Problem-solving skills will benefit your child for the rest of their lives — and it’s never “too soon” to start teaching this way of thinking.
If you’re wondering how you can help boost your kid’s problem-solving abilities, we’ve pulled together 7 simple ways to get started. But before we dive into those…
What is problem solving?
Whether you’re a kid or a grown-up, you come across problems every single day.
Problem solving means thinking logically and creatively, using knowledge and experience, to find a solution for the issues you face.
For kids, problems might be as simple as deciding which block to place on the tower next, or as complex as working out how to meet their homework deadlines.
Every time they encounter a new problem and come up with a way to solve it, they’re developing life skills they can use at home, school, and beyond.
Why do children need problem-solving skills?
Children need problem-solving skills so they can deal with situations when their parents and teachers aren’t around.
What if they can’t find their favorite toy? Or a classmate is being unkind? Maybe a math question is proving super difficult. All of these scenarios require problem-solving skills.
Children who have well-developed problem-solving skills are independent and resilient. They’re more likely to work at something they find challenging. And, as a result, they’re less likely to be fazed by new situations.
Good problem-solvers are also less likely to respond rashly. Instead of lashing out, a child might take a breath and talk through a problem with their classmate.
As time goes on, this creates a positive snowball effect. Children who are used to solving their own problems grow in confidence — developing into capable young adults and, maybe one day, parents themselves!
How to develop problem-solving skills in children
Kids can start developing problem-solving skills from as early as preschool! It’s all about giving them the age-appropriate tools they need to solve problems, as well as giving them lots of opportunities to practice.
Here are 7 ways to begin:
1. Talk about emotions
For preschool and kindergarten kids, the first step towards problem-solving is being able to recognize and regulate emotions.
Give your kids the vocabulary they need by talking about emotions from a young age. Say things like: “You must feel disappointed that we can’t see Katy today” or “Mommy is feeling frustrated because she can’t find her keys”.
Let them know that all emotions — even the negative ones — are okay. But how we respond to them is in our control.
2. Don’t give them all the answers
It’s so tempting as a parent to swoop in and save your kids from their problems. But they miss out on valuable life lessons if you do.
When your children are faced with a problem, don’t jump in straight away with the “right” answer. Instead, ask open-ended questions that lead them to explore a problem for themselves. Ask: “Is there another way to look at this? What would happen if we did it this way?”
Allow them to come up with ideas without judgment. Being able to think creatively and be willing to make mistakes are both really important aspects of problem solving for kids.
3. Encourage self-directed, creative play
Children do some of their best learning when they’re left to their own devices. Things that seem straight-up fun — like dressing up — provide lots of problem solving practice.
A child who can’t find their pirate hat might ask a load of different questions: “Where’s my hat? Could it be under my bed? What can I use instead? Can I make my own? Should I dress up as a superhero instead?”
Without a parent or teacher on hand, children have to think outside the box!
4. Explore the problems of storybook characters
Kids take in problem solving inspiration from all around them. That means parents, family, and friends. But it also means characters in their favorite books.
In most kids’ books, a character faces a problem and tries to solve it. Read a book together and ask your kid what they would do if they were in the same boat.
“What would you do in this situation? What choices does the character have? What could they have done differently?”
5. Craft creatively
Give your children’s problem-solving skills a workout by doing some crafting with a twist.
Instead of giving them ideas on what to make, give them a collection of materials and ask them what they think they can make from it.
Situations like this — where there’s no right or wrong answer — allow kids to think creatively and come up with ideas for themselves, without the pressure of a real problem to solve.
6. Get your kids involved in small real-life problems
While we’re not saying you should burden your kids with big adult-world problems, getting them involved in smaller dilemmas can be a truly valuable way to practice problem solving.
When you face a small problem, talk through your thought process with your kids. For example, “I was going to make stew for dinner but we don’t have any potatoes. I could go to the store. Or I could try replacing the potatoes with a different ingredient…”
This shows them that everyone encounters problems and has to look for solutions. You could even try asking them for their advice. They’ll see that you value their input and their problem-solving skills, which can really boost their confidence.
7. Teach problem solving basics
For older kids, a structured approach to problem solving can be useful. Try this STEP acronym:
S = Say the problem out loud.
T = Think about the problem and a range of possible solutions.
E = Explore the consequences of your solutions. What are the pros and cons of each solution? What would happen if you took option A over option B?
P = Pick the best solution. If it doesn’t work, go back a step and try another one.
Talk through the STEP strategy and practice putting it into action. Having a structure to follow can help kids get their thoughts in order and approach problems in a logical way.
Link/cite this page
If you reference any of the content on this page on your own website, please use the code below to cite this page as the original source.
Link will appear as Problem-Solving Skills – 7 Simple Ways To Develop Them in Your Children: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 3, 2020