During recess, you notice a classmate sitting alone and looking sad. What will you do?
  • Someone in your class is being teased by others. What will you do?
  • Your friend borrowed a book from you and accidentally ripped a page. What will you do?
  • You’re playing a game with your friends, but one of them keeps cheating. What will you do?

These scenarios cover a range of social interactions and dilemmas. Allow kids to give their own Perspectives on each. Offering alternatives will ease their thinking process. Here is the “What will you do?” Worksheet to download and use.

Science Experiments:

Conduct simple science experiments at home that involve problem-solving, like creating a DIY volcano or testing the buoyancy of different objects.

Here is the list,

  • Sink or Float
  • Paper Airplane Engineering
  • DIY Volcano
  • Magnetic Attraction
  • Color Changing Milk
  • Gummy Bear Osmosis
  • DIY Rainbow

Board Games:

Play board games that require strategic thinking and decision-making, such as chess, checkers, or strategy-based card games like Uno or Settlers of Catan. here is the List

  • Settlers of Catan Junior
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Robot Turtles
  • Rush Hour Junior
  • Forbidden Island

Art Challenges:

Give kids art challenges like drawing a picture using only geometric shapes or creating a sculpture from recycled materials. This encourages creative problem-solving and thinking outside the box. Like

  • Collage Making With magazines, colored paper, fabric scraps, buttons, and beads
  • Painting with Unconventional Tools Like sponges, cotton swabs, toothbrushes, or even vegetables
  • Found Object Sculptures Like twigs, stones, bottle caps, and cardboard.
  • Story Illustration
  • Mosaic Art With cardboard or wood
  • Shadow Drawing
  • Tape Resist Art on on a canvas or paper

Escape Room Challenges :

Design a DIY escape room at home with age-appropriate puzzles and riddles. Kids can work together to solve clues and unlock the “escape.”

Trial and Error

Trial and error is a fantastic way for Kids to learn and explore new things. Just like we navigate the complexities of new gadgets, kids can dive into the world of toys and games with curiosity and determination.

Instead of giving kids all the instructions upfront, encourage them to experiment with different ingredients and techniques.

The kid might make a mess or burn a few pancakes along the way, but through trial and error, [he/she] will gradually learn how to whip up delicious meals.

Problem-solving skills are essential for kids to grow and succeed. These skills help children become strong, independent, and skilled.

Parents and educators can teach problem-solving through fun methods like role-playing , games, or asking open-ended questions .

It’s important to equip kids with the right tools so they can confidently and creatively face any challenge.

😍 Want to Read More, Explore 👇 This Article

I’m a former teacher (and mother of Two Childs) with a background in child development. Here to help you with play-based learning activities for kids. ( Check my  Next startup  Cledemy.Com )

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How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Your Child: A Guide for Every Age

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Problem-solving is a vital skill that every child should develop as they grow. The ability to problem-solve effectively can not only enhance their performance in school, but is also a critical life skill that will help them navigate life’s challenges successfully as they reach young adulthood. 

Developing effective problem-solving skills at an earlier age can also greatly affect a child’s personality, confidence, and trust in themselves. Children who feel like they can handle challenges on their own tend to be more independent and well-adjusted in their environments, and also optimistic about the opportunities available to them later in life. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of teaching problem-solving skills to your child and provide practical tips for different age groups - from preschoolers to teenagers. 

Why Should You Teach Problem-Solving Skills? An Overview of the Benefits

Teaching your child problem-solving skills offers them the advantage of building resiliency at an earlier age. This can help shape them into independent, self-sufficient individuals as they grow up. Below is a summary of a few key developmental abilities that problem-solving skills can help children practice.

1. Cognitive Development

Problem-solving stimulates a child’s critical thinking skills. Critical thinking involves analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information.

The process of problem-solving encourages children to gather information, weigh their options, think about the pros and cons, and make thoughtful decisions. Through this process, they practice becoming self-informed to make their judgments independently. This also helps them foster creative thinking, explore different perspectives and ideas, and develop their own strategies for this process.

2. Confidence Building

Self-confidence is built from the experiences where we demonstrate our capabilities in doing and achieving things. 

A child who studied hard and got an A on their test will feel more confident in their studying skills the next time an exam rolls around. 

If this child grew up with loving parents, caregivers, and a supportive community, they’ll most likely feel more secure in themselves and have an easier time making new friends and connections as they mature. 

The positive experiences that a child has reinforces the confidence in their abilities and self-esteem. By practicing problem solving skills early on, it challenges them to develop a stronger sense of reasoning, responsibility, autonomy, and sense of trust in themselves. All of which can lead to a more optimistic outlook on life, healthier relationships, and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. 

3. Adaptability

The challenges in life are plenty, and not something that we can protect our children from all of the time. One of the most important tools that we can equip our children with for their future success is for them to be adaptable in the face of adversity. 

It’s important for children to know that they are able to keep going during tough times, rather than letting it keep them stuck. Knowing how to effectively problem-solve can help them see adversity in a different perspective and find different solutions for it, while building the resilience for them to keep trying. 

4. Decision Making

For every individual, feeling confident in making decisions independently is key to leading a fulfilling life, and is a skill that many children may struggle with. This is heavily related to how well they know themselves, their confidence with their choices, and what they think would bring them closer to their life goals.  

“Is nursing or accounting the right profession for me? Should I date this person? Does this religion align with my values? Are these the right people to develop friendships with?”

These are all major life decisions, and choosing what is right for them in their life is crucial for their success. Learning how to problem-solve at a young age can help along in this process by letting them explore their values, flex their sense of judgment, and learn about what is meaningful and right for them.

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Tips for Teaching Problem-Solving Skills at Every Age

Pre-school Age

Preschoolers often look to their caregivers as role models, so modelling effective problem-solving is key for them to observe and learn. 


1. Set a good example

Demonstrate positive problem-solving behaviour through your daily actions. Instead of becoming frustrated and angry, try to approach problems with calm behaviour and demonstrate logical thinking. 

For example:

  • If you’re feeling angry, take a deep breath and try to keep calm by verbally reminding yourself, in front of your child, of a way to work through the problem such as:
  • “I know I am angry right now, but letting it get the best of me will make me feel worse.”
  • “I’m allowed to feel angry, but it’s not good for me to hold onto this feeling. I’m going to take a 10 minute break and try to calm down.”
  • “I am so angry right now, but for my own peace of mind I choose to let it go.”
  • “Being angry won’t help me think better to solve this problem.”

Your child will be able to observe how you worked through your problem. This also sets a good example for how to work through difficult emotion, redirect your thinking, and move forward from situations.

2. Incorporate play

You can use playtime to help children express and understand their emotions when it comes to problems. 

If they’re lashing out, help them understand if they are angry or sad. What caused this? Can they self-regulate after a period of intense emotions, or do they hold onto it? 

Here are some prompts to use:

  • “Do you like playing with this toy?”
  • “What are you feeling right now? Are you frustrated because of [toy]?”
  • “I understand you’re feeling [emotion]. Figuring out this toy is tough, but I believe you can do it!”
  • “You don’t have to play with this if you don’t want to.”
  • “If you need help, please ask me politely and I can for sure give you a hand!” 

In middle childhood, children start to develop more complex problem-solving skills. 

1. Use Family Problems

Involve your child in solving simple family problems, like organizing chores or planning activities. This will help them foster a greater sense of responsibility, learn to accept feedback, and practice their critical thinking and judgment. 

Some appropriate topics could include:

  • Brushing their teeth
  • Putting toys away
  • Choosing their own outfits
  • Practicing manners - teaching when to say please, thank you, you’re welcome, hellos and goodbyes, sorry, excuse me, waiting their turn, etc.

2. Teach Step-by-Step

Introduce steps to problem solve - state the problem, brainstorm solutions, decide which is best, try it out, and review. 

Using homework, for example, try breaking down the problem into steps for them. It could look like this:

1. Identify the Problem:

  • Homework is piling up, and your child is feeling overwhelmed! What can we do?

2. Brainstorm Solutions:

  • Ask for help from a teacher or classmate?
  • Try to manage time better
  • Break down homework into smaller, more manageable parts.

3. Make a Decision:

  • Create a schedule or a task list
  • As a friend for tips
  • Choose one subject to start with

4. Give it a Go:

  • Follow the schedule
  • Try out the study tips 
  • Complete things in parts

5. Review and Reflect:

  • What worked well - schedule or study tips?
  • What didn’t work out well - did you procrastinate?
  • Adjust and approach the next task differently. 

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Teenagers are refining their critical thinking and decision-making skills. Children at this age are becoming more independent and learning about themselves in relation to their peers and greater community. They are looking for how they fit into the world, and also how they stand out. 

1. Involve them in Simple Chores

Engage teenagers in simple chores so they can practice responsibilities, learn to use logic and judgement, and grow their independence.

Some appropriate topics could include: 

  • How to make a simple meal (fried eggs, salad)
  • Packing their own school lunch
  • Help to mow the lawn or shovel snow
  • When to do laundry
  • How to vacuum

2. Actively Encourage Independence

Encourage and allow them the space to solve problems on their own. If they don’t know what to pack for lunch, give them a few minutes to make a decision independently rather than jumping in and making suggestions for them. If they still need help afterward, try to provide light guidance and not be judgemental about their decisions. 

General Strategies for All Ages:

1. Role Play: 

Encourage role-playing scenarios where your child can apply problem-solving skills learned. This helps them practice problem-solving in a controlled and fun environment.

Set up a pretend “lost toy” scenario and encourage your child to figure it out. Help them with their thought process, such as where they last saw the toy, and where to look for it first. 

2. Skill Teaching: 

Break down the problem-solving steps according to their age. 

  • For 3 - 5 year olds, try to focus on emotions. Teach them to recognize and express their feelings and provide them with an environment that is safe and free of judgment.
  • For 5 - 7 year olds, discuss their thoughts and encourage them to consider different perspectives. 
  • For 7 - 9 year olds, ask them questions that challenge and stimulate their critical thinking, such as “Why do you think this happened” or “What may be a better way to approach this problem?”

3. Encourage Independence:  

Support your child in solving their own problems to foster independence and resilience.

If your child is fighting with a friend, guide them towards figuring out a solution themselves. Ask questions such as “Is there anything you could have done differently?” or “If they hurt you, do you think you can forgive them?” 

Final Words

Teaching problem-solving skills to your child is an investment in their future success. By adapting the strategies to their age, providing guidance, and encouraging independence, you empower them to navigate life’s challenges with confidence and resilience. Start early, be a positive role model, and watch as your child develops into a capable and confident problem-solver. 

To learn more about problem solving, or other practical parenting tips, see our parenting classes:

Parenting Classes

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Center for Teaching

Teaching problem solving.

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Tips and Techniques

Expert vs. novice problem solvers, communicate.

  • Have students  identify specific problems, difficulties, or confusions . Don’t waste time working through problems that students already understand.
  • If students are unable to articulate their concerns, determine where they are having trouble by  asking them to identify the specific concepts or principles associated with the problem.
  • In a one-on-one tutoring session, ask the student to  work his/her problem out loud . This slows down the thinking process, making it more accurate and allowing you to access understanding.
  • When working with larger groups you can ask students to provide a written “two-column solution.” Have students write up their solution to a problem by putting all their calculations in one column and all of their reasoning (in complete sentences) in the other column. This helps them to think critically about their own problem solving and helps you to more easily identify where they may be having problems. Two-Column Solution (Math) Two-Column Solution (Physics)

Encourage Independence

  • Model the problem solving process rather than just giving students the answer. As you work through the problem, consider how a novice might struggle with the concepts and make your thinking clear
  • Have students work through problems on their own. Ask directing questions or give helpful suggestions, but  provide only minimal assistance and only when needed to overcome obstacles.
  • Don’t fear  group work ! Students can frequently help each other, and talking about a problem helps them think more critically about the steps needed to solve the problem. Additionally, group work helps students realize that problems often have multiple solution strategies, some that might be more effective than others

Be sensitive

  • Frequently, when working problems, students are unsure of themselves. This lack of confidence may hamper their learning. It is important to recognize this when students come to us for help, and to give each student some feeling of mastery. Do this by providing  positive reinforcement to let students know when they have mastered a new concept or skill.

Encourage Thoroughness and Patience

  • Try to communicate that  the process is more important than the answer so that the student learns that it is OK to not have an instant solution. This is learned through your acceptance of his/her pace of doing things, through your refusal to let anxiety pressure you into giving the right answer, and through your example of problem solving through a step-by step process.

Experts (teachers) in a particular field are often so fluent in solving problems from that field that they can find it difficult to articulate the problem solving principles and strategies they use to novices (students) in their field because these principles and strategies are second nature to the expert. To teach students problem solving skills,  a teacher should be aware of principles and strategies of good problem solving in his or her discipline .

The mathematician George Polya captured the problem solving principles and strategies he used in his discipline in the book  How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Princeton University Press, 1957). The book includes  a summary of Polya’s problem solving heuristic as well as advice on the teaching of problem solving.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

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Developing Problem-Solving Skills for Kids | Strategies & Tips

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

We've made teaching problem-solving skills for kids a whole lot easier! Keep reading and comment below with any other tips you have for your classroom!

Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: The Real Deal

Picture this: You've carefully created an assignment for your class. The step-by-step instructions are crystal clear. During class time, you walk through all the directions, and the response is awesome. Your students are ready! It's finally time for them to start working individually and then... 8 hands shoot up with questions. You hear one student mumble in the distance, "Wait, I don't get this" followed by the dreaded, "What are we supposed to be doing again?"

When I was a new computer science teacher, I would have this exact situation happen. As a result, I would end up scrambling to help each individual student with their problems until half the class period was eaten up. I assumed that in order for my students to learn best, I needed to be there to help answer questions immediately so they could move forward and complete the assignment.

Here's what I wish I had known when I started teaching coding to elementary students - the process of grappling with an assignment's content can be more important than completing the assignment's product. That said, not every student knows how to grapple, or struggle, in order to get to the "aha!" moment and solve a problem independently. The good news is, the ability to creatively solve problems is not a fixed skill. It can be learned by students, nurtured by teachers, and practiced by everyone!

Your students are absolutely capable of navigating and solving problems on their own. Here are some strategies, tips, and resources that can help:

Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: Student Strategies

These are strategies your students can use during independent work time to become creative problem solvers.

1. Go Step-By-Step Through The Problem-Solving Sequence 

Post problem-solving anchor charts and references on your classroom wall or pin them to your Google Classroom - anything to make them accessible to students. When they ask for help, invite them to reference the charts first.

Problem-solving skills for kids made easy using the problem solving sequence.

2. Revisit Past Problems

If a student gets stuck, they should ask themself, "Have I ever seen a problem like this before? If so, how did I solve it?" Chances are, your students have tackled something similar already and can recycle the same strategies they used before to solve the problem this time around.

3. Document What Doesn’t Work

Sometimes finding the answer to a problem requires the process of elimination. Have your students attempt to solve a problem at least two different ways before reaching out to you for help. Even better, encourage them write down their "Not-The-Answers" so you can see their thought process when you do step in to support. Cool thing is, you likely won't need to! By attempting to solve a problem in multiple different ways, students will often come across the answer on their own.

4. "3 Before Me"

Let's say your students have gone through the Problem Solving Process, revisited past problems, and documented what doesn't work. Now, they know it's time to ask someone for help. Great! But before you jump into save the day, practice "3 Before Me". This means students need to ask 3 other classmates their question before asking the teacher. By doing this, students practice helpful 21st century skills like collaboration and communication, and can usually find the info they're looking for on the way.

Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: Teacher Tips

These are tips that you, the teacher, can use to support students in developing creative problem-solving skills for kids.

1. Ask Open Ended Questions

When a student asks for help, it can be tempting to give them the answer they're looking for so you can both move on. But what this actually does is prevent the student from developing the skills needed to solve the problem on their own. Instead of giving answers, try using open-ended questions and prompts. Here are some examples:

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

2. Encourage Grappling

Grappling  is everything a student might do when faced with a problem that does not have a clear solution. As explained in this article from Edutopia , this doesn't just mean perseverance! Grappling is more than that - it includes critical thinking, asking questions, observing evidence, asking more questions, forming hypotheses, and constructing a deep understanding of an issue.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

There are lots of ways to provide opportunities for grappling. Anything that includes the Engineering Design Process is a good one! Examples include:

  • Engineering or Art Projects
  • Design-thinking challenges
  • Computer science projects
  • Science experiments

3. Emphasize Process Over Product

For elementary students, reflecting on the process of solving a problem helps them develop a growth mindset . Getting an answer "wrong" doesn't need to be a bad thing! What matters most are the steps they took to get there and how they might change their approach next time. As a teacher, you can support students in learning this reflection process.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

4. Model The Strategies Yourself! 

As creative problem-solving skills for kids are being learned, there will likely be moments where they are frustrated or unsure. Here are some easy ways you can model what creative problem-solving looks and sounds like.

  • Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand something
  • Admit when don't know the correct answer
  • Talk through multiple possible outcomes for different situations 
  • Verbalize how you’re feeling when you find a problem

Practicing these strategies with your students will help create a learning environment where grappling, failing, and growing is celebrated!

Problem-Solving Skill for Kids

Did we miss any of your favorites? Comment and share them below!

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Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Problem solving is challenging for young students (and many adults too)! To support my little friends, I teach them problem solving strategies that they can use when they encounter a problem. We want our students to become independent thinkers who can solve problems, control their emotions, express empathy, and help others.

I introduce the problem solving techniques a few at a time during a class meeting. Each week, I introduce three new problem solving techniques.  We then end up with nine to twelve techniques total based on what my students need that year.  I explain the technique to the students in concrete terms so they will understand what the technique is and what it can look/sound like.

We usually start with these four skills:  “please stop”, ask, get help, and say how you feel.  Many problems can be solved with those solutions, which is why I always start with those. Then, the following week, I introduce take turns, play together, trade, and share. Then, the last four solutions the next week.

Problem Solving Techniques

Teach your students problem solving skills using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Singing with puppets is a fun and active way to practice the problem-solving techniques .  Preschoolers LOVE puppets!  This technique also allows students to role play.  Some students will be more verbal if they can pretend to be someone else.  At the end of each verse, students act out the problem-solving technique with a buddy using the puppets!As a transition activity to lunch, students took turns sharing a way they have solved a problem. You can also play, “What would you do if….”. State a real problem that could happen and have students pick a problem-solving solution to solve the problem. Some examples would be, “What would you do if your friend took your book?”, “What would you do if you got sticky glue on your hands?”, or “What would you do if you needed the red marker and your friend was coloring with it?” Once they have learned the strategies, stand back and let students try solving their own problems independently. Just a warning: this can take some time with lots of practice and support. As long as the student isn’t frustrated, let them try before you jump in to help. You will be amazed at the problems your child can solve given the opportunity to.

At first, you will be giving students lots of support and giving them the words to use to solve a problem.

  • Always approach students at their level, in a calm supporting way.
  • Ask, “what’s the problem?” If they don’t respond, comment on what you see such as “I see you have glue all over your hands and it looks sticky.”
  • Restate the problem. “So the problem is ….”
  • Brainstorm solutions and choose one together. This is the perfect time to use problem solving card visuals! “How can we solve this problem?” Flip through the solution cards and ask “Could we ….?”
  • Praise and observe! Cheer on the students for solving the problem and stay close just in case they need more support.

Throughout the day, try to make EVERYTHING a problem to solve.  Then model, talk through your thinking out loud, and use visuals to support students as they try to solve a problem. For example, I may put out a big ball of playdough in the center of the table as a small group activity. Students have to problem solve so each student has play dough to play with. It only takes few extra minutes to sneak in problem-solving situations throughout the day. Each time students help solve a problem or observe a friend solve a problem, they learn to self-regulate, express emotions appropriately, develop empathy, and develop problem-solving skills.

State problems for students who look stuck. If a student is just standing there, they need support, but don’t solve the problem for them! It’s so easy to do. Simply state their problem or what you see and ask a probing question. For example, if a student is standing with an empty bowl in their hand, you could say “Your snack spilled on the floor. How can you solve the problem?”

Problem-Solving Necklace or Mini Book!

I hole punched the small cards, put them on a book ring and keep them on a lanyard I wear every day.  This way I can support students’ solving problems without having to go to the safe place where they are posted.  I can just show the picture cards as a visual on my necklace.  The mini book in the safe place works the same way.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Safe Place!

I keep my techniques posted in my circle area at the beginning of the year AND in my safe place. My safe place is a small spot in my classroom where students can go when they are upset, need to calm down, want to be alone, or have a problem.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Once I see students using the problem-solving techniques independently, I remove them from my circle area.  They are posted in my safe place ALL YEAR LONG for students to use when they are struggling to solve a problem.  In my safe place, you will find a mirror, feeling chart, bean bag, sensory bottles, calm down choices, a stuffed animal, problem solving mini book and problem-solving techniques chart. You can read all about how to set up a safe place in your classroom HERE . Children’s Books!

These are some of my FAVORITE children’s books to teach all about problem-solving.  As we read the book, we talk about how the character is or isn’t solving the problem, how it makes the character and others feel, any natural consequences that could occur, and which one of our problem-solving strategies the character could use to solve the problem.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Do you want to use them in your classroom?  You can!  I did the work for you.  Grab them from my TPT store HERE .

LOVE it? Pin this image!

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

hey, i’m jackie!

I’m Jackie, your go-to girl for early childhood inspiration and research-based curriculum. 

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Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers BE A PROBLEM SOLVER

If you’d like to build your preschooler’s life skills, make sure that you don’t forget about helping them to be a problem solver.

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills


When your preschooler solves a problem on their own they build their self confidence, as well as learn something new. Children who learn to solve problems develop the skills they need to look at things from a different perspective, and overcome challenges. This ability can help your preschooler build healthy relationships, and be more likely to succeed when they try new things. Children who succeed when they try to accomplish a task tend to be happier, and more resilient.

For more information on the importance of your preschooler learning to be a problem solver click here.


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“Building Solutions” by How To Run A Home Daycare

Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers Be A Problem Solver

“Toy Rescue” by Team Cartwright

Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers Be A Problem Solver

“Which Holds More?” by Kindergarten Kindergarten

Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers Be A Problem Solver

“Lego Learning” by Simple Play Ideas

Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers Be A Problem Solver

“Building Challenge” by Innovation Kids Lab

Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers Be A Problem Solver

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how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Building Problem-Solving Skills for Preschoolers

Definition and significance of problem-solving skills in preschoolers, overview of typical problem-solving scenarios for preschoolers, math problem-solving activities for preschoolers, creative problem-solving games and activities, utilizing problem-solving cards for interactive learning, how to teach problem-solving to preschoolers effectively, incorporating problem-solving steps into everyday activities, role of adults in facilitating problem-solving skills, recommended problem-solving books for preschoolers, reputable online resources, using problem-solving worksheets as a learning tool, real-life problem-solving scenarios for preschoolers to navigate.

Preschool teacher and children engaging with geometric blocks to build problem-solving skills

In the early years of childhood development, problem-solving skills are foundational to cognitive growth and practical learning. This article explores engaging activities, scenarios, and resources designed to foster these critical skills in young learners. Through a variety of methods, including interactive games, math activities, and educational books, preschoolers can develop the ability to navigate challenges, leading to enhanced learning experiences and a solid foundation for future academic success.

To cultivate these essential skills in your preschooler and lay a strong foundation for their future, explore the wealth of problem-solving activities, games, and resources available. Embrace the joy of learning together and watch as your child’s problem-solving abilities flourish. Begin this exciting journey now and open a world of possibilities for your little learner!

Understanding Problem-Solving for Preschoolers

Problem-solving skills in preschoolers refer to their ability to understand a problem, think through solutions, and execute a plan to overcome it. This capability is vital for their cognitive development and helps in navigating daily challenges. Preschoolers encounter problem-solving scenarios in various forms, such as puzzles, social interactions, and play activities, where they learn to make decisions, analyze outcomes, and adapt to new situations. Engaging them in targeted problem-solving activities and games can significantly enhance these skills, preparing them for future more complex tasks and decision-making processes.

Preschoolers encounter various problem-solving scenarios daily, which are crucial for their cognitive, social, and emotional development. These scenarios typically involve challenges or situations that require them to analyze, make decisions, and find solutions. Here’s an overview of common types of problem-solving situations preschoolers might face:

  • Social Interactions: Learning to share toys, taking turns, and resolving conflicts with peers are common problems requiring negotiation and empathy.
  • Self-care Tasks: Dressing themselves, tying shoelaces, or managing basic hygiene tasks demand practical problem-solving skills and fine motor coordination.
  • Academic Challenges: Simple puzzles, building blocks, and age-appropriate educational games encourage critical thinking, pattern recognition, and logical reasoning.
  • Emotional Regulation: Identifying and managing their feelings, like frustration or sadness, when things don’t go as planned, teaching them to find constructive solutions.
  • Environmental Navigation: Overcoming physical obstacles, like reaching a high shelf or navigating a new play area, requires spatial awareness and physical judgment.

Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Proud preschool boy holding up a worksheet on the number three, showcasing early math skills

Math problem-solving activities for preschoolers should be engaging and hands-on, helping them understand basic mathematical concepts through play and exploration. Here’s a list of activities designed to enhance their math problem-solving skills:

  • Sorting and Categorizing: Children sort objects by color, size, shape, or type, which develops their ability to recognize patterns and categories.
  • Counting Games: Using toys, beads, or blocks to count aloud helps preschoolers understand numbers and quantity.
  • Simple Puzzles: Completing puzzles with different shapes and sizes teaches spatial awareness and geometric concepts.
  • Matching Activities: Pairing matching items or numbers with corresponding groups of objects enhances number recognition and counting skills.
  • Shape Hunts: Finding objects of specific shapes in their environment helps children identify and classify geometric shapes.
  • Measurement Activities: Using rulers, measuring tapes, or comparing objects directly teaches basic measurement and comparison skills.
  • Number Stories: Creating simple stories that involve addition or subtraction helps in understanding basic arithmetic operations.
  • Pattern Making: Using colored blocks or beads to create and extend patterns teaches sequencing and predictive logic.

Creative problem-solving activities encourage thinking outside the box and foster innovation. Here are some games and activities that can help develop these skills:

  • Story Building: Participants add to a story one sentence at a time, promoting creative thinking and collaborative storytelling.
  • Invention Scramble: Children use random objects to create a new invention, encouraging imaginative thinking and resourcefulness.
  • Obstacle Course: Setting up an obstacle course with specific challenges requires planning and strategy to navigate.
  • Riddle Solving: Engaging in riddles and brain teasers enhances critical thinking and comprehension skills.
  • Building Challenges: Using blocks or LEGO, children are tasked with constructing a structure based on a theme or specific requirements.
  • Role-Playing Games: Children take on different roles and scenarios, promoting empathy and creative problem-solving in social situations.
  • Art Projects: Encouraging free-form art or specific thematic projects helps in exploring creativity and expressing ideas visually.
  • Treasure Hunts: Organizing a treasure hunt with clues and challenges promotes logical reasoning and teamwork.

Problem-solving cards are a versatile tool that can be used to promote interactive learning. They typically feature scenarios, questions, or challenges that prompt learners to think critically and develop solutions. Here’s how they can be used effectively:

  • Scenario-Based Learning: Cards can present real-life situations that require learners to apply knowledge and critical thinking to solve problems.
  • Group Discussions: Using cards to initiate group discussions encourages collaboration and the sharing of diverse perspectives.
  • Role-Playing Activities : Cards can set up role-playing exercises where learners must navigate and resolve conflicts or challenges.
  • Game-Based Learning: Incorporating cards into games can make learning fun and competitive, motivating learners to engage more deeply with the content.
  • Skill Development Workshops: Cards can be used in workshops to practice specific skills, such as negotiation, decision-making, or creative thinking.

List of Necessary Elements for Utilizing Problem-Solving Cards

To effectively use problem-solving cards in interactive learning, certain elements are necessary:

  • Varied and Relevant Content: Cards should cover various topics and scenarios relevant to the learners’ experiences and learning objectives.
  • Clear and Concise Instructions: Each card should have clear, concise instructions to ensure learners understand the problem or task.
  • Adaptability: Cards should be versatile enough to be used in different teaching methods and learning environments, whether in-person or online.
  • Interactive Design: Engaging visuals and interactive elements on the cards can enhance the learning experience.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Incorporating a way to provide feedback on the solutions or discussions generated from the cards helps in assessing understanding and progress.
  • Scalability: The difficulty level of the cards should be scalable to cater to different skill levels and learning stages.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Content on the cards should be culturally sensitive and inclusive, reflecting diverse perspectives and experiences.
  • Supplementary Materials: Providing additional resources or information related to the scenarios on the cards can deepen understanding and extend learning.

Preschool children and teacher conducting a color mixing experiment, learning problem-solving

Teaching Strategies

Teaching problem-solving to preschoolers is about guiding them to think independently, make decisions, and learn from outcomes. Here’s how educators and parents can effectively teach problem-solving skills to preschoolers:

  • Model Problem-Solving Behavior: Demonstrate how to approach problems calmly and thoughtfully, talking through the process out loud.
  • Create a Safe Learning Environment: Ensure that the environment is supportive and non-judgmental, allowing children to explore solutions without fear of failure.
  • Encourage Exploration and Play: Through play, children can experiment with different solutions and learn from trial and error.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage thinking by asking questions that have no single right answer, prompting children to explore various possibilities.
  • Facilitate, Don’t Solve: Guide children through the problem-solving process, helping them think of solutions, rather than providing answers.
  • Use Storytelling: Stories can introduce problems in a relatable context, encouraging children to come up with creative solutions.
  • Encourage Teamwork: Group activities can teach children how to collaborate, share ideas, and solve problems together.
  • Teach Emotional Regulation: Help children recognize and manage their emotions, which is a critical part of solving problems effectively.

List of Necessary Elements for Teaching Problem-Solving to Preschoolers

To teach problem-solving effectively to preschoolers, certain elements are necessary:

  • Patience and Time: Problem-solving skills develop over time, requiring patience and practice.
  • Age-Appropriate Challenges: Problems should be relevant and challenging but achievable for their developmental stage.
  • Variety of Materials: Provide diverse materials and resources to stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate successes and encourage perseverance, reinforcing the value of effort and learning from mistakes.
  • Consistent Opportunities: Regularly integrate problem-solving activities into daily routines and learning experiences.
  • Clear Guidance and Support: Offer clear instructions and support to help children understand the problem-solving process.
  • Reflective Practice: Encourage children to reflect on the problem-solving process and outcomes to enhance learning.
  • Cultural and Contextual Relevance: Ensure problems and scenarios are culturally relevant and relatable to the children’s experiences.

Incorporating problem-solving steps into everyday activities offers a practical and seamless way to enhance critical thinking skills. This approach involves identifying daily tasks or challenges and using them as opportunities to practice problem-solving. 

For instance, during meal preparation, children can be involved in deciding what to cook, which ingredients are needed, and how to follow the recipe. This engages them in decision-making, sequencing, and logical thinking. 

