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How To Help Your Children To Become Problem Solvers

Smiling Hispanic female daycare teacher works with cute little female preschooler. The teacher and student are sitting at a table working with educational development toys.

I  believe we all want a smart intelligent problem solver kid, who can fight and solve all the problems coming in his/her life independently. Kids face a variety of problems every day, ranging from academic difficulties to problems on the sports field. For that we need to train them to be able to recognize problems and have the initiative to tackle the issue and find a solution. You can begin teaching basic problem-solving skills during preschool and help your child sharpen his skills into high school and beyond.

Why Kids need problem solving skills?

This true story will help you to understand why is it necessary for kids to be independent and equipped with problem solving skills.

An acquaintance of ours, a 19-year-old with a high-school education, applied for a job at a local retail outlet. Her resume looked good and the references checked out, so she was asked in for an interview. Her mother went with her. She wanted to “make sure the manager gave my daughter a fair shake.” The manager said later, “There’s no way I’m hiring someone who can’t deal with her own issues.”

Children use problem-solving skills on a constant basis – when they experiment and investigate, when they select materials, and when they try to work together.

Educators know that problem solving is foundational to a child’s learning capacity. Leadership studies focus on the same skill set. Good teachers don’t provide correct answers as much as teach kids how to use problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution. Teaching children starts the moment we choose to let our infant find the pacifier that fell just inches from his fingertips (instead of scooping it up ourselves) and carries on until the day we say, “No, that college application is your responsibility, do you want to go or not?” Here are few ways to teach your children problem-solving skills.

6 Ways to Teach your Children to be Problem Solvers

#1 Encourage creativity:

Part of encouraging creative thinking is helping children become both fluent and flexible thinkers. Fluent thinkers have the ability to come up with ideas; flexible thinkers are able to see many possibilities or view objects or situations in new ways. Just as problem solving takes place all day long, so can the activities you do to encourage children to be creative thinkers. Here are a few suggestions:

Brainstorm. Invite children to be fluent thinkers by asking them to respond to questions that have many right answers. Incorporate these questions into the interests children are involved with and the situations they are in. For instance, if children are having a discussion about nighttime, you might ask them to think of everything that lights up in the night, all the people who work at night, all the things they’d like to do if they stayed up all night.
Reflect. Help children to be flexible thinkers by asking them to comment on specific objects or situations in your room. (Remember, this activity, too, works best in the context of what is going on.) For instance, Carla needs a hat in the dramatic-play corner and can’t find one. What are some other things she could use as a hat? Are there any ways to make a hat? Or, during group time, you’re reading a book and the boy on the cover looks sad. What are some reasons he might look this way?

#2 Encourage Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking is the ability to mentally break down a problem or an idea into parts and analyze them. Sorting, classifying, and comparing similarities and differences are all a part of this important skill. Critical thinking can also be called logical thinking.

What you can do: When you break larger problems into smaller parts, they become easier to understand and to solve.

Challenge. Encourage children to practice critical and logical thinking by asking them open-ended questions, such as “How many ways can you sort these blocks?” “How many different ways can you make a building using these blocks?” “How would the building be different if you used blocks that were all the same size?”
Listen. Asking questions about things that don’t make sense is another way children express critical thinking. When a child wonders, “Why do I have a shadow on the playground but not inside?” or “Why can’t I see the wind?” you don’t need to respond with one right answer. Instead, encourage children to express their ideas.

#3 Encourage Curiosity:

All children go through a “Why?” stage. While that can tax our patience, we should be more concerned about children outgrowing their desire to understand why the world works the way it does.Problem solving often involves targeted research to find the information we need to develop innovative solutions. Use kids’ innate curiosity to teach them research skills. In fact, one of the best responses we can give to a “Why?” question is simply: “Let’s find out.” These three words tell children that you honor their curiosity and take their questions and interests seriously. It also shows that there are ways to find answers.

#4 Don’t Rescue, Re-frame:

When your elementary-age child comes to you with a problem — from a school science fair project to a social concern — resist the urge to step in and solve it for them. Instead, help them clarify the problem and brainstorm ways that they can solve it. Phrases such as these can help kids reframe challenges into opportunities:
# Tell me more about the situation.
# What have you already tried? What happened? What did you learn from that?
# What’s one thing you can try that you haven’t tried already? Let’s brainstorm a list of possibilities.
# How would so-and-so (a teacher, a classmate) describe the problem?
# If you had a magic wand, what would you do to change the situation?
# What information or skills do you need that you don’t have yet?

#5 Honor Tenacity:

Tenacity is the ability to stick with a problem and approach a task with determination. It’s what gives us the strength to try, try again.

Recently, my three-year-old wanted to climb onto a piece of playground equipment — a dinosaur rocker — that was a bit too high for his frame. He approached it from multiple angles, trying to boost himself again and again. Finally, he spotted a big rock nearby, lugged it over, and used it as a stepping-stone. While it was fun to ride on the T-Rex, that was nothing compared to his delighted cry of, “I did it, Mommy!”

We honor our kids’ tenacity when we acknowledge the hard work they put into a project, when we give them time and space to experiment and when we don’t do for them what we know they can do for themselves. We encourage tenacity when we honor the effort they put into solving a problem. This might sound like, “You put a lot of hours into learning that song on the piano!” or “That was a challenging puzzle, but you stuck with it!

#6 Look for Cues and Clues:

Kids who are good problem solvers are also great observers. They take stock of the situation. They look for materials they need. They pay attention to the clues and cues around them. If your child is struggling with something, encourage them to press pause and take another look at the situation. What do they notice? Do they need to read the math problem again and look for key words? Is their block structure missing a support beam? Do they have a friend who can collaborate with them who might have new ideas to offer?

Spending time in nature is one way to strengthen kids’ observation skills. Take a nature walk and encourage them to use their five senses. What do they see? What do they hear? What do they smell? What textures are around them? What clues can they find about they types of creatures who live in the area — what they eat, where they live? What “Why?” questions can you generate together?

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