44 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Kids

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problem solving for kids

Inside: Tons of activities that will help boost kids’ problem-solving skills and make them super critical thinkers!

Table of Contents

Who doesn’t love a little challenge now and then? Especially if it’s for our kiddos! 

You see, problem-solving isn’t just for the puzzles and math sheets. It’s the magic stuff that shapes our little ones into big thinkers and doers. 

Yep, it’s pretty important!

With the right activities, we aren’t just sharpening kids’ brain muscles; we’re also enhancing their creativity, boosting their confidence and critical thinking skills, and (just maybe) buying ourselves five minutes to sip that coffee while it’s still hot. 

Stick around, and let’s dive into 44 simple activities to boost your child’s problem-solving skills while having a blast! 🚀💡

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Why is it Important to Learn Problem-Solving Strategies?

Importance of problem-solving abilities:

Navigating the maze of life requires many skills; it requires the ability to face challenges, find solutions, and adapt. 

This is where problem-solving enters the picture, and here’s why it’s so crucial for our kiddos:

Life is Full of Puzzles:  From tying shoes to understanding a new math concept, life constantly presents us with puzzles. Equipping our children with problem-solving skills ensures they can tackle each one confidently.

Boosts Independence:  As parents or educators, we won’t always be there to hand-hold. When kids can solve problems on their own, they gain a sense of independence, which is essential for their personal growth.

Develops Resilience:  Not every attempt to solve a problem will be successful. But with each try, children learn resilience, understanding that it’s okay to fail and important to try again.

Prepares for Real-World Challenges:  The real world isn’t a scripted playground. It’s unpredictable. By honing their problem-solving abilities, we’re preparing kids to face the unforeseen challenges of the world outside.

Enhances Cognitive Growth:  Otherwise known as cognitive development. Problem-solving isn’t just about finding solutions. It’s about thinking critically, analyzing situations, and making decisions. This cognitive workout helps in the overall brain development of our children.

problem solving activities for kids

Fosters Creativity:  There’s often more than one way to solve a problem. Encouraging kids to think outside the box helps them see things from different perspectives and nurtures their creative spirit, letting them see possibilities where others might see roadblocks.

Encourages Adaptability:  In the face of challenges, it’s important not just to find solutions but to be adaptable. As the world changes, kids with strong problem-solving skills can change with it, learning and growing along the way.

Builds Confidence :  Every problem solved is a victory, a testament to their capabilities. This builds a child’s self-esteem, making them believe in their ability to face and overcome obstacles.

So, while it may seem like just another skill on the list, problem-solving is a cornerstone for a well-rounded, resilient, and successful individual.

4 Simple Problem-Solving Steps We Should Know at a Young Age

Problem-solving steps can be thought of as the building blocks for tackling challenges. 

They’re like a set of instructions that  guide us  on our journey to finding different solutions. These steps provide a  roadmap  for kids, helping them break down big problems into smaller, more manageable pieces. 

By following these steps, children can learn  how  to think critically, make smart decisions, and even discover their own creative problem-solving superpowers. 

  • First, we need to understand the problem, just like examining the pieces before we start building. 
  • Next, we brainstorm – this is where we think of different solutions, like trying out various block combinations. Then comes the important part – evaluating the options. We must determine the best solution ,  just like choosing the right blocks for our structure. 
  • After that, it’s time to put the plan into action, just like assembling the blocks to create something amazing. 
  • Finally, we review and see if our solution works, making adjustments if needed. 

problem solving skills for kids

These problem-solving steps are like our trusty toolkit, helping us build our way to success with creativity and ingenuity.

Whether it’s figuring out a math puzzle, resolving a conflict with a friend, or coming up with a new game, these problem-solving steps will be a guide to helping kids take their next steps.

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If you want a program that guides you on how to teach problem-solving along with other essential skills like self-regulation, respect, teamwork, conflict resolution, and more, check this out!

Best Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

In this guide, we have a cool mix of fun problem-solving activities. There are activities for inside, outside, playing in groups, and even on the computer! So take deep breaths, and let’s get to it!

44 Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Problem-solving games for kids:, card games:.

These are more than just fun; they are brain boosters. In  Go Fish , the hunt for matching cards sharpens memory. While in the classic game  Uno , it’s all about plotting the right move to take the lead.

4 problem solving steps for kids

The Memory Game:

This game isn’t just about remembering; it’s about strategizing. Matching pairs means we’re not just recalling but also paying close attention. This boosts concentration, focus, and, of course, memory – essential skills for everyday challenges!

Try this animal matching memory game.

Classic  Board Games:

Whether it’s Chess , where every move counts, or  Monopoly ,  where every decision can make or break your game, these games teach foresight and strategy.

problem solving games for kids

Maze Games :

Navigating a maze isn’t just about reaching the end; it’s about strategizing the route. These games enhance our ability to plan and foresee, invaluable skills in real-life situations.

Brain-Teasing Sudoku :

Sudoku   isn’t merely filling in numbers; it’s about using logic to deduce the correct sequence.

Tangram Puzzles: 

These aren’t your average puzzles. With Tangram, you shape a story, crafting images using geometric pieces.

Chess & Strategy-Based Games:

Think of these as mental workouts. Here, every step is a calculated decision, honing your ability to think multiple steps ahead.

For more fun:

  • 20 Best Games for 4-Year-Olds
  • 15 Board Games Every 9-Year-Old Will Love

Indoor Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Complete simple tasks:.

Simple tasks are little jobs that you can do to practice problem-solving. 

  • Matching Socks:  Sort through a pile of laundry to pair up matching socks.
  • Grocery List Planning:  Help create a list for the week’s meals, considering everyone’s preferences.
  • Toy Organization:  Sort toys into designated bins by type, size, or color.
  • Packing Their School Bag:  Ensure they have all the necessary items for the next school day.
  • Setting the Table:  Consider where each plate, fork, and glass should go.

Ask Open-Ended Questions:

Open-ended questions are special questions that don’t have just one answer. They make you think! For instance, instead of asking, “What color is the sky?” you might ask, “Why do you think the sky changes colors?”

Puzzle Games:

Try simple puzzles with fewer pieces for younger kids and more complex puzzles with more pieces for older kids! You figure out how to fit the pieces together, which helps your brain get stronger!

Puzzle games are also great for hand-eye coordination!

Pattern Recognition:

This is all about finding the special patterns in things. Imagine a puzzle with colors or shapes. You have to figure out the pattern to solve it.

Dress-Up and Role-Play:

When you dress up and pretend to be someone else, it’s like stepping into their shoes. You have to think about how they would act and problem-solve what they would say if you were them.

Shape Sorters:

Shape sorters  are super fun for young kids. You have to match each shape to the right hole. It’s like a puzzle for shapes! This helps you learn about different shapes and how they fit together.

Building Challenges:

Use Wooden blocks or legos and give kids a theme or structure to replicate. Great for all age groups!

indoor problem solving activities for kids

Cooking or Baking:

Cooking and baking are like yummy science experiments! You follow recipes, mix ingredients, and even get to taste your creations. You must figure out how to follow and “solve” the recipe so that your creation tastes delicious!

“What If?” Scenarios:

Present hypothetical situations (e.g., “What if you were invisible for a day?”) and discuss possible solutions or actions.

Homemade Science Experiments:

Homemade science experiments are like being a scientist in your own lab! You get to try out cool experiments and discover how things work. 

Quick Experiment example:

Make Dancing Raisins:

  • Clear soda (like Sprite or 7-Up)
  • A clear glass
  • Fill the glass with the soda.
  • Drop a few raisins into the glass.

Result:  The raisins will initially sink, then start “dancing” up and down due to the carbon dioxide bubbles attaching and detaching from them.

Coding Activities: 

Coding is like giving a computer a set of clues to follow. Think of it as telling a story where the computer plays the main character, and your instructions guide its every move. It’s our way of communicating with machines to make them do amazing tasks!

Crossword Puzzles:

Crossword puzzles are fun little word challenges. You must fill in the blanks with the right words and use your smarts to solve tricky clues!

Complex Problems like Brain Teasers:

Brain teasers are like mental gymnastics, making you stretch and flex your thinking muscles. What’s fun about them? There’s often more than one way to reach an answer, so your imagination and logic both get a workout!

Goal Setting Activities:

Goal setting  is like making a special plan for what you want to achieve. 

Think of goal setting as charting out your very own treasure map, with no wrong answers! 

By laying out what you aim to achieve, you’re setting the course toward your treasure: success!

Goals, be they immediate or down the road, act like our personal compasses. They keep you on track and motivated. And every time you hit a goal? That’s you cracking a code and unlocking a new achievement in your adventure!

setting smart goals through problem solving for kids

Setting SMART Goals

This engaging kit focuses on teaching essential skills for setting and  achieving smart goals,  just like breaking down that LEGO set into manageable sections. We help kids understand the importance of clear objectives, staying motivated, overcoming obstacles, embracing adaptability and more.

Math Challenges:

Think of math challenges as your brain’s personal gym session. These aren’t just any puzzles; they’re crafted to push those thinking caps to the limit. 

Debates (Best for older children):

Debates are friendly arguments where you defend your ideas with strong reasons. They’re excellent for problem-solving and for our social skills because they teach us how to think critically and consider different viewpoints. By defending our thoughts in a debate, we learn how to express ourselves clearly, listen to others, and find strong arguments to support our ideas!

Use Worksheets (Teach the Size of the Problem Concepts)

Teach concepts like the size of the problem to help kids determine if their reactions to problems are appropriate and what suitable solutions might be. Use fun visuals and problem-solving worksheets.

You can get this worksheet and more in our HeartSmart curriculum.

size of the problem worksheets

STEM Challenges: 

STEM challenges are games that use science, technology, engineering, and math to solve problems. They’re awesome for problem-solving because they let us be like inventors and builders. Kids can engage in creative play and design and create things, like bridges or machines, using our smarts and creativity. 

indoor problem solving stem activities

Outdoor Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Nature scavenger hunt or treasure hunt: .

Create a list of natural items for kids to find. For added difficulty, give riddles as clues.

We have some awesome free Scavenger Hunt Bundles you can snag!

Scavenger Hunt Printables

Free Scavenger Hunt Bundle

Download this set now, which includes four unique scavenger hunt games

Outdoor Obstacle Course: 

Use items like ropes, cones, and hula hoops to design a course that requires navigation.

Garden Planning & Planting :

Design a garden patch, deciding what to plant based on sunlight and spacing needs.

Map & Compass Orienteering:

Teach kids to use a map and compass, then set waypoints for them to find.

Water Relay Challenges:

Carry water from one bucket to another using a sponge or cup, navigating hurdles.

outdoor problem solving activities for kids

Campsite Setup Simulation Challenge:

Set up a mock campsite considering factors like wind direction, incline, and resource proximity.

Nature Art & Patterns:

Using twigs, leaves, stones, and more, create mosaic patterns or depictions.

Group Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Tower of spaghetti:.

Using only spaghetti and marshmallows, groups compete to build the tallest stable tower.

Egg Drop Challenge:

Groups are provided with a set of materials (e.g., straws, tape, cotton) to create a protective casing for an egg, which is then dropped from a height.

Silent Line-Up:

Without speaking, kids must line up according to their birthdays or another criterion.

Group Story Time:

One child starts a story with a sentence or two, and each subsequent child adds on, weaving in unexpected twists and turns.

group problem solving activities for kids

The Human Knot:

Kids stand in a circle, reach across, and grasp two different hands. The challenge is to untangle the knot without releasing hands.

Escape Room:

Everyone is ‘locked’ in a themed room and has to solve a series of clues and puzzles to ‘escape’ within a set time. It’s fantastic for problem-solving because it challenges critical thinking, teamwork, and creativity. Everyone must work together, think outside the box, and use their wits to solve the puzzles and complete the mission before time runs out!

Role-Playing Social Situations:

Role-playing helps you practice how to react and solve problems in different situations. Present the group with a fictional but realistic scenario (e.g., stranded on an island) and brainstorm and act out solutions.

By pretending to be in different roles, you can figure out the best ways to communicate, understand others, and find solutions to problems in a safe and fun way!

Blindfolded Obstacle Course:

In pairs, one blindfolded child is guided through an obstacle course by their partner using only verbal instructions.

Online and App-Based Problem Solving Activities

When tech meets intellect, the digital realm becomes a treasure trove of problem-solving wonder!

Educational Apps:

Best Apps by Age:

  • Younger Kids : Dive into the mathematical world with “Moose Math” or kick-start programming concepts playfully with “Bee-Bot.”
  • Older Kids: Amp up programming skills with “Cargo-Bot” or embark on a critical thinking journey with “Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure.”

Online and App-Based Problem Solving Activities

Online Escape Rooms:

Just like physical escape rooms, but from the comfort of your home! They’re digital adventures, demanding clues to be solved to advance to the next level.

Check out these 10 Family Friendly Online Escape rooms here! I’m especially looking forward to Hogwarts Harry Potter Escape Room .

Virtual Logic Puzzles:

Websites that present logic problems and puzzles, leveling up in complexity as kids solve them.

Top Picks:  “Conceptis Puzzles,” “Math Playground Logic Games.”

Benefits: Perfect for sharpening deductive reasoning and pattern recognition.

Interactive E-Books:

These are not your everyday e-books. They demand interaction, choices, and decision-making to progress the story.

Suggestions:  “This Book is Perfect” or I love this big list of the best interactive books for kids.

Benefits: Enhance comprehension, decision-making, and experience of how choices shape outcomes.

Online Strategy Games:

These games demand planning, strategic thinking, and foresight.

Check out: “Fish Sticks Strategy Game”

Benefits: Apart from being immensely fun, they teach patience, strategy formulation, and long-term planning.

10 Examples of Problem-Solving Skills Young Children Should Have

Each of these skills not only helps kids tackle problems effectively but also equips them with abilities they’ll use throughout their lives.

problem solving activities for 5 year olds

  • Critical Thinking:  Encourage young thinkers to examine situations, ask questions, and view things from different angles before reaching a conclusion.
  • Decision-Making Skills:  Help children practice making choices by offering them options and discussing the potential outcomes of each decision.
  • Creative Thinking:  Cultivate creativity by providing opportunities for imaginative play, artistic expression, and activities that encourage thinking outside the box.
  • Communication Skills:  Show children how to express their thoughts,  feelings , and ideas clearly and effectively – a vital skill for problem-solving in social situations.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration:  Foster the spirit of cooperation by encouraging children to work together on group activities or projects, which helps develop problem-solving skills as a team.
  • Resourcefulness:  Challenge children to find alternative solutions using the available resources rather than relying solely on adult guidance.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability:  Teach children how to adapt to changes and unexpected situations, which is crucial for effective problem-solving in real-world scenarios.
  • Persistence:  Staying determined, even when faced with challenges, and continuing to try until a solution is found.
  • Self-reflection:  Recognizing one’s own mistakes or misunderstandings in a situation and learning from them for future problem-solving.
  • Active Listening:  Paying close attention to details when others speak, helping them understand problems more fully and respond effectively. 

Must read post:

How to Help Kids with Inflexible Thinking THRIVE

Tips for Parents and Educators: Nurturing Problem-Solving in Kids

When it comes to fostering problem-solving skills in children, both parents and educators play pivotal roles. It’s less about giving the right answers and more about asking the right questions. 

Encourage Curiosity.  Let kids explore questions like, “What do you think would happen if…?” or “How would you do it differently next time?”.

Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities can be a game-changer.

Set Up Scenarios.  Create environments or situations where kids can think and act independently. Whether it’s setting up a puzzle station at home or a role-play corner in the classroom, these controlled scenarios can stimulate their problem-solving faculties. Remember, it’s okay for them to struggle a bit. It’s through overcoming challenges that real learning occurs.

Lastly,  Be a Guide, Not a Director.  Instead of directing them step-by-step, guide them by providing hints or asking probing questions. This helps them develop the ability to analyze situations and think critically. As they grow, they’ll be more equipped to approach challenges with confidence and creativity. 

So, whether you’re a parent or an educator, remember that each day presents countless opportunities to bolster these invaluable skills. Embrace them!

Final Thoughts: Problem Solving Activities for Kids

Being a pro at problem-solving helps us face all types of curveballs life throws at us.

From untangling math puzzles to making big decisions, this skill is our trusty sidekick. And when life changes? No sweat! We can adapt and shine.

In short, mastering problem-solving helps us face challenges, make wise choices, and truly succeed in whatever we tackle!

I hope you enjoyed these problem-solving activities for kids. Tell me, what one is your favorite?

simple problem solving activities for preschoolers

Because we all want our kids to be happy and healthy — not just for right now, but for the rest of their lives.

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></center></p><h2>20 Engaging Problem-Solving Activities for Kids</h2><p>In today’s rapidly changing world, problem-solving skills have become essential for children. These skills enable them to navigate challenges, think critically, and develop creative solutions. Whether it’s solving a math problem, working on a group project, or dealing with everyday situations, the ability to solve problems effectively can set children up for success in school and life. The following 20 problem-solving activities are designed to help children enhance their problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills, fostering self-reliance and independent thinking while promoting collaboration and communication skills. These activities are suitable for parents and teachers looking to incorporate fun and educational problem-solving exercises into their daily routines.</p><p><center><img style=

1. Build A Tower

Location : Home or Classroom

Format : Individual or Team

Description : This activity challenges children to build the tallest tower possible using materials like blocks, straws, or recycled items. The goal is to encourage creativity, planning, and structural understanding.

How to conduct the activity :

  • Provide a variety of building materials such as blocks, straws, cardboard, and tape.
  • Set a time limit for the activity (e.g., 20 minutes).
  • Allow children to work individually or in teams to build their towers.
  • After the time is up, measure the height of each tower and discuss the design choices and challenges faced during construction.

2. Escape Room Challenge

Location : Classroom

Format : Team

Description : In this activity, children must work together to solve puzzles and clues to “escape” from a locked room scenario. This promotes critical thinking, teamwork, and logical reasoning.

  • Set up a room with various puzzles and clues that lead to the final solution (e.g., finding a key or a code).
  • Divide the children into small teams.
  • Provide an initial clue to start the challenge.
  • Allow teams to work together to solve each puzzle within a set time limit (e.g., 30 minutes).
  • Facilitate a discussion after the activity to reflect on the strategies used and the importance of teamwork and communication.

3. Puzzle Solving

Description : Engaging in jigsaw puzzles or logic puzzles helps improve problem-solving skills by challenging children to think critically and find solutions to complex problems.

  • Provide a variety of puzzles, such as jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku.
  • Allow children to choose a puzzle and set a time limit for completing it.
  • If done in teams, encourage collaboration and discussion to solve the puzzle together.
  • After completing the puzzles, discuss the strategies used and any challenges faced during the activity.

4. Team Scavenger Hunt

Location : Outdoor or Indoor

Description : In this activity, teams work together to find items on a list within a set time. This promotes teamwork, communication, and strategic thinking.

  • Create a list of items for the scavenger hunt (e.g., a red leaf, a feather, a specific book).
  • Set a time limit for the hunt (e.g., 30 minutes).
  • Provide the list to each team and allow them to search for the items.
  • The team that finds the most items or completes the list first wins.
  • Discuss the strategies used by the teams and the importance of communication and cooperation.

5. Human Knot

Location : Indoor or Outdoor

Description : Teams must untangle themselves without letting go of each other’s hands. This activity fosters teamwork, communication, and problem-solving under physical constraints.

  • Have the children stand in a circle and hold hands with two different people across from them, creating a human knot.
  • The goal is to untangle the knot without letting go of each other’s hands.
  • Allow the teams to communicate and work together to find a solution.
  • If the knot becomes too difficult, allow for a strategic pause to discuss the next moves.
  • After untangling, discuss what strategies worked best and the importance of clear communication and teamwork.

6. Group Story Creation

Description : Each team member adds a sentence to a story, promoting creativity, collaboration, and logical progression in storytelling.

  • Start with a simple opening sentence for a story.
  • Each team member adds a sentence to the story, taking turns.
  • Continue until the story reaches a natural conclusion or set a limit for the number of sentences.
  • Share the stories with the entire group and discuss the creative process and the importance of building on each other’s ideas.

7. Marshmallow Challenge

marshmallow challenge

Location : Classroom or Camp

Description : Teams are challenged to build the tallest structure possible using spaghetti, tape, and a marshmallow. This activity encourages creativity, planning, and structural understanding.

  • Provide each team with 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow.
  • Set a time limit (e.g., 18 minutes) for building the structure.
  • The goal is to build the tallest free-standing structure with the marshmallow on top.
  • After the time is up, measure the height of each structure.
  • Discuss the different approaches used by each team, the challenges they faced, and what they learned about structural integrity and teamwork.

8. Mystery Bags

Description : Using their sense of touch, children guess the items inside mystery bags, enhancing sensory perception and deductive reasoning.

  • Fill several bags with different objects.
  • Children can ask yes/no questions or work in teams to identify the objects.
  • Set a time limit for each guess.
  • Discuss the process and strategies used to identify the items, emphasizing the importance of sensory skills and logical deduction.

