As an adult, you make many decisions throughout your day without even thinking twice about some– from setting up the coffee machine at home to avoiding the long line at the drive-thru that can make you late to work to having a difficult but necessary conversation with your partner about finances. These are just a few examples of problem-solving skills and how you adapt to the situations around you and use your skills to exist on personal, professional, and social levels.
While some problem-solving skills are innate, your ability to access a situation and take a course of action is based on the fact that when you were a child, the adults around you taught you problem-solving skills. Our Raleigh early-childhood development center is sharing our best advice for anyone looking to strengthen their pre-schoolers problem-solving skills.
What is Problem Solving in Early Childhood?
Problem-solving refers to the ability to find a solution to a problem. For preschool-aged children, this can be difficult to learn if not modeled for them through the appropriate ways to react to the issues they face.
For instance, if two children are playing with a toy and one pushes the other in an effort to take the toy, this is clearly an inappropriate way to react to the problem. Furthermore, screaming or yelling for the child to give them the toy is also not a proper way to solve the issue. To model mature and proper problem-solving skills, adults around the child should be practicing the concept of sharing, patience, and communication while avoiding physical and emotional reactions when they don’t get what they want.
When the child learns that they can ask the other child, “Can I play with the toy next?” or understand the concept that another child was playing with the toy first, they are exhibiting the ability to problem solve.
Why is it Important to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Early Childhood?
Children aged 3 to 5 are developmentally experiencing growth in the following areas:
Because this time for preschoolers is so substantial to their intellectual, emotional, and social development, the world around them can seem overwhelming, unfair, intimidating, and even confusing. By modeling and teaching problem-solving skills to preschoolers, they can learn how to react logically, think creatively, communicate their needs, and assess how best to react to a situation at hand.
How Can You Teach Problem Solving Skills to Your Children?
It is the responsibility of the adults who raise and teach children to provide kids with opportunities to strengthen their problem-solving skills in early childhood. If you are a parent, guardian, childcare provider, or early-childhood educator, it’s important to consider the best strategies for helping little ones adapt to the world around them and learn problem-solving skills. And remember, it can be frustrating when things do not work out as expected for anyone at any age, particularly for preschool-aged children who are just learning to adapt to their surroundings.
When teaching your preschool-aged child how to problem solve, consider these four steps that are used in early-childhood classrooms:
- Identify the problem
- Brainstorm solutions to the problem
- Choose and implement one of the solutions
- Evaluate how that solution resolved the problem
Following this four-step guideline can help the adults in a preschooler’s life address how a child acquires problem-solving techniques to help them navigate through the difficult and everyday situations that arise.
When teaching problem-solving, focus on developing these key skills that relate to problem-solving:
- Lateral thinking
- Logical thinking
- Analytical thinking
10 Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers
You know that you want to guide your child through developing and strengthening strategies for problem-solving, but where do you begin? Our early-childhood development school is sharing some of our favorite ways to incorporate problem-solving activities into your life so that you can teach your child to grow on a personal and social level.
#1 – Use Everyday Moments
You do not need a textbook or outline of how to teach your preschooler problem-solving. Simply using everyday moments to demonstrate problem-solving techniques is more useful than any “how to” book or homework assignment can teach your child.
Going to the grocery store, driving in the car, making dinner at home, and cleaning the house are all everyday opportunities to present your child with decisions related to problem-solving. Having your child put ingredients away in the pantry while you cook, asking your child what aisle at the supermarket they think you can find a particular item, or seeing that there is a mess of toys and supplies and directing the child to initiate where they should be placed prior to starting a new activity are ways to integrate problem-solving into everyday moments.
#2 – Look to the Child for the Solution
As your child grows up, they will not always have you by their side to solve each and every problem that arises. From issues with friends, future relationships, and future careers, the child you raise will one day become an independent adult who needs to problem-solve on their own.
Asking children to weigh in for solutions to problems as they arise is one way to get them thinking critically early on in life. When a child is taught to not only assess an obstacle but to trust their own decision-making abilities to resolve a problem, they will be better equipped for success as they get older.
#3 – Solve Mathematical Problems
Mathematics is a great way to engage children at an early age in problem-solving and solution-making activities. Math is logical and non-emotional, having very clear set rules and boundaries with a single solution is one prime example of problem-solving. When children are given age-appropriate mathematical problems and math word problems, they are given opportunities to troubleshoot and follow an order of operation that leads to a solution.
#4 – Ask Open-Ended Questions
As adults, we often find that the most convenient way to get through the day when caring for a preschooler is to complete tasks for them so that we can get on with our busy day. However, it’s important to pause and present your child with the opportunity to find their own solutions to problems they are faced with by using open-ended questions.