Similarly, when faced with conflicts or decisions, guiding children through identifying the issue, brainstorming possible solutions, evaluating these options, and then implementing and reflecting on the outcome can be very effective. This method makes problem-solving a natural part of daily life and helps children learn to apply these skills autonomously, preparing them for more complex challenges as they grow.

Preschool teacher and children sorting and stringing beads, engaging in problem-solving play

Adults play a crucial role in facilitating problem-solving skills among children by acting as guides, models, and supporters. They set the stage for learning by providing appropriate challenges and resources that encourage critical thinking and experimentation. 

Through modeling problem-solving behavior—like verbalizing thought processes, showing how to evaluate options, and demonstrating persistence in the face of difficulties—adults provide a blueprint for children to follow. They also create a safe environment where children feel free to explore solutions without fear of judgment, offering guidance and encouragement rather than solutions, which promotes independence and confidence. 

Additionally, by asking open-ended questions, adults can stimulate children’s thought processes and encourage them to see problems from different angles, further developing their critical thinking and decision-making skills. Adults are vital in nurturing an atmosphere where problem-solving can thrive, guiding children to become proficient problem-solvers.

Two preschoolers reading colorful storybooks on a classroom floor, engaging in early literacy activities

Educational Resources

Books can be a fantastic resource for developing problem-solving skills in preschoolers. Here are some highly recommended titles that engage young readers in the art of problem-solving:

  • “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty: This book encourages innovation and perseverance, showing that failure is just a step towards success.
  • “Curious George” series by H.A. Rey: The adventures of Curious George teach problem-solving and curiosity, as the little monkey often finds himself in tricky situations that require clever solutions.
  • “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires: This story is about a girl who learns about frustration and perseverance while trying to create something magnificent.
  • “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds: Reynolds’ book teaches children that thinking “ish-ly” is more important than perfection, encouraging creative problem-solving.
  • “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis: This book stimulates imagination and creativity, showing how a simple box can be much more through innovative thinking.
  • “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds: Another book by Reynolds, it inspires children to start small and see where their imagination and problem-solving can take them.
  • “What Do You Do With a Problem?” by Kobi Yamada: This book personifies problems as opportunities to learn and grow, teaching children to face challenges head-on.
  • “Beautiful Oops!” by Barney Saltzberg: Saltzberg’s book encourages finding beauty in mistakes and learning from them, promoting a positive attitude towards problem-solving.

Here’s a list of reputable online resources that provide valuable content on teaching problem-solving skills to preschoolers, including activities, strategies, and educational insights:

  • NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) : Offers a wealth of resources on early childhood development, including articles and tips on promoting problem-solving skills. 
  • Teaching Strategies : Offers innovative, research-based teaching methods and resources for early childhood educators to enhance problem-solving skills in preschoolers. 
  • Education.com : Contains a wide range of problem-solving activities, worksheets, and games tailored for preschool-aged children.

These websites are well-regarded in the field of early childhood education and provide a range of tools and insights for effectively teaching problem-solving skills to preschoolers.

Problem-solving worksheets are an effective learning tool for developing critical thinking and analytical skills. They provide structured opportunities for students to practice and refine their approach to solving various types of problems.

List of Necessary Elements for Problem-Solving Worksheets

For problem-solving worksheets to be an effective learning tool, they should include:

  • Clear Instructions: Directions should be concise and easy to understand, ensuring students know what is expected.
  • Relevant Content: Problems should be age-appropriate and connected to real-world situations to enhance relevance and engagement.
  • Structured Approach: Worksheets should guide students through the problem-solving process, possibly outlining steps like understanding the problem, devising a plan, carrying out the plan, and reviewing the solution.
  • Variety in Problem Types: Including different types of problems, such as puzzles, logic problems, and word problems, can cater to various learning styles and interests.
  • Space for Workings: Providing ample space for students to write down their thought processes and calculations is important for developing their ability to solve problems systematically.
  • Engaging Design: Visually appealing worksheets with illustrations or graphics can motivate students and enhance their learning experience.

Enthusiastic preschool girl giving a thumbs up in a vibrant classroom setting

Practical Application

Preschoolers can learn valuable problem-solving skills through real-life scenarios they can relate to and navigate. Here’s a list of scenarios that can help preschoolers develop and practice these skills:

  • Sharing Toys: Navigating how to share toys with siblings or friends, deciding who plays with what, and for how long.
  • Dressing for the Weather: Choosing appropriate clothing for the day based on the weather conditions, like selecting a raincoat on a rainy day or a sunhat when it’s sunny.
  • Meal Choices: Making decisions about what to eat for snacks or meals, balancing between healthy options and favorite treats.
  • Cleaning Up: Figuring out how to organize and clean up toys and supplies efficiently after playtime.
  • Lost Items: Developing strategies to find a lost toy or belonging, retracing steps, and thinking of places where it could be.
  • Turn-taking Games: Learning to wait for a turn and cope with the delay in gratification during group games or activities.
  • Building Structures: Deciding how to build a stable structure using blocks or other materials, which involves planning and adjusting techniques.
  • Resolving Conflicts : Finding peaceful solutions to disputes with peers, like taking turns, sharing, or finding a compromise.
  • Planning a Playdate: Participating in planning activities, considering what games to play and what snacks to have.
  • Handling Emotions: Identifying and managing emotions when things don’t go as planned, such as calming down after a disappointment.

Nurturing problem-solving skills from a young age is beneficial and crucial for children’s cognitive and emotional development. As detailed in this article, integrating problem-solving activities into the daily routines of preschoolers can significantly enhance their ability to navigate and overcome challenges, fostering independence, creativity, and resilience. 

Therefore, parents, educators, and caregivers must incorporate a variety of problem-solving activities into their interactions with young learners. From math games to social scenarios and creative play, every moment can be an opportunity to develop these vital skills. Let’s embrace the joy and responsibility of guiding our preschoolers through their problem-solving journey, equipping them with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. Encourage, facilitate, and revel in the process of discovery, and watch as the seeds of today’s problem-solving activities blossom into the critical thinking abilities of tomorrow.

Empower your little scholar with the gift of problem-solving! Join us at Little Scholars Daycare, where we turn everyday moments into exciting learning opportunities. Enroll your child today and watch them grow into confident, creative problem-solvers ready to take on the world!

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Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Colleen beck otr/l.

  • by Colleen Beck OTR/L
  • October 22, 2021

It can be frustrating when children act without thinking of the consequences. In this blog post, you’ll learn about the development of problem solving in specific parts of our brain, discover important aspects of executive functioning that impact problem solving abilities, how to teach problem solving to preschoolers, and problem solving activities for preschoolers and young children so they can use words instead of the preschooler’s behaviors  or tantrums.

Best of all, many of our favorite fine motor activities for preschoolers support problem solving skills in early childhood.

Problem solving skills in preschool

Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Before we get into the problem solving activities for preschoolers, and specific strategies to use in early childhood, it’s important to understand the development of the problem-solving process in kids. Supporting small children by giving them the skills to be problem solvers takes time and practice. We’ll get to those specific strategies below.

But first, does this scenario sound familiar at all…

I just don’t understand why Johnny keeps throwing the ball in the house. Doesn’t he realized that he could break the window? Johnny is three and he loves to play with his tennis ball in the house. Even though I have told him over and over again that we don’t throw them in the house, I still catch him sneaking them indoors at least once a week. 

Before we can address problem solving by helping kids look at the big picture and coming up with creative solutions for problem solving issues, we need to understand what is happening developmentally. Self-reflection is a challenging cognitive skill, and for young learners! 

Let’s take a better look at the development of problem solving skills…

Development of problem solving skills in preschoolers

Development of Problem Solving Skills

It’s through play, observation of others, and practice that young learners are developing problem solving skills in early childhood .

Problem solving, rational thinking and reasoning are all skills that are controlled by a part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex. Our brains grow exponentially over the first five years of life, but not the part of our brain that helps us with critical thinking and problem solving skills. This part of our brain, called the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until we turn 25 years old! 

As babies, we are exposed every day to new experiences, but at this age we don’t comprehend how these experiences affect us and those around us. If only children could think through their problems. This resource on executive functioning skills offers more information.

Have you noticed that it can be a bit scary when teenagers get their drivers licenses? They don’t always think of “what might happen.” This is due to their prefrontal cortex not being fully developed. 

But what about our three and four year olds? We know they can count, ask questions and get the cookie off the counter in a very sneaky way when we aren’t looking. In the Early Years study of 2011 called Making decisions, Taking action , they describe the prefrontal cortex entering a rapid period of development, making critical interconnections with our limbic system. (link: )

This study states “The prefrontal cortex pathways that underlie these capacities are unique to human brains and take a long time to mature. Early connections begin in infancy. Between age 3 and 5 years, the prefrontal cortex circuits enter a rapid period of development and make critical interconnections with the limbic system. During adolescence and early adulthood, the neural pathways are refined and become more efficient.”

What is so great about this part of the brain anyway? 

As the prefrontal cortex (that is located behind out eyes) develops over the years, we are able to engage with situations differently, assessing our surroundings in a new way. As we develop these new executive functioning skills, we are able to keep ourselves safe, build friendships and become successful in our careers.

Related, these friendship activities for preschoolers offers ideas and strategies to support social emotional development.

This peer reviewed report competed by Merve Cikili Utyun, called Development Period of Prefrontal Cortex, discusses how amazing this part of our brain is, and how each of the three sections control different aspects of our functioning. It states that: 

“ PFC includes the following Broadman Areas (BA): 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 44, 45, 46, 47. “The dorsolateral frontal cortex (BA) 9/46 has been functioned in many cognitive process, including processing spatial information, monitoring and manipulation of working memory, the implementation of strategies to facilitate memory, response selection, the organization of material before encoding, and the verification and evaluation of representations that have been retrieved from long-term memory. 

The mid-ventrolateral frontal cortex (BA 47) has implicated cognitive functions, including the selection, comparison, and judgment of stimuli held in short-term and long-term memory, processing non-spatial information, task switching, reversal learning, stimulus selection, the specification of retrieval cues, and the ‘elaboration encoding’ of information into episodic memory.

BA 10, the most anterior aspect of the PFC, is a region of association cortex known to be involved in higher cognitive functions, such as planning future actions and decision-making. BAs 44 and 45, include part of the inferior frontal and these regions’ functions are language production, linguistic motor control, sequencing, planning, syntax, and phonological processing.

Finally, the orbitofrontal cortex mostly (BA 47, 10, 11, 13) in the orbitofrontal cortex has been implicated in processes that involve the motivational or emotional value of incoming information, including the representation of primary (unlearned) reinforcers such as taste, smell, and touch, the representation of learnt relationships between arbitrary neutral stimuli and rewards or punishments, and the integration of this information to guide response selection, suppression, and decision making.” 

Wow! No wonder it takes so long for this part of our brain to fully develop. Problem solving skills in preschoolers take time to develop!

When Johnny is throwing the ball inside the house, he is thinking about what is happening now, in the present. Not what has happened in the past (when he broke the window at grandmas house a year ago) or that breaking a window might happen in the future. 

What are some problem solving techniques?

Solving problems is a skill that all preschoolers need support with. This critical skill doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice to become second nature.

It’s hard for us, as adults, to remember that children ages 3-5 (preschool-aged) don’t yet have the brain capacity to problem solve on their own, or remember what they learned from a situation a week ago. 

Just like when Andrew was painting at the easel and his paintbrush got stuck in the container. Instead of asking for help or trying to “unstick” the brush, he screamed.  Or when Sally and Samantha ran outside to grab the red bouncy ball, Samantha screamed when Sally grabs it first. She didn’t see the other red bouncy ball in the bucket next to the bikes. 

Try some of these problem solving activities for  kids :

Observation- Children need problem solving strategies that they can observe, and then practice in their everyday lives. Let kids see you talk through problems as you “figure out” a solution. This gives children a chance to see a problem-solving approach in real life situations. They get to see problem solving scenarios in action.

Repetition- Repetition supports brain growth in every area of development including problem solving, executive functioning, motor development, language skills and social development.

Multisensory Activities- Children learn best with multi-sensory cues, learning new skills through seeing, touching, hearing and experiencing the skills they are learning. In 2013, the US National Library of Medicine published an article titled  Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat.  stating “The prefrontal cortex acquires information from all of the senses and orchestrates thoughts and actions in order to achieve specific goals.” (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621648/)

Creative Activities- Solving problems is a skill that all preschoolers need support with. It’s hard for us, as adults, to remember they don’t yet have the brain capacity to problem solve on their own. The best way to teach children how to problem solve, it to create activities that support these new skills in a positive way, that their developing brain understands. This letter to future self is one activity to work on goal achievement even at a young age. Preschoolers can draw a picture of what they would like to do or be as an older child or as a teenager or adult.

Problem Solving Activities for Preschool

Here are 3 Simple Ways to Teach Preschoolers to Solve Problems

1.Teaching executive functioning and problem solving skills in everyday situations will support the growth of a child’s prefrontal cortex. For example, these activities that teach executive functioning at the beach show how much thought and preparation goes into building a simple sand castles.

  • Children have to think about how much sand to use, how to keep it standing, how to prevent sand from getting into their eyes and how to create another one if the one they are building falls down.
  • They must create, plan ahead, problem solve when things get tough and communicate to adults and peers for help.

What other activities does your child do on a regular basis that requires all areas of the prefrontal cortex to activate?

2.When children become upset, their emotions become so overwhelming that they can’t think. In order to calm down and problem solve, they need to access a multi sensory way to help them remember how to do that.

Soothing Sammy gives children tactile and visual cues that remind them how to calm down and problem solve in a developmentally appropriate way. They can be reminded of this positive reinforcement with two words “Sammy Time!”

By reading the book about the sweet golden retriever, who understands that everyone feels upset sometimes, children are encouraged to use all of the sensory strategies to calm down. They can talk to Sammy about what is happening and think through their problem to create a solution.

Ashlie’s four year old daughter did just this. She reports: “When Molly was having some big emotions about coloring a picture and needed to calm down, she visited Sammy and returned with a solution to the problem she came up with all on her own (well with Sammy’s help).”

Click here for more information on the Soothing Sammy resources .

3.Problem solving requires us to remember what just happened, what is happening now and what do we want to happen next. A preschoolers brain tends to blend all three of these situations together, not able to communicate any of them until prompted by an adult. And as an adult, we are left “guessing” what our children are thinking about. Visual cues are a wonderful sensory communication tool to support both children and adults in the realm of solving problems.

Using tools like “First/Then” cards to support routine and common situations like transitions and completing tasks. Using visuals clearly communicates what needs to be done, especially if using pictures of real children doing these tasks.

A Final note about problem solving skills in preschool

Solving problems are hard for young children, even teenagers, as their prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed yet. Using multisensory teaching tools to support brain development, practicing tasks that teach executive functioning skills and using developmentally appropriate tools to help children calm down, will help even the most frustrating moments become a bit less stressful for children and adults. 

As we learn to be more patient with children, understanding that the part of their brain needed to solve problems is just beginning to develop, repeating the same directions over and over again may not be so frustrating. Our children are doing the best they can. It’s up to us to provide them with experiences to help their brains grow and develop. 

how do you teach preschoolers problem solving skills

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

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Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Written by: Kokotree

Last updated: October 16, 2022

problem solving activities for preschoolers

H ere are a bunch of great problem solving activities for preschoolers. Actions like these can help your child learn how to think critically and come up with solutions to problems. Plus, they’re lots of fun too!

What are problem solving activities?