9. Treasure Maps

Description : Following a treasure map with clues and landmarks helps children develop navigation skills, critical thinking, and teamwork.

  • Draw a detailed treasure map with clues and landmarks.
  • Hide a “treasure” (e.g., a small toy or treat) at a specific location.
  • Divide the children into teams and give each team a copy of the map.
  • Set a time limit for finding the treasure by solving riddles and completing tasks.
  • After the activity, discuss the strategies used, the importance of following directions, and how well the teams worked together.

10. Math Relay Race

Location : Classroom or Outdoor

Description : Combining physical activity with problem-solving, children solve math problems at each station of a relay race.

  • Set up a relay race course with stations, each featuring a different math problem.
  • Divide the children into teams.
  • Each team member must solve a math problem before running to the next station.
  • The first team to complete all the problems and cross the finish line wins.
  • Discuss the importance of both physical activity and mental agility in problem-solving.

11. Maze Challenges

math maze--find the acorn

Location : Home, Classroom, or Outdoor

Description : Solving mazes, either on paper or physically constructed, develops spatial awareness and strategic planning.

  • Provide printed mazes or set up a physical maze using string or tape.
  • Children must find the correct path from start to finish.
  • If done in teams, allow them to strategize together.
  • Set a time limit for the activity.
  • After completing the maze, discuss the strategies used and the importance of planning and spatial awareness.

12. Debate Club

Description : Engaging in structured debates on various topics helps children improve logical reasoning, communication, and persuasion skills.

  • Choose a relevant and age-appropriate topic for debate.
  • Divide the children into two teams, assigning each team a position (for or against).
  • Allow time for the teams to research and prepare their arguments.
  • Conduct the debate, giving each team equal time to present their points and rebuttals.
  • After the debate, facilitate a discussion on the importance of logical reasoning, effective communication, and respecting differing viewpoints.

13. Gardening Project

Location : Garden or Outdoor Area

Description : Planning and maintaining a garden teaches children about ecosystems, responsibility, and problem-solving in a practical, hands-on way.

  • Choose a suitable outdoor area for the garden.
  • Provide gardening tools, seeds, and plants.
  • Allow children to plan the garden layout, decide what to plant, and how to care for the plants.
  • Encourage them to work individually or in teams to plant and maintain the garden.
  • Over time, have the children observe the growth and troubleshoot any issues (e.g., pests, watering schedules).
  • Discuss the lessons learned about responsibility, environmental stewardship, and problem-solving.

14. Cooking Challenge

Location : Kitchen

Description : Following a recipe or creating a dish with limited ingredients encourages creativity, planning, and practical problem-solving.

  • Provide a selection of ingredients and basic kitchen tools.
  • Divide the children into teams and either provide a recipe or challenge them to create a dish using the available ingredients.
  • Set a time limit for planning and cooking.
  • After the dishes are prepared, have a taste test and discuss the process, challenges faced, and solutions found.
  • Highlight the importance of following instructions, time management, and teamwork.

15. DIY Crafts

Description : Creating crafts from various materials encourages creativity, fine motor skills, and problem-solving as children figure out how to bring their ideas to life.

  • Provide a variety of crafting materials (paper, glue, scissors, markers, recycled items).
  • Allow children to choose a craft project or give them a specific challenge (e.g., create an animal, design a greeting card).
  • Let them work individually or in teams to complete the project.
  • Afterward, display the crafts and have a discussion about the creative process, any difficulties encountered, and how they were resolved.

16. Coding Games

coding games-scratch

Description : Using simple coding games or apps like Scratch, children create animations or solve coding challenges, enhancing their logical thinking and programming skills.

  • Introduce children to basic coding concepts using apps like Scratch.
  • Provide a set of challenges or allow them to create their own animations.
  • Encourage them to work individually or in teams.
  • After completing the coding tasks, have a showcase to demonstrate their projects.
  • Discuss the problem-solving strategies used in coding and the importance of logical thinking.

17. Environmental Clean-up

Location : Outdoor

Description : Planning and executing a local clean-up project teaches children about environmental stewardship, teamwork, and community problem-solving.

  • Identify a local area that needs cleaning (e.g., a park, beach, or school grounds).
  • Provide cleaning supplies such as gloves, trash bags, and recycling bins.
  • Divide the children into teams and assign specific areas or tasks to each team.
  • Set a time limit for the clean-up activity.
  • After the clean-up, discuss the importance of environmental responsibility, teamwork, and the impact of their efforts on the community.

18. Memory Games

Description : Playing memory games improves children’s concentration and problem-solving skills by challenging them to remember sequences of objects, numbers, or images.

  • Set up a memory game with cards or objects arranged in a specific order.
  • Allow children to study the sequence for a short time, then cover or shuffle the items.
  • Challenge them to recall the sequence correctly.
  • If done in teams, encourage them to discuss and strategize together.
  • Discuss the importance of concentration and memory in problem-solving.

19. LEGO Building

Description : Building structures or solving building challenges using LEGO bricks encourages creativity, planning, and engineering problem-solving.

  • Provide a variety of LEGO bricks and building accessories.
  • Give children specific building challenges (e.g., build a bridge that can hold a certain weight, create a model of a famous landmark).
  • Allow them to work individually or in teams to complete the challenge.
  • After the building time, showcase the creations and discuss the design choices, challenges faced, and problem-solving techniques used.
  • Highlight the importance of creativity, planning, and structural integrity.

20. Role-playing Scenarios

Location : Classroom or Drama Club

Description : Acting out scenarios that require quick thinking and problem-solving helps children develop communication, empathy, and decision-making skills.

  • Create a series of role-playing scenarios that involve common problems or conflicts (e.g., resolving a disagreement, planning an event, responding to an emergency).
  • Divide the children into teams and assign each team a scenario.
  • Allow time for the teams to discuss and plan their response to the scenario.
  • Have each team act out their scenario in front of the group.
  • After each performance, discuss the problem-solving approaches used, the effectiveness of the communication, and what could be improved.

Supporting your child’s problem-solving development can be both fun and easy. Spark Math by Spark Education offers interactive lessons and animated explanations for children ages 4-11, designed to enhance critical thinking skills. Our program includes a variety of learning tools such as tangrams, maze maps, Rubik’s cubes, and building blocks to make learning more effective and enjoyable. These tools are integrated into our lessons to help children improve their problem-solving abilities. Sign up for a FREE trial class to experience Spark Math today!

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15 Best Problem Solving Activities: Foster Critical Thinking

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1. Rolling Dice

2. build a tower, 3. tic tac toe, 4. scavenger hunt, 6. activity books, 7. board games, 9. human knot, 10. open-ended questions.

Problem solving activities for kids are a great way to teach them how to think critically and creatively, and how to develop a growth mindset . We’re sure you must have also played many educational games as a kid that helped you develop critical thinking or problem-solving- skills you’re using even today. These activities can be tailored to be fun and engaging, and they help kids understand that challenges and difficulties are opportunities to learn and grow instead of things to be feared. 

By providing kids with problem-solving activities, we can give them the tools to develop their problem-solving skills and build the confidence to tackle difficult challenges, which will be valuable to them throughout their life. It will also help them understand that their abilities can be developed with practice and hard work, encouraging them to persevere through difficult tasks and not give up easily when faced with obstacles. If you’re looking for some fun and engaging problem solving activities for children to develop a growth mindset, we have curated a list of activities for you.

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15 Best Problem Solving Activities for Kids

Kids playing in the park

Things you’ll need: A die or dice, some flashcards and a pen

How to do: You can play tons of different games with dice. Playing with two dice encourages kids to quickly add up numbers and learn math in a fun way . One fun game you can play with a single die involves flashcards. For this game, you can assign a category to each number on the die and when the kid rolls the die, they have to name any 3 examples from the category assigned to the number rolled. For example, if number 4 is assigned to animals and it is rolled, they will have to name any 3 animals. 

Things you’ll need: Building blocks, lego, toilet rolls or anything that can be stacked

How to do: If you’re looking for problem solving activities for 5 year olds, this is for you. To play this game, just give the kids anything that can be stacked on top of the other. This can be building blocks, lego, Jenga blocks, toilet rolls, etc. The challenge is to stack one on top of the other and see how high a tower they can build. This game can be played in teams or individually as well. 

Things you’ll need: A tic tac tow board or pen and paper

How to do: This is one of the most exciting problem solving fun activities for students. You can either play this game on a tic tac toe board or on paper. If you’re playing it on paper, draw a table so that you have 9 boxes. Now each player must choose X or O and try to make a continuous row of their chosen symbol. Whoever succeeds wins. 

Things you’ll need: Small toys, stationery items, or anything you want to include in a scavenger hunt

How to do: Assign the teams or individual players specific items they have to find in a defined area. This can be an indoor or outdoor activity for kids . Give them a list of the things they need to find, and you can also give them hints on where to find these things. Whoever or whichever team finds all the things first wins. 

Things you’ll need: A puzzle game

How to do: Get a puzzle set. This can be a regular cardboard puzzle or a wooden puzzle and ask the players or teams to arrange it. You can make this a timed challenge or just let the kids solve the puzzle in their own time and have fun. 

Things you’ll need: Activity books and pencils

How to do: This is one of the best problem solving activities for kids. Activity books are great for children’s problem-solving skills to develop. Buy them activity books containing games like find the element, what’s wrong with the pictures, or hidden picture books. 

Things you’ll need: Board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, and Go Fish

How to do: Give them board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, Go Fish, etc. These board games help kids to develop logic, think deeper, plan ahead and solve problems. 

Things you’ll need: A chalk

How to do: Build a maze with chalk on the sidewalk. Make sure you add a few dead-end ways to make it more challenging for the kids. Once the kid is able to walk through and come out of the maze, take the game to the next level by adding even more dead-end ways and see how they overcome the challenge. 

Things you’ll need: Just a playground or garden

How to do: This is a great group activity for kids that’ll also teach them lots of skills. Ask the kids to form a circle and raise their right arm up. Now ask them to reach out to someone standing opposite to them in the circle and hold their left hand with their left hand. Now ask them to raise their left hands up and repeat the process with their right hands. The objective is to entangle them completely and then ask them to detangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hands. 

Things you’ll need: Pen and paper 

How to do: Once you’re done with an activity, ask kids open-ended questions. These are questions that have no right or wrong answers. Some examples of such questions are- “Did you find this activity easy?”, “What did you enjoy the most about this activity?”, “How would you make this activity more fun?”, etc. 

11. Wool Web

Things you’ll need: Balls of yarn

How to do: This is one of the most exciting group problem solving classroom activities for kids . Divide the players into equal teams and ask them to form a circle. Hand them over one ball of yarn each and ask them to make a web of it amongst the teams. Set a time limit for this step, and once it is done, switch the webs so that none of the teams has their own webs. Now the teams will decide on one player from each team to be blindfolded. This blindfolded player will have to untangle to web assigned to their team with the help of verbal instructions from their teams. The team that untangles the web first wins. 

12. Fingertip Hula Hoop

Things you’ll need: Hula hoops

How to do: Divide the kids into teams of 6-8 for this game. Each team will stand in a circle and then be asked to raise their hands up. Now, place a hula hoop on top of their fingertips and ask them to bring it down slowly and make it touch the ground without it falling down or leaving the fingertips. The team to finish the task first wins. 

13. Obstacle Course

Things you’ll need: Pillows, blankets, mattresses, cones, balls, chairs, etc. 

How to do: Build an obstacle course indoors or outdoors with whatever you can find. This makes for one of the most engaging problem solving games for kids. Ask your kids to cross the obstacle course as fast as they can. To make it a bit more challenging, you can also ask them to race against each other to cross the obstacle course. 

14. Memory Games

Things you’ll need: Playing cards

How to do: For this fun cards game, place all the cards face down and take turns to turn 2-4 cards. If you are able to open two similar cards (in number), you get to keep the pair. The player with the highest number of cards with them in the end wins.  

15. Impromptu Plays

Things you’ll need: A stage

How to do: This is one of the best problem-solving exercises for kids to play in groups. If you have a large group, divide the kids into teams of 6-8. If the group is smaller, just make the kids stand individually. Now make a few chits on a theme that has questions that form a difficult situation or a challenge. For example, you can put in chits with questions like “You just found your friend cheating in an exam. What do you tell them?” or “Your younger sibling just broke your favorite toy. How do you react?”. Each team must enact a scene that includes the situation their chit has. If the group isn’t that big, each kid must speak about the same chit but have different perspectives. 

Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important for Kids?

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Developing problem solving skills is extremely important for kids as it helps them to navigate easily around difficulties later on in life. As adults, we’re faced with challenging situations every day, and without our basic problem-solving skills, we wouldn’t be able to survive.

Problem solving skills also help kids to make effective decisions. It helps them resolve problems all at once without reducing them to smaller problems. Once kids develop problem solving skills, it is easier for them to develop other skills as well like critical thinking, cooperation and collaboration with others.

Having problem solving skills helps kids to become more creative and think differently than others and enables them to become independent. These skills also help kids develop decision-making skills and build their confidence along the way as they take the right decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 5 problem solving skills.

The five problem solving skills are identifying the problem, producing possible results that might work, picking one solution from these, applying the chosen solution and evaluating the results.

What are some examples of problem-solving skills in kids?

Some of the problem solving skills in kids are research, creativity, team-building, communication, active listening, decision-making, and analysis. If you find some of these skills in a kid, chances are they’re great at problem solving.

What is problem solving learning?

According to cornell.edu, Problem solving learning is an approach wherein students are asked open-ended questions about a certain topic, and they must resolve and answer  the same in groups.

At what age do children begin problem-solving?

According to a study by Shaffer , kids can start developing basic problem solving skills from the age of three. This further continues to develop as they grow.

What are three problem-solving techniques

According to deakin.edu , the three most basic problem solving techniques are defining the problem, listing out all the possible solutions, and evaluating the options.

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17 Fun Problem Solving Activities for Kids

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As a child, I would spend hours putting together puzzles… whether it was 3-D puzzles or figuring out a crossword. I also loved it when teachers would give the class an open-ended question and we had to work in groups to figure out the answer in our own way.

Even something as simple as playing checkers with my brothers gave me the chance to use strategy as a way to win the game. I honestly believe that it’s so important for kids to solve problems at a young age, as it helps them think critically and outside the box.

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So, Why Is It Important To Teach Kids Problem Solving?

I think these kinds of activities are so important for kids to do because it helps them learn how to think analytically and solve problems on their own. It's a great way to get kids to use their imaginations and be creative.

Rote memorization simply does not have the same effect. This type of learning is great for learning facts like historical dates, but it’s not going to help kids figure out how events in history happened and the results.

We take these problem-solving skills into college, the workforce, and travel . My ability to problem solve since childhood has certainly got me through many sticky situations while in a new city or country.

Additionally, problem-solving helps children learn how to find creative solutions to challenges they may face both in and out of the classroom . These activities can also be fun and used in cohesion with school or playtime.

17 Fun Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

1. marble mazes.

This activity was selected because it requires them to think spatially. Spatial learning will benefit kids when they start driving, riding a bike, playing sports,etc.

To do this activity in its simplest form, you will need a piece of paper, a pencil, and some marbles. First, draw a maze on a piece of paper using a pencil.

Make sure to create a start and finish point. Then, place the marbles at the start of the maze. The goal is to get the marbles from the start to the finish by tilting the paper and using gravity to guide the marbles through the maze.

Another example of a marble maze can involve using toilet paper rolls taped together to create a three-dimensional maze. The larger the maze, the harder you can make it.

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Check Price on Amazon!

If you are not into the DIY method, you can always buy a toy maze on Amazon. A good 48 piece puzzle is the Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor puzzle.

2. The Tower Challenge

Building a tower gives kids the chance to think about gravity, structure, and balance.

To do this activity, you will need some building materials like legos, blocks, or even toilet paper rolls. The challenge is to see how high they can stack the materials without the tower toppling over.

This can be done individually or in teams. An activity like this is good for younger kids and is the building block to learning about harder topics like engineering.

3. The Egg Drop Challenge

The egg drop challenge helps kids learn how to engineer a solution that prevents something from breaking. It requires them to think critically about which materials will best protect something fragile like an egg when dropped from a height.

To do this activity, you will need some eggs and various materials such as straws, cotton balls, bubble wrap, etc. The goal is to construct a device that will protect an egg from breaking upon impact.

This can be done individually or in teams . Teams can even have a competition for the best egg drop device.

As children begin handling, shopping for, and cooking their own food, activities like this will help them understand how to handle breakable items like bottles, eggs, delicate fruit,.etc. Ideally, this is best for age groups 8 and up.

4. The Penny Drop Challenge

This activity was selected because it requires kids to think about physics and how different materials affect sound.

To do this activity, you will need a penny ( or another coin), a cup, and various materials such as paper towels, cotton balls, etc.

The goal is to drop the penny into the cup without making any noise. Begin by placing different materials into the cup and then drop the penny into it. The children should also drop the penny from different heights into the same material to see if/how the impact from a higher drop affects sound.

Group kids into teams or let them try it on their own.

Kids should make note of what type of sounds are made when the penny hits different materials. This is a great activity for kids who are interested in science and physics.

5. The Balloon Race Challenge

This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about aerodynamics and Bernoulli’s principle . It also requires them to think creatively about how to design a balloon-powered vehicle.

To do this activity, you will need balloons, straws, masking tape, and markers. The goal is to design a balloon-powered vehicle that can travel a distance of at least 10 feet. Kids can begin this activity by sketching out their designs on paper.

After they have a basic design, they can begin building their vehicle from various materials. Then kids can explain why they think the balloon traveled or did not travel as far as it did.

6. The Marshmallow Challenge

Marshmallows are not only delicious, but they are also soft and malleable. So kids can have fun using it for some construction projects.

This activity was selected because it requires kids to think creatively about how to build a structure using limited materials. It also helps them learn about engineering and work as a team.

To do this activity, you will need marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. The goal is to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. If you don't have spaghetti noodles, use something similar like pretzel sticks.

You may even want to establish certain rules like each team can only use a certain number of marshmallows or noodles. A time limit can also make it more fun and challenging.

For more fun activities, check out our post on problem solving exercises for team building .

7. The Balloon Pop Challenge

If you remember your childhood, you probably remember popping balloons for fun at times. But this activity is different because it requires kids to use strategy and critical thinking.

This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about patterns and problem-solving. It is also a lot of fun for kids who like popping balloons. The goal is to create a device that will allow them to pop a balloon without using their hands.

To do this activity, you will need balloons and various materials such as straws, string, paper clips, etc.

8. Picture Pieces Puzzle Game

As mentioned earlier, puzzles are a great pastime – especially in childhood. Kids must think critically about how to put the pieces together to create a certain picture. It also helps them learn about shapes, colors, and other concepts.

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You can take a medium to large picture and cut it into pieces. If you have younger kids, you may want to make the pieces larger. However, if you have kids closer to the 8-11 age range, you should be able to provide a challenge and make the pieces smaller.

9. Copy the Block Model

For this challenge, you can build a model out of blocks for the kids to copy. Put kids into groups and make sure each group has the same number of blocks you used for your model.

Make your model block as simple or complex as needed for your child's age group.

Set a time limit and make sure each group starts at the same time.

10. Team Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is great for kids because they have to search for items and use investigative skills. It is also a lot of fun and can be done both indoors and outdoors .

To do this activity, you will need to create a list of items for the kids to find. The items can be anything from common household items to things you would find outside.

These types of activities can also revolve around a theme like a holiday, movie, or book. For example, if the kids are fans of “Harry Potter” you can make a list of items to find that are related to the movie.

11. Obstacle Course

This activity requires kids to think creatively about how to get from one point to another while maneuvering around obstacles. If you have outdoor space, this can be done with common objects such as hula hoops, cones, etc.

If you don't have access to an outdoor space, you can use common household items to create an indoor obstacle course. For example, you can use chairs, blankets, pillows, etc.

Begin by setting up the course and then timing each child as they complete it. You can also have them race against each other to make it more fun.

Obstacle courses are also great because kids get to be physically active while they are thinking critically.

12. Reading Storybooks

There are many great benefits for kids that read storybooks.  One of the excellent benefits is the ability to problem-solve.  When they read the stories in the books, they see scenarios that cause them to be attached to the various characters they read about. 

So, when they encounter a real-life problem, it is often productive to ask a child how their favorite character would solve that problem.  Your kids can also be encouraged to come up with various options and possible outcomes for some of the situations they may encounter. 

This not only helps kids solve various problems but become more independent as well. 

13. Ask Them Open-Ended Questions

A good way to improve a child's ability to think critically and creatively and improve their ability to solve problems is by asking open-ended questions.  It also helps them to develop healthy personalities .

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  In addition, the solution requires more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  Furthermore, it allows kids to put some extra thought into their responses. 

Here are some examples of open-ended questions you may want to ask. 

  • What did this experience teach you?
  • Was this easy?  What was easy about it?
  • What this difficult?  What is complicated about it?
  • What may happen next in this situation?
  • How did you come to this solution?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently next time?
  • What can we do to make things more fun next time?