For instance, your child cannot find their favorite pair of shoes. Rather than tear the house apart on your own looking for them, present the child with a question: “Where did you last wear those shoes?” or “When did you last see your shoes?” This requires your child to consider where they last may have placed them. Additionally, a question like, “If we can’t find those shoes right now, you’ll need to choose a different pair to wear so we aren’t late.” guides them toward finding an alternative solution to the problem.
Giving children the opportunity to find their own solutions to issues that arise by asking open-ended questions equips them with problem-solving skills they will need throughout life when things do not always go as planned.
#5 – Puzzles and Board Games
Puzzles and board games, much like math equations, allow children to use their cognitive problem-solving abilities to complete tasks in a fun and unique way. Pre-schoolers are often drawn to images and visual learning components as well as interactive play. Putting puzzles together allows for pattern recognition, while board games allow for interactive problem-solving techniques to be utilized through a set of rules. Incorporating puzzles and games into the lives of children are excellent ways to get them to think critically and find solutions that offer immediate results.
#6 – Read Books and Tell Stories
Books and storytelling are always exceptional ways to build vocabulary and introduce kids to characters and situations outside of their own. When children are given the opportunity to relate to characters and situations, and then address how those characters can react and engage in their conflicts and interpersonal relationships, it not only fosters imagination and creativity but also problem-solving skills.
#7 – Center Emotions
As adults we understand that while reacting emotionally to a situation is sometimes natural, it does not get us very far when it comes to solving a problem. Children should be taught how to center those emotions, without shame or guilt by providing an alternative to emotional responses. This is often in the form of learning communication and language.
If your son’s best friend hurt his feelings, he should not be made to feel that he shouldn’t feel how he is feeling. Having your feelings hurt, particularly by a friend, is, well, hurtful, and there should be no shame attached to that feeling. However, when it comes to addressing those hurt feelings to the friend, it would be inappropriate to shout, “I hate you!” or “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” Rather, providing your preschool-aged child with words and phrases for when their feelings are hurt is essential to emotional and social development.
Teaching your son to tell his friend, “It hurts my feelings when you say that” or “I get sad when you are mean to me” are great ways to help children not only process their emotional feelings but express them in appropriate ways that lead to a resolution.
#8 – Model Problem-Solving Behaviors
Children look to the adults in their lives for how to handle the problems they face in the world. If your child sees you politely ask a waiter to return a plate of food that was incorrectly served, they will learn that proper communication, respect, and patience lead to resolution. In contrast, if a child sees their parents speak rudely and blame a waiter for an incorrect order, they will learn that emotional reactions are the way to address problems. As a parent and caretaker, it is your responsibility to use mistakes, obstacles, and hardships as learning opportunities passed on to your preschool-aged children, demonstrating first-hand that non-emotional responses, kindness, and communication are the keys to getting most issues resolved.
#9 – Break Down Problems into Chunks
As an adult, one of the ways to get through major projects at work is to set up a schedule that breaks down a large-scale project into smaller portions. Using this technique in childhood education and development is a successful way to teach children how doing one small task can lead to an overall greater, larger picture in the long run. Since a large task can seem overwhelming or even impossible, breaking it down into smaller, easily achievable pieces that will eventually lead to the full, complete picture is a wonderful way to help children of any age, but particularly preschool-aged, tackle large issues without feeling the weight of the big picture.
#10 – Utilize Natural Curiosities and Interests
Using natural, organic opportunities for learning and problem-solving is always one of the best ways to foster creativity as well as logical and analytical thinking. All children are naturally drawn to some interest– whether it’s unicorns, dinosaurs, airplanes, trucks, or the color blue… every child has something that they become naturally drawn to, often to the surprise of their parents.
For example, maybe every time your daughter sees the mailman drop off the mail, she is fascinated. Maybe her face lit up with interest and excitement to check what was left in the mailbox today. This is an opportunity to ask questions that lead to analytical thinking and problem-solving. Inquiring, “what does the mail carrier drop off at other houses?” or teaching the concept of writing a letter to grandma and how it goes through the mail can continue to foster interests while teaching logical steps, planning, and problem-solving techniques.
Enroll Your Child in an Interactive Preschool Care System
It’s no secret that when a child is at preschool age they are naturally curious and soak up all the information around them. By teaching your child problem-solving skills, they are better equipped to handle the everyday struggles the world has to face. However, the professionals at our preschool development center understand that busy working schedules, multiple children, and life’s responsibilities do not always make it easy for parents to dedicate time to fostering and strengthening problem-solving skills in their children.
If you have a preschool-aged child who will benefit from emotional, social, and personal development related to problem-solving, contact Primary Beginnings to enroll your child in our 5-star preschool program in Raleigh.