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Problem-solving activities are interactive games or tasks designed to challenge children and promote their critical thinking, creativity, and decision-making skills. They often involve puzzles, matching games, pattern recognition, or role-playing scenarios. These activities encourage children, including toddlers and preschoolers, to identify problems, think of solutions, and test their ideas, ultimately enhancing their cognitive abilities and resilience.

Problem-solving is the process of reducing or eliminating the cause of a problem. When faced with a problem, your priority is determining whether it can be solved and, if so, how. You can then address the underlying cause(s) and restore order to your life.

Kids learn best when they’re having fun. Introducing them to problem-solving games like Shape Sorter, Traffic Jam, True or False Questions , or Feed the Monster is a great way to combine entertainment and learning. These games teach children about shapes, spatial reasoning, and matching, developing their problem-solving skills along the way.

Teaching preschoolers problem-solving skills can start with small, everyday choices like picking out their clothes or deciding on lunch. Open-ended questions like, “What do you think would happen if…?” can help them think through situations and explore possible outcomes.

Childcare providers can develop problem-solving abilities by promoting creativity and collaborative play. Materials like blocks, puzzles, and art supplies encourage kids to think creatively. Facilitating group preschool activities allows children to negotiate, communicate, and solve problems together. Outdoor play and exploration can also help kids learn from experiences, develop resilience, and embrace problem-solving.

Regular practice can turn problem-solving into a habit for kids. Include problem-solving tasks in their daily routine, such as figuring out how to clean up toys fastest or deciding the best order to do their homework. This practice will make them comfortable with problem-solving and help them apply these skills in other areas of their life.

Here’s a quick refresher on some critical steps to follow when you are trying to solve a problem:

  • Identify the cause of the problem. If you can determine what caused the situation in the first place, it will be much easier to find a solution.
  • Consider all possible solutions before making any decisions or taking action. This will help you avoid rash decisions and ensure that you are solving the root cause of the problem rather than simply addressing its symptoms.
  • Take action and implement your solution as quickly as possible. Once you have identified a viable solution, don’t hesitate to take action and put it into practice right away. This will help you focus on finding a resolution and restoring order to your life.
  • Evaluate the outcome of your solution and make any necessary adjustments. Even if you take action immediately, it is essential to step back and evaluate your results before moving forward. This will help you identify areas where further improvement is needed to solve problems effectively and efficiently.

If you follow these steps, you can effectively solve any problem that comes your way. Whether it’s a minor issue or something more complex, by taking the time to understand and address its underlying cause, you can restore order to your life and get back on track.

Here’s a list of problem-solving games for preschoolers:

Shape Sorter — This game involves a container with different shaped holes and a set of blocks with different shapes. The child must figure out which shape block fits into which hole.

Traffic Jam —This game involves a set of cars and a board with a picture of a traffic jam. The child must figure out how to move the cars around to clear the traffic jam.

Feed the Monster —This game involves a board with a picture of a monster and a set of different shaped food pieces. The child must figure out which food pieces the monster will eat by matching the shape of the food to the shape of the monster’s mouth.

Puzzle matching —This game involves a set of puzzles with different pictures, the child must match each puzzle piece to complete the picture

Color Mixing —This game involves a set of color cards, the child must mix and match the cards to form new color

Memory Match —This game involves a set of cards with pictures or patterns on one side and a blank on the other. The child must remember the location of the cards and match the pairs.

Connect the dots —This game involves a picture with numbers on it. The child must connect the dots in numerical order to reveal the picture.

Tangram —This game involves a set of seven flat pieces that can be arranged to form a square or other geometric shapes. The child must figure out how to arrange the pieces to form the correct shape.

These games are designed to be fun and engaging while helping preschoolers to develop problem-solving skills.

Provide opportunities for your child to practice making decisions, such as choosing between two choices, asking them open-ended questions, giving them simple tasks, being a role model, and identifying different parts of a problem. Reading books is also a great way to strengthen problem-solving skills.

Ask your child to choose between two outfits or what to have for lunch . As your child ages, expand on these experiences by having them choose between more than two options.

Another way to help your preschooler learn problem-solving skills is to ask open-ended questions . Questions like “What do you think would happen if…?” or “How could you fix that?” give your child an opportunity to explore options and come up with a solution.

Providing your child with simple tasks to complete independently is another way to help her build problem-solving skills. Ask your child for help picking out a shirt for school or deciding what’s for dinner, and then allow him to try it on his own or figure out how to prepare the meal.

Besides providing opportunities for your child to practice problem-solving skills, you can also help by being a role model . Show your child how to take on challenges or look at things from new perspectives. Thinking through problems and navigating solutions is a valuable skill that will serve your child well throughout life.

You can also help your child to develop problem-solving skills by teaching them how to identify different parts of a problem and brainstorm possible solutions . As your child gains experience with solving problems, they will become more confident and better equipped to handle whatever life throws their way.

How do you promote problem-solving in childcare?

As a parent, you want to ensure that your child has all the tools to succeed. One of the most critical skills is problem-solving, and here are a few ways to promote problem-solving for preschoolers.

One way to promote problem-solving in childcare is to encourage creativity . This can be done by providing materials that can be used in various ways, such as blocks, puzzles, and art supplies. It is also essential to allow children the time and space to explore and experiment with these materials.

Another way to promote problem-solving in childcare is to encourage collaboration. This can be done by planning activities that require children to work together, such as building towers out of blocks or putting together puzzles. Providing opportunities for children to practice communication and negotiation skills is also essential.

Another critical aspect of promoting problem-solving in childcare is to provide opportunities for exploration and discovery. This can be done by encouraging children to play outside, engage with nature, or explore different materials and textures. It is also essential to allow children the space and freedom to experiment, make mistakes, take risks, and learn from their experiences.

It is also important to model and discuss different approaches to solving problems to promote problem-solving in childcare. You can do this by providing real-life examples of children’s challenges, such as conflicts with friends or frustrations with a difficult task.

It is also essential to talk with children about different ways they could explore and approach these situations, such as brainstorming possible solutions or taking a break to regroup.

Additionally, you can provide children with tools for reflection and self-evaluation, such as journaling prompts or goal-setting exercises. By providing these opportunities and resources, you can support children in developing problem-solving skills and strategies they can use throughout their lives.

Ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you think will happen if we put this block on top of that one?”

Providing opportunities for children to experiment and make mistakes is also essential. For example, you could encourage children to try a new activity or game and then talk with them about how it went and how they might change their approach next time. This can help children get in the habit of learning from their experiences and thinking creatively about ways to solve problems.

In addition to encouraging critical thinking and trial and error, it is vital to provide opportunities for reflection and self-evaluation. Set aside quiet time for children to think about their experiences or journal about them.

You could also encourage children to set goals for themselves and reflect on how they are progressing toward them. By providing these opportunities, you can help children build the skills to recognize problems, evaluate possible solutions, and develop creative approaches that work best for them.

Praise effort and encourage children to keep trying when they encounter difficulty. Providing opportunities for children to practice problem-solving skills in a safe and supportive environment is also essential.

Demonstrate how to solve problems calmly and patiently by offering help when needed but not doing the work for the child. It is also essential to provide opportunities for children to see adults solving problems in their everyday lives.

Model positive communication skills and encourage children to share their ideas and feelings with others. Providing opportunities for children to work together on tasks or projects is also essential.

Teach them about different emotions and how they are expressed. Provide opportunities for children to practice recognizing and managing emotions.

Teach them about setbacks and how to cope with them. Providing opportunities for children to practice problem-solving skills in a safe and supportive environment is also essential.

What are the five problem-solving skills?

Like most parents, you want to see your child succeed in everything they do. One crucial way to help them succeed is to give them the skills they need to solve problems. Here are five problem-solving skills that every child should learn: 

One of the most critical skills in problem-solving is the ability to define the problem clearly. This may seem simple, but it cannot be easy. People will frequently try to solve a problem before taking the time to understand the problem. This can lead to a lot of wasted effort and frustration.

Once you have a clear understanding of the problem, the next step is to generate possible solutions. This requires creative thinking and brainstorming. It is crucial to come up with as many possible solutions as possible, even if some seem far-fetched or impossible. The goal is to get your creative juices flowing so that you can eventually find a workable solution.

After you have generated a list of possible solutions, it is time to evaluate each one. This evaluation should be based on criteria specific to the problem at hand. For example, suppose you are trying to solve a financial situation. In that case, you will want to evaluate solutions based on their economic feasibility. Suppose you are trying to solve a personal relationship issue. In that case, you will want to consider solutions based on their potential impact on your relationship.

Once you have evaluated all possible solutions, it is time to select the best one. This selection should be based on the criteria you established in the previous step. Choosing a solution you are confident will solve the problem at hand is essential. Otherwise, you will end up with another issue that needs to be solved.

The final step in problem-solving is implementation, which means putting the chosen solution into action. This step will require some planning and effort, but it is necessary for the answer to work. If you do not implement the solution properly, the problem will likely persist or worsen.

Thirteen problem solving activities for preschoolers.

One problem-solving activity for preschoolers is sorting. This can be done with various materials, such as buttons, blocks, or food.

You could give your child a mixture of colored buttons and ask them to sort them by color. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to identify similarities and differences.

Patterning is another critical thinking activity for preschoolers . This can be done with various materials, such as beads, blocks, or crayons.

You could give your child a string of beads and ask them to create a pattern. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to identify patterns and replicate them.

Classifying is another critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as rocks, leaves, or toys.

You could give your child a selection of rocks and ask them to classify them by size, shape , or color. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to identify similarities and differences.

Counting is another critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as pennies, pieces of candy, or even cars on the street.

You could ask your child to count how many cars are parked on your street. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to identify quantities.

Comparing is another critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as apples, oranges, or crayons.

You could ask your child to compare two apples and identify which one is larger or redder. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to identify similarities and differences.

Inventing stories is another great critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as playdough , crayons, or stuffed animals.

You could give your child a few items and ask them to invent a story about what they might be doing or where they might have come from. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to use their imagination and think creatively.

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Creative drawing is another tremendous critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as drawing paper, markers, or even chalk on the sidewalk.

You could give your child a piece of drawing paper and ask them to draw whatever they want. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to think creatively and express themselves artistically.

Role-playing is another tremendous critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as dolls, stuffed animals, or household items like pots and pans.

You could give your child some dolls or stuffed animals and ask them to act out a scene from their favorite book or TV show together. This activity helps develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to think critically about situations and develop creative solutions.

Making connections is another critical thinking activity for preschoolers. This can be done with various materials, such as books or movies.

You could give your child a book and ask them to connect it to something they’ve read or seen in the past. This activity helps to develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to think critically about different topics and make connections between them.

Asking questions is another great critical thinking activity for preschoolers . This can be done with various materials, such as toy people or stuffed animals.

You could give your child some toy people and ask them to create their own story about what might have happened before the toys came in from the playground.

This activity helps develop critical thinking skills by requiring the child to think critically about different situations and ask many questions.

Another way to help your child develop critical thinking skills is to have them put things in sequence.

You could give them a stack of cards with numbers and have them put the cards in order from smallest to largest. This activity will help your child learn to order objects according to a specific criterion.

Analogies are another great way to help your child develop critical thinking skills. An analogy is when two things are compared because they share similar characteristics.

You could say that “a cat is like a dog because they are both animals” or “a chair is like a table because they are both furniture items.” This activity will help your child learn to see relationships between different things and understand how some of them might be similar to one another.

Illusions are another great way to help your child develop critical thinking skills. An illusion tricks the senses, such as a picture that looks moving or an object that looks bigger than it is.

For example, you could show your child a pencil and paper bag and ask them why they think the pencil seems to disappear when it goes inside the pack. This activity will help your child learn to pay attention to details and notice when things seem out of place or don’t quite make sense.

Yes. Puzzle games help preschoolers develop essential skills such as pattern recognition, planning, and spatial awareness. As they play, preschoolers learn to think creatively and persevere when facing challenges.

Puzzle games can also help to improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. And because they are enjoyable to play, puzzle games can help to motivate preschoolers to keep practicing and improving their skills.

Preschoolers should have at most 1 hour of screen time a day. If you allow them to play video games, make sure they are high-quality and age-appropriate educational games. Playstation, Xbox, and other popular gaming consoles may be challenging since they have many buttons. Ideally, you can find mobile games for iPhone, iPad, and android devices.

If they are not educational, your child probably isn’t getting much benefit from them at this age other than entertainment and giving you a break. Games requiring fast reactions or flashy graphics and loud music aren’t appropriate for preschoolers.

Consider playing the game with your preschooler to help them understand it better and to offer guidance when needed.

Overall, preschoolers have many great critical thinking activities that can help them develop essential skills. These activities include role-playing, making connections, asking questions, sequencing, analogies, illusions, and many others.

By engaging your child in these activities regularly, you can help them develop critical thinking skills that will serve them well throughout their life.

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Problem Solving for Kids: How-To Guide, Activities & Strategies

The ReadyKids Team

Children need to be able to solve their own problems. In daily life, kids face a lot of set of social circumstances and challenges. Whether they’re trying to figure out how to make friends, deal with bullies, or solve academic problems, they need strong problem-solving skills to be successful.

Problem-solving is a critical life skill that all kids need to learn. By teaching them how to identify and solve problems on their own, you’ll be setting them up for success in school and in life.

What are Social Problem-Solving Skills?

Social problem-solving skills are a skill set that involves behavioral and cognitive processes which allow an individual to find adaptive and positive ways of handling problematic situations that can arise in the social environment in our daily life. These skills comprise an understanding of emotions, empathy, self-awareness, prosocial behavior, anger management, perspective-taking, establishing positive relationships, and so on.

Why It’s Important for Children to Learn the Skills to Problem-Solve

Social problem-solving skills are important for kids to learn because they allow them to cope with the various challenges they face in their social environments, such as peer pressure, bullying, and exclusion from social groups. In addition, these skills can help them resolve conflicts effectively and build positive relationships with others.

How to teach Problem-Solving skills

There are many ways to develop social problem-solving skills in kids . One way is to provide them with opportunities to practice these skills through different activities and games.

There are a few key things that parents and educators can do to help kids develop strong problem-solving skills:

Teach Children to Identify the Problem

One of the most important steps in solving any problem is being able to accurately identify what the problem is. This can be tricky for kids, especially if they’re feeling emotional about the situation. Help them by teaching them how to take a step back and look at the problem objectively.

Help Kids Brainstorm Solutions

Once kids can identify the problem, it’s time to start brainstorming possible solutions. This is where creativity and out-of-the-box thinking come in handy. Encourage kids to think of as many possible solutions as they can, no matter how far-fetched they might seem.

Help Kids Weigh the Pros and Cons

After Children can come up with a few potential solutions, it’s time to help them figure out which one is the best option. This is where critical thinking comes in. Teach kids how to weigh the pros and cons of each solution and make a decision based on logic, not emotions.

Help Kids Implement the Solution

The final step is helping kids actually implement the solution they’ve chosen. This might involve role-playing different scenarios, practicing what they would say or do, or writing out a plan. Whatever the case, be sure to provide support and guidance every step of the way.

Praise Kids

It’s essential to praise your child when they demonstrate social problem-solving skills. This will help him feel confident in his abilities and encourage him to continue using these skills.

Also, proper guidance and opportunities to practice problem-solving skills should be provided for kids to be efficient enough to solve problems on their own. In addition to providing opportunities for practice, it is also important to model problem-solving skills for your child. 

By following these tips, you can help your child develop strong social problem-solving skills that will serve him well throughout his life.

Problem-solving in Child Development

Most children go through similar phases of problem-solving as they develop. However, the timing may vary depending on the child’s individual temperament and circumstances.