14. Build Various Structures with Toys

Whether wooden blocks, LEGO blocks, or engineering blocks… giving your kid blocks to build whatever their minds can dream up is fun.  In addition, it requires them to think about how they will make a structure, put the pieces together, and creatively ensure the building's function and design. 

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You may also want to challenge them to build something more complicated and watch them use their brain power to make it happen. 

15. Acting Out Skits

Impromptu activities like acting out skits help kids identify problems, develop solutions, and execute them.  This process works with multiple kids being divided into teams. 

First, you will want to write down different situations, such as resolving a disagreement between siblings or dealing with bullying on the playground on a piece of paper.  Second, you will fold the paper and place it in a hat or bowl.  

Third, each team will pick a scenario out of the hat.  Finally, you can give the kids a few minutes to discuss their solution and act out. 

16. Solving Moral Dilemmas   

In this simple game, you will help your kids solve simple dilemmas they may find themselves in.  You could write down a situation your child may find themselves in and help them learn the moral way to solve the problem.   

For instance, “The cashier gave them an additional $5 change back on my purchase.  What should they do?”  Another scenario could be, “I saw my friend cheating on a test.  Should I tell on them or let it go?”  A third one could be, “I caught my friends stealing some gum from the store.  What should I do?” 

After writing down the dilemmas and placing them in a bowl, get each child to select one and read it aloud.  Finally, you will help them devise morally correct solutions to the moral dilemma. 

17. Animal Pairing Game  

This is a fun and creative game to help your kids with focus, critical thinking, and team building skills .  In addition, this activity requires an even number of players to participate (4, 6, 8, etc.) 

Before starting the game, you will want to write the names of different animals twice, each on a separate slip of paper.  Then pass out the slips of paper to each individual or team member, instructing them not to share with anyone the name of the animal they received. 

Then the children will perform activities the animals might do without talking or making sounds.  Some of these activities might include:

  • The way the animal cleans or grooms itself
  • The way the animal sleeps
  • The way the animal fights
  • The way the animal eats or drinks
  • The way the animal walks or runs

The goal is for each child to successfully pair up with the other child who has selected the same animal.

How Problem Solving in Childhood Helps in Adulthood

Children are not born with problem-solving skills. It is something that needs to be learned and developed over time .

From babies who learn how to communicate their needs to toddlers who figure out how to get what they want, to children who are starting to understand the consequences of their actions – problem-solving is a process that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.

Some of the benefits of teaching problem-solving skills to children include:

  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Better decision-making skills
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Improved communication and collaboration skills
  • Increased confidence

There are many ways to teach problem-solving skills to children. The activities mentioned above are just a few examples. It is important to find activities that are appropriate for the age and abilities of the child.

With practice, children will develop these skills and be better prepared to face challenges in both childhood and adulthood.

Final Thoughts About Fun Problem Solving Activities For Kids

These are just a few ideas to get you started on teaching your child crucial problem solving skills. Perhaps they’ve inspired to come with some of your own, or seek out others? The important thing is to make sure the activity is age-appropriate and challenging enough to engage the kids.

Problem-solving skills are important for kids to learn because they can be applied to various situations in life. These skills also promote critical thinking, which is an important life skill.

There are many other problem-solving activities for kids out there. In time, you’ll find the ones that work best for your child.  And be sure not to forget about your own needs and self-improvement, both of which will make you a better parent and mentor. Here are some useful activities for adults to get your started.

Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control .

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Kids' Coding Corner | Create & Learn

15 Problem-Solving Activities for Kids & Teens: Critical Thinking

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What is one of the most important skills all students must learn? Is it math or coding? Reading? Writing? While all these skills are indeed vital to success, the one skill that underlines all disciplines is problem solving. All lines of work need great problem solvers to find tomorrow’s solutions, and students of any age can be honing their problem-solving skills. Check out some of these fun problem-solving activities for kids and teens below!

Problem-solving activities for elementary school kids (ages 5-10)

From traditional paper-and-pencil activities to online tools, below are some great activities for kids ages 5-10.

1. Coding Courses for Kids

It’s never too early to start learning the foundational concepts of computer programming! There are a number of courses appropriate for young students to start building their problem solving skills, including the award-winning Scratch Ninja course . For the uninitiated, Scratch is a user-friendly colorful drag-and-drop coding tool developed by MIT for making awesome games and animations while learning important coding logic. Or, for students who are visual learners, try a Minecraft Redstone Engineering course to find out how to build awesome inventions! There are many free coding classes to start with, to find your child's interests.

2. Tower Building

Turns out that kindergartners might be better engineers than grownups (at least according to this experiment)! The challenge was as follows: given 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of tape, and a yard of string, build the tallest possible tower that can support 1 marshmallow on top. After various groups of people tried it from Stanford and other universities, kindergartners ended up beating them for creating the tallest tower. Challenge your student to see how tall they can make their tower too!

3. Crosswords

Whether taken out of the newspaper or off of the web, crosswords are a useful logic puzzle for kids to work on. Crosswords encourage students to use context clues, as well as their reasoning skills by eliminating possible options as they progress. Plus, it’s easy to vary the difficulty of the puzzles, as well as find fun, themed crosswords for different holidays! There's even a Thanksgiving crossword for your student to try.

4. Jigsaw Puzzles

There’s nothing like a good, ole’ fashioned puzzle to challenge the mind. Each person takes a different approach to puzzle solving, whether they organize their pieces first, find all the corners, or do something totally different. Exploring different strategies for solving puzzles is an effective introduction to independently creating strategies for problem solving. This is a solid choice for students who are visual learners.

An age-old classic, LEGOs are a fantastic way to combine creative skills with problem solving. Students need to follow sequential steps and visualize to create their LEGO designs. It’s even better when students go beyond the kit instructions to create their own LEGO build, as students will have to learn to utilize limited resources while coming up with a structured plan for designing their idea. LEGO Mindstorms is a popular starting point.

Problem-solving activities for middle school tweens (ages 11-13)

Middle schoolers (ages 11-13) will want to be challenged more with their activities, and these are some effective activities for encouraging growth.

6. Middle School Coding Courses

By the time they reach middle school, students will be ready to take on more advanced coding concepts, regardless of their prior coding experience. For those who have no prior coding experience, the Accelerated Scratch course is an excellent option, as it will introduce students to basic coding concepts while allowing them to make their games and animations. Students with some prior coding experience may want to try the Minecraft Code to Mod course, builds upon basic coding concepts like loops, conditionals, and more while building students' creativity and critical thinking.

7. Birthday Ordering

An activity commonly done at summer camps, the silent birthday lineup is an excellent problem-solving activity for groups. The goal is for students to line up in chronological order based on their birthdays, without talking at all. Working in total science requires students to think outside the box to accomplish their goal, and to prioritize teamwork. Try timing the students to see how quickly they can get it done, then let them reflect on the activity afterwards to see what strategies worked and what didn’t.

8. Event Planning

Have students plan their own event, like a fundraiser, a social, or a competition for their coding club . This will require students to collaborate by delegating tasks, coordinating supplies, budgeting, and more. Even planning something as simple as a pizza party still requires some logistical planning, and students will benefit from struggling through the process. Plus, they can get to enjoy the results of their work when the event finally arrives!

Arduino circuit boards are an excellent choice for children interested in engineering. Because Arduino is widely-popular, there are countless tutorials demonstrating its capabilities, such as creating a controller, custom RGB lighting, robotics, or more. Once students learn the basics, they can use Arduino boards to come up with creative solutions to their own problems. This is an excellent idea for highly-motivated kids who like to work by themselves.

Sudoku is an excellent number puzzle and a great problem-solving exercise. It requires students to evaluate multiple possible options as they try to fill in the puzzles, so students need to be able to create an organized approach to be successful. There are various difficulty levels for sudoku, so students can start easy, then advance as they become proficient at solving the puzzles.

Problem-solving activities for high school teens (ages 14+)

High school (14+) is a good time to incorporate group work into the activities, as students will need to learn to work collaboratively for their future in college and beyond.

11. Coding for Teens

Once reaching high school age, students are ready to tackle the complexities of text-based coding. This is where students can focus on their interests, whether it be web design , AI, app design , and more. Create & Learn’s Python for AI course is a good option, as Python is one of the most widely-used programming languages in the world. Students interested in game design might try the Roblox Studio course , which teaches students how to program their own Roblox games (or try the Beginner Roblox Game Coding course if they have limited previous coding experience.)

12. Robotics Club

Many different school programs offer robotics teams and robotics competitions , using tools such as VEX robotics . Robotics is a great way to combine computer science, mechanical engineering, and problem-solving skills. If there is no robotics team at your student’s school, consider trying a robotics kit such as the Makeblock mBot Ranger .

13. Egg Drop

This classic experiment is a lot of fun for students, and makes for a good competition as well. Students must build some sort of structure that will prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height (like the top of a staircase). It works best when students are restricted with the resources they can use; for instance, define a “ budget ” for parts that they can’t exceed, or give everyone the same materials to work with .

14. Debate Club

Whether deciding public policy or the best ice cream place in town, having the ability to engage in meaningful debate is critical. Debate forces students to self-analyze, listen, and think critically before making decisions. These skills benefit students’ futures by making them strong, independent thinkers. Check out these speech and debate competitions . And here are some tips for starting a debate club .

15. Science Fair

Science fairs pose an excellent opportunity for exploring the scientific method, both through creating personal projects and checking out other students’ presentations. By encouraging students to come up with their own projects, they must identify some question or problem and find a way to solve it. This can be the most challenging kind of problem-solving, as it requires the student to take initiative in finding their own ideas, but also can be the most rewarding. Try the Google Science Fair Competition .

Enjoy problem-solving activities for kids

And there you have it: problem-solving activities for students from elementary through high school age. Of course, there are many more ways to build critical-thinking abilities like problem-solving. For more ideas, check this list of awesome after-school enrichment activities !

Written by Create & Learn instructor Dominic Occhietti. Dominic is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied music performance and computer science. He thoroughly enjoys teaching, whether that be coding classes, French horn lessons, or even downhill skiing lessons!

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Home » Games » 17 Fun Problem Solving Activities & Games [for Kids, Adults and Teens]

17 Fun Problem Solving Activities & Games [for Kids, Adults and Teens]

Everyone should learn problem solving, as it is important in both our personal and professional lives. Problems occur all around us and many people react with spontaneous emotion. Instead, effective use of problem solving skills can lead to rational thinking, a component of any successful endeavor.

Creative problem involves using one or more of the basic steps of problem solving in exercises designed to challenge the thinking. Problem solving activities work for every age group. In this article, we will present problem-solving activities for adults and kids. We will also provide you with group and team building problem solving ideas.

Table of Contents

There are four basic steps in problem solving:

  • define the problem
  • generate possible solutions
  • evaluate and select possible solutions
  • implement solutions

Problem solving activities use one of more of these steps.

Group Problem Solving Activities

Group activities provide an effective way to learn problem-solving skills. The following list of activities present problem solving skills in the form of games, a non-threatening and fun way.

Divide your group into teams of equal numbers. Give each team a ball of yarn. Instruct the teams to create a web using only the yarn. Once the teams have finished (you may have to set an amount of time for completion), switch the teams around so that every team has a web other than their own. Each team then blindfolds one team member. The goal is for the blindfolded individual to unwind the web following the verbal instruction of their teammates. In order to be successful, team members must concentrate, and give/follow directions. The first team that has dismantled the web wins this game.

To Do Scavenger Hunt

This scavenger hunt game involves solving a list of problem activities. Begin by dividing your group into teams. Give each group a list of to do activities. The list should begin with some simple tasks, with increasingly more difficult activities. Some suggested activities are:

  • Write a one hundred word poem on a given theme.
  • Find an object readily available in the area in which you are playing
  • Drink a whole can or glass of a liquid
  • Solve a Sudoku or cross word puzzle
  • Write out all the lyrics of a song (a Christmas carol works well at holiday time)

The team that completes all the activities first, wins.

Impromptu Skits

Prior to playing this game, write down a few appropriate situations that deal events in the venue in which you are playing. For example, for a group involved in customer service, use dealing with an angry customer on the phone. If you have a large group, divide them into teams of six to eight members. Have each group choose a folded piece of paper on which you have written the subject of a skit they must create.  Give a set amount of time to prepare the skit and then have each team present their skit to the group. If you have a small group, have each person create one side of a conversation dealing with the problem for presentation to everyone.

Block Duplicating

Build a model out of building blocks. Provide each group member (or divide into teams for a large group ) enough blocks to duplicate the model. Set a specific amount of time for completing the duplicated model. The team that is the first to finish – or gets the furthest on completing their model – wins. The more difficult the original model, the longer this task will take.

Team Building Problem Solving Activities

When choosing team building problem solving activities, make sure the game you use suits the group of people – their ages and interests. The activities we have listed will help with not only problem solving, but also build decision making, collaboration, and listening skills.

Tower Building

Although there are many variations to this game, this one using spaghetti and marsh mellows is our favorite. Divide you group into teams with an equal number of players. Provide each team with an equal amount of spaghetti and marsh mellows. The goal is to see which team can build the highest tower within a set amount of time.

Personalized Crossword

For this game to be effective, you need one or more teams of 8 to 10 people. Have each team list the first and last names of their group members. The goal is to create a crossword puzzle with clues composed of hints about the person, for example, if only one team member has red hair, the two clues for her first and last name could be, “Red hair,” and “Ginger.” It should take each team 20 to 30 minutes to complete their puzzle. When all the teams are finished, trade puzzles so that every team has a different one. Make sure you provide a list of names for the puzzle solvers.

Picture Pieces Puzzle Game

Prepare for this problem solving activity by choosing a well-known picture or cartoon full of detail. Cut the picture into equal sized squares and give one to each member of the group. You will need as many pieces as you have participants. Additionally, give each person a pencil, ruler for help enlarging the picture, colored markers, and a clean sheet of paper. Instruct them to make the puzzle piece five times larger.

Problem Solving Activities for Adults

Divide your group into two teams. Line up the two teams front to back. Have the two groups face each other. Using chalk, spray paint, or masking tape (depending on the play surface) mark a square space for each person to stand on with one extra empty space between the two facing rows. You may also use a piece of paper for each person. The goal is for the two facing lines of players to change places.

Place these restrictions on movement:

  • Only one person may move at a time.
  • A person may not move around anyone facing the same direction.
  • A person may not move backward.
  • A person may not move around more than one person on the other team at a time.

Playing Card Mix-up

Divide your group into teams of six to eight participants. Give each team two decks of cards randomly mixed together. Tell the group they must sort them out without talking. As they working at the task, after a few minutes, change the way in which they are doing so using one of the following:

  • If a team is sorting by suits from ace to king (4 stacks), tell them to collect the suits together by number (13 stacks).
  • If a team begins by collecting the suits together, i.e. all the ones, twos, threes, etc., tell them to sort the suits from ace to king.

The team(s) that do so successfully by the end of a given time (depending on the size of your group) share what methods they used to accomplish the task.

Blindfolded games are always fun and provide the perfect challenge for adult problem solving. We have provided two for you.

Blind Formations

Have your group of adults put on blindfolds and form a large circle. Tie the ends of a rope together and lay in it a circle in the middle of the group, close enough that each person can reach down and pick up the rope. Tell them they must create a shape – a square, triangle, pentagon, etc. If you have a very large group, divide them into teams and provide a rope for each team. Let them compete to see who forms a particular shape quickest.

Line up Blind

Blindfold everyone and number the group by whispering a number to each individual beginning at one. Tell them to line up in numerical order without talking. Variations are many, with some of the favorites not requiring the whispering step being to line up according to height, birthday, surname, color of hair, etc.

Balloon Tower

Divide you group into teams of three and provide ten balloons and four 3-foot long strips of masking tape for each team. The object of this problem solving activity is to build the tallest freestanding tower in ten minutes. They can break the balloons if they wish. However, they may not use any additional materials and the tower must be built on a table or the floor. If you wish, you may add the following instructions:

  • No talking.
  • Each team member may use only one hand.
  • One team member may not touch the materials and only give directions.

You can use one or more of these limitations in 60-second intervals. The first team to complete their tower wins this challenge.

Problem Solving Activities for Kids

The purpose of problem solving activities for kids is to get kids to think about a problem in a different way and have fun while solving it. Children will develop their creativity as they seek to implement a solution.

Walking the Plank

For this problem solving activity for older kids or teens, you will need four 2×6 boards. Divide your group into two teams with an equal number of children on each team. Place two of the four boards end to end on the ground or floor. Set the other two parallel to the first two about two or three feet apart. The goal is for each team to pass one board forward while standing on the other board in single file. If someone steps off a board, the team must start over. The team that succeeds in passing the boards a set number of times, or reaches a predetermined spot is the winner.

“Laser” Web

Use a large ball of string to create a giant web from one end of a room to the other. The goal is for individuals or teams to move through the web without touching the string. If they do so, they have been “zapped by a laser” and must try again. For greater suspense and for older players, use blindfolds or turn off the lights, allowing players to touch the string, but not pull it down or out of its original shape.

Group Drawing

Divide your group of kids into teams of three. Each person on the team has a one of the following roles:

  • Drawer . The drawer attempts to recreate a pre-drawn design they cannot see. They take directions from the talker. They stand with their back to the talker and viewer and may not talk.
  • Talker . The talker describes the design to the drawer, without seeing the design. They may question the viewer. They may not use hand gestures.
  • Viewer . The viewer sees the design. However, they are not allowed to talk and must communicate nonverbally to the talker.  Additionally, they must not draw the design in the air or actually show the design with their gestures.

The activity ends when the viewers say they are satisfied with the drawings. You may wish to award a prize to the best drawing.

Prior to playing this game, write on individual slips of paper the names of animal pairs, one name on each slip. Distribute the slips of paper to each group, instructing them not to share which animal name they received. The kids then move around performing activities their animal might do. The goal is for the kids to get into pairs successfully in a set amount of time without talking or making any noises. Suggest the following activities:

  • Cleaning or grooming
  • Eating and drinking
  • Walking or running

Alphabet Game

Have your players sit or stand in a circle. The goal is to shout out words in alphabetical order. Give the kids one of the following categories (or choose your own):

If a player takes longer than five seconds to think of a word, they are out. The last player remaining wins the game.

People achieve more when they solve problems and make decisions together. Our problem solving activities teach participants how to work out a solution, a talent useful in many different environments. Problem solving:

  • Improves team work
  • Helps participants address complex situations
  • Utilizes different thinking styles
  • Increases creativity
  • Collectively leads to decision making
  • Teaches both negotiation and cooperation

After completing a problem solving activity, encourage participants to discuss what process(es) they used in the exercise. Even kids are able to participate in such discussions. Also ask what was learned and if they have any opinions about how they could have solved the problem more efficiently.

Team-building exercises can improve problem solving and decision making in a new or established team. They work with every age group and in many different environments. Use our exercises to help solve problems and have some fun doing so.

Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.

Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.

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Thanks for your help!!

excellent ideas – thanks !

Excellent ideas.

Thank you. My students have requested we do team-building activities; I thought we would start with problem-solving.

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problem solving activities for parents

Critical Thinking: 11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids

11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids | If you want to help build your child’s social, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and anger management skills, these fun and effective ideas are for you! We’ve included worksheets, team building activities, task cards, and other creative challenges for small groups that can be used at home with parents or as a team in the classroom. #problemsolvingactivities #conflictresolution #selfregulation

As parents and teachers, it’s our responsibility to teach the children in our lives appropriate critical thinking and conflict resolution skills to help them develop and maintain relationships, excel in academics and extracurricular activities, and exercise proper self-regulation and anger management skills. If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids, we’re sharing 11 of our favorites that can be used at home and in the classroom.

Why Is Problem Solving Important for Child Development?

As adults, we field all kinds of problems on a daily basis, many of which we resolve without much thought. We’re able to approach challenges rationally, come up with possible solutions, and weigh the pros and cons of each before we act. Of course, some problems are more complex than others, but for the most part, we’re able to work through each of them and try different strategies and techniques along the way until we come up with a solution that works. This is a natural process we’ve learned throughout the course of our lives, and in order for our children to learn appropriate problem solving skills as they grow, we need to teach them strategies and work with them as they apply these techniques to their lives.

When children aren’t equipped with appropriate problem solving skills, they tend to avoid situations and activities that feel challenging to them, which can have a huge impact on their ability to form and maintain relationships with their peers, excel in a school environment, and pursue interests and hobbies. The absence of critical thinking and conflict resolution skills can also lead to negative, and often impulsive behavior.

Teaching kids proper problem solving skills helps boost their self-esteem and self-confidence, helps them become more independent, and has a positive impact on their mental health.

6 Problem Solving Strategies for Kids

1) Take a deep breath

The first step in teaching problem solving skills to kids is to ensure they are calm. When our emotions are high, it’s much more challenging to see things rationally, making impulsive reactions more likely. Teach your child how to calm his or her body through mindful breathing so he or she has a go-to strategy to return to a state of calm when his or her emotions are high.

2) Verbalize the problem

Once your child is calm, ask him or her to verbalize the problem he or she is struggling with. Putting our thoughts into words can help us gain perspective and make it easier for us to search for solutions.

