Helping Children Become Good Problem Solvers

Problem solving is something we do every day (sometimes all day long) settling arguments, coordinating activities, and just figuring out how to make it all work. Wouldn’t it be nice if the children in our programs could learn how to solve some of their own problems? More than making your life easier, good problem solving skills helps them feel competent and self-assured about handling everyday situations.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Invite children to help make up most of the rules for conduct or when learning a new game to play together.
  • Respect the responses that children give and let them know their ideas are accepted and valued. This creates a safe place to take risks and make mistakes.
  • Find ways to practice problem solving using puzzles, games, or riddles. Invite them to help you solve problems in the program such as the best place to put a new item or coordinating who goes first in a game.
  • Rather than rushing in with suggestions and solutions, give children a chance to work out their own issues with you as a mediator.
  • Ask them questions to further their thinking such as “Why do you think it didn’t work?” or “What else could we try?” or “How could we make it fair?”
  • Think out loud when problem solving about simple things in your program so that children can see this as a normal part of everyday life.
  • Encourage children to come up with many possibilities so that they see that problems have can have multiple solutions.

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