Here are some common milestones:

  • Ages 2-3: During the age of 2-3 years, kids begin to understand that problems can be solved. They also start to develop a sense of self-control and can begin to use words to express their emotions.
  • Ages 3-4: By 3-4 years old, kids are usually better at problem-solving and can use more logical thinking. They’re also beginning to understand other people’s feelings and perspectives.
  • Ages 4-5: Around 4-5 years old, kids can usually think of multiple solutions to a problem. They’re also starting to understand the concept of cause and effect.
  • Ages 5-6: By 5-6 years old, most kids can apply problem-solving skills in their everyday lives. They’re also able to understand complex emotions and empathize with others.
  • Ages 6-7: Around 6-7 years old, kids are usually able to understand even more complex emotions. They’re also starting to see the world from other people’s perspectives and can use this knowledge to solve problems.
  • Ages 7-8: By 7-8 years old, kids are often able to solve problems quickly and efficiently. They’re also able to think abstractly and see the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Ages 8-9: Around 8-9 years old, kids are usually able to solve problems independently. They’re also beginning to understand the concept of time and how it can be used to solve problems.
  • Ages 9-10: By 9-10 years old, kids are often able to solve complex problems. They’re also able to think abstractly and see the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Ages 10-11: Around 10-11 years old, kids are usually able to solve problems independently. They’re also beginning to understand the concept of time and how it can be used to solve problems.
  • Ages 11-12: By 11-12 years old, kids are often able to solve complex problems. They’re also able to think abstractly and see the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Ages 12-13: Around 12-13 years old, kids are usually able to solve problems independently. They’re also beginning to understand the concept of time and how it can be used to solve problems.

As children get older, they should be able to solve more complex problems. If you’re concerned about your child’s problem-solving abilities, talk to their doctor or a child development specialist.

 Social Problem-Solving Strategies

There are several strategies that can help children of primary age to solve problems. Some of them are as follows:

  • Encouraging children to take turns and share. This strategy helps children to be more patient and to understand that other people have feelings too. It also allows them to share their own feelings and thoughts more openly.
  • Helping children to understand and express their emotions. This strategy helps children to identify and understand their own emotions , as well as the emotions of others. It also allows them to express their emotions in a more positive way.
  • Teaching children how to compromise. This strategy helps children to understand that sometimes it is necessary to give up something in order to get something else. It also teaches them how to negotiate and how to reach an agreement with others.
  • Encouraging children to think about other people’s perspectives. This strategy helps children to understand that other people have different points of view. It also allows them to see the world from another person’s perspective and to empathize with others.
  • Helping children to understand and follow rules. This strategy helps children to understand that there are certain rules that must be followed in order to maintain order and peace. It also teaches them how to respect the rules of others.
  • Teaching children how to improve their skills to problem-solve. This strategy helps children to understand that there are many ways to solve a problem. It also teaches them how to think creatively and to come up with their own solutions.

These are just a few of the social problem-solving strategies that can help children of primary age to solve problems. For more information, please talk to your child’s doctor or a child development specialist.

Social Problem-Solving Skills Activities

Games and activities for socialization are an excellent way for children for learning how to behave in social surroundings such as school or in the community.

It is essential for children to learn how to take turns, share, cooperate and resolve conflicts.

Here are some activities to improve social problem-solving skills for children of different age groups:

Social Problem-solving Activities for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are very young and need a lot of help to learn social problem-solving skills. The following activities are fun and will help them develop problem-solving skills.

  • Circle Time: This is a great activity for kids to learn how to take turns and share. Give each child a turn to be in the center of the circle and share something about themselves such as their favorite color, food , animal, etc.
  • Simon Says: This classic game is a great way for kids to listen and follow instructions. It also helps with problem-solving skills as they have to figure out what Simon is saying.
  • Role-Playing: This is a great activity for kids to learn how to resolve conflicts. Have kids act out different scenarios such as sharing toys or taking turns. After each scene, discuss what happened and how the conflict could have been resolved.

Social Problem-solving Activities for Kindergarteners

Kindergarteners are still very young. So, they may need assistance when it comes to social problem-solving skills.

The following activities will give them a chance to practice these skills in a safe and fun environment.

  • Cooperative Building: Have the kids work together in small groups to build towers or houses out of blocks or Legos. This activity will help them learn to share, take turns, and cooperate with others.
  • Role-Playing: Act out different social situations with puppets or toys. For example, one child can be the customer in a store and the other children can take turns being the salesperson. This activity will help kids learn how to handle different social situations.
  • Feelings Matching: Cut out pictures of people with different facial expressions from magazines or newspapers. Ask the kids to match the pictures with the corresponding feeling words (e.g., happy, sad, mad, etc.). This activity will help kids learn to identify and understand different emotions.

Social Problem-solving Activities for School-Aged Kids

As kids get older, they become more independent and are able to handle more complex social situations.

The following activities will help them practice their social problem-solving skills.

  • Brainstorming: This activity can be done individually or in a group. Give your child a scenario and have them come up with as many solutions as possible. For example, “Your best friend just cancelled your play date. What are three things you could do?”
  • Exercising empathy: It’s important for kids to be able to empathize with others and see things from their perspective. When they’re struggling to solve a problem, help them think about how the other person is feeling. For example, “Your friend might be feeling upset too. Maybe you can talk to her about why she cancelled the play date.
  • Problem Solving Games: Games are a fun way to teach children the skills of solving problems. Try playing some classic board games like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, which require players to make decisions and strategize. There are also many great online games, like Mission to Mars and Robot City, that help kids practice problem-solving.
  • Discussing Problem-Solving Skills: As a family, discuss different problem-solving strategies. For example, “If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed or don’t know what to do, take a deep breath and think about what would be the best thing to do in that situation.”
  • Model Good Problem-Solving Skills: As a parent, you are your child’s biggest role model. So, it’s important to model good problem-solving skills yourself. Whenever you’re faced with a problem, talk aloud about how you’re going to solve it. For example, “I’m having trouble finding my keys. I think I’ll check the couch first and then look in the car.”
  • Encourage positive thinking: Help your child look on the bright side by encouraging them to think of the positive outcomes of a situation. For example, “Even though your play date was cancelled, you now have some free time to do something else you enjoy.
  • Practice: It’s important to give kids opportunities to use their problem-solving skills in everyday life. When they’re faced with a social challenge, take a step back and let them try to figure it out on their own. Of course, be there to support them if they need help.

Social Problem-solving Activities for High-School Students 

High-school students often face a variety of social problems. They may have difficulty making friends, fitting in with classmates, or dealing with bullies.

Some students may also struggle with more serious issues, such as gangs, drugs, or violence.

There are a number of activities that can be used to help high-school students with improving their social problem-solving skills. These are as follows:

  • Peer Mediation: This activity involves two or more students who are in conflict with each other. The mediator(s) helps the students to communicate with each other and find a resolution to the problem.
  • Role-Playing: This is a great activity for helping high-school students to understand different perspectives. Students can take on the role of the person they are in conflict with, and then discuss how they would feel in that situation.
  • Problem-Solving Groups: These groups usually consist of 4-6 students who meet to discuss a particular problem. The group leader(s) helps the students to brainstorm solutions and come up with a plan of action.
  • Attending Debates: Debates can be a great way for high-school students to learn about different perspectives on social issues. Students can also practice their own argumentative and problem-solving skills by participating in debates.
  • Service Learning: This is a type of community service that helps high-school students to understand and address social problems. Students typically work with organizations that focus on issues such as poverty, homelessness, or hunger.

Cultivating Resilience in Children

Developing resilience in children is a key aspect of nurturing their emotional health and equipping them to face life’s challenges head-on. It involves helping them understand that difficulties and setbacks are a normal part of life, and they can grow stronger from overcoming them.

By fostering a secure and loving environment, and by being role models of resilience ourselves, we can instill in children the ability to adapt to change and cope with stress.

One effective method to cultivate resilience in children is by encouraging them to express their feelings and thoughts openly.

Providing a safe space where they feel heard and understood helps them to understand their emotions better, which is a crucial step in resilience building. It’s important to validate their feelings, not minimize them, as it teaches them that it’s normal to experience different emotions, and it’s okay to discuss them.

Another significant way to build resilience is by teaching problem-solving skills. Guiding children through the process of identifying a problem, brainstorming possible solutions, choosing the best one, and reflecting on the outcome can equip them with valuable life skills.

As they practice, they will become more adept at facing challenges, whether big or small, and this boosts their confidence and self-efficacy. The beauty of resilience is that it isn’t an inherent trait; it’s a skill that can be learned and cultivated, one challenge at a time.

Teaching social problem-solving skills can help high-school students learn how to handle these types of situations. These skills can also help them in other areas of their lives, such as dealing with family conflict or managing their emotions.

Through these activities, high-school students can learn important problem-solving skills that will help them in their everyday lives.

There are many different activities that you can do to help your child develop problem-solving skills. Choose activities that are appropriate for your child’s age and interests.

And, most importantly, have fun!

Tips, D. (2022). Developing Problem-Solving Skills for Kids | Strategies & Tips | Kodable Blog. Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.kodable.com/learn/problem-solving-skills-for-kids/

How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens. (2022). Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/how-teach-problem-solving-strategies-kids-guide#:~:text=Allow%20your%20child%20to%20choose,the%20process%20of%20problem%2Dsolving .

Teaching Kids How to Solve Their Own Problems and Make Good Decisions. (2022). Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/teach-kids-problem-solving-skills-1095015

(2022). Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.werockthespectrumkidsgym.com/social-skills-activities-that-teach-kids-problem-solving/

srivastava, m., & srivastava, m. (2022). 12 Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers And Preschoolers. Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.momjunction.com/articles/problem-solving-activities-for-toddlers_00795607/

20 Evidence-Based Social Skills Activities and Games for Kids. (2022). Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.positiveaction.net/blog/social-skills-activities-and-games-for-kids

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Parenting Brain

How to teach problem-solving skills for kids.

Teaching problem-solving skills to kids is an important way of preparing them for life. To do this, it is important to model problem solving and encourage creativity. Start by helping your child identify the issue they are facing, brainstorm potential solutions, evaluate their options and then make a plan of action. Make sure you provide support but also allow them some autonomy in how they approach the task. Encourage critical thinking by having your child explain why they think certain strategies will work better than others. Have them practice coming up with alternative methods if one solution does not work out as expected and help guide them towards finding new ways to solve problems. Additionally, providing plenty of opportunities for open ended play can help foster creative problem-solving capabilities in children from an early age.

  • Start Early: Problem-solving skills can be taught as early as infancy
  • Even young babies are capable of solving simple problems, such as figuring out how to lift a rattle off the floor or reach for a toy that’s just beyond their grasp
  • As children grow older, they will face increasingly complex problems and require more sophisticated problem-solving strategies
  • Model Problem Solving: One of the best ways to teach kids problem-solvng skills is by modeling it yourself when faced with an issue or difficulty in your own life
  • Explain why you made certain decisions and allow your child to ask questions about what you did and why it worked (or didn’t)
  • Encourage Trial & Error: It’s important to provide opportunities for trial and error while teaching problem solving skills in order for kids to develop resilience when facing challenges and learn from mistakes They make along the way
  • Additionally, praising effort rather than outcomes can help create a safe environment where children feel comfortable trying different solutions without fear of failure or judgment from others
  • Use Games & Puzzles: Games like jigsaw puzzles, board games, word searches, logic puzzles etc
  • , are all great tools for teaching problem solving skills since they provide fun experiences that also require logical thinking
  • Additionally playing outdoor games like tag can encourage collaboration between students which helps them work together towards finding creative solutions to difficult tasks
  • Guide Discussions: Talking through issues with other people is an important part of developing effective problem-solving strategies so actively guide conversations when necessary in order to get everyone on the same page
  • Ask open ended questions during discussions that elicit critical thinking from participants rather than yes/no answers which don’t really promote learning new skillsets

How To Teach Problem Solving Skills To Children

What are the Best Ways to Teach Problem-Solving Skills for Kids

One of the best ways to teach problem-solving skills for kids is to encourage them to think critically and independently. This can be done by providing open-ended questions, puzzles, or tasks that require creative thinking. Additionally, teaching children how to break down problems into smaller steps can help them develop their own strategies for solving complex issues. For example, you could give a child a seemingly impossible task such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle with no instructions and then ask them how they would figure out what pieces go where. This encourages children to use their own creativity and analytical thinking in order to come up with solutions on their own. Finally, it is important for parents and educators alike to model proper problem-solving behavior by demonstrating patience when working through difficult situations themselves. By showing kids that there are many different approaches which can lead towards successful outcomes, they will gain an appreciation for the process of solving complex problems rather than searching immediately for the right solution.

How Can I Help My Child Develop Their Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are important for children to develop as they grow, and there are several ways parents can help their child develop such skills. One way is to encourage them to talk through problems and brainstorm solutions. Questions like “What do you think we should do?” or “What have you tried already” can be helpful in getting your child thinking about possible solutions to the problem at hand. Additionally, it’s also beneficial for parents to model problem-solving techniques whenever possible so that their child has an example of how one might go about tackling a complex issue. Finally, try not to jump in with the solution right away; instead, allow your child some time and space to work out a solution on their own before offering up any advice or assistance. By following these steps, your child will be able to learn how best approach future issues they may face while building confidence in their ability to solve problems independently.

What Age is Appropriate to Start Teaching Problem-Solving Skills to Children

The age at which a child is ready to learn problem-solving skills varies depending on the individual child, but typically children as young as 3 or 4 years old can begin learning basic problem-solving skills. As they get older, parents and teachers can introduce more complex problem solving activities and games that encourage critical thinking. At around 7 or 8 years old, children are usually capable of understanding more abstract concepts and engaging in higher level problem solving tasks such as working out math problems or using logic puzzles to solve problems. Regardless of age, it’s important for children to be given opportunities to practice their problem-solving skills in order to foster developmentally appropriate learning experiences.

Are There Any Activities That Can Help Kids Learn Problem-Solving Techniques

Yes, there are many activities that can help kids learn problem-solving techniques. One of the most effective activities is to have them work collaboratively on tasks or puzzles. This can include working together to solve a jigsaw puzzle, build a model or construct a LEGO kit. Working together encourages discussion and compromise which helps children develop their ability to think critically and come up with creative solutions for problems. Other great activities for teaching problem-solving skills include playing board games, doing brainteasers and riddles, as well as taking part in interactive online courses such as coding classes or engineering simulations. All of these activities provide an opportunity for kids to practice analytical thinking while having fun at the same time!

How Can I Encourage My Child’S Natural Curiosity And Help Them Become a Better Problem Solver

Encouraging your child’s natural curiosity and helping them become a better problem solver can be done through various activities. One way is to provide them with challenging puzzles, games, and tasks that require critical thinking skills. Additionally, providing open-ended questions and allowing your child the time to think before answering will help foster their ability to solve problems independently. Furthermore, offering opportunities for exploration in different areas such as science or art can also lead to creative solutions when faced with challenges. Finally, teaching children how to break down complex problems into smaller steps will enable them to tackle even the toughest of issues more effectively in the future.

How To Teach Problem-Solving Skills For Kids

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Problem-Solving in Child Development Examples

Problem-solving in child development is an important skill for children to learn. Examples of problem-solving skills include logical thinking, flexibility and resourcefulness. Children can develop these skills through play by developing strategies for dealing with different situations, seeking help from others when needed, and being creative when finding solutions. Additionally, parents can support their children’s problem-solving abilities by providing them with opportunities to practice solving problems independently or collaboratively. By engaging in activities that involve problem-solving, children will gain the necessary skills to face future challenges.