3) Brainstorm solutions

You can have your child do this verbally, or you can ask him or her to write them down, but the idea is to come up with as many solutions as possible, no matter how silly or far-fetched they may seem. A great idea is to set a timer (we LOVE our Time Timer as it visually shows the passage of time) and challenge your little one to strategize as many ideas as he or she can in that timeframe.

4) Evaluate each option

Work with your child to evaluate each idea he or she has come up with. Help him or her anticipate the pros and cons of each, and then identify which solution is the best.

5) Practice!

Encourage your child to put his or her solution to practice to see if it works!

When it comes to enforcing problem solving strategies for kids, this one is often overlooked but it’s so important! Once your child has tested out a solution to his or her problems, it’s essential that you take the time to help him or her assess whether or not it was successful. What went wrong? What went right? Should he or she try another strategy?

11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids

If you want to help build your child’s social, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and anger management skills, these fun and effective problem solving activities are for you! We’ve included family games, team building activities, task cards, and other creative challenges for small groups that can be used both at home and in the classroom.

1) Problems in a Jar Mosswood Connections is one of my favorite resources for kids activities, and I recently found this Problems in a Jar activity on their site. It’s designed to help kids learn how to define a problem, generate possible solutions, evaluate and select the best solution, and then implement the solution independently. It’s a great social skills activity to work through with your child at home.

2) HedBanz If you’ve never played HedBanz, you’re in for a REAL treat. Not only is this game fun, the question and answer premise behind this game will also challenge your child’s critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills. This is definitely high on my list of the best problem solving activities for kids!

3) The Tower of Self Esteem If you’re looking for team building activities for kids, this is a great ice breaker to consider. This game gets kids talking while also allowing them to see their own self-worth by identifying their own strengths. It’s also a great fine motor activity, and since it can be difficult and frustrating to stack the plastic cards into a tower, it’s one of my favorite problem solving activities for kids!

4) Team Scavenger Hunt This will require a bit of upfront work on your part, but it’s a great way to get kids to work collaboratively and it can be extremely fun and engaging! Divide kids into teams of 4 or 5 and provide them with a set of clues to see who can work together to find all of the items the fastest. What I love most about scavenger hunts is that you can create subject-specific scavenger hunts to compliment lesson plans, holidays, etc. Teachers Pay Teachers  has TONS of great ideas you can purchase for a small fee.

5) What Would You Do At School If… If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids you can do at home – or in therapy – this is another good one to consider. With 56 cards to choose from, this activity gets kids thinking of different scenarios and helps them strategize how they can make good choices at school.

6) Quirkle Board Game If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids you can enjoy as a family, I highly recommend Quirkle! It’s easy to play but definitely puts players’ problem solving skills to the test, and I love that it’s a game the whole family can enjoy!

7) Size of the Problem Activity Pack   Teachers Pay Teachers is one of my favorite resources for kids activities, and if you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids, this is a great option. The activities in this set help kids identify the size of their problems and the feelings they create, identify which reactions are/are not appropriate, and strategize possible solutions, making it a great way to engage in meaningful back-and-forth communication with your child while simultaneously teaching appropriate problem solving strategies.

8) Human Knot This is another one of my favorite problem solving activities for kids as it requires no setup and can be done absolutely anywhere. It also doubles as a great team building activity and it’s super fun! Have a group of kids stand in a circle and ask everyone to raise their right arm before reaching forward to grab hands with someone opposite from them. Next, ask everyone to raise their left arms and do the same thing. Be sure no one is holding hands with someone standing directly next to him or her. The object of this activity is for the group to find a way to detangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hands.

9) Osmo Genius Kit While I like to find ways to get kids off their electronics, the Osmo system has really captured my heart. It teaches so many important concepts in a fun and creative way, and if you’re looking for independent problem solving activities for kids, the Tangram game is one of my absolute favorites!

10) Fingertip Hula Hoop If you’re looking for activities that help kids learn how to work collaboratively to solve problems, this is a fun one to try. Create groups of about 6-8 kids, have them stand together in a circle with their arms raised above their heads, and then place a hula hoop on their finger tips. Using nothing but their fingertips, each team must work together to lower the hula hoop to the ground without dropping it.

11) Kids’ Daily Dilemmas in a Jar I have heard nothing but positive things about these cards, but have been warned some of the topics are a bit mature. If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids in middle school or high school, this is a great one to consider – just be careful to review the cards ahead of time so you can remove any you feel are inappropriate.

I hope this collection of problem solving activities for kids inspires you to find new and creative ways to develop your little one’s critical thinking and conflict resolution skills. Remember to keep your child calm, to verbalize and strategize together, to evaluate and reassess, and – more importantly – to keep things fun!

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If you found this collection of problem solving activities for kids helpful, please share this post on Pinterest!

11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids | If you want to help build your child’s social, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and anger management skills, these fun and effective ideas are for you! We’ve included worksheets, team building activities, task cards, and other creative challenges for small groups that can be used at home with parents or as a team in the classroom. #problemsolvingactivities #conflictresolution #selfregulation

And if you’re looking for more ways to have fun with your little ones, please follow our Kids board where we share all kinds of great ideas we find each day!

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problem solving activities for parents

  • Problem-Solving Activities for Kids | The Ultimate Parents’ Guide

problem solving activities for parents

No one likes dealing with problems, especially on a regular basis. So if that’s the case, why subject our kids to problem solving?

There are so many published studies talking about the benefits of problem-solving activities for kids. Plenty of child development experts insist on introducing children to intentional – but hypothetical – problems and encouraging them to solve them. Countless institutes and organizations put out free projects and resources to help kids practice crafting solutions.

Are there really benefits to continuous problem-solving? Or are we just subjecting the younger generation to unnecessary pressure?

Table of Contents

What is Problem Solving?

The technical definition of Problem Solving, as defined by ASQ , is the “act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.”

So problem-solving is, quite literally, the process of finding a solution to a problem. But, as you can see from the definition, it’s not quite as straightforward as we would like. In order to solve the problem, one needs to first recognize and acknowledge that the problem exists.

Once that’s done, they then move on to understanding the problem. Which, for the sake of brevity, we won’t break down anymore because there’s a lot involved. Analyzing, understanding, identifying … there’s quite a bit to it, so a general blanket term of “understanding” the problem works here.

Once the problem has been acknowledged and properly understood, then you would move on to the actual process of finding a solution.

What are Problem Solving Skills?

Contrary to what one might think, problem-solving skills is actually a blanket term for skills that one uses when solving a problem. These skills as a whole dictate one’s ability to quickly and correctly move through the problem-solving process to create a viable solution.

Here are a few examples of problem-solving skills:

  • Analytical Thinking
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Decision-Making Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Lateral Thinking

Related Reading:

  • Computational Thinking for Kids | Why is it Important?

In some cases, the problem you come up a gainst would only need you to utilize one or two skills. In other cases – especially with more complex problems – three or more would be necessary. It all really depends on the situation.

Why Is Problem Solving an Important Skill to Develop?

Speaking practically, the ability to recognize a problem and develop a viable solution in response is something we all have and need to improve constantly—not just kids! 

Problems for children may come in the form of learning how to tie their shoelaces or how to spell Mississippi. Problems for teenagers may be stubborn acne or socializing. For young adults and adults, problems could be filing taxes, finding roommates, or meeting a seemingly impossible deadline at work. 

Whatever the case may be, it’s always good to have the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to solve a problem in the most effective way possible.

For very young children, developing problem-solving skills at an early age can prepare them for bigger challenges when they’re older. They’ll learn the importance of decisive decision-making. They’ll master the art of deduction and logical reasoning. They’ll be comfortable communicating their thought process to their peers and colleagues.

The more a child learns how to analyze a situation and break it down into manageable steps with the intent of finding a solution, the easier it’ll get. Practice makes perfect, after all!

But how does one go about learning and developing problem-solving skills?

There are two ways; incidentally – which basically refers to problems that naturally occur – and through guided opportunities – or problems that are given intentionally with the objective to practice those skills.

In this article, we’re going to cater to the second way by listing some great problem-solving activities you can use to keep your kids’ skills sharp.

Let’s get started!

I. Interactive Websites/Online Games

problem solving activities for parents

One of the best ways for kids to flex their problem-solving muscles is through interactive digital games.

  • 13 Best E-Learning Websites for Kids in 2021
  • Why Coding Games is the Best Way to Teach Kids Computer Programming

Games that are specifically designed to develop skills like creativity, logical reasoning, and/or lateral thinking are great platforms for your kid to flex their problem-solving muscles. 

Plus, they’re incredibly effective because of their entertaining nature. Kids see them as digital media they can play with—and not tasks that they need to complete.

Here are a couple of awesome websites that offer problem-solving activities in the form of digital, interactive games:

  • The Problem Site

At first glance, this website may look a little dated. However, don’t let appearances fool you; the options they have are quite extensive and very well-made! 

There’s a wide variety of games that have very clear instructions and simple objectives. But don’t think simple means easy, in this case . The games on this website are anything but. I tried my hand at Word Funnel – an activity listed under their Word Games category – and I couldn’t get past level 2.

If you – or your child – enjoy variety, simplicity, and most importantly, a good challenge, we can’t recommend this website enough. The five different categories, with an average of ten games per category, pretty much guarantee you’ve got plenty of options to try and explore!

  • PBS Kids Problem Solving

This one shares the same (or at least, a similar) concept with The Problem Site. You have a variety of different games to choose from—all with different themes, different objectives, and different subject matter. 

For instance, OddSquad’s Code Breaker requires players to figure out the pattern in a given number sequence, which makes it a math game. The Cat in the Hat’s Corn Maze Craze, on the other hand, has players mapping out the best routes to help The Cat make it out of the maze, which requires visualization and strategy. 

We highly recommend this site if your child is a big fan of the PBS Kids network and/or knows the colorful characters they feature here!

  • Magic Squares

Don’t let the simple setup fool you—this activity is really tough! 

The idea of Magic Squares is to fill up the squares with the given numbers so that the totals of each row, column, and diagonal are the same. It’s typically a 3×3 grid, although some versions of this activity give bigger options (i.e., 5×5, 7×7, etc.). 

It may seem easy at first but for first-timers? It’s a real head-scratcher. If your child loves number puzzles like this, though, this should be a fun and engaging challenge!

Plus, if you solve it, you get to claim a (digital) trophy.

II. Computer Coding/Programming

coding for kids

If you’re familiar with coding, then you already know; programming is all about problem-solving. In fact, one could argue that all codes are solutions since they’re basically written instructions for a computer to follow.

  • Coding for Kids: 5 Reasons It’s More Important Than You Think
  • Coding for Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Parents

If the codes are written well, the computer should have no issue carrying out the orders. But if it can’t understand the code, then there are probably bugs. In this case, it would still be the programmer’s responsibility to find them and take them out.

Basically, the whole programming process is fraught with problem-solving exercises. Your first problem would be figuring out what you want the computer to do. This helps you conceptualize your code.

Your next problem would be designing and writing the actual code. This is where programming knowledge and experience comes in. Do you know what terms to use? Do you know what order or sequence to follow? Do you know what will trigger the code?

The process doesn’t end when the code’s written, either. Any programmer will tell you that written code so rarely comes out perfect the first time. As we mentioned earlier, bugs – i.e., glitches or errors in the programming – are expected. So the programmer’s next problem is how to find the bugs and how to fix them.

As kids learn to code, running into problems – and consequently solving them – becomes a regular occurrence. This level of repetitiveness can help them get used to the concept and feeling of having to tackle issues head-on.

III. Hour of Code

Dad helps daughter solve problems on computer

This is related to our previous recommended activity; coding.

The Hour of Code started as a sixty-minute introduction to Computer Science. The original intent of the program was to compress, simplify, and clarify the basics of code to make it more approachable and more accessible to curious individuals.

Hour of Code has now become a worldwide collective supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide. It stays true to its origins by celebrating computer science and encouraging students to get into coding by releasing hour-long coding activities.

  • Hour of Code 2019: Roblox Coding with Lua
  • 15 Fun and Free Hour of Code Activities [New Guide]

If your child is learning how to code, the projects on the Hour of Code website may help them refine their coding skills and, as a result, further develop their problem-solving skills. And since these professionally-selected coding projects shouldn’t take your kids more than an hour to figure out, they make excellent refresher and/or testing courses.

IV. Sudoku/Crossword Puzzles

Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Sudoku puzzles are similar to Magic Squares in that they’re both number-placement puzzles. The difference lies in their setup and objective.

Classic Sudoku puzzles take place on 9×9 grids. These grids are further divided into smaller 3×3 grids. 

Whereas Magic Squares require that the totals of all rows, columns and diagonals are equal, Sudoku puzzles require that all columns, rows, and 3×3 grids contain the digits 1 through 9 without repeating any digit. 

You’re also given a few default digits to start with, and those will serve as your guide. You cannot change them to fit your pattern.

Say, for example, there’s already a default 3 in the second row, fifth column. This means that the number 3 cannot appear again in the whole second row and the whole fifth column.

You can see how such an activity would encourage the use of problem-solving skills. Logical reasoning, sequencing, pattern identification, mathematics … there’s a lot that comes into play when deciding which numbers go where.

Experts also point out that solving Sudoku puzzles requires the puzzler to be methodical and observant—two characteristics that can be incredibly beneficial to have when solving problems.

  • Top 20 Math Games for Kids
  • Top 10 Free Math Websites of All Time

10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

By: Author Tanja McIlroy

Posted on Last updated: 5 June 2024

Categories Activities for Preschoolers & Kindergarteners

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.

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.”

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.

The best types to choose are sturdy, wooden puzzles with a board. They last longer and the frame provides a structure to guide children when building.

2. Memory games

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

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. 

(Get your own set of printable memory card games here!)

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.

4.  Activity Books

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

problem solving activities for parents

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.

problem solving activities for parents

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

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.

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 kids to find their way out .

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

Hi Uma, thanks for your message. These articles are not available in PDF, but you are welcome to copy and paste them from the website, as long as you add the reference: https://empoweredparents.co/problem-solving-activities-preschoolers/ Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

Very very useful content. Good work. Thank you.

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Thanks Ann.

Tuesday 19th of May 2020

Would like to download the free activity pack please.

Hi Kelly, Please download the activity pack on this page: www.empoweredparents.co

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Problem solving skills & 8 activities for kids.

Twin Kit, Lego Blocks and children

One of the key tasks of parents and educators is preparing children for life by supporting the development of problem-solving skills. From inconveniences of daily life to abstract academic puzzles and questions, good problem-solving skills are a must-have in different situations. 

In this article, we will talk about what we mean by problem-solving skills, why it is important, and suggest different kinds of interactive problem-solving activities for kids.

Problem-Solving Skills in Kids

According to a recent report , one of the most commonly lacking soft skills among young people who recently finished college is problem-solving skills. A lack of good problem-solving skills results in avoiding challenges and conflicts that are necessary for a fulfilling life. It can hinder individuals from reaching their full potential and flourishing in various environments. 

Problem-solving skills should be cultivated starting from childhood so that kids grow into self-sufficient adults who are capable of navigating through various challenges of life. Developing problem-solving skills at younger ages helps children become more independent, pick up other essential 21st century skills , and gain resilience.

What are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving is the process of using actionable knowledge to produce a favourable outcome out of a challenging situation. Problem-solving skills go hand in hand with various skills such as teamwork, social skills, critical and analytical thinking , creativity, decision-making, negotiation, cooperation, anger management, and conflict resolution.

How to improve problem-solving skills in kids?

The key to problem-solving skills development in kids is to practice solving problems. Of course, this might not be very pleasant by itself. You can turn it into a pleasant experience by gamifying the process with various activities and integrating such activities into everyday life.

5 Steps of Problem-Solving

Dividing the problem-solving process into steps can help them easily follow through. Here are five problem-solving steps to try out: 

  • Break down the problem. A clear grasp of the problem helps come up with well-targeted solutions. Try to define it and understand the details. What are the circumstances? Who does it affect and how?
  • Brainstorm possible solutions. After having a well-defined problem at hand, you can start brainstorming. At this step, don’t focus on the specifics. Simply list the ideas that come up. You can use post-its!
  • Assess the pros and cons of each solution. Now is the time to think of the possible outcomes of the solutions. Does it work for everyone involved? Is it easy to implement, and if not, is the effort worth the outcome?
  • Decide on a solution. After carefully assessing each solution, pick the one that works the best. Here, you can start planning how the solution can be realized. What do you need to make it work? What are your backup solutions?
  • Put it to test. Finally, you can implement the solution you have decided on. Observe how it plays out and discuss the results! Did it go as expected? What could be done differently? If the outcome does not match your expectations, try out other possible solutions or start the process again with the experience you gained on the first attempt.

Creative Problem-Solving Activities

Building blocks.

LEGO blocks, magnetic blocks, wooden blocks, or even materials such as play dough allow children to explore part-whole relationships in a creative way. It promotes thinking about design and function, how smaller parts come together in a way that makes sense and therefore helps develop problem-solving skills. 

For children aged 6 and beyond, you can try out Twin STEM kits which are compatible with LEGO blocks for infinitely more combinations that can address real-life problems. For example, with the Twin Curiosity Kit , they can create their own smart security system or smart pet feeder!

Pillow Forts

Who doesn’t love this age-old classic! Fond memories of messing up the living room with blankets and pillows must have come up in your own mind. In addition to being a cozy and fun activity that can easily be done in every home, it has many pedagogical benefits, including problem-solving skills.

Allow children to create their own forts in an unstructured way. Try not to interfere unless they really demand your help. While building their architectural masterpiece, children will think through logistic details–how to make it a durable structure that’s comfortable enough for them to sit inside, which materials to use and where etc.

The process of building pillow forts involves a lot of trial and error. Things may not go as they plan. What they have in mind may not be easy to bring to life. As they build, they will have to solve spontaneous design problems. The results (and the process itself) are always very much satisfying!

Functional Problem-Solving Activities

Solving mazes is a fun, functional problem-solving activity suitable for all ages and levels. It encourages children to think three-dimensionally, engages their spatial and motor skills, and sense of direction. 

There are plenty of maze games you can find online with different levels of difficulty. You can make it more encouraging by putting rewards and prizes per completed maze. Gotta appreciate the hard work that the little ones put in!

Social Problem-Solving Skills Activities


Write out different scenarios on small index cards describing a social problem. It could be about friendship problems, conflicts with family, or various situations at school, in the classroom, at lunch, in the park, etc. 

Then, ask your child to pick one and act it out together. You can switch roles to take it a step further. This will engage their imagination while improving social problem-solving skills and empathy and help them prepare for future social conflicts. 

Emotions in a Jar

Even as adults, we tend to struggle with strong and difficult emotions. It comes up as a challenge both as part of our relationship with ourselves and of our social relations with others. Emotional regulation is an essential skill that needs to be carefully nurtured at younger ages.

In this problem-solving activity, you will need some jars and different colored pom poms (or other kinds of soft material). Each jar will represent a certain emotion: anger, happiness, excitement, frustration, sadness, etc. You will then have them fill any jar they want with pom poms, according to how intensely they feel it. 

As they do it, talk about what these pom poms represent. Maybe they lost their favorite toy and want to put a handful of pom poms into the sadness jar. You can revisit the jars and ask if they would want to take away some of the contents over time. 

Coding games

Learning to code through games is a perfect way to develop problem-solving skills for children. It combines fun and challenges to create a motivating, fruitful learning opportunity. Through coding, children actively come across practical challenges and problems and come up with creative ways to overcome them. 

You don’t even need any pieces of equipment to try out coding as a problem-solving activity. Check out our article on screen-free coding activities for kids to get some ideas.

Problem-Solving Activities for Kids in Groups

Group building .

Divide children into teams of three. Build a random structure using materials you have at hand. One person will try to rebuild this structure without seeing it. One person will see the structure, but not be allowed to talk about it. Another person will be the “talker”. 

The “viewer” will describe the structure to the “talker”, without nonverbal communication. The talker will then describe what they understood about the structure to the builder. This is a great problem-solving activity for learning about conflict resolution through teamwork and collaboration.

Silent bench 

Have children line up on a bench (a line on the ground drawn with chalk). Now, ask them different questions and order themselves accordingly without speaking. For example, from lightest to darkest according to their eye colours. This will require them to communicate nonverbally and be careful to keep their balance and not fall off the bench while moving around the line!

You can gradually increase the difficulty by giving them cues that are hard to communicate without speaking to each other. It is nevertheless a fun exercise for everyone involved!

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problem solving activities for parents

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Five Steps to Parent Problem-Solving

Five Steps to Parent Problem-Solving

In this article, you will find:

Identify the problem.

When children learn problem-solving skills , they are more self-confident. They have fewer behavior problems and get along better with other people. This enables them to do better in school and in relationships with friends and authority figures. They also tend to have strong emotional health , which gives them the ability to deal with life's challenges and difficult events.

When you learn to coach your child through a problem, instead of solving it for them or ignoring it, you are empowering him to become independent . You are giving him the ability to smooth out life's bumps in the road, and thereby be able to travel farther down it. You are showing him a key tool to success.

