Problem solving is an extremely important life skill that most of us use every day.  In fact, as a adults, problem solving comes naturally and innately to us at times.  Young children, however, must be given the opportunity to learn problem solving skills and strategies and practice them over time in order to reach mastery.  Children need the guidance and encouragement of adults, caregivers, family, and teachers in order for them to develop these skills. Miss Heather discussed this topic on The Rhode Show. Watch it here!

How do children solve problems?

Children use problem-solving skills on a constant basis - when they experiment and investigate, when they select materials to play with, and when they try to work together: As children construct with blocks, they explore cause and effect and problem solve to create the structure they wish to build.  When they have difficulty sharing with a friend, they must problem solve by taking turns.  We often divide children's learning into emotional, social, creative, cognitive, and physical. But watching children as they go about their day reveals that problem solving encompasses all of these areas of development.

Why is problem solving an important skill for my child to develop?

Problem solving in children is a critical survival skill. Problem solving skills are necessary to resolve conflicts that arise almost every day.

Problem solving skills are necessary to solve children's own problems, which eventually will assist them to build self composure, as well as self esteem and self confidence.

Problem solving skills assist children solve their own problems, big or small, with a sense of immense confidence.

Teaching problem solving skills will help them develop a dynamic personality and smart mind.

When your children know to how to solve problems, they enable your child to confront any type of problems or obstacles that they come across in the society.

For children, learning how to effectively solve common, day-to-day problem can mean the big difference between success and failure.

How can I help my child learn how to problem solve?

There are a variety of strategies you can use to teach your child how to problem solve.  Your strategy may look different based upon the age of your child, the situation, and the severity of the “problem.”  Here are a few strategies you may introduce:

  1. Identify the problem and talk about it
  • Understand the problem. It's important that children understand the nature of a problem and its related goals. Encourage children to frame a problem in their own words.

Describe any barriers. Children need to be aware of any barriers or constraints that may be preventing them from achieving their goal. In short, what is creating the problem? Encouraging children to verbalize these impediments is always an important step.

  1. Find solutions and try them out!  (make a list, use pictures, etc.)
  2. Create visual images. Many problem-solvers find it useful to create “mind pictures” of a problem and its potential solutions prior to working on the problem. Mental imaging allows the problem-solvers to map out many dimensions of a problem and “see” it clearly.
  3. Guesstimate. Give children opportunities to engage in some trial-and-error approaches to problem-solving. It should be understood, however, that this is not a singular approach to problem-solving but rather an attempt to gather some preliminary data.
  4. Use manipulatives. By moving objects around on a table or desk, children can develop patterns and organize elements of a problem into recognizable and visually satisfying components.
  5. Look for a pattern. Looking for patterns is an important problem-solving strategy because many problems are similar and fall into predictable patterns.
  6. Create a systematic list. Recording information in list form is a process used quite frequently to map out a plan of attack for defining and solving problems. Encourage children to record their ideas in lists to determine regularities, patterns, or similarities between problem elements.
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  8. Check in and see:  how did it go?

Continue to talk with your child about the problem – how are they feeling?  Has the problem solved?  How do you know?

Posted by Mel Cline