How to Teach Problem Solving Skills to Adults

Adults often come to the classroom with an array of problem-solving skills, but they may need to learn new ones in order to cope with life’s challenges. Teaching adults how to use problem-solving strategies can help them develop a more effective approach and provide better results. Strategies such as active listening, brainstorming and critical thinking can be used by teachers when teaching adults how to solve problems. By breaking down tasks into manageable steps, providing opportunities for collaboration and encouraging reflective practice, teachers can equip their adult learners with powerful tools for tackling any issue that might arise.

Problem Solving Activities for 7 Year Olds

Problem solving activities are important for children of all ages, and they can be particularly beneficial for 7 year olds. Problem solving activities help to build critical thinking skills that will be used throughout their lives. From finding creative solutions to puzzles and riddles to playing games like chess or even trying out a new recipe, there is a wide range of fun and educational problem-solving activities for 7 year olds. These activities provide an opportunity to boost self-confidence, as well as learn important life skills such as managing emotions, developing logical reasoning abilities and understanding cause-and-effect relationships.

Problem Solving Activities Classroom

Problem solving activities are an important part of any classroom and help students to develop creative thinking skills, learn how to work together as a team, and practice decision-making. Through activities such as puzzles, riddles, debates, simulations and more, students are able to apply their knowledge in order to come up with solutions that best solve the problem they are presented with. These activities can also be used to promote collaboration among peers and foster communication within the classroom.

Problem Solving Activities for 11 Year Olds

Problem solving activities are a great way to stretch the mind of 11 year olds, while also having fun. Activities such as jigsaw puzzles and board games can help children develop essential skills like logical thinking and problem solving. Additionally, outdoor activities like orienteering and geocaching offer an exciting way for kids to use their creative problem-solving abilities in a real world setting. Regardless of the activity chosen, these types of activities will give your 11 year old plenty of opportunities to think outside the box and become more confident in their own capabilities!

How to Teach Problem Solving Skills in Math

Problem solving skills are essential for success in math, and teaching these skills can be done with a few simple steps. First, start by having students solve problems on their own, without the aid of textbooks or calculators. This will help them understand how to think critically about problem-solving techniques and develop an understanding of the underlying concepts. Once they have mastered this step, provide them with different types of math problems that require them to use their problem-solving skills in order to reach a solution. Finally, offer feedback and guidance as needed so that students continue to build on their newfound knowledge base. With practice and patience, you can teach your students how to effectively apply problem solving strategies in any math situation!

Teaching And Learning Strategies to Enhance Problem Solving Pdf

Teaching and learning strategies to enhance problem solving pdf can be incredibly helpful in providing teachers with the necessary tools to help their students develop effective problem-solving skills. This resource provides educators with a range of activities that can be used in classrooms, as well as tips and tricks on how best to facilitate these activities. Ultimately, this guide aims to provide teachers with the resources they need to nurture strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities among their students.

Examples of Problem-Solving Skills for Preschoolers

Problem-solving skills are important for preschoolers to develop in order to help them navigate their world and gain independence. Examples of problem-solving skills for preschoolers include working through puzzles, sorting items into groups, figuring out how everyday objects work, recognizing patterns, exploring cause and effect relationships, imagining solutions to problems and asking questions. Teaching these problem-solving skills can be done through engaging activities such as interactive games or creative building projects that allow children to explore ideas and practice their abilities.

This blog post has provided a comprehensive overview of how to teach problem-solving skills for kids. By breaking down the process into concrete steps and providing helpful tips, parents and teachers can help children develop important life skills that will serve them for years to come. With practice and guidance, kids can become critical thinkers with the ability to identify and solve complex problems on their own.

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How to Build Problem-Solving Skills in Preschoolers?

Build Problem-Solving Skills in Preschoolers

As parents and educators, we strive to equip our preschoolers with essential skills that lay the foundation for future success. One of the most valuable abilities we can foster in young children is problem-solving. Developing problem-solving skills at an early age not only enhances critical thinking but also boosts confidence and resilience. We at Tulip Kids Academy believe in empowering our preschoolers to tackle challenges head-on. In this blog, we’ll explore effective strategies and activities to build problem-solving skills, ensuring your little ones are prepared for a lifetime of learning.

Encourage Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is at the core of problem-solving. Encourage your preschooler to ask questions, explore ideas, and think independently. Engage in open-ended conversations, allowing them to express their thoughts and opinions. Encouraging curiosity and challenging them to think beyond the obvious will help sharpen their problem-solving abilities.

Foster a Growth Mindset

Teach your child that setbacks and mistakes are opportunities for growth. By fostering a growth mindset, preschoolers learn to view challenges as exciting puzzles to solve rather than obstacles to overcome. Encourage them to embrace challenges, persist through difficulties, and celebrate their efforts, regardless of the outcome.

Provide Problem-Solving Opportunities

Integrate problem-solving opportunities into everyday activities. Present age-appropriate challenges, such as puzzles, building blocks, or simple tasks that require logical thinking. Encourage your child to come up with multiple solutions, fostering creativity and flexibility in their problem-solving approach. Teachers play a vital role in such activities, preschools in Lawrence Station,Sunnyvale are enriched with such curriculum where preschoolers get to explore and solve hurdles through activities.

Teach Decision-Making Skills

Decision-making is a crucial aspect of problem-solving. Offer your preschooler choices throughout the day, allowing them to practice decision-making skills. Start with simple decisions like choosing their outfit or snack, gradually progressing to more complex choices that require weighing pros and cons.

Engage in Imaginative Play

Imaginative play is a powerful tool for problem-solving. Encourage your child to engage in pretend play scenarios where they can create and solve imaginary problems. Whether they’re playing house, building a fort, or acting out a superhero adventure, imaginative play nurtures creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Collaborative Problem-Solving

Promote collaboration by engaging your preschooler in problem-solving activities with peers or siblings. Encourage them to communicate, share ideas, and work together to find solutions. Collaborative problem-solving not only develops their social skills but also exposes them to diverse perspectives and strategies.

Use Real-Life Examples

Connect problem-solving skills to real-life situations. Point out everyday challenges and discuss possible solutions. Whether it’s finding a lost toy or figuring out how to share resources, these scenarios provide valuable learning opportunities for preschoolers to apply problem-solving skills in meaningful ways.

Read Books that Highlight Problem-Solving

Select age-appropriate books that feature characters who face and resolve problems. Engage your child in discussions about how the characters overcame challenges. This helps preschoolers understand that problem-solving is a universal skill and provides inspiration for their own endeavors.

By encouraging critical thinking, fostering a growth mindset, providing problem-solving opportunities, teaching decision-making skills, engaging in imaginative play, promoting collaboration, and using real-life examples, we empower our young learners to become confident problem solvers. Through these strategies, we create an environment where preschoolers thrive, develop resilience, and embrace challenges with enthusiasm. Together, let’s nurture their problem-solving abilities and set them on a path to success in school and beyond.

To enroll your preschooler in our preschool at Sunnyvale, California , contact us at (408) 245-0602

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Promoting Problem-solving Skills in Young Children

Roselia Ramirez : I'd like to welcome you to the Home Visiting webinar series. We are happy that you have joined us today. The topic for our session is focused on problem-solving and how home visitors can partner with parents to really support its development. Before we get started, we want to tell you a little bit about us and want to have you meet your hosts for today's session.

My name is Roselia Ramirez and I am a senior training and technical assistance specialist at the National Center on Early Childhood Development Teaching and Learning, or DTL for short. I'm happy to be joining you from my home state of Arizona, and I'm going to turn it over to my colleagues and have them introduce themselves. Hey Joyce.

Joyce Escorcia: I am Joyce Escorcia, and thanks everyone for choosing to spend your hour with us. I work alongside Roselia and Sarah at DTL as a senior T and T specialist. You may have seen me in the Coaching Corner webinars and some other places and spaces. Thanks for joining us. We're excited to dig into our topic today. Sarah, do you want to introduce yourself, and share a little bit about yourself?

Sarah Basler: I'm excited to join you all today; you might recognize me as one of the presenters of the Coaching Corner webinar series and my role and work tends to be around coaching and specifically using PBC to support practitioners and even supporting coaches in their PBC practice. I also have a background in pyramid model practices. I'm excited to be here today and talk with you all about problem-solving, which is one of my passions. Thanks so much for having me today.

Roselia: Thanks for joining us, Sarah. It's exciting to see you and to have you as our guest for today on this often-challenging topic for many home visitors as well as parents. Thank you again, and it's so nice to see you. We do probably have some new viewers joining us today. We were wondering if you could start by giving an overview of the Practice-Based Coaching model and then share with our viewers some of the benefits of coaching for a home visitor.

Sarah: Sure. A quick little recap for some of you, and an introduction for others, Practice-Based Coaching or PBC as we call it for short, is a coaching model that when used with fidelity can lead to positive outcomes for children and their families. PBC can be used with anyone, so you can, a coach can support teachers or support home visitors, family childcare providers, or even other coaches. We refer to those that are receiving the coaching as a coachee, to support them to use a set of effective practices. PBC is a content-ready model, which means that any set of practices can be the focus for the middle of the cycle, visual, and so whatever set of practices that you might want to be the focus of coaching can go in the middle there.

The coach and the coachee together identify some strengths and needs related to those effective practices that have been selected for coaching and together they write a goal and an action plan to support that coachee in their implementation of those goals. The coach and the coachee engage in focused observation. The coach will come in and observe the coachee using those effective practices selected in their action plan. Then they meet and reflect about what happened during the focused observation, and the coach will give some feedback, some supportive, and some constructive feedback.

All of these components of PBC fit within a collaborative partnership. PBC occurs in that context, and it's really about a coach and a coachee coming together to work together and support the implementation of those effective practices. When we think about what those benefits might be for a home visitor, a home visitor could share with their coach, challenges that they might be facing related to working with families and together, a coach and the home visitor could talk through maybe some possible solutions or strategies that the home visitor may want to try with the family or support the home visitor in learning a little bit more about a certain set of effective practices.

Sometimes it's really nice to have that support and a colleague to ask your questions and get some ideas. A coach can support a home visitor to grow their home visiting practices. A coach could support them not only around maybe effective practices to try with the, to support the family to use, but could support the home visitor in growing their home visiting practices themselves. Thinking about how to enhance those skills.

Roselia: Thanks, Sarah, I really like the whole notion. The first thing that kind of comes to my mind is this whole idea of having a thought partner. But before we go any further into this topic, and this discussion, if you're just joining the session, we would like to remind you to visit that teal color widget that's at the bottom of your screen. Here's where you can gain access to this participant's guide that you're seeing a little screenshot on your screen now. This resource is intended to be interactive and you're going to hear us reference it and then direct you there during the session for some opportunities for engagement as well as some reflection.

I also want to point out that on the first page of the participant's guide, you're going to find some icons and images that we have been using in our home webinar series, such as the focus on equity segment and this is represented by that little magnifying glass image. I also wanted to mention that not every one of our Home Visiting webinars will have each of the segments in each of the webinars, but just to give you an idea of what those are when you do see them. The other thing we want to do before we go any further is we want to review the learning objectives that we have established for this session.

We have identified and framed the session around two learning goals. First, by the end of the session, we anticipate that you'll be able to describe some essential components of problem-solving, and then second, that you will have some practical strategies and resources that are intended to not only strengthen but nurture problem-solving within that home environment. Now in your participant's guide, we have provided a space for you to reflect and to think about your own learning goals and what you would like to walk away with from this session. Think about that for a moment. What's something that maybe a question that you might have or a type of reflection, something that you would like to walk away with. Take a moment and then jot down your thoughts in your participant's guide.

Joyce: To frame the space that we're in today for our Home Visiting webinar series this year, we've been focusing in on topics that have an impact on social and emotional development. As many of you know, social-emotional development is one of the domains in the Head Start Early Learning and Outcomes Framework, or the ELOF . You can see we have it highlighted here on the slide. When we began the series this year in October, we focused in on the home environment, and then in December, we focused in on relationships. In our last webinar, we really focused in on emotional literacy.

If you missed these webinars, don't worry, you can catch it on Push Play, and you'll have information about that towards the end of our webinar today. For our time today, we're really excited; again, I'm super excited to have my cohost from the Coaching Corner webinar series. I'm excited to be here with Sarah to focus on problem-solving and the practical strategies that we're going to be talking about today. We're really going to be looking at how a home visitor can support and partner with families kind of introduce and nurture that skill within young children. That's really where we're going to be at today.

Again, we wanted to make that connection with the Pyramid Model. While we're not going to go deep into the pyramid, we do want to just make that connection today that the Pyramid Model is a framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children's social-emotional development. The Pyramid Model builds upon a tiered public health approach by providing universal support to, universal supports for [inaudible]. Animations are going a little wonky on me today. Universal support to all children to promote wellness and then targeted services to those who need more support and then also intensive services for those that need them.

In this webinar, we're going to be focusing in on problem-solving, which is that tier two targeted kind of social-emotional support piece, which we know are essential and important to healthy social development. That's where we're going to be focusing in on today, with, we're thinking about the pyramid. If you want to know more about the pyramid, check out the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations, or NCPMI . We have links to that within the resource, within your viewer's guide for today. Be sure and check that out as well. We are again super fortunate to have Sarah with us today. We just really want to draw on all of her experience that she's had out in the field and really sharing some of her insight on problem-solving. Sarah, I'm going to pass it over to you.

Sarah: Social competencies like self-regulation, empathy, perspective taking, and problem-solving skills are really foundational to that healthy social-emotional development, and this includes positive interactions like friendship and relationship skills between peers and siblings. Young children really need that support of adults in their lives to help them learn these skills so that they can develop healthy relationships among peers and find ways to really work through social conflicts. As home visitors, you can support this process by really supporting teaching and modeling with families how to help their children develop these skills earlier on.

It can start as young as infants and toddlers. Home visitors can support building these foundational problem-solving and relationship skills that most children can access with adult support and start to use independently as they start to, as they continue to develop these skills. Children, as they become more independent, they'll tend to run into situations in their environment that can lead to frustration or even some challenging behavior.

If parents are intentional and teach children these skills early on in their development, they can become pretty fluent in problem-solving. Then as they learn these skills, they can become more independent and successful with these skills. Their self-esteem will then, in turn, increase, and they will be likely to be able to cope with certain levels of frustration as a result and engage hopefully in less challenging behavior. When they feel confident in these social interactions and are able to problem solve successfully, then we're going to likely see less challenging behavior.

Roselia: Sarah, this is a good place to note that as you get to know your families, you may also discover that there might be some children who struggle, and they don't readily learn these skills through those foundational teaching strategies such as modeling or co-regulation. This might include children with disabilities or suspected delays. Establishing that strong relationship with the parent becomes even more important to get more familiar with and to be aware of the struggles so that you as a home visitor can then explore and use some of those more individualized practices to work on these skills when children need that extra support. We're going to talk some more about that throughout this webinar, but we just thought that would be really important to point that out.

Let's talk a bit more about why problem-solving is important in child development. We know that the earlier that children begin solving those problems, the more ready they are to deal with bigger challenges as they mature. We know that the home is a safe, it's a controlled environment, where parents can direct children as they develop and practice those problem-solving skills. By viewing problems as opportunities to grow, children begin to broaden their understanding while building that confidence that you were talking about.

We also know that when children feel overwhelmed or maybe hopeless, they often, they're not going to attempt to address a problem and that's where some of this challenging behavior for us adults may come up. When they have support, and then adults really support them with that clear formula and some steps for solving problems, they'll feel more confident in their ability to even give it a try. By introducing problem-solving skills at a young age, children learn to think in terms of manageable steps. Sarah, can you share with us how a home visitor might go about this process with families?