Identify the Problem

There are several steps to identifying a problem; the first is to recognize that there is a problem. Once that is determined, you need to name the parties who are part of the problem. Often it is one person, but many times there are two or more. After that, you must clearly define the problem you wish to solve.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow said about conflict and problem-solving: "If the only tools you have are hammers, every problem begins to look like a nail." There is no truer statement when you are trying to help your child figure out the solution to a problem. Learn the skill and make it unique to your family.

Separating the Issues

Quite often, there is more than one problem in a particular situation, and you must be able to separate them and confront them individually. For example, one child takes a toy from another, and the other child reacts by hitting the first child. In this example you have two problems : the taking of the toy and the hitting of the child. Although you will have to deal right away with calming the child who got hit, you first need to identify the action that caused the ruckus and deal with it. Afterward, you can deal with other problems (such as calming the child who was hit) that developed from the reactions to the initial problem. Begin by asking one child what happened, and give each child a turn in giving her version of the events. Then state that there is a problem that you, as a group, need to solve. State clearly which problem you are solving. In this instance, you are attempting first to solve the problem of the child taking the toy first, and then you will use problem-solving skills to come up with alternatives to hitting another person.

Get to the Root

Coming on a scene where one child is crying sometimes causes parents to put on blinders to everything else that may be going on. Yes, it is extremely important to make sure that the child who is crying is not hurt. Once that is determined, it's time to get to the root problem. If you ignore what caused the scene and don't try to fix the problems that resulted first, you will be teaching the children that you can fix things with bandages instead of teaching them a way to solve the next problem. Therefore, they will continually need you to be there to apply the bandage.

All too often when a problem occurs between two or more children, there isn't an adult in the room. Therefore, identifying the root problem can get tricky. This can lead to another problem: lying . Try to get an account of what happened from one child at a time. If you suspect that a child may not be telling the truth and may make it hard to figure out who to believe, shelve the entire mess. Have everyone, including you, take a group time-out. Once everyone is calm, move on. If you've determined that it's impossible to figure out the problem accurately, trying to find the problem becomes the problem. You never want to guess, because you could be wrong, which will cause guilt and possibly shame in someone who doesn't deserve it. Shelve it, move on, and pay closer attention to the group from here on.

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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.

problem solving activities for parents

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>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.

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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.

problem solving activities for parents

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. 

problem solving activities for parents

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.

problem solving activities for parents

Playing Memory

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

problem solving activities for parents

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. 

problem solving activities for parents

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. 

Super Kid Adventures

Want a free preview? Grab a FREE Perseverance video lesson that teaches your kiddo one of the most important secrets that help them use perseverance.

Want More? 

If you like this, you’ll love: 

The Ultimate List of Books that Teach Perseverance

7 Simple Ways to Encourage Independence in Young Children

How to Help Your Child Develop Self-Help Skills

Your Turn 

What are your favorite ways to teach problem-solving skills?

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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a mama of two boys, a former teacher, and the founder of Discovery Play with Littles. Her mission is to make raising kids with character simple and fun. Join us for our best learning through play ideas, character growth activities, and family connection ideas so you can watch your child thrive.

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As a SLP trying to guide parents as I work with their child. I would like to know what toys to recommend to my parents as I assist in guiding their child’s development in cognition and expressive language.

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Perseverance is the biggest predictor of success, even more than raw talent or aptitude.

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PLAY is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. -Mr. Rogers

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Complete guide to managing behavior problems, what's in this guide.

When children struggle with their behavior, it can have a negative impact on everyone in the family. Parents know they need to respond, but they often aren’t sure what’s the best strategy, especially if a child is frequently acting out and nothing seems to work. This guide offers parents a comprehensive look at problem behavior. It covers a variety of topics, including what may be triggering problem behavior, how to improve the parent-child relationship when it becomes strained, what to do if kids are struggling with behavior in school and how to get professional help if you need it.

Why Do Some Kids Struggle With Problem Behavior?

When children have frequent emotional outbursts, it can be a sign that they haven’t yet developed the skills they need to cope with feelings like frustration, anxiety and anger. Handling big emotions in a healthy, mature way requires a variety of skills, including:

  • Impulse control
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Problem solving
  • Delaying gratification
  • Negotiating
  • Communicating wishes and needs to adults
  • Knowing what’s appropriate or expected in a given situation

Other children may seem to struggle more with boundaries and following rules. They may be defiant, or ignore instructions or try to talk their way out of things that aren’t optional. You may notice patterns of behavior that seem to crop up at certain times of the day (like bedtime) during certain tasks (like during homework) or with certain people. You also might notice that your child acts out particularly when she is at home but not when she is at school, or vice versa.

Tantrums and other kinds of acting out are often a normal and even healthy part of childhood. They are a sign that a child is becoming more independent — indications that a child is testing boundaries, developing skills and opinions, and exploring the world around them.

But when a child is acting out a lot, it can strain the parent-child relationship, creating regular frustration and resentment that isn’t healthy in the family. Whether your child is in the early stages of learning about self-regulation and boundaries, or if your family has been struggling and you are looking for help, this guide is designed to explain more about how kids learn to manage their behavior, what parents can do to aid in the process and how to get more support if you need it .

Tantrums can be a learned behavior

Sometimes parents feel that tantrums and other instances of problem behavior are intentional or manipulative. However, clinicians who specialize in children’s behavior agree that tantrums are generally not a voluntary behavior on a child’s part — but they may be what is known as a “learned behavior.” That means that kids learn that having a tantrum gets them the result that they want.

In other words, while a child who struggles to control her emotions might not be consciously calculating her tantrums, she might resort to them because she hasn’t learned a better way to solve problems or communicate her needs. Well-meaning parents often respond to tantrums by trying to fix whatever caused the problem — by comforting the child or giving her whatever she is asking for. Unfortunately, this reinforces the tantrum behavior, making kids more likely to continue having tantrums and less likely to develop more sophisticated ways to manage their feelings.

Responding to Problem Behavior

When kids are acting out parents often feel powerless. You may have tried different techniques for discipline, but without much success. In fact, trying too many different strategies for managing disruptive behavior can sometimes be part of the problem, since kids respond better to firm boundaries that are consistently reinforced. But if you haven’t seen progress before now, don’t feel discouraged, because parents have more power than they may realize when kids are being oppositional. By using strategies that are informed by child psychologists who specialize in behavior management, you can begin to improve kids’ behavior and even improve the parent-child relationship.

This section begins with some general rules of thumb recommended by behavior experts as effective strategies for responding to problem behavior in the moment. Next it examines problem behavior in greater depth, which can be helpful for parents who want to understand more about why kids act out, and how to tackle specific behaviors you would like to change.

Tips for responding in the moment:

  • Don’t give in.  Resist the temptation to end your child’s tantrum by giving her what she wants when she explodes. Giving in teaches her that tantrums work.
  • Remain calm. Harsh or emotional responses tend to escalate a child’s aggression, be it verbal or physical. By staying calm, you’re also modeling for your child the type of behavior you want to see in him.
  • Ignore negative behavior and praise positive behavior.  Ignore minor misbehavior, since even negative attention like reprimanding or telling the child to stop can reinforce her actions. Instead, provide lots of labeled praise on behaviors you want to encourage. (Don’t just say “good job,” say “good job calming down.”)
  • Use consistent consequences.  Your child needs to know what the consequences are for negative behaviors, such as time outs, as well as rewards for positive behaviors, like time on the iPad. And you need to show him you follow through with these consequences every time.
  • Wait to talk until the meltdown is over. Don’t try to reason with a child who is upset. You want to encourage a child to practice negotiating when she’s  not blowing up (and you’re not either).

Targeting specific behaviors

When you are trying to manage disruptive behavior, it is helpful to identify specific behaviors that you are trying to change (or encourage). It’s true that when families are feeling overwhelmed sometimes it can seem like every interaction is a struggle. However, identifying specific behaviors is an important first step to effective discipline. Taking behaviors one at a time allows you to be more focused, gain a better understanding of why the behavior is happening, and have a greater sense of control. Of course, there may be multiple behaviors that you would like to change, but evaluating them one by one is important.

Target behaviors should be:

  • Specific (so expectations are clear to everyone in the family)
  • Measurable (so everyone can agree whether or not the behavior happened)

An example of a poorly defined behavior is “acting out” or “being good.” A well-defined behavior would be running around the room (bad) or starting homework on time (good).

Before the behavior happens

When you are thinking about a particular behavior that you are targeting, it is important to think about what generally happens before that behavior and may be triggering it. This helps parents understand not only why a child might be acting out but also how anticipating certain triggers might help prevent those behaviors from happening. Parents can also examine the triggers that make positive behaviors (like obeying a command on the first time) more likely.

Potential triggers to avoid

These things often lead to misbehavior.

  • Assuming your expectations are understood:  Kids may not know what is expected of them — even if you assume they do. Demands change from situation to situation and when children are unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, they’re more likely to misbehave.
  • Calling things out from a distance:  Tell your children important instructions when you are face-to-face. Directions that are yelled from a distance are less likely to be remembered and understood.
  • Transitioning without warning:  Transitions can be hard for kids, especially if they are in the middle of doing something they enjoy. When kids are given a warning and have a chance to find a good stopping place, transitions can be less fraught.
  • Asking rapid-fire questions, or giving a series of instructions:  Delivering a series of questions or instructions limits the likelihood that children will hear, answer questions, remember the tasks, and do what they’ve been instructed to do.

Potential triggers to embrace

These are things that can bolster good behavior.

  • Adjusting the environment:  Try to manage environmental and emotional factors that can make it much more difficult for children to rein in their behavior. Things to consider: hunger, fatigue, anxiety or distractions. When it’s homework time, for instance, remove distractions like screens and toys, provide snacks, establish an organized place for kids to work and make sure to schedule some breaks.
  • Making expectations clear:  You and your child should be clear on what’s expected. Even if he “should” know what is expected, clarifying expectations at the outset of a task helps head off misunderstandings down the line.
  • Providing countdowns for transitions : Whenever possible, prepare children for an upcoming transition. For example, give her a 10-minute warning when it is time to come to dinner or start homework. Then follow up when there are 2 minutes left. Just as important as issuing the countdown is actually making the transition at the stated time.
  • Letting kids have a choice:  As kids grow up, it’s important they have a say in their own scheduling. Giving a structured choice — “Do you want to take a shower after dinner or before?” — can help them feel empowered and encourage them to become more self-regulating.

After the behavior happens

Considering what happens after a targeted behavior is important because consequences can affect the likelihood of a behavior recurring. That is true for consequences that are positive (like getting an extra 10 minutes of screen time) or negative (like getting a time out).

Some consequences are more effective than others. Ideally consequences create structure and help kids understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. However, consequences can also do more harm than good when they are sending the wrong message. Understanding how to use smart and consistent consequences makes all the difference.

Consequences that aren’t effective

These types of consequences are common, but they generally don’t have the desired effect.

  • Giving negative attention: It seems counterintuitive, but consequences that seem negative to us (like raising your voice or spanking) can sometimes reinforce the very behavior we are trying to prevent. That’s because children value attention from the important adults in their life so much that any attention — positive or negative — is better than none. That’s why negative attention can actually increase bad behavior over time. Responding to behaviors with criticism or yelling can also adversely affect children’s self-esteem.
  • Delayed consequences:  Immediate consequences are the most effective. Children are less likely to link their behavior to a consequence if there is a lot of time between the two, which means delayed consequences are less likely to actually change a child’s behavior.
  • Disproportionate consequences: Parents can sometimes become so frustrated that they overreact when giving consequences, which is understandable. However, a huge consequence can be demoralizing for children, and they may give up even trying to behave.
  • Consequences that are accommodating:  When a child is slow to doing something you want him to do, like picking up his toys, many parents will become frustrated and just do it themselves. While this reaction is also understandable, it also increases the likelihood that he will dawdle again next time.

Consequences that are effective

Consequences that are more effective begin with generous attention to the behaviors you want to encourage.

  • Positive attention for positive behaviors: Praising children when you “catch them being good” makes them more likely to repeat that good behavior in the future. Positive attention is also a good thing for the parent-child relationship, improves a child’s self-esteem, and feels good for everyone involved.
  • Ignoring actively: This consequence might seem counterintuitive, but child behavior experts often teach “active ignoring” as an effective behavior management strategy. To perform active ignoring, deliberately withdraw your attention when a child starts to misbehave. As children learn that acting out doesn’t get them your attention, they will begin to do it less. An important component of active ignoring is to immediately give a child positive attention as soon as he exhibits behavior you do want to see, like sitting calmly. Of course, this consequence should be used only for minor misbehavior — active ignoring is not appropriate when a child is being aggressive or doing something dangerous.
  • Reward menus: Rewards are a tangible way to give children positive feedback for desired behaviors. Rewards are most motivating when children can choose from a variety of desirable things: extra time on the iPad, a special treat, etc. Rewards should be linked to specific behaviors and always delivered consistently.
  • Time outs : Time outs are one of the most effective consequences parents can use, but also one of the hardest to do correctly. It’s very important to balance them with other nurturing techniques, like providing positive feedback and modeling emotional regulation for your child. The next section in the guide gives parents tips on how to have a successful time out.

Example: Targeting a specific behavior

Set a specific behavior that you want to target

Stop jumping on the couch

Examine triggers

Your daughter often starts jumping on the couch when you go to change the baby’s diaper or give him a bath.

Possible solution: Come up with ways your daughter can “help” you do these tasks. Her assistance may slow you down slightly, but it gives her something positive to do — and it makes her feel like she’s still getting your attention. When she helps out, praise her for being such a good big sister.

Examine consequences

Ineffective consequence: Yelling, “I’ve told you this a million times, Katie, you can’t jump on the couch! Why do you keep doing it?!”

Effective consequence: Send to time out immediately.

Why Transitions Trigger Problem Behavior

One common problem behavior trigger for many children is transitions. Whether it’s getting ready for bed, or coming to dinner, or putting down the video game controller, in many families transitions can become a flashpoint that everyone learns to dread.

If transitions are a problem for your child, it is important to figure out what about the transition is difficult. Often kids don’t like stopping an activity that they are enjoying (like playing on the computer) in order to do something less fun, like getting ready to leave the house. While no one enjoys stopping fun things, some kids struggle with it more than others. That can be a sign that they are still developing emotional self-regulation skills , but it is just one possible cause. Other children struggle to cope with unanticipated changes in schedule, or moving on from something that they feel like they haven’t finished.

Struggling with transitions can even be a sign of a mental health disorder in some children. Children with ADHD, autism, anxiety and OCD are all more likely to struggle with transitions.

Techniques to make transitions easier

Once you’ve narrowed down what you think might be behind your child’s resistance to transitions, then you can start brainstorming what you think might help. (Note: If you think your child might have an undiagnosed mental health disorder, taking your concerns to a clinician is important.)

Here are some techniques that you might want to try:

Preview and countdown: Every morning, lay out what the day will look like. Before each transition, give a timeframe and description of what will happen along with countdowns (in 20 minutes, then 10, then 5 it will be time to finish breakfast and head to school). This helps kids prepare emotionally.

Get their attention: For kids who struggle to regulate their attention, make a particular effort to capture theirs. Make eye contact, sit next to them, put your hand on their shoulder, or ask them to repeat back what you have said. It makes them more likely to follow through.

Use music: Songs can help kids (particularly young kids) ease into transitions. The “clean up” song is a popular example of this, but there are many songs that can be found or made up to suit a variety of situations from tying shoes to brushing teeth.

Visual cues: Posting a chart with pictures illustrating what to expect from a particular transition or the steps involved is a good visual reminder for children to fall back on.

Create routines: If there are transitions that your child struggles with every day, like going to bed, build some consistency and structure into that transition. For example, when it’s close to bedtime, your child can pick one last thing she wants to do. Then, you both go upstairs to brush teeth and read a story, then it’s lights out. Doing this routine consistently helps kids know what to expect and makes the transition easier.

Use rewards: Rewards can be an effective tool to use for difficult transitions until children have gotten used to them. Parents can use stickers, snacks, or a point system that leads to tangible rewards.

Appropriate consequences: If a transition isn’t going well, think about what consequences you are (or aren’t) giving. Yelling isn’t an effective consequence, but active ignoring or a time out might be.

Use praise: When a child does follow through with a transition, make sure you give him some enthusiastic labeled praise to recognize his behavior. For example: “I really liked how you handed over the iPad right away and started brushing your teeth. Now we have more time to read!”

Skills: How to Do a Time Out

Critics of time outs argue that they can be emotionally isolating for kids, but research shows that they are effective and do not cause children harm . (For more on the debate around time outs, read our full article on the topic .) However, it’s very important to use them as just one technique in a nurturing, supportive parenting strategy. Be sure to balance use of time outs with lots of praise for kids’ positive behaviors. It’s also important to manage your own stress so that kids can learn emotional regulation from your positive example.

The point of a time out isn’t to shame or punish your child, but to diffuse an emotional situation and help your child learn to manage frustration and regulate his own behavior. Using a time out is also a clear way to communicate that a particular behavior is unacceptable.

Many parents have tried time outs before with varying degrees of success. To be most effective, time outs need to be done consistently and follow certain steps. Here are some guidelines to follow if you are learning how to use time outs, or want to troubleshoot your technique.

Use advance warning:  Kids need to  understand which behaviors are linked to which consequences . Work with your child to establish which behaviors (like hitting or not complying with an instruction from you) lead to a time out so she knows what to expect.

Establish a pre-determined place:  Designating a special chair, or a place on the stairs, also helps a child know what to expect. It’s a good idea to label the time out chair just that, and not “the naughty chair” or something similar. Time outs work better when they are focused on teaching children how to behave, not on punishing them.

Use a quick response:  When a kid misbehaves in one of the ways you have discussed, make sure the following time out is immediate, and that you state the reason: “No hitting. Go to time out.” Be specific, brief, and unemotional. This helps ensure that the child is able to link her action with its consequence. Delayed consequences are ineffective because kids tend to feel you are just being punitive.

Keep it brief : A standard formula for time outs is one minute per year of age. Some experts recommend a timer so a child can see that the time is being measured.

Keep it calm:  The goal in a time out is for kids to sit quietly. Some experts recommend not starting the allotted time until your child is quiet. Others feel this is too hard for young children. They require that the child be completely quiet for 5 seconds before ending the time out. This way kids learn to associate good behaviors with the end of the time out and it sends the message that yelling and screaming during a time out won’t work.

Pay no attention:  Kids in time out should be ignored — no talking to them or about them, even if they’re whining, crying or protesting. By withdrawing your attention during the time out, you’re sending the message that misbehaving is not the way to get what they want.

Consistency is key:  It’s tempting to put kids in time out whenever they’re acting inappropriately or pushing your buttons, but using time outs randomly makes it more difficult for kids to make the connection between specific misbehaviors and their consequences. Also, it is important that the time out occurs each and every time the specific target behavior occurs. If not, you are encouraging the child to think that he might be able to get away with it.

No rewarding stimuli:  In the time out chair the child should have no access to television, electronic devices, toys or games. If you’re away from home, pick any spot that removes the child from distracting stimulation.

If a child won’t stay in time out:  If a child breaks the rules by  leaving the time out chair too soon , put him in a backup time out area that he cannot escape from (like  a bedroom where there aren’t any rewarding stimuli such as television, toys or games). Briefly explain that he must stay there for one minute and be calm and quiet before he is allowed to leave. Once he does that he should be returned to the time out chair, and the time he must stay there is restarted. If he leaves the chair again, the cycle repeats. Your child should learn quickly that it’s in his best interest to stay in the chair until the time is up.

After the time out

When kids are given time outs for not complying with your instructions, once a time out is finished, they should be asked to complete whatever task they were asked to do before the time out. This helps them understand that time outs aren’t escape routes.

Once the time out is over, you want to resume giving them attention, tuning in to whatever they are doing/working on/playing so that you can “catch them being good” and specifically  praise them for a positive behavior . For example, if your child completes her time out and then she plays gently with the dog, you’d want to let her know what she was doing right (“I love how nicely you’re playing with the dog! You are using such nice gentle hands!”) This is reassuring your child that although she had to go to time out, she also is completely capable of doing good and positive things that make you proud and loving toward her.

Skills: How to Give Effective Instructions

Children will be more likely to understand and comply with your instructions if you follow these guidelines:

  • Be direct.  Make statements rather than asking questions: “Please sit down,” as opposed to “Are you ready to get out your homework?”
  • Be close.  Give instructions when you are near your child, rather than calling out from across the room.
  • Use clear and specific commands . Instead of “Go ahead,” say, “Please go start your reading assignment.”
  • Give age-appropriate instructions . Speak to your child at a level he will understand. If your child is younger, keep things simple and use words you know he knows: “Please pick up the ball.” With older children, it’s important to be clear without being patronizing.
  • Give instructions one at a time.  Especially for kids who have attention challenges, try to avoid giving a series of instructions: “Please put on your sneakers, get your lunch off the kitchen counter, and meet me in the front hall.”
  • Keep explanations simple.  Giving a rationale can increase the likelihood children will listen to a command, but not if the commands gets lost in it. For instance: “Go get your coat on because it’s raining and I don’t want you to catch a cold.” Instead, try: “It’s raining and I don’t want you to catch a cold. Go get your coat on.”
  • Give kids time to process.  After you give an instruction, wait a few seconds, without repeating what you said. Children then learn to listen to  calm  instructions given once rather than learning that they don’t need to listen because the instructions will be repeated.