Sarah: There are some steps to problem-solving that home visitors can use and introduce to parents and there are some ways that you can support families to incorporate these steps as they encounter social conflict in the home or in socialization. The first is to support children in identifying the problem. This can be simply stating what the problem is out loud and it can make a big difference for children and that even includes infants and toddlers as well as preschool-age children who are feeling stuck. Parents can really think about how to do this in an age-appropriate way to support their child to state what the problem that they're encountering is, such as, your sister doesn't want to play with you, or I see you're having a hard time rolling over, or would you like a turn?

Once the problem has been identified, parents can help their child to think about what some solutions might be to solving their problems. Parents can help to brainstorm possible ways that they might solve that problem. As a home visitor, we can help parents understand that all solutions don't necessarily need to be a good idea, meaning that really just the idea of children coming up with these ideas or sharing some possible solutions. We want to support that process and allow children to share no matter how silly it may sound, and we can support them by offering suggestions to them. The goal is for parents to help their child explore options and the key is to help them do this with creativity and support them to find many different potential solutions because we know that there's not one right way to solve a problem and we want to support children to be able to think of multiple solutions.

Parents can even talk through and help their child identify what the pros and cons of each solution might be. Parents really play this critical role in helping their child identify potential positive and maybe negative consequences for each potential solution they've identified. Once the child has evaluated the possible pros and cons of each solution, the parent can encourage them to pick a solution and try it out and see what happens.

That's where even sometimes those silly solutions that they come up with, it's okay, let them try it out because if it doesn't work, you can support them to try out a different solution. And finally, the last step would be really analyzing or evaluating if it worked. Did this solution that you tried work? Was it, did it solve your problem? And if it doesn't work, you can always come up with a different solution and help them to brainstorm new ones.

Roselia: Thanks Sarah. I think that's a really great way to kind of break down that process and a great way for home visitors to support parents as they're kind of working through that. From your experience as a coach, and then just the various different learning settings that you had the opportunity to work in, why do you think problem-solving is so important?

Sarah: Problem-solving skills give children that independence that they really crave. It gives them agency in their own lives. Even though they may not be able to do this independently right away, when we give children the tools that they need to be able to do this successfully, they're able to navigate interactions with others and it helps to build social competence that they're going to carry with them for the rest of their lives. No matter what the learning environment is that you are in, social interactions are inevitable. They happen all the time. It's important that adults give children the tools that they need and support them to use those tools when they need them so that they become independent and confident in solving these problems when they arise.

Joyce: When Sarah was talking, I said I really love how you made that connection about the importance of parents supporting that, because I think it goes back to what we stated when we started. That about supporting children to become these confident, capable children really does kind of lead into being confident, capable adults who can kind of explore the world around them with all the skills that they need. I think that it just makes a case why this is so important. Because we know that solving problems really is about making choices. As young children develop their problem-solving skills, they build their confidence and we just know that you know, that having all of that, being able to solve problems, figuring things out, really makes them happier, more content, and just independent individuals. That's really what we want.We know when they tackle problems on their own or in a group, they become resilient and persistent. They learn how to look at challenges from a fresh perspective, and therefore, they're confident enough to take more calculated risks and problem-solving is so important in child development.

Again, because we know if we do it and we get it right when they're little, it really turns into this other thing when they become adults that they become confident and capable and are good with taking risk in all kinds of other different ways. Some of you may be wondering why you're here with us, wondering what skills do children need to be successful at problem solving? This is important, like I know it's important. What skills do they need in order to be able to do it well and in order for children to be successful at problem-solving and developing relationships there are a lot of prerequisite skills that are required and needed. 

We're going to talk a little bit about that, but we want to open up the Q and A for you guys to say okay, what skills do you think are important for children? What do you think that they might need in order to problem solve? We're going to ask you to pop that into the Q and A, right there, just click on the Q and A widget and put your responses there. We're going to share some of those out. While you guys are kind of thinking and popping ideas into the Q and A, we want to ask Sarah and bring her into the conversation of, Sarah, can you share with participants what some of those, what you think some of those prerequisites could be?

Sarah: For prerequisite skills, as you mentioned Joyce, problem-solving is really complex and it's going to require that a child be able to do many different things at the same time. When we think about children three and up, what they might need to be successful at problem-solving, then you really need to be able to initiate and respond to others. That could be a verbal or a nonverbal interaction or response, and it would vary, of course, based on the child's age or ability. This might look like if a child wants a toy that another child has, it could look like holding out their hand to ask or asking for a turn. A response might look like the other child saying no, I don't want to give you a turn, or pulling the item back to say, I don't want to give you the toy. Children really need to be able to initiate and respond to be successful at problem solving. 

Another thing that they need to be able to do is identify emotions in themselves and in others. The reason this is important is because have you ever tried to solve a problem when you're upset? It's really hard. You're not thinking clearly. It's just not going to work. Children need to be able to return themselves to that state of calm before they're able to come up with solutions to their problem, or even to recognize what their problem is. Another step is being able to calm themselves or having an adult support them to calm down. 

The next skill might seem obvious, but children really need to be able to identify what the problem is. That could look like a child identifying hey, I've got two apples but there are three siblings here. And what, my problem is I've got two apples, and we don't have enough. Once they've identified the problem, children really need to be able to then come up with possible solutions to solve their problem. That could be that child identifying hey, if I split this apple, we all have some. Or it might be, I don't like apples, so you can have mine. 

These skills that I just mentioned are really higher level for maybe preschool-age children, but a home visitor can also support families of infants and toddlers by setting the stage for problem solving. Making sure the environment really promotes interactions with others. Are there opportunities for that child or other children in the home to engage with one another? There usually are, even in routines that we don't think there are, you can build in possible opportunities. Pointing those out for the family, helping them think about what they might do or say and providing, helping support them to provide more opportunities throughout the day.

Another way that a family could support problem-solving in the environment is narrating or pointing out the intentions or what another child might be wanting or needing so that could sound like, “oh, I see Julia crawling towards you. It looks like she wants to play with your ball.” What this does is really builds awareness of the wants and needs and intentions of others. I think that's so important because often I know you've been around children, you know that sometimes it feels like a threat and when we can narrate what's going on, we can frame what's going on for the child so that then they approach it as in a different way. 

Of course, it's important to share that if a coach is working with a home visitor to support families to use these practices, a coach can help a home visitor identify what those prerequisite skills are that might need to be taught to the child first, the family or the child to be successful. It's important to note that a coach can be an extra set of eyes. And that, some of the things that I mentioned are coming in on the chat, I'm seeing, or in the Q and A, some people are saying kids need to be able to share, kids need to be able to ask for what they need, kids need to be able to identify the problem, and so it looks like you guys are right in line with what we were talking about. Really having friendship skills is important. Thank you so much for your responses.

Joyce: I feel like folks have a lot of ideas to share about what it takes to problem solve. And again, thank you for all your responses; keep them coming in. We just talked about, there are a lot of things needed for children to be successful at problem-solving and we still see a lot of the responses here we see coming in in the chat. We have Kate and Catrina that talk about regulating emotions. We have Tom that talked about think about possible solutions and then also as adults think about how can we help kind of set them up with possible solutions. Thank you for putting all of those things in there. As you can see, there's a list there added to the list that is coming in the Q and A. All of those things all in mind, problem-solving steps that we talked about and how a home visitor might support the development of this process.

Sarah, just to pop in with a quick question here, when you were talking and explaining the, when you were explaining kind of the why. Like why because it kind of helps to take away that threat aspect of it. As a coach we do that with our coachee or home visitor and do you think that there's some importance or connection then as a home visitor having that knowledge than to be able to have that parallel process of sharing that information with a print of like this is why it's important to narrate kind of that parallel top piece. Do you think that that could also be helpful for a home visitor?

Sarah: Yes, absolutely. I think as adult learners, and when you're working with parents, working with adult learners, it's really important for them to know the why. Why are you telling me to narrate? Pairing the narration is important because it helps children feel less threatened by the other child and you share the intentions. Then it helps make it more, gives the parents the why. Why would I do this? And then they know that the possible impact that using that practice might have. It's really a parallel process. What you would, your coach would use with you, you might also use some of those strategies with the families that you would work with.

Joyce: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I said it was just when you said that, that light bulb went off, like wow, that's important information to kind of share on both sides, so thank you for that. 

Now we're going to just summarize some of those key ideas and practices for home visitors and how they can support some of those problem-solving skills. Again, a lot of things have been coming in through the Q and A. Number one is just to promote healthy relationships, that home visitors can support parents in how they engage with and offer opportunities for young children to work on relationship skills. Sharing and helping and cooperating and comforting and making suggestions about play, even celebrating each other, and creating developmentally appropriate opportunities for practicing those skills throughout the day. 

Home visitors can support parents in creating opportunities within the home as well as exploring options where children can practice turn-taking and sharing. Maybe through a socialization activity. Particularly when you're thinking about when there's just one child in the home, parents may have a concern about their child not having opportunities to engage with other children, so that could be a great time to just kind of pause and think about the value they place on peer relationships and how they might be able to provide some of those opportunities for their child. Thinking about some of those being intentional and some might be planning some outdoor activities, some field trips, some going to the park, visiting with their cousins or whatever that aspect. 

Just knowing that can also help with thinking about, like, 'Wow, every interaction could be a learning moment, an opportunity to kind of learn and grow these skills.' Thinking about teaching problem-solving steps that earlier we talked about - some steps that home visitors can work through with parents. When it comes to developing problem-solving skills, young children are learning to manage their emotions and behaviors through co-regulation. They're beginning to reason and understand simple consequences. Our role as a home visitor, we have that opportunity to work with parents and support the development of problem-solving.

Problem-solving development at this young age allows children to identify problems, brainstorm possible solutions, and then test those out, test out those appropriate solutions, and then analyze and think about, "Okay, so what kind of results did I get? Did I get what I wanted in the end?" Parents can support children to work through these steps and gain confidence in their ability to work through the problems that they encounter.

Another component would be teaching problem-solving in the moment. Problem-solving is hard work. It is hard work, but a 2-year-old solving problems is hard work for everyone involved sometimes. As home visitors, we have that unique opportunity of supporting this process. We want to build a parent's skill base and their confidence really to help their child use problem-solving steps in the moment. As home visitors can partner with parents to brainstorm ways they can anticipate those social conflicts before they happen. When a problem arises, the parent can anticipate or recognize problems before things can escalate and get out of hand and feel overwhelming or intervene as needed to work through those problem-solving steps that home visitors can support. 

How parents individualize strategies they use to provide support, all these skills, really based on the learning kind of style and needs of their child. We know that some children may need the amount of language used to be modified; some children may need visual cues or gestures kind of paired with verbal language; some children may need specific feedback about consequences to really help them learn about the effect of their behavior on the environment really based on the individual needs of that family and the children as well.

Roselia: Thanks for sharing all that, Joyce. That's a lot of great information, and as you were saying all these things that we're doing to support parents or children rather — I think someone mentioned this earlier — about even as adults, problem-solving is difficult for us sometimes. To imagine for children that don't have the words and they're struggling with all these different emotions and wanting to stake their independence, it can really be a tough process. 

As home visitors, we're in that unique position to really help support. Thanks for sharing all that. Throughout this webinar, we've really been discussing ways to foster problem-solving skills for all children. Today, in our focus on equity segment, we're going to use our equity lens to take a closer look and really lift up the value of equity in all learning environments as we work with diverse families in our communities.

As home visitors, it is safe to say that we are working with a diverse group of families, and we never want to make any assumptions. Let's reflect on this question: How can a home visitor be sure that they are being culturally responsive to a family's values related to relationships and problem-solving? Think about that because we know it's not a cookie-cutter approach and we know that there are cultures within cultures. It's important that we don't make any assumptions, and thinking about being culturally responsive, how can a home visitor ensure that that is happening?

We'd like for you to take some time and share some of your thoughts with us in the Q and A. While you're doing that, we do have a few suggestions that we would like for you to consider. First, we want to make sure that the skills that you're introducing are culturally relevant to the family that you're working with. It's important to really take the time and think back to the information that you've gathered as you've been developing a relationship with the family. You want to be sure that you're considering the values, beliefs, what's important to them, what's important that, the importance and the goals that they have for their children, and again, not making any assumptions and really asking these types of questions as you're moving through the process.

We also recommend that you take the time to gather input about social problems that the child may face at home or perhaps other settings that they're participating in. Then lastly, although we just mentioned this, we wanted to place an emphasis on the importance of gathering information about the family's values. As you're building those relationships, as you're observing the family, just really asking those questions, and not making assumptions from your perspective but from how the family states it. It's important to remember that problem-solving and how it is approached is not going to look the same for all families. Again, even if you have families that are from the same culture, what works for one family may not work for another. It's important for the suggestions and the strategies to be culturally responsive and respectful of a family's values. Sarah, folks are still entering their thoughts into the Q and A. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Sarah: Those suggestions you gave are great. Something that I think is important is you want to make sure that teaching problem-solving is relevant. You mentioned that, but we want to make sure that it's meeting the needs of the family, like what you're suggesting. Think about, when I think about it from a coach's perspective, this might be an opportunity to support the home visitor to come up with some ideas.

For example, if a home visitor asks the family what kind of social problems are popping up at home, or in their socialization settings with their child, it could be, “Oh, my child is taking toys, and they don't think sharing is important.” What you might do is offer different suggestions, but it might be tricky for a home visitor if they don't value sharing. What else could I offer? That could be where coming to your coach and trying to brainstorm and problem-solve or with your colleagues or your supervisor. 

If coaching isn't offered, to come up with some different ideas of what they might offer to that family, what they might suggest they teach their child instead. That could be asking for a turn or asking their sibling to give them a turn when they're finished, so there isn't just one right way to do things, and I think sometimes we forget that even as home visitors, our culture and what we value, we bring that into the environment and what we value isn't the only way. That's where getting the input and what the family values because ultimately, you're there to support them to support their child. Remembering that although your culture is relevant as well when you're there to support the family, you want to think about their values and really incorporate it that way.

Some of the responses that are coming in are pretty much in line with what we just talked about. It's looking very similar, getting input from the family, not making assumptions. I'm seeing finding out what they value, learning about their culture is something new that we didn't mention. Getting the parents' input can be really, really helpful. Thank you for those responses.

Joyce: Thank you, and Sarah, like you said, those responses just keep coming in and we encourage you just to keep sharing and keep thinking about, what we need to do to support families in a way that's culturally responsive. 

Now, we want to move into our next portion of our time together, and we want to turn our focus just a bit on looking at how home visitors can support families. We've been talking about this, and that's a great segue into this, so just want to explore that just a little bit more. We want to do that by highlighting the resource, and then you have the link to the resource in your viewer's guide for today.

One resource that was developed by the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning is “Problem-solving in the Moment.” This is a 15-minute in-service suite developed for preschool classroom teachers to help children problem-solve as they arise or in the moment. We've included a link to those materials in the participant's guide.

The content here really talks about these five steps that support and guide children's behavior to encourage problem-solving in the moment. You'll see that the five steps are here: anticipate, be close, provide support, multiple solutions, and then celebrating the success. We're going to explore each of these steps and relate them to how home visitors can partner with parents to guide their child's behavior at home to problem-solve in the moment. Rosalia is going to help us dig into that a little bit more.