Improving the Parent-Child Relationship

One of the most unpleasant side effects of behavioral problems is the toll they take on the family dynamic. When a child has chronic behavior issues parents often aren’t enjoying the time they spend with their child. This can be both frustrating and guilt-inducing. Children are also negatively affected when they receive frequent criticism or pick up on their parent’s irritation, which can lead to resentment and may damage their self-esteem.

Improving the parent-child relationship should be a priority for all families dealing with chronic problem behavior. To that end, try to increase the number of interactions you have with your child that are positive and don’t promote conflict. For example:

  • Use behavior management strategies that reinforce what you do want to see (like giving clear instructions in a neutral tone of voice or using lots of labeled praise) instead of comments that are critical or focus on what you don’t want to see.
  • Pay attention to your own emotions and look for healthy ways to deal with stressful situations without escalating them. Use your own emotional self-regulation skills or give yourself a time out if you need a moment to cool down.
  • Like in any relationship you want to nurture, think about how you can build on (or create) meaningful bonds. Are there common interests you can cultivate? New relationship rituals you can establish?
  • Set aside a small amount of time every day to be present and nonjudgmental with your child.

How to establish daily quality time

Even a small amount of time set aside reliably every day can become something children and parents learn to look forward to. This should be a time for positive connection, without rules or commands, to help everyone in the family defuse stress and appreciate each other’s company. This should be considered special time and should not be contingent on a child’s good behavior. Here are some tips for success:

  • Aim for 5 minutes per day with younger kids, 15 minutes with teens
  • Let your child choose an activity she enjoys and you join in
  • Actively listen and let her lead the conversation
  • Validate her choices and interests
  • Focus on giving positive attention to good behavior
  • Ignore minor misbehavior
  • Avoid directing the activity or criticizing

Helping Kids Deal With Big Emotions

Some children act out because they have a hard time regulating their own emotions. This is a common problem for young children who haven’t yet developed the ability to cope with big emotions in a constructive way. Some children continue to struggle with self-regulation as they get older. Parents and teachers may notice that they seem particularly sensitive and have outsized emotional reactions compared to their siblings or peers.

The good news is that self-regulation is a skill that can be taught like any other, and parents can play a big role in helping kids learn how to handle their emotions, even very big emotions. Here are some techniques for helping kids calm down instead of act out.

Developing emotional IQ

Taking the time to notice and label emotions helps kids begin to pay attention to how they are feeling. This is important because paying attention to our emotions is the first step to learning how to manage them. Sometimes just articulating an emotion helps to defuse it. Too often we try to pretend we aren’t feeling negative emotions until it’s too late and we are feeling terrible. Acknowledging a negative feeling can make it seem less powerful and helps you begin to think constructively about what to do with that feeling.

Parents can help teach children to do this by modeling it in their own behavior. For example, if you are upset because you forgot something at the grocery store, share that feeling: “I’m so frustrated right now! I forgot to get milk!” Then, after you’ve acknowledged how you feel, you can model coping and problem solving skills. You might say, “I’m going to take some deep breaths to calm down — that often helps me.” Then once you’re feeling better, you can say, “Now how can I solve this problem?” and brainstorm ideas.

Children will begin to pick up on the skills that you are modeling for them, but they might also need some extra support as they begin to learn how to deal with their emotions. If you notice your child is beginning to look upset, ask her to describe how she is feeling. Can she label it?

Just make sure if your child tells you that she’s feeling sad, or anxious, or angry, you don’t immediately try to talk her out of it. Sometimes hearing “Oh, it isn’t that bad!” can make kids feel like their emotions are wrong and inadvertently teach them that they shouldn’t share how they are feeling. Instead, you can validate the emotion (“Yes, that does sound frustrating” or “You do look disappointed”) and then encourage healthy ways of dealing with that feeling.

Heading off big emotions

Another important part of a child learning to consciously label his emotions is that it encourages him to start paying attention to how he feels, which means that he might notice an emotion earlier, before it starts to feel overwhelming.

Parents can sometimes be blindsided by the strong emotions children show during tantrums. But kids don’t go from calm to sobbing on the floor in an instant — even if it seems like that. Emotions build over time, like a wave. Kids can learn to manage those emotions that seem overwhelming by noticing and labeling them earlier, before that wave gets too big.

Many kids benefit from ranking how strong their emotions are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being calm and 10 being furious. You can model doing this, too. When you are feeling frustrated because you forgot to get milk at the grocery store, you might announce that you’re at a 4.  It might feel silly to do this at first, but it teaches kids to pause and notice how they are feeling. For kids who appreciate visual aids, something like a “feelings thermometer” might help.

Getting Help

When to get help.

Most children have occasional tantrums or meltdowns. Acting out when it’s time to go to bed or stop playing a game is par for the course. But when kids are having tantrums often, or it seems like they can’t control their temper a lot of the time, you may be seeing something more extreme than typical problem behavior.

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • When problem behavior is interfering with his ability to make friends or get along with other kids.
  • When problem behavior is causing a lot of conflict at home and disrupting family life
  • When your child feels like she can’t control her anger, and it is making her feel bad about herself
  • When his behavior is causing trouble at school with his teachers or his fellow students
  • When her behavior is dangerous to herself or others

If you are worried about your child’s behavior and are having a hard time managing it on your own, making an appointment with a clinician who has expertise in children’s mental health can be very helpful. A clinician can perform a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether your child may have an undiagnosed mental health disorder that is contributing to her behavior issues, or recommend specific strategies or treatments that might be helpful.

For more information about how to find a clinician who can help, read the Child Mind Institute’s Parents Guide to Getting Good Care .

Possible causes and diagnoses

Below is a list of some mental health disorders and other challenges that may be associated with disruptive behavior.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADHD find it unusually difficult to concentrate on tasks, pay attention, sit still and control impulsive behavior. While disruptive behavior is not a symptom of ADHD itself, it is often the result of ADHD symptoms. Inattention and impulsivity can make it very difficult for kids to tolerate tasks that are repetitive, boring, or take a lot of effort. Because of this, children with ADHD are frequently overwhelmed with frustration, and throwing a shoe or pushing someone or yelling “shut up!” can be the result of their impulsivity. Some kids with ADHD can also develop negative behavior patterns, which are a response to years of finding themselves in conflict with adults.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Children with ODD have a well-established pattern of behavior problems, with symptoms including arguing with authority figures, refusing to follow rules, blaming others for their mistakes, being unusually angry and irritable, and more. All children can have these symptoms from time to time. What distinguishes ODD from normal oppositional behavior is how severe it is, and how long it has been going on for.

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)

Children with DMDD experience frequent, severe temper outbursts that seem grossly out of proportion to the situation at hand. In between tantrums they are chronically irritable. Their disruptive behavior is a result of their very big emotions and poor self-regulation skills. Children with DMDD often feel very apologetic after a tantrum is over.

Children who seem angry and defiant may be severely anxious.  When children are having a hard time coping with situations that cause them distress, they may lash out. This may happen when the demands at home or school put a pressure on them that they can’t handle. In an anxiety-inducing situation, your child’s “fight or flight” instinct may take hold — she may have a tantrum or refuse to do something to avoid the source of acute fear.

Children who have been traumatized frequently mask their pain with behavior that is aggressive. As a result of their trauma they may be struggling with poor emotional self-regulation, negative thinking, and be overly alert to dangers — and more likely to jump into their “fight or flight” response in an effort to protect themselves.

Learning problems

Children who act out repeatedly in school or during homework time may have an undiagnosed learning disorder. They may be feeling frustrated and ashamed because they are struggling to do things that look easy for other kids, and they don’t know why. Rather than ask for help, they may rip up assignments or act out to create a diversion from their real issues.

Sensory processing issues

Some children have trouble processing the sensory information they are getting from the world around them. Children who are under- or over-sensitive to stimulation can often feel uncomfortable, anxious, distracted and overwhelmed, which can frequently lead to disruptive behavior.

Children on the autism spectrum tend to be rigid — needing consistent routine to feel safe — and unexpected changes can lead to them having a tantrum. Autistic children can also struggle with sensory issues that leave them feeling overwhelmed.  Some autistic children may also lack the language and communication skills to express what they want or need.

Parent training programs

Parent training programs are designed to bolster the skills parents may need for managing a child’s problem behavior and improve the parent-child relationship. These programs are led by psychologists and social workers and are evidence-based, which means they have been thoroughly tested and found to be effective for many families.

Below is a list of different kinds of parent training, including what makes them different and which families they may work best for.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) 

Parents and children both participate in PCIT sessions, during which a clinician teaches them skills to interact in a positive, productive way. It is effective for kids between the ages of 2 and 7, and usually requires 14 to 17 weekly sessions.

In PCIT, parents receive live coaching (via a bug in the ear) from a therapist who watches from behind a one-way mirror as they and their child perform a series of tasks, and parents practice specific responses to both desired and undesired behavior.

Parent Management Training (PMT)

In PMT, which is for children ages 3 to 13, parents are usually seen without the child present, although children may be asked to participate in some sessions.  Skills to deal more effectively with challenging behaviors  are taught and modeled by the therapist and then role-played with parents. After each session, parents are expected to practice the skills at home. Families usually participate in at least 10 sessions.

Since PMT is appropriate for all ages, it’s a good choice when kids are too old for PCIT. It can also be a good option for families where the parent-child relationship is strong, but children might be struggling with things like anxiety, extreme impulsiveness or explosive anger.

Defiant Teens

Defiant Teens is for parents of teenagers who are 13-18 years old. The first half of this program involves only parents, and focuses on teaching more effective tools for  interacting with their teenager , specifically for handling noncompliance or defiant behavior. But since teenagers are more autonomous than younger children and less influenced by their parents’ guidance, the program also includes training for the adolescent to help him become a participant in changing the family dynamic.

In the second half, parents and teenagers are both trained in problem-solving communication. The aim is to provide family behavioral resources to help each family member develop more effective problem-solving, negotiation and communication skills and to correct any unreasonable beliefs that might be impeding their interactions.

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) 

Triple P’s focus is on equipping parents with information and skills to increase confidence and self-sufficiency in managing child behavior. It can be utilized with a wide age range of children from toddlerhood through adolescence. With Triple P families can participate in different levels of intervention according to their needs. In some sessions clinicians will meet one-on-one with parents to discuss skills and strategies, and in some sessions kids with be included and the therapist will be provide live coaching.

The Incredible Years

The Incredible Years offers small-group-based training for parents of kids from infants through age 12. The programs are broken into four age groups (baby, toddler, preschool and school age) and they range from 12 to 20 weeks.

The program starts with a focus on improving parent-child relationships and positive attachment before moving on to  consistent routines, rules and limit-setting.  Finally it covers child management strategies such as ignoring, redirection, logical and natural consequences, time to calm down and problem-solving.

For children from four to eight years old, Incredible Years offers children’s groups that focus on helping them  acquire emotion regulation strategies  and social skills. Research shows that the kids’ group works well at improving pro-social behavior and decreasing problem behaviors. Parents find that they learn not only from therapists but from other fellow parents in the group.

Parent training and behavior therapy are considered a more effecting and longer lasting way to help children learn to manage their difficult emotions and rein in disruptive behavior. But medications are sometimes used as an adjunct to behavioral therapy. Anti-psychotic medications like Abilify (aripiprazole) and Risperdal (risperdone), which have been shown to reduce aggression and irritability, may be used in cases where a child is at risk of being removed from the school or home. Stimulant medication may be used if a child has excessive impulsivity, including those who have an ADHD diagnosis. Antidepressants (SSRIs) may be helpful if a child has underlying depression or anxiety.

It is important to talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have about your child’s treatment plan, progress or any side effects that you may be seeing. A good clinician will be ready to discuss the symptoms you are seeing and explain potential options for changing dosage or medication. If you don’t feel that your child’s doctor is taking your concerns seriously, or your doctor is not following best practices for changing dosage, or adding new medications, you should get a second opinion.

If you believe your child should stop taking a particular medication, make sure you tell your doctor, and discuss the pros and cons. Don’t make adjustments or withdraw the medication without consultation. Many medications should be reduced gradually, and children should be monitored for side effects of withdrawing too quickly.

Note about Risperdal

Risperdal can have serious side effects, including substantial weight gain and metabolic, neurological and hormonal changes that can be harmful. Children taking Risperdal or another atypical antipsychotic should be monitored by their doctors regularly over the course of treatment. Before treatment begins, they should be tested to establish baselines for height, weight, vital signs and levels of prolactin and blood fats and sugar. During the first few months of treatment, a child’s levels should be measured frequently. If the child is using the medication long-term, he should continue to be monitored on a yearly basis.

Behavior Issues in School

For kids who struggle with their behavior in the classroom, establishing some school-specific behavior management strategies is important.

The first step is often asking the school to provide a functional behavior assessment. The goal of an FBA is to gather more information about when and why your child is acting out in class. This information is then used to come up with a plan for how to help. A school psychologist or behavioral specialist typically leads the FBA, and may speak to you, your child’s teachers and your child as part of the assessment, as well as do some in-class observation.

Determining which specific things that your child struggles with is important. Just like in behavior management at home, it helps to get as much information as possible about the real-life situations that seem to lead to disruptive behavior, paying attention to what happens immediately before, during and after the behavior. Paying attention to when your child isn’t acting out can also be informative.

Once this information has been gathered and analyzed, the school psychologist or behavioral specialist can work on creating a behavior intervention plan (or BIP) with ideas for preventing problem behaviors and rewarding positive behavior. This may include different teaching strategies, different consequences for misbehavior or changes to typical routines. Checking in periodically to monitor the effectiveness of these strategies (and make updates accordingly) is important.

How parents can support school behavior goals at home

Parents can also play a role in helping reinforce good behavior at school. You might tell your child’s teacher that you want to be a partner in helping improve your child’s behavior and select one or two goals at a time to work on, like turning in homework and not calling out in class, for example. Then you can ask the teacher to give you periodic reports on your child’s progress. You don’t want to overwhelm the teacher, but if you get a progress report every few days or every week then you can help reinforce the school’s goals by either rewarding good school behavior at home or setting up appropriate consequences.

For example, if you hear that your child is doing a good job turning in his assignments, you might give him some extra screen time that weekend in recognition of his efforts. If he’s doing a particularly good job then you might give him a bigger reward, like an outing to his favorite restaurant. Conversely, if you get a report that he isn’t doing his homework, you might let him know that he won’t get any screen time for the first two days of the upcoming week because he needs to prioritize homework.

For more information about working with schools on behavior issues, see our recommended reading list in the next section.

Recommended Reading

Behavior interventions at home.

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit , by Alan Kazdin

The Kazdin Method for Parenting a Defiant Child , by Alan Kazdin

Taking Charge of ADHD , by Russell Barkley

Behavior Interventions at School

Behavioral Interventions in Schools: Evidence-Based Positive Strategies , by Angeleque Akin-little, Steven G. Little, Melissa A. Bray and Thomas J. Kehle

Managing ADHD in School: The Best Evidence-Based Methods for Teachers , by Russell Barkley

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Parent and Caregiver Class in Collaborative Problem Solving

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Think:Kids invites parents, guardians, families, and caregivers to learn Collaborative Problem Solving ® (CPS), the evidence-based and trauma-informed approach for helping children develop the skills they need to manage their behavior. This class teaches parents and guardians how to reduce challenging behaviors by using the approach with their child.

Class materials, breakout sessions, and opportunities for questions and answers will be a part of this highly interactive parent class experience.

Join this interactive and supportive class to:

  • Understand why your child/children sometimes struggle to meet day-to-day expectations.
  • Learn the Collaborative Problem Solving approach to addressing conflicts in a way that reduces challenging behaviors, improves relationships, and teaches critical skills.
  • Practice addressing problems before things become escalated between you and your child.
  • Connect with other parents in a compassionate and non-judgmental setting.

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Collaborative problem solving® parent / caregiver class | july 2024, if the above days and times don't work for you, please submit this form to let us know what would work best for your schedule and we will be in touch when a class meets your schedule needs..

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Parents & Caregivers, learn how you can help your kids meet expectations and improve your relationship!

This 1.5-hour, self-paced course introduces the principles of Collaborative Problem Solving ® while outlining how the approach can meet your family's needs. Tuition: $39 Enroll Now

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Meet the instructors, our collaborative problem solving parent/caregiver classes are taught by our  experienced trainers ., important information, financial assistance:  if you require financial assistance, please  apply for assistance by completing this form . funds are limited, and the application does not guarantee an award., cancellation:  non-refundable. , attendance:  when registering, you are signing up for all sessions. attendance is required for each day as the learning builds upon the previous session's content. those who attend all sessions will receive a certificate of participation., participation: all participants must join via their own devices . if joining as a family, each person should be on an individual device., technology: you will need to have email, basic computer skills, internet access, and a web camera in order to participate in the class., collaborative problem solving works for families.

Learn about the Collaborative Problem Solving approach and how it helps parents, families, and caregivers worldwide.

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10 Best Problem-Solving Therapy Worksheets & Activities

Problem solving therapy

Cognitive science tells us that we regularly face not only well-defined problems but, importantly, many that are ill defined (Eysenck & Keane, 2015).

Sometimes, we find ourselves unable to overcome our daily problems or the inevitable (though hopefully infrequent) life traumas we face.

Problem-Solving Therapy aims to reduce the incidence and impact of mental health disorders and improve wellbeing by helping clients face life’s difficulties (Dobson, 2011).

This article introduces Problem-Solving Therapy and offers techniques, activities, and worksheets that mental health professionals can use with clients.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

This Article Contains:

What is problem-solving therapy, 14 steps for problem-solving therapy, 3 best interventions and techniques, 7 activities and worksheets for your session, fascinating books on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message.

Problem-Solving Therapy assumes that mental disorders arise in response to ineffective or maladaptive coping. By adopting a more realistic and optimistic view of coping, individuals can understand the role of emotions and develop actions to reduce distress and maintain mental wellbeing (Nezu & Nezu, 2009).

“Problem-solving therapy (PST) is a psychosocial intervention, generally considered to be under a cognitive-behavioral umbrella” (Nezu, Nezu, & D’Zurilla, 2013, p. ix). It aims to encourage the client to cope better with day-to-day problems and traumatic events and reduce their impact on mental and physical wellbeing.

Clinical research, counseling, and health psychology have shown PST to be highly effective in clients of all ages, ranging from children to the elderly, across multiple clinical settings, including schizophrenia, stress, and anxiety disorders (Dobson, 2011).

Can it help with depression?

PST appears particularly helpful in treating clients with depression. A recent analysis of 30 studies found that PST was an effective treatment with a similar degree of success as other successful therapies targeting depression (Cuijpers, Wit, Kleiboer, Karyotaki, & Ebert, 2020).

Other studies confirm the value of PST and its effectiveness at treating depression in multiple age groups and its capacity to combine with other therapies, including drug treatments (Dobson, 2011).

The major concepts

Effective coping varies depending on the situation, and treatment typically focuses on improving the environment and reducing emotional distress (Dobson, 2011).

PST is based on two overlapping models:

Social problem-solving model

This model focuses on solving the problem “as it occurs in the natural social environment,” combined with a general coping strategy and a method of self-control (Dobson, 2011, p. 198).

The model includes three central concepts:

  • Social problem-solving
  • The problem
  • The solution

The model is a “self-directed cognitive-behavioral process by which an individual, couple, or group attempts to identify or discover effective solutions for specific problems encountered in everyday living” (Dobson, 2011, p. 199).

Relational problem-solving model

The theory of PST is underpinned by a relational problem-solving model, whereby stress is viewed in terms of the relationships between three factors:

  • Stressful life events
  • Emotional distress and wellbeing
  • Problem-solving coping

Therefore, when a significant adverse life event occurs, it may require “sweeping readjustments in a person’s life” (Dobson, 2011, p. 202).

problem solving activities for parents

  • Enhance positive problem orientation
  • Decrease negative orientation
  • Foster ability to apply rational problem-solving skills
  • Reduce the tendency to avoid problem-solving
  • Minimize the tendency to be careless and impulsive

D’Zurilla’s and Nezu’s model includes (modified from Dobson, 2011):

  • Initial structuring Establish a positive therapeutic relationship that encourages optimism and explains the PST approach.
  • Assessment Formally and informally assess areas of stress in the client’s life and their problem-solving strengths and weaknesses.
  • Obstacles to effective problem-solving Explore typically human challenges to problem-solving, such as multitasking and the negative impact of stress. Introduce tools that can help, such as making lists, visualization, and breaking complex problems down.
  • Problem orientation – fostering self-efficacy Introduce the importance of a positive problem orientation, adopting tools, such as visualization, to promote self-efficacy.
  • Problem orientation – recognizing problems Help clients recognize issues as they occur and use problem checklists to ‘normalize’ the experience.
  • Problem orientation – seeing problems as challenges Encourage clients to break free of harmful and restricted ways of thinking while learning how to argue from another point of view.
  • Problem orientation – use and control emotions Help clients understand the role of emotions in problem-solving, including using feelings to inform the process and managing disruptive emotions (such as cognitive reframing and relaxation exercises).
  • Problem orientation – stop and think Teach clients how to reduce impulsive and avoidance tendencies (visualizing a stop sign or traffic light).
  • Problem definition and formulation Encourage an understanding of the nature of problems and set realistic goals and objectives.
  • Generation of alternatives Work with clients to help them recognize the wide range of potential solutions to each problem (for example, brainstorming).
  • Decision-making Encourage better decision-making through an improved understanding of the consequences of decisions and the value and likelihood of different outcomes.
  • Solution implementation and verification Foster the client’s ability to carry out a solution plan, monitor its outcome, evaluate its effectiveness, and use self-reinforcement to increase the chance of success.
  • Guided practice Encourage the application of problem-solving skills across multiple domains and future stressful problems.
  • Rapid problem-solving Teach clients how to apply problem-solving questions and guidelines quickly in any given situation.