Roselia: Anticipate is the first and very important step of this process. As home visitors, we can really work with parents to try and stay one step ahead of problems by recognizing and being proactive. Home visitors can support parents in sensing some of those changes in a child's behavior, as well as their emotions, and then really starting to pay attention to some of those identifying triggers. Home visitors can also help parents be aware as well as to be ready to activate some of those problem-solving steps that we have been talking about.

Let's move on here and talk about the next step, which is to be close. We know that often parents can be very busy, and they're not always going to be physically close when a problem situation presents itself. What parents can do is to relocate themselves and be near the location when the problem is beginning to occur. That's where it becomes important to start to identify some of those triggers, some of the changes in behaviors that are starting to happen, and then start to relocate. 

We want to work with parents to recognize some signs that a problem is about to occur so that they can then move themselves closer to that situation at this stage, rather than when the problem is in full swing. We want parents to know that when they are close, it's an opportunity for them to be able to explore and to begin to provide some support for their child. As a home visitor, you can really support families in beginning to pay attention, starting to recognize, and when to offer some of that proactive or preemptive support and figuring out some of those patterns of the behavior.

Being close, time also provides for families an opportunity to model how to remain calm and then some of those gentle approaches to problem-solving so when the parents are close, they're better able to support and then talk through identifying the problem as well as some of those possible solutions that we've been talking about. They can also support their child in regulating their emotions before they get to that heightened level, and then it's going to be a lot harder for them to be able to calm down. Parents being close also provides that opportunity for them to be able to provide that comfort that might be needed before things just really become too escalated and get out of control. Joyce, tell us a little bit about what this support might look like.

Joyce: One of the things that home visitors can explore with their family when it comes to being close and providing support for their child is knowing what level of support to provide to really ensure there is a teachable moment taking place. Sometimes, that support means helping their child stay near and in proximity to where the problem happens so they can problem-solve effectively. Sometimes, that could mean prompting their child to walk through the problem-solving steps. 

It can also mean verbal prompting, like, “Do you remember what to do when baby sister doesn't want to take a turn?” or maybe the parent can involve an older sibling in it if they're available, saying, “Hey, let's ask brother what would you do?” Sometimes it's really when children don't have those verbal skills, support can mean to use like visual cues as well and to prompt, that prompts them perhaps, takes them into those problem-solving steps. It really depends; that level of support depends kind of on the specific needs of their child. Knowing it's okay to kind of try out different levels of support to figure out what's needed.

Now we want to talk about the next step, which is multiple solutions. Like we said, there's a whole bunch of different ways to be right about things, and so there can be situations in which one solution maybe a good solution but we know that it may not always work. As children become older, parents can support problem-solving skills by encouraging their child to generate multiple solutions. Maybe with younger children they're going to need parents to support to generate choices or solutions. 

This is going to allow children to begin to grow their own toolbox of solutions to draw from when they encounter problems. The solutions don't need to be complicated and can be as simple as maybe using a timer, waiting patiently, or maybe even flipping a coin. Home visitors can support parents by talking through and really helping parents to determine some solutions they can present and help their child when problem-solving, and when problems arise. Sarah, we just want to tag you in here and ask you, do you have any resources in your toolbox that may support families with identifying solutions at home?

Sarah: There's a great resource from the National Center on Pyramid Model Innovations, and it's called the “Solution Kit.” They have a home edition, and it includes some common solutions to everyday social problems and it comes in multiple languages, which is great. Visual supports can be super helpful for young children and this resource might be something that a home visitor can share with families. 

Another great resource for teaching problem-solving is this scripted story, we can be problem solvers at home. This scripted story can be used by the family to help children understand the steps for problem-solving and it includes some scenario cards that you can use with children to help them think about solutions to common social problems that they're going to face, either in the home or the community. Those are two of my favorite resources.

Roselia: I love those, Sarah. Those are actually some of my favorites as well and I really love that they're visual and that they really have been designed to help support in the home environment, because often we see that there is resources for center-based children, but I love that these are specifically designed for the home. We have included the information in your Participant's Guide Resource List, so we want to make sure that you take the time to explore those and think about ways that you can utilize those with families that you might be supporting. 

Continuing on and thinking about the five steps that we've been talking about, the last step that we want to talk about is just as important as anticipating a problem and that is celebrating success. Reinforcing a child's success in problem-solving really supports their development as effective problem solvers, and as home visitors, we want to be sure that you share this with parents. They can reinforce that celebrating success. It can be formal, or it can be informal. Some examples of that informal celebration might be things such as a high five, acknowledging that they did a really great job, you can give them a thumbs up, a wink, a verbal praise, or even just a hug. 

Just letting them know that you're really proud of how they worked through that particular problem. As home visitors, you can really brainstorm some different options and some of those informal gestures that are culturally appropriate and relevant for their family. Then you can also support them in coming up with some more formal ways to celebrate the success. The important thing here is that we want to make sure that parents are acknowledging when children are working through those problems and that they're becoming much more independent so that children feel accomplished and of course if you recognize it in that positive way, they're going to want to do it again. They're going to feel that appreciation. 

We're going to watch a video clip. In this video clip, you're going to notice that the setting is a preschool classroom and that there are two children that have encountered a problem. We want you to take note on how the teacher handles the situation to really engage the children in working through problem-solving. In your participant's guide, you have some space, and we want for you to take some notes and really pay attention to some of the strategies that the teacher is using. It is a classroom; however, think about how this scenario might play out, perhaps in a home between two siblings or even at a group socialization between two children. Let's take a look.

[Video begins]

Teacher 1: Janny, what's the problem? You're getting it to make the fort and it looks like Amy's holding it too. Thanks, Elena for moving so I could get up. So what are we going to do about it? You both want the same block? What are we going to do about it? How are we going to fix the problem? I'm going to hold the block for a minute while you guys help figure it out. What's your idea?

Child 1: [Inaudible] 

Teacher 1: You want to play with it over there. Shall we find out what Jammy's idea was? What was your idea, Janny?

Child 2: [Inaudible] 

Teacher 1:  Oh, and she thinks she needs it for that building. So, you both need this block for two different buildings. Do you want to look for an idea in the basket? Grab the book. See what you can come up with. There's another one over there, right. I think Amy's got the book. What are we going to do? She's looking, so let's play together, so that would be building the same building together. 

Take a break, so you just take a break from building. Wait until she's done. One more minute, so she would have it for a minute and then you would have it for a minute. You build with something else, maybe next time. Playing together. You would build it together. Do you want to build together, Janny? Look at Amy's talking to you. Sorry, I just said it and Amy was saying it. Sorry about that, Amy. Here. So Amy, you're going to help Janny build her tower.

Child 1: Let's do this one.

Teacher 1: Excellent. You guys are expert problem solvers.

[Video ends] 

Joyce: We see some of the strategies coming through in the Q and A, we'll ask you to keep putting those out there for us, and just want to check in with Rosalia and Sarah to say what did you guys notice anything there about some of those great problem-solving skills that we saw happening?

Sarah: My favorite part of that video is that she really supported those two children to solve their own problem. She gave them support by prompting them to find the materials to help them problem solve. She read through some of the problems with them, or solutions with them, but ultimately the teacher didn't solve the problem for them. And that was really great to see because I think sometimes as adults, we want to be the fixer and in this video the children were really the experts. They were the expert problem solvers here. I thought that was…

Roselia: I agree, Sarah. I really love that and just the anticipation from the teacher, but also having their little solution book that they can kind of, the visual to work through and see they had multiple choices to choose from. That was my favorite part.

Joyce: Yeah, definitely lots to see in that one. I like that one. I think watching the adult and also watching the kids and how they react to that. Sarah, we just want to give you some space as we're kind of wrapping up to hear a little bit more from your coaching experience and just maybe some more tips for supporting home visitors and partnering with families.

Sarah: Sure. It's really important to remember that parents are their children's' best teachers and most children already, most of what children know or what they know when you come into a relationship with that family, has been learned by their parents. As home visitors, when we partner with parents, we really want to set the stage to provide those intentional opportunities for learning within the home setting. 

These tips for child size problems that children can solve with the help of their parents or on their own. Here are some tips that you can share with families to set the stage for their child to become problem solvers. One would be to help the child to relax. When children are faced with a problem, they can become upset, frustrated, angry, they might get their feelings hurt or even cry. 

This is not the time to try to solve the problem. When the child becomes calm, we want to help them to work through their problem, but when they're at the height of these emotions, that's not the time. We want to regulate, use some calming strategies to get them to calm down. Then we can support them to problem solve. You can support families to understand that supporting children to calm down is a really important step of this process. 

We want to make sure that we're giving uninterrupted time. As home visitors you want to partner with parents to help them understand that developing problem-solving skills is complicated and it takes time. Giving them uninterrupted time that's not rushed to talk through and support them to thinking through problems. Also, we want parents to feel like they are a coach. When we're talking about being a coach, we're not talking about home visitors coaching parents but what we mean here is that children at a very young age are still developing these skills. 

We want you to work with parents on developing their ability to identify opportunities and support their children through asking questions and helping their children think and share through what maybe these problems and solutions might be. Active listening is a really important part of this process, as parents it can be hard sometimes, we want to throw out our ideas and suggestions but active listening for children is so important. 

Here are some strategies that a home visitor can share with families, and we want you to jot down some notes in your participant guide. Encourage parents to withhold from solving those problems for children, so support them to support children and not solve them for them. Support parents in developing questions that they might ask when problems arise. Help parents to identify when they are, their critical solutions to their child is proposing, so try not to judge the solution. Sometimes they may be silly; let them try it out. Provide that active listening. All those strategies, you can remember those that will support families.

Joyce: Definitely, and we've included all of these tips in a handout, and that's part of your participant's guide as well. You may think, "What's my role in supporting some of these practices?" Rosalia, if you want to give maybe one kind of tip to close us out, what do you think that one thing would be regarding the role of the home visitor?

Roselia: I think the important thing, and I think Sarah has kind of really touched on this throughout, is just really taking the time to listen to the family. Finding out what's important to them, and then just kind of being a facilitator if you will — just kind of really asking some of those haunting questions to get the parent to start thinking about some of those steps that we talked about, like anticipating that behavior, looking at problem-solving as an opportunity for learning, and just helping children to really put words to those emotions that sometimes even we as adults struggle with. 

I think really being that partner, that reflective partner with the parent, and then providing some of these strategies to help them work through that and again just really seeing it as an opportunity and not necessarily as a behavior that challenges us. Just kind of taking that time to explore with their child and just giving them the words for those emotions to kind of help them become more aware as they kind of go out into the world and face some of those social conflicts if you will. That would be my suggestion.

Joyce: I think that's a great one to leave us with today. Thank you, Sarah, so much for joining us. Thank you everyone here. If you have any questions or anything, drop them in the Q and A. Also, feel free to reach out to us, we have to keep this conversation going, and we will see you guys next time. Thank you.

How young children approach and solve problems is critical to their overall development. Problem-solving supports how young children understand the world around them. It can impact their ability to form relationships as well as the quality of those relationships. Supporting the development of problem-solving skills is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Explore strategies and resources home visitors can use to partner with parents to strengthen and nurture these skills and help children cope with challenges as they arise. 

Note: The evaluation, certificate, and engagement tools mentioned in the video were for the participants of the live webinar and are no longer available. For information about webinars that will be broadcast live soon, visit the Upcoming Events section.

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Resource Type: Video

National Centers: Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning

Age Group: Infants and Toddlers

Audience: Home Visitors

Series: Home Visiting Series

Last Updated: April 5, 2024

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    Puzzles and Brain Teasers. Puzzles and brain teasers are fun ways to boost kids' problem-solving skills. These challenges can be jigsaw puzzles, tricky riddles, or math puzzles, all designed to make kids think critically and creatively. By solving them, kids learn to break down problems, be persistent, and find different solutions.

  11. How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Your Child: A Guide for Every

    Set up a pretend "lost toy" scenario and encourage your child to figure it out. Help them with their thought process, such as where they last saw the toy, and where to look for it first. 2. Skill Teaching: Break down the problem-solving steps according to their age. For 3 - 5 year olds, try to focus on emotions.

  12. Teaching Problem Solving

    Make students articulate their problem solving process . In a one-on-one tutoring session, ask the student to work his/her problem out loud. This slows down the thinking process, making it more accurate and allowing you to access understanding. When working with larger groups you can ask students to provide a written "two-column solution.".

  13. Developing Problem-Solving Skills for Kids

    Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: Student Strategies. These are strategies your students can use during independent work time to become creative problem solvers. 1. Go Step-By-Step Through The Problem-Solving Sequence. Post problem-solving anchor charts and references on your classroom wall or pin them to your Google Classroom - anything to make ...

  14. Problem Solving with Little Learners (preschool, pre-k, and

    Cheer on the students for solving the problem and stay close just in case they need more support. Throughout the day, try to make EVERYTHING a problem to solve. Then model, talk through your thinking out loud, and use visuals to support students as they try to solve a problem. For example, I may put out a big ball of playdough in the center of ...

  15. Top 10 Ways To Help Preschoolers BE A PROBLEM SOLVER

    Children who learn to solve problems develop the skills they need to look at things from a different perspective, and overcome challenges. This ability can help your preschooler build healthy relationships, and be more likely to succeed when they try new things. Children who succeed when they try to accomplish a task tend to be happier, and ...

  16. Building Problem-Solving Skills for Preschoolers

    Here's an overview of common types of problem-solving situations preschoolers might face: Social Interactions: Learning to share toys, taking turns, and resolving conflicts with peers are common problems requiring negotiation and empathy. Self-care Tasks: Dressing themselves, tying shoelaces, or managing basic hygiene tasks demand practical ...

  17. Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

    Here are 3 Simple Ways to Teach Preschoolers to Solve Problems. 1.Teaching executive functioning and problem solving skills in everyday situations will support the growth of a child's prefrontal cortex. For example, these activities that teach executive functioning at the beach show how much thought and preparation goes into building a simple ...

  18. Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

    Problem-solving activities are interactive games or tasks designed to challenge children and promote their critical thinking, creativity, and decision-making skills. They often involve puzzles, matching games, pattern recognition, or role-playing scenarios. These activities encourage children, including toddlers and preschoolers, to identify ...

  19. Problem Solving for Kids: How-To Guide, Activities & Strategies

    There are a few key things that parents and educators can do to help kids develop strong problem-solving skills: Teach Children to Identify the Problem. One of the most important steps in solving any problem is being able to accurately identify what the problem is. This can be tricky for kids, especially if they're feeling emotional about the ...

  20. How To Teach Problem-Solving Skills For Kids

    Teaching problem-solving skills to kids is an important way of preparing them for life. To do this, it is important to model problem solving and encourage creativity. Start by helping your child identify the issue they are facing, brainstorm potential solutions, evaluate their options and then make a plan of action. Make sure you provide

  21. How to Build Problem-Solving Skills in Preschoolers?

    Critical thinking is at the core of problem-solving. Encourage your preschooler to ask questions, explore ideas, and think independently. Engage in open-ended conversations, allowing them to express their thoughts and opinions. Encouraging curiosity and challenging them to think beyond the obvious will help sharpen their problem-solving abilities.

  22. Problem-solving and Relationship Skills with Infants and Toddlers

    Problem-solving involves patience, persistence, and creativity from both the child and the adults in their lives. As infants and toddlers explore their world and engage in play with peers, challenges and conflicts provide opportunities to learn and grow. Discuss practical strategies to foster problem-solving and relationship-building skills ...

  23. Promoting Problem-solving Skills in Young Children

    Thinking about teaching problem-solving steps that earlier we talked about - some steps that home visitors can work through with parents. When it comes to developing problem-solving skills, young children are learning to manage their emotions and behaviors through co-regulation. They're beginning to reason and understand simple consequences.