Success in PST depends on the effectiveness of its implementation; using the right approach is crucial (Dobson, 2011).

Problem-solving therapy – Baycrest

The following interventions and techniques are helpful when implementing more effective problem-solving approaches in client’s lives.

First, it is essential to consider if PST is the best approach for the client, based on the problems they present.

Is PPT appropriate?

It is vital to consider whether PST is appropriate for the client’s situation. Therapists new to the approach may require additional guidance (Nezu et al., 2013).

Therapists should consider the following questions before beginning PST with a client (modified from Nezu et al., 2013):

  • Has PST proven effective in the past for the problem? For example, research has shown success with depression, generalized anxiety, back pain, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and supporting caregivers (Nezu et al., 2013).
  • Is PST acceptable to the client?
  • Is the individual experiencing a significant mental or physical health problem?

All affirmative answers suggest that PST would be a helpful technique to apply in this instance.

Five problem-solving steps

The following five steps are valuable when working with clients to help them cope with and manage their environment (modified from Dobson, 2011).

Ask the client to consider the following points (forming the acronym ADAPT) when confronted by a problem:

  • Attitude Aim to adopt a positive, optimistic attitude to the problem and problem-solving process.
  • Define Obtain all required facts and details of potential obstacles to define the problem.
  • Alternatives Identify various alternative solutions and actions to overcome the obstacle and achieve the problem-solving goal.
  • Predict Predict each alternative’s positive and negative outcomes and choose the one most likely to achieve the goal and maximize the benefits.
  • Try out Once selected, try out the solution and monitor its effectiveness while engaging in self-reinforcement.

If the client is not satisfied with their solution, they can return to step ‘A’ and find a more appropriate solution.

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Positive self-statements

When dealing with clients facing negative self-beliefs, it can be helpful for them to use positive self-statements.

Use the following (or add new) self-statements to replace harmful, negative thinking (modified from Dobson, 2011):

  • I can solve this problem; I’ve tackled similar ones before.
  • I can cope with this.
  • I just need to take a breath and relax.
  • Once I start, it will be easier.
  • It’s okay to look out for myself.
  • I can get help if needed.
  • Other people feel the same way I do.
  • I’ll take one piece of the problem at a time.
  • I can keep my fears in check.
  • I don’t need to please everyone.

Worksheets for problem solving therapy

5 Worksheets and workbooks

Problem-solving self-monitoring form.

Answering the questions in the Problem-Solving Self-Monitoring Form provides the therapist with necessary information regarding the client’s overall and specific problem-solving approaches and reactions (Dobson, 2011).

Ask the client to complete the following:

  • Describe the problem you are facing.
  • What is your goal?
  • What have you tried so far to solve the problem?
  • What was the outcome?

Reactions to Stress

It can be helpful for the client to recognize their own experiences of stress. Do they react angrily, withdraw, or give up (Dobson, 2011)?

The Reactions to Stress worksheet can be given to the client as homework to capture stressful events and their reactions. By recording how they felt, behaved, and thought, they can recognize repeating patterns.

What Are Your Unique Triggers?

Helping clients capture triggers for their stressful reactions can encourage emotional regulation.

When clients can identify triggers that may lead to a negative response, they can stop the experience or slow down their emotional reaction (Dobson, 2011).

The What Are Your Unique Triggers ? worksheet helps the client identify their triggers (e.g., conflict, relationships, physical environment, etc.).

Problem-Solving worksheet

Imagining an existing or potential problem and working through how to resolve it can be a powerful exercise for the client.

Use the Problem-Solving worksheet to state a problem and goal and consider the obstacles in the way. Then explore options for achieving the goal, along with their pros and cons, to assess the best action plan.

Getting the Facts

Clients can become better equipped to tackle problems and choose the right course of action by recognizing facts versus assumptions and gathering all the necessary information (Dobson, 2011).

Use the Getting the Facts worksheet to answer the following questions clearly and unambiguously:

  • Who is involved?
  • What did or did not happen, and how did it bother you?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did you respond?

2 Helpful Group Activities

While therapists can use the worksheets above in group situations, the following two interventions work particularly well with more than one person.

Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making

A group setting can provide an ideal opportunity to share a problem and identify potential solutions arising from multiple perspectives.

Use the Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making worksheet and ask the client to explain the situation or problem to the group and the obstacles in the way.

Once the approaches are captured and reviewed, the individual can share their decision-making process with the group if they want further feedback.


Visualization can be performed with individuals or in a group setting to help clients solve problems in multiple ways, including (Dobson, 2011):

  • Clarifying the problem by looking at it from multiple perspectives
  • Rehearsing a solution in the mind to improve and get more practice
  • Visualizing a ‘safe place’ for relaxation, slowing down, and stress management

Guided imagery is particularly valuable for encouraging the group to take a ‘mental vacation’ and let go of stress.

Ask the group to begin with slow, deep breathing that fills the entire diaphragm. Then ask them to visualize a favorite scene (real or imagined) that makes them feel relaxed, perhaps beside a gently flowing river, a summer meadow, or at the beach.

The more the senses are engaged, the more real the experience. Ask the group to think about what they can hear, see, touch, smell, and even taste.

Encourage them to experience the situation as fully as possible, immersing themselves and enjoying their place of safety.

Such feelings of relaxation may be able to help clients fall asleep, relieve stress, and become more ready to solve problems.

We have included three of our favorite books on the subject of Problem-Solving Therapy below.

1. Problem-Solving Therapy: A Treatment Manual – Arthur Nezu, Christine Maguth Nezu, and Thomas D’Zurilla

Problem-Solving Therapy

This is an incredibly valuable book for anyone wishing to understand the principles and practice behind PST.

Written by the co-developers of PST, the manual provides powerful toolkits to overcome cognitive overload, emotional dysregulation, and the barriers to practical problem-solving.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. Emotion-Centered Problem-Solving Therapy: Treatment Guidelines – Arthur Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu

Emotion-Centered Problem-Solving Therapy

Another, more recent, book from the creators of PST, this text includes important advances in neuroscience underpinning the role of emotion in behavioral treatment.

Along with clinical examples, the book also includes crucial toolkits that form part of a stepped model for the application of PST.

3. Handbook of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies – Keith Dobson and David Dozois

Handbook of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

This is the fourth edition of a hugely popular guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies and includes a valuable and insightful section on Problem-Solving Therapy.

This is an important book for students and more experienced therapists wishing to form a high-level and in-depth understanding of the tools and techniques available to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.

For even more tools to help strengthen your clients’ problem-solving skills, check out the following free worksheets from our blog.

  • Case Formulation Worksheet This worksheet presents a four-step framework to help therapists and their clients come to a shared understanding of the client’s presenting problem.
  • Understanding Your Default Problem-Solving Approach This worksheet poses a series of questions helping clients reflect on their typical cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to problems.
  • Social Problem Solving: Step by Step This worksheet presents a streamlined template to help clients define a problem, generate possible courses of action, and evaluate the effectiveness of an implemented solution.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.

problem solving activities for parents

17 Top-Rated Positive Psychology Exercises for Practitioners

Expand your arsenal and impact with these 17 Positive Psychology Exercises [PDF] , scientifically designed to promote human flourishing, meaning, and wellbeing.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

While we are born problem-solvers, facing an incredibly diverse set of challenges daily, we sometimes need support.

Problem-Solving Therapy aims to reduce stress and associated mental health disorders and improve wellbeing by improving our ability to cope. PST is valuable in diverse clinical settings, ranging from depression to schizophrenia, with research suggesting it as a highly effective treatment for teaching coping strategies and reducing emotional distress.

Many PST techniques are available to help improve clients’ positive outlook on obstacles while reducing avoidance of problem situations and the tendency to be careless and impulsive.

The PST model typically assesses the client’s strengths, weaknesses, and coping strategies when facing problems before encouraging a healthy experience of and relationship with problem-solving.

Why not use this article to explore the theory behind PST and try out some of our powerful tools and interventions with your clients to help them with their decision-making, coping, and problem-solving?

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free .

  • Cuijpers, P., Wit, L., Kleiboer, A., Karyotaki, E., & Ebert, D. (2020). Problem-solving therapy for adult depression: An updated meta-analysis. European P sychiatry ,  48 (1), 27–37.
  • Dobson, K. S. (2011). Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies (3rd ed.). Guilford Press.
  • Dobson, K. S., & Dozois, D. J. A. (2021). Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies  (4th ed.). Guilford Press.
  • Eysenck, M. W., & Keane, M. T. (2015). Cognitive psychology: A student’s handbook . Psychology Press.
  • Nezu, A. M., & Nezu, C. M. (2009). Problem-solving therapy DVD . Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310852
  • Nezu, A. M., & Nezu, C. M. (2018). Emotion-centered problem-solving therapy: Treatment guidelines. Springer.
  • Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., & D’Zurilla, T. J. (2013). Problem-solving therapy: A treatment manual . Springer.

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Mod Podge Rocks

Fun Activities for Kids and Parents to Enjoy Together!

By: Author Amy

Posted on Last updated: June 17, 2024

Home / Craft Ideas / Crafts Projects for Adults / Fun Activities for Kids and Parents to Enjoy Together!

Ready to make some memories with your kids? Check out this list of fun activities for kids that parents will also enjoy!

fun activities for kids and adults to enjoy together

Looking for some activities that the whole family can do together? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re a parent or a kid, spending quality fun time together is super important, and I’ve found some fantastic ideas to make it extra special and enjoyable for everyone.

Why is it important to join in on activities with your child?

Spending quality time together not only brings you closer and makes cherished memories , but it also sets a good example for your kids. When they see you enjoying activities with them, it inspires them to join in and strengthens family bonds. Plus, doing things together helps improve communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, which are important for a happy family.

Fun activities for kids that won’t make parents cringe

Now, let’s be honest—not all fun activities for kids are fun for adults as well. If you want to reap all of those good benefits, you need to actually be having fun… not just pretending to enjoy watching Elsa belt out “Let it go” for the 50th time or sliding down that chute knowing that the game may now be longer!

So, what are some activities that are perfect for everyone, no matter their age? That was the question I asked myself as I came up with this list of fun activities for kids. I’ve included outdoor games and nature fun along with indoor crafts and activities. I admit that not all of these activities will be perfect for all parents or families, but there are plenty of ideas to choose from!

What are you waiting for? Scroll down and start making happy memories with your kids…

Fun Activities for Kids

problem solving activities for parents

Make Alphabet Crayons

Use up your old crayons to make fun new ones! Kids can decide on colors, add glitter, and even give them as gifts!

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play with Castle Building Blocks

With a few  supplies  you probably already have in your house, you and your kids can make some building blocks that can be used to create a castle!

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play Bean Bag Toss

I created a DIY bean bag toss game using clay saucers and a printable. This bean bag game is easy to assemble and the whole family will have a blast!

problem solving activities for parents

Paint Rocks Together

Get a ton of inspiration for painting rocks ! There are a variety of projects here you'll love, great for the whole family.

problem solving activities for parents

Easy Weaving for Kids on a Cardboard Loom

Weaving is not only calming, but the results are so pretty! Use bold colors of yarn to make fun and functional wall art that everyone will love.

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play a Mini Foosball Table

If you don't have a foosball table, but you want one, you can make one with an old shoebox! Kids of all ages will have fun with this idea.

problem solving activities for parents

Make Paper Beads

Learn how to make paper beads with  scraps of paper  and Mod Podge! This is SO easy – even for kids – and you can use for  bracelets  and  necklaces . Paper jewelry making is really fun!

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play with Sidewalk Paint

This three-ingredient sidewalk chalk paint is a blast for kids! Learn how to make it – you probably have everything on hand. This paint is a great way to teach kids to use a paintbrush without worrying about mess.

problem solving activities for parents

Make Tie Dye T-Shirt Headbands

These DIY tie dye headbands are easy to make from t-shirts and look great! Both kids and adults will love this  fashion craft . Make a DIY headband for spring or summer using one of these three methods!

problem solving activities for parents

Make Perler Bead Patterns (Get Over 1750+!)

Everyone loves perler beads! There are hundreds of patterns waiting for you and your child to make in a variety of colors and themes.

problem solving activities for parents

Make a Clay Pot Lighthouse

Learn how to make a lighthouse out of terra cotta pots - and use it as a bird feeder.

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play Outdoor Games

You're going to love this collection of homemade DIY yard games! Perfect for summer parties, holidays, or just having a good time with the family. You can make most of them as a family, and then have a ton of fun playing them together!

problem solving activities for parents

Decorate a Birdhouse Craft

This DIY birdhouse is a perfect family project that's not only simple and fun but also a great way to introduce children to the joys of crafting and nature.

problem solving activities for parents

Ask 100 "Would You Rather..." Questions

Download the list of 100 Would you rather questions for a fun discussion as a family! This would also be a good dinner discussion idea. Ask one question each night and talk about it while you eat.

problem solving activities for parents

Make an Insect Identification Chart

This insect identification chart is such an easy craft. It allows your children (and you!) to learn about the bugs in your environment!

problem solving activities for parents

Make a Kite Out of Recycled Mailers

Learn how to make a kite out of Tyvek or a plastic bag! These are perfect for running around the yard with on a windy day.

problem solving activities for parents

Make Paper Mache

Help children develop their artistic skills with these creative paper mache projects everyone will love!

problem solving activities for parents

Make Eggshell Seed Planters

Eggshell seed planters are perfect for kids! Plant a sampling of seeds inside of eggshells and when the weather warms up plant the entire thing into your  garden . This is a fun lesson on composting and reusing everyday products for a new purpose.

problem solving activities for parents

Toddler Make & Play Pom Pom Drop and Shoot

Make a fabulously fun DIY toddler toy for developing fine motor skills, coordination, concentration, counting, and plenty of playful activity together!

problem solving activities for parents

Ask 400+ "This or That" Questions

Similar to the Would You Rather questions from earlier, these This or That questions will get you talking as a family. These questions are shorter so it can be a rapid fire question session, or you can explain why you picked your answer.

problem solving activities for parents

Do a Magic Milk Science Experiment

Kids will love investigating how soap can change milk with this at home science experiment!

problem solving activities for parents

Knit & Play with a Snake

With a cardboard roll, tape, and  popsicle sticks  you can set up a simple loom. You'll use your creation to create a knitted "snake," or tube. Make it as long or short as you’d like.

problem solving activities for parents

Make Word Hair Pins

Learn how to make hair pins with the message of your choice! This is a fun fashion craft for kids and adults.

problem solving activities for parents

Make Playing Cards

This popsicle stick craft is definitely for the older kids and adults! I love wood burning, and there's a PDF provided making the craft very easy to do.

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Paint with Colorful Squirt Gun Paint

Get your littles painting AND get them outside at the same time! Squirt gun painting is about as fun as it gets. Try a wide variety of colors with this painting technique!

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play with Mod Podge Confetti Slime

Make confetti slime without Borax! This easy Mod Podge slime recipe uses a few household ingredients. Make it fun with colorful confetti!

problem solving activities for parents

Create a Robot

Head to your recycling bin and grab pretty much everything! I'm sure that together you'll find a way to use it on a robot like this one that features  Duck tape .

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play with Cloud Dough

This inexpensive activity can be created with items you may already have on hand! Kids will love seeing it come together and then getting to play with it.

problem solving activities for parents

Make a Catapult

This popsicle stick catapult design is an awesome STEM activity for kids of all ages! Exploring physics has never been so exciting because everyone loves to launch stuff into the air.

problem solving activities for parents

Learn About & Make Pointillism Art

Learn about pointillism art and how it is created. Then create your own using the ideas included in this post

problem solving activities for parents

Learn About & Build an Insect Hotel

Learn how to make an easy DIY bug hotel using natural materials found outside such as sticks, moss, and leaves!

problem solving activities for parents

Ask Funny Toddler Interview Questions

Here are some fun questions that toddlers can answer. You can ask them the questions, and then have them ask you the same question back if they are curious!

problem solving activities for parents

Play Water Balloon Games

Check out this ultimate guide to water balloon games for some great ideas and tips. This is a great activity for a hot day!

problem solving activities for parents

Make & Play with Egg Carton Helicopters

Upcycle an old  egg carton  by making these helicopters! This cute and easy DIY toy is not only fun to make, but fun to play with afterward.

Scavenger Hunt Ideas

Here are some great ideas for doing a scavenger hunt with your kids. Pair up, and see what you can find. Each of these ideas is a bit different, so you can pick one or do them all!

problem solving activities for parents

Go on a Rainbow Nature Scavenger Hunt

This is a photo scavenger hunt you can do as a family. Grab your phone and head out with the kids in search of a rainbow of colors in nature.

problem solving activities for parents

Go on a Muffin Tin Nature Scavenger Hunt

Download the free printable and go on a nature scavenger hunt where you collect items in a muffin tin!

problem solving activities for parents

Go on a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Get your kids to think more about what they are thankful for with this scavenger hunt. They can physically gather the items, draw them, or just write them down.

problem solving activities for parents

Go on a Camping Scavenger Hunt

If you camp as a family , this is a great activity for while you are there. There is one with a list of written items, and another with pictures so toddlers can play too. There is also a list of ways to vary up the hunt... even a treasure hunt idea!

problem solving activities for parents

Go on a Backyard Scavenger Hunt

Use the toddler-friendly printable with images to have a scavenger hunt in your own backyard!

problem solving activities for parents

Go on Multiple Scavenger Hunts

This site has a few different scavenger hunt ideas for both inside and outside. There is also a printable for kids to create their own scavenger hunt!

Do you have any fun activities for kids that you enjoy too? Share in the comments below so we can all try them out! Then take a look at these fun craft ideas for kids :

  • Cute Stained Glass House Craft That Kids Can Make
  • DIY Pins for Kids Using Salt Dough
  • Easy DIY Window Clings Using Mod Podge
  • Bean Art Mosaics Anyone Can Make!
  • This Mod Podge Tissue Paper Frame is Easy!

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We hope you love our recommendations! Some may have been sent as samples, but all were independently selected by our editors. Just FYI, BuzzFeed and its publishing partners may collect a share of sales and/or other compensation from the links on this page.

34 Problem-Solving Kitchen Products You Didn’t Know Existed

Including a solution for pet parents who're always fishing toys out from under the oven.

Chelsea Stuart

BuzzFeed Staff

1. A TikTok-viral  floating pasta timer  so you never under or overcook your pasta again. Al Dente, as he's known, sigs a different song every seven, nine, and 11 minutes so you know exactly when you pull your farfalle. 

red figure shaped like person with mustache, sunglasses, suit, and fedora

Check this dude out  on TikTok .

Promising review: "Fun little kitchen gadget — it really works. Bought this as a gift last January and ending up keeping it with the plan of buying several more to give as Christmas gifts this year." — KW

Get it from Amazon for $24.99 .

2. A  Dracula garlic mincer  because garlic powder simply doesn't compare to freshly minced garlic when you're whipping up an Italian feast.

The mincer that looks like Dracula (just twist the head to mince) with garlic bread

PS: You can also use it for ginger!

Promising review: "I purchased this as a gift for my friend who is a fantastic cook — she uses fresh ingredients almost exclusively — but pressing fresh garlic is a task usually delegated. No longer — Gracula is there for her. She uses him nearly every time she needs garlic (which is basically daily) and months later still makes a point of saying how much she enjoys the gift.  Anyway, definitely recommended for people who cook with garlic and have a sense of humor." — L

Get it from Amazon for  $24.95 . 

3. A silicone crab utensil holder  that'll triumphantly hold your spoon over its head so it doesn't melt on the side of your stove while you're cooking. 

a close up of a reviewer's crab utensil holder

Promising review : "Probably the coolest holder I have ever seen. Bought it for my wife and she loves it and thinks it's cute. I laugh when I look at it, just cool as all! Hangs on all of our pots and pans, stays cool. Easy to clean and looks awesome. Great addition to any kitchen. Works great, does exactly what it is intended to do! " — Logan E.

Get it from Amazon for $16.95  (available in two colors). 

4. A  magnetic stove shelf  on which you can stack your go-to spices, oils, and kitschy salt and pepper shakers. It's also a convenient place to dry out a turkey wishbone if your family is into that tradition. 

a stove with the shelf along the top and spices sitting on it

StoveShelf is a US-based small business that specializes in stove shelves for various sizes of stoves. 

Check out a  Tiktok of the StoveShelf in action.

Promising review:  "I had no problems with installation. It’s secure and doesn’t move, and I was genuinely surprised at how much counter space I freed up . Now, it makes more intuitive sense to reach in front of me for my frequently grabbed cooking items on the StoveShelf (EVOO, S&P, etc.) instead of reaching off to the side to wherever I set it down last." — Online Shopper

Get it from Amazon for $34.99+  (available in three sizes and in five finishes). 

5. A  croc-shaped veggie chopper  so you can dice up an onion without fear of losing a digit. Yes, I've watched Gordon Ramsay YouTube explainers on how to do it with a knife, but there's a disconnect between my head and my hand, okay??

Person using a green vegetable chopper and slicer on an onion over a clear container; includes multiple blade attachments

Fullstar  is a small business established in 2017 that specializes in kitchen gadgets. Check out a   TikTok of their veggie chopper  in action. 

Promising review:  "I'd recommend this product to everyone. I hate chopping up fruits and veggies (I'm super clumsy with a knife) and this makes it so easy and quick. 10/10." — Chepiksacc

Get it from Amazon for $34.95 . 

6. A  Thaw Claw  that'll weigh down your meat in the sink and thaw it out seven times faster than if you left it on the counter. 

a reviewer's photo of the thaw claw used to defrost chicken

The gadget not only keeps your meat submerged, but the manufacturer says it also thaws it seven times faster than other methods! And as a bonus: The ThawClaw is a small biz!

Promising review : "I am a stickler for properly defrosting meat after working in food service for years and this makes that process super easy and surprisingly quick! I've even convinced my father — a retired rocket scientist — that this is the best way to defrost." — Sarah

Get it from Amazon for $18.95  (available in four colors).

7. A  biodegradeable bacon sponge  on which you can drain grease from fried foods because it could not only clog your drain if disposed of improperly, but your whole neighborhood sewer line as well.

a pile of freshly cooked bacon on top of the bacon sponge

FYI: The towel absorbs 10 (!) times its weight in grease and absorbs liquids 20 times faster than other fabrics. Plus, it comes from a woman-owned small business based in Denver, Colorado. 

Promising review:  "I was skeptical about the bacon sponge but tired of watching everyone use piles of paper towels to drain bacon. It's great at soaking up the grease, and then I just pop it in hot soapy water in the sink, let it soak a while, rinse it out and let it dry and it's ready for the next batch. I like it so much that I'm getting a backup. " — Sansa

Get it from Amazon Handmade for  $16.25 .

8. Some  toaster oven bags  if you're always craving a grilled cheese but don't want to pull out a pan. Just put together all your fixins, drop 'em in the bag, and let your toaster do the work for you. 

a toaster with the light brown paper bag around an uncooked grilled cheese

You can also heat up pizza slices, chicken nuggets, and more with it, meaning you'll have dinner ready in a matter of minutes. Reviewers say these are also great for anyone with a gluten allergy who needs to keep their bread separate in the toaster. Check 'em out on TikTok here !

Promising review: " TikTok made me buy this!! I do not regret it. :) Great purchase for the grilled cheese lovers. It's easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to store. Highly recommend." — Gloria Nunez

Get them from Amazon for $3.99+  (available in packs of 4, 6, and 10).

9. A set of  adjustable mug organizers so you can confidently open your cupboard knowing an avalanche of mugs isn't about to fall on you. 

The round adjustable flat organizers in blue, orange, and black, plus a before and after pic of the mugs unorganized and organized

Elypro — the creator of this nifty gadget — is a small biz!

Promising review : "I came across these in an Amazon review on TikTok and I just had to have them for my mugs. I have a lot of mugs, but no space. I didn’t want a hanging mechanism for the mugs I just needed a way to stack them. This is such a great product to help stack mugs. They’re easily adjustable for any size mug. They don’t topple over, they’re very sturdy. One of the best space savers I have in the kitchen! " — Magdalynn Tibbetts

Get a set of six (to organize 12 mugs) from Amazon for $24.99 (available in three colors). 

10. An  Angry Mama microwave cleaner that, once filled with water and a dash of vinegar, will steam clean the grimiest of appliances. Hot Pocket grease, butter splatters, and burnt popcorn smells are no match for her.

A reviewer's before photo which shows their dirty microwave and the cleaner sitting inside

Promising review : "My daughter cooked ramen noodles for three minutes without any water. Needless to say, it was burnt and almost caught fire. I have scrubbed the microwave and couldn’t get the horrible smell out to the point it was giving me a headache. After several days I decided to ordered this before buying a new microwave. Got it today and used it and shocked it actually pulled most of the odor out that’s trapped in the upper vent. This $10 item saved me $200 to $400. " — Angela D.

Get it from Amazon for $6.99+ (available in different styles and packs of one or two).

11. A durable plastic  clear toy blocker  if your pet's favorite game is shoving their toys under the oven and then full volume barking/meowing at you until you free them, just to repeat the process all over again. 

clear plastic blockers set up under a stove to prevent toys from going under

It can also be used to help discourage smaller animals from hiding under furniture!

Promising review : "The toy blocker does exactly what is says it will do. It sticks well to our laminate floor and blocks my son's toys from going under the couch. Only problem is I had to buy two in order to cover the entire length of our couch. I do have to say it was worth the doubled price so I would recommend the blockers to anyone who has kids or dogs! " — amanda c

Get it from Amazon for $12.98+ (available in three sizes).

12. A macramé fruit hammock so your bananas, apples, and oranges can enjoy their last days on Earth in comfort. Little do they know they're about to be devoured. 😈

hanging fruit basket in a kitchen

KnappsKnots is a San Diego–based small business from Anastasia Knapp.

Promising review: "This looks great in my kitchen and is exactly what I needed. I like keeping my fruit off the counter and this is cute and functional. It came with all the hardware needed to install. It does look a bit small when you receive it but it stretches. I love this!!" — kristinamlindman

Get it from KnappsKnots on Etsy for $28.90+ (available in two sizes and 11 colors).

13. An all-in-one measuring cup that not only frees up space in your cupboard, but saves you from having to do any tricky fraction or decimal conversions. Look, for a long time, I only had a 2/3-cup measuring cup and my English major self was in a *world* of hurt.

The measuring cube, featuring different-sized measurements on each surface

It's dishwasher- and microwave-safe. Measurements include: 1 cup, ½ cup, 1/3 cup, ¼ cup, 2 tbsp, 1 tbsp, ½ tbp, 1 tsp, ½ tsp, ¼ tsp, 120 ml, 80 ml, 60 ml, 30 ml, 15 ml, 7.5 ml, 5 ml, 2.5 ml, 1.25 ml.

Promising review: "First of all, I gotta say I don’t cook much and if there’s something I hate after cooking it's having to wash all the bunch of utensils I have to use once I use them. This cube has been amazing, I don’t have to wash a million utensils over and over, it’s very easy to use, easy to clean and it’s very handy to use for when I’m meal prepping for the week. I bought this out of curiosity and ended up enjoying it a lot. If a regular guy like me is enjoying it, I’m sure it would be a great tool for people who cooks or bakes in a regular basis." — Daniel Matajira

Get it from Amazon for $19.99 .

14. A snack fork if your go-to midnight snack isn't peanut butter or Ben and Jerry's, but a crunchy, slippery lil' cornichon that's hard to wrangle with just your fingers.

person grabbing a pickle with fork from jar

Promising review: "Love this! Was not sure if it would end up being stuffed in a drawer or a novelty. It’s one of the best things I have purchased in a while. I purchased a second as a gift." — Tammil

Get it from Amazon for $6.47 .

15. A  microwave potato cooker  because sometimes, you crave a loaded baked potato but simply don't have the patience to preheat your oven and then let it cook for 45 darn minutes! With this, you just pop it in the microwave, set it for four minutes, and — BOOM — finished potato. 

The nifty tool can also be used to cook corn on the cob or revive old tortillas and bread. 

Promising review: "My husband bought this for us one day, and I was skeptical at first, but when I actually tried it myself, I loved it! It only takes me a few minutes to cook potatoes! And in the microwave... not in the conventional oven where it will take me like 45 minutes to cook them!" — David Hemphill

Get it from Amazon for $14.99 .

16. A set of silicone stove counter gap covers so you won't attract unwanted critters after flinging pasta into the half-inch crevice for the third time this week. We all know nobody is actually cleaning it out (don't try to lie to me), so go ahead and do yourself a favor.

A reviewer's photo of the black gap cover used alongside their stove

The covers just slip right into the gap — there's no adhesive involved — so you can easily remove and clean them whenever necessary.

Promising review : "I've been using these for about a week on my new freestanding range. When they removed my old range, I was really surprised to see how much stuff had slipped through! Now, when I cook, I can see the splatters and seasonings left on the silicone that would have fallen between the stove and the counter. These gap fillers really do clean up easily, too. Although they are that extra thing to clean, I prefer that to knowing there's a mess hiding in the cracks." — JMom

Get a pack of two from Amazon for $9.99+ (available in two sizes and three colors).

17. A  rolling egg dispenser  that not only saves room in your fridge, but is reminiscent of Survivor 's Simmotion immunity challenge. (My fellow geeks will get it.)

Two tiered egg dispenser holding a dozen eggs, six on each tier

Check out a TikTok of the egg storage roller in action. 

YouCopia is a woman-owned small business that specializes in home storage solutions. 

Promising review: " Here it is! The best egg container on Amazon! How can I say that? Easy! Engineering! The slight tilt angle on the bottom of the container that the egg drawer sits on forces eggs to lightly roll forward , keeping all your eggs in the front, and never in the back, where you don't need them . It's super easy to use, so easy to clean, comes apart and can hold a full can organizer on top without issue, so no issues with sturdiness. It can easily hold 14 large eggs. Easily one of my favorite purchases." — Karingen

Get it from Amazon for $16.17 . 

18. A watering can juicer you can use to squeeze lemons and limes and then pour them over whatever you're cooking. When serving others, you can even say "tell me when" like you're a parm-wielding waiter at Olive Garden.

model squeezing lemon into juicer; model pouring lemon juice over salad

Promising review : "It's easy to use and lemonade is quickly made. It looks so good I leave it on the counter." — Stephaniep

Get it from Amazon for $14.90 .

19. An  at-home slushy-making cup  if you'd go absolutely feral for a cherry Coke slushy but there are no good movies out and you're not about to drop $30 on something subpar just to curb your craving. 

The small cup shaped slushy maker

Check it out on TikTok  here ! 

Promising review: "I’m an absolute sucker for slushies. Why? Heck if I know. I saw this cup on TikTok, and bought it though I was very skeptical. However, it works!! I’ve made at least a dozen already, if not more." — C. Warrick

Get it from Amazon for $19.99+  (available in packs of one or two and in various colors). 

20. A super easy-to-use  egg bite maker  so you can make lil' egg bebes that adhere to your keto/paleo/gluten free/vegetarian lifestyle and *don't* cost $9 (plus the gas to get you to the drive thru). 

nine round egg bites cooked in a small grill

Psst — a lot of folks also use these for pancake and protein pancake bites, too! 

Promising review: "I bought this in hopes to make egg bites similar to Starbucks and I have not been disappointed. I chose this one after reading reviews on the smaller four-bite size. I have used it multiple times and have had excellent results each time. I followed the recipe in the booklet and used a tip from another reviewer that suggested to triple the cottage cheese amount. It’s very easy to use and clean." — April124

Get it from Amazon for $42.99+  (available in three colors). 

21. Some  FryAway  — a magical substance you sprinkle on used oil to turn it into a solid so you can safely dispose of it. No clogging your whole neighborhood's pipes after chicken cutlet night! 

solid grease coming out of a pan

PS: FryAway is a small biz, and they're part of 1% for the Planet. They donate 1% of revenue to charities focused on water conservation. 

Promising review: " I was skeptical, but decided to give this product a whirl. I occasionally fry French fries in oil instead of the oven and never know what to do with the oil afterwards. This product is amazing! Just stir it in, wait, and toss the congealed oil into the trash. Done!" — Jeannette

Get it from FryAway on Amazon for $12.99 .

22. An  egg white separator for the baker who hasn't quite mastered the shell-to-shell method. This cute gadget will do all the work for you — just place it over any small cup.

a reviewer using the white daisy-shaped tool to separate egg yolks from whites

Promising review : "This is a terrific little tool and it works perfectly. I place it over a short drinking glass and crack an egg right into it. The white of the egg tends to hang down in one long 'stalactite' but with a couple of shakes,  it plops neatly into the glass ." — D. Rachlin

Get it from Amazon for $9.90 .

23. An XL "Spicy Shelf" with an expandable design made to fit any cabinet or shelf. 

An unorganized pantry with various spices and pantry staples

Promising reviews : "This is the best organizer I have ever had. I LOVE to cook and have a million and one spices, and this has solved so many problems. I spend more time on my recipes than I do looking for the spices now! It's amazing, just buy it!" — Mar

"I now have these shelves in my RV and in my house. They are so handy. My boyfriend has more vitamin supplements than a GNC. These shelves ended our battle for cabinet space and helped us keep our supplements organized and separated for easy access. I also use them for my spices in the RV. It's a lifesaver!" — Happy  

Get it from Amazon for $27.99 . 

24. A foldable  mushroom funnel  so you can transfer your liquids without spilling them all over the counter. Think of how many paper towels this will save you!!

the mushroom funnel next to a bottle, which has an inverted mushroom funnel in its opening

To use it, just flip it inside out and stick the "stem" through your container's opening. Plus, it's dishwasher safe!

Promising review: "I am obsessed with this funnel!!! I juice a lot of citrus and juices for cocktails, and this little guy is the perfect size for bottling. It’s beyond cute and really great quality . I’m always hesitant about buying silicone items, as I don’t want them to be too thin. This is perfect! Sturdy and cute! Can’t get better than that! The perfect addition to any cottagecore kitchen! " — Abbey Klem

Get it from Amazon for $17.95 . 

25. A hidden  coffee pod tray  that mounts right under your cabinet if you're the type of minimalist who likes to keep nothing (and I mean NOTHING) on your counters. 

reviewer photo revealing the enclosed coffee pod tray

Promising review: "This space-saver K-Cup storage rack is wonderful! It is attractive and keeps my counter clutter-free. It is lightweight but very sturdy. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to gain valuable counter space." — christine h

26. A set of super-strong magnetic strips to elevate beer and soda bottles so you can nix the annoying cardboard holders they come in. Plus, now you can free up an extra few inches underneath where you can slide in your XL bag of string cheese.

the white magnetic holder holding four beer bottles

The set comes with two magnetic strips which can be arranged in three different positions. Each holds six bottles.

Promising review : "Works great in my fridge. Super strong and frees up space on the bottom. I only have an inch of clearance but it does allow me to slide things under it and I no longer deal with falling over bottles." — Raemi

Get a pack of two from Amazon for $29.99 .

27. A space-saving  sliding tray  ideal for coffeemakers, toasters, and other small appliances you use daily but hate having to move. 

same reviewer showing the tray extended outward so the coffee maker is more accessible

Promising review: "Such a simple idea, but oh, how helpful this is. My husband pulls the coffeemaker out from under the cabinet when it’s brewing and forgets to put it back when it’s done, so I do it.  Such a simple idea, yet this rolling thing is fantastic, and with one finger, I can roll it back under, and there’s no sloshing. Even my husband, a born skeptic who thinks these kinds of things are just junk, is showing people, 'hey look at this.' LOL. This is a keeper." — Kirsten

Get it from Amazon for $12.99  (also available in packs of two or three).

28. A slim profile  pull-and-rotate cabinet organizer  with space for both short and tall pantry items like spices, baking soda, tomato paste — you name it. 

Two slim profile spice holders in a cabinet, and a second pic with a reviewer pulling one of them out and rotating it open for easy access

Promising review: "TikTok inspired me. Guys, this thing is the real deal. Everything that doesn't fit on my spice rack ended up cluttering my cabinets. This thing solved that problem efficiently, quickly, and reasonably . We added a little extra double-sided tape to the bottom to make it extra secure. Love it." — Kaitlyn B. 

Get it from Amazon for $21.50 . 

29. A pair of  pizza scissors  so you can quickly cut the best slice (you know — the one with the bubble on the crust) before your roommates/siblings get to it first.

model using black pizza scissors

Promising review : "A pair of these scissors were handed to me when I ordered a calzone in an Italian restaurant. I Immediately went home that night and found them on Amazon and ordered them. I use them for serving pizza, calzones, anything that I have to cut through. I love the fact that they can be taken apart for easy cleaning. I've recommended them to family and friends." — Kindle Customer

Get them from Amazon for $9.50+ (available in three colors).

30. A  tube of peel-and-stick contact paper that — when applied with a lil' finesse — can totally pass as stainless steel. White refrigerator? We don't know her. 

on left, white fridge next to wooden cabinet

Promising review: "This stainless-steel wrap worked out great! Our fridge now matches the rest of our appliances. I like how it's thicker than normal contact paper. It made it much easier to install." — rach

Get a 15.8-inch x 78.8-inch roll from Amazon for $8.99+ (available in five sizes).

31. A sandwich bag holder so you can move leftover spaghetti from your stove to a Ziploc without creating a Jackson Pollock masterpiece on your countertop. 

The holder

Promising review: " As a single person, one of my biggest challenges is cooking. I prefer to make larger quantities — usually in my Instant Pot — and then separate them into servings and freeze them. Trying to freeze a lot of containers took too much space, so I decided to try freezer bags. Since it was a mess to put servings into bags, I ordered these bag clips to help, and they do. I mostly use sandwich-size baggies, which fit well, and the stands hold the bag open so I can add the food. Then it is easy to freeze the bags flat for future use. " — cymart

Get them from Amazon for $10.99+  (available in packs of 1,2 , 4, 6, and 12). 

32. A nifty pair of  Mason jar holders  you can mount to floating shelves or in your pantry so you can save some space but still keep in-demand ingredients at an arm's reach. 

photo of jar holders installed under floating shelves and holding various filled mason jars

Tidy Jars  is a Wisconsin-based small biz that specializes in organization products to maximize space. 

Promising review : "This was the perfect solution for my kitchen spices that come in oversized containers. I had the jars and these brackets help me save space in my open cabinets. They were a breeze to install!" — Courtney

Get it from Tidy Jars on Etsy for $15.99+ (available in two lengths and two jar mouth sizes).

33. And a  custom mount for KitchenAid attachments  so you don't have to store them in the bowl of your mixer and then temporarily relocate them every time you're ready to bake. 

the under-cabinet mounts holding four different KitchenAid mixer attachments

Superhero DIY  is a Broomfield, Colorado-based shop with 3D-printed storage solutions as well as cosplay props, costume accessories, collectibles, and more. 

Promising review : "These are so amazing! I had no idea they existed. I’ve been storing my attachments in the bowl, which has not only caused scratches in the stainless bowl over time, but the extra attachments would also be loose and taking up valuable space on my counter when I was baking and only using one attachment. It was annoying! This keeps them handy, but put away and I can select the attachment I need while the others stay put. So handy. Absolutely recommend!" — Marissa

Get a set of four from Superhero DIY for $9.55+  (available in nine colors).

Reviews in this post have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

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  1. 10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

    problem solving activities for parents

  2. 10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

    problem solving activities for parents

  3. 10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

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  1. 44 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Kids

    By honing their problem-solving abilities, we're preparing kids to face the unforeseen challenges of the world outside. Enhances Cognitive Growth: Otherwise known as cognitive development. Problem-solving isn't just about finding solutions. It's about thinking critically, analyzing situations, and making decisions.

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  4. Think:Kids : Collaborative Problem Solving for Parents

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  7. 17 Fun Problem Solving Activities for Kids

    4. The Penny Drop Challenge. This activity was selected because it requires kids to think about physics and how different materials affect sound. To do this activity, you will need a penny ( or another coin), a cup, and various materials such as paper towels, cotton balls, etc.

  8. 15 Fun Problem-Solving Activities for Kids & Teens

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  10. Critical Thinking: 11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids

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  11. Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

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  12. 10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving

    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.

  13. Problem Solving Skills & 8 Activities for Kids

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  14. Five Steps to Parent Problem-Solving

    Begin by asking one child what happened, and give each child a turn in giving her version of the events. Then state that there is a problem that you, as a group, need to solve. State clearly which problem you are solving. In this instance, you are attempting first to solve the problem of the child taking the toy first, and then you will use ...

  15. 15 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

    Puzzles. 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 ...

  16. Parents Guide to Problem Behavior

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  17. PDF Intervention Activities

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  18. Building Problem-Solving Skills: Gather Round Activities

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  20. PDF Collaborative Problem-solving with Parents Exercises, Activities, and

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  24. Fun Activities for Kids and Parents to Enjoy Together!

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