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How to teach a child problem solving skills
Developing Problem-Solving Skills for Kids | Strategies & Tips
We've made teaching problem-solving skills for kids a whole lot easier! Keep reading and comment below with any other tips you have for your classroom!
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: The Real Deal
Picture this: You've carefully created an assignment for your class. The step-by-step instructions are crystal clear. During class time, you walk through all the directions, and the response is awesome. Your students are ready! It's finally time for them to start working individually and then... 8 hands shoot up with questions. You hear one student mumble in the distance, "Wait, I don't get this" followed by the dreaded, "What are we supposed to be doing again?"
When I was a new computer science teacher, I would have this exact situation happen. As a result, I would end up scrambling to help each individual student with their problems until half the class period was eaten up. I assumed that in order for my students to learn best, I needed to be there to help answer questions immediately so they could move forward and complete the assignment.
Here's what I wish I had known when I started teaching coding to elementary students- the process of grappling with an assignment's content can be more important than completing the assignment's product. That said, not every student knows how to grapple, or struggle, in order to get to the "aha!" moment and solve a problem independently. The good news is, the ability to creatively solve problems is not a fixed skill. It can be learned by students, nurtured by teachers, and practiced by everyone!
Your students are absolutely capable of navigating and solving problems on their own. Here are some strategies, tips, and resources that can help:
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids:
These are strategies your students can use during independent work time to become creative problem solvers.
1. Go Step-By-Step Through The Problem-Solving Sequence
Post problem-solving anchor charts and references on your classroom wall or pin them to your Google Classroom - anything to make them accessible to students. When they ask for help, invite them to reference the charts first.
The Problem Solving Sequence, Created by Kodable
2. Revisit Past Problems
If a student gets stuck, they should ask themself, "Have I ever seen a problem like this before? If so, how did I solve it?" Chances are, your students have tackled something similar already and can recycle the same strategies they used before to solve the problem this time around.
3. Document What
Sometimes finding the answer to a problem requires the process of elimination. Have your students attempt to solve a problem at least two different ways before reaching out to you for help. Even better, encourage them write down their "Not-The-Answers" so you can see their thought process when you do step in to support. Cool thing is, you likely won't need to! By attempting to solve a problem in multiple different ways, students will often come across the answer on their own.
4. "3 Before Me"
Let's say your students have gone through the Problem Solving Process, revisited past problems, and documented what doesn't work. Now, they know it's time to ask someone for help. Great! But before you jump into save the day, practice "3 Before Me". This means students need to ask 3 other classmates their question before asking the teacher. By doing this, students practice helpful 21st century skills like collaboration and communication, and can usually find the info they're looking for on the way.
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids:
These are tips that you, the teacher, can use to support students in developing creative problem-solving skills for kids.
1. Ask Open Ended Questions
When a student asks for help, it can be tempting to give them the answer they're looking for so you can both move on. But what this actually does is prevent the student from developing the skills needed to solve the problem on their own. Instead of giving answers, try using open-ended questions and prompts. Here are some examples:
Open Ended Questions By Lemon Lime Adventures
Grappling is everything a student might do when faced with a problem that does not have a clear solution. As explained in this article from Edutopia, this doesn't just mean perseverance! Grappling is more than that - it includes critical thinking, asking questions, observing evidence, asking more questions, forming hypotheses, and constructing a deep understanding of an issue.
The Engineer Design Process by Kids Steam Lab
There are lots of ways to provide opportunities for grappling. Anything that includes the Engineering Design Process is a good one! Examples include:
Engineering or Art Projects
Computer science projects
3. Emphasize Process Over Product
For elementary students, reflecting on the process of solving a problem helps them develop a growth mindset. Getting an answer "wrong" doesn't need to be a bad thing! What matters most are the steps they took to get there and how they might change their approach next time. As a teacher, you can support students in learning this reflection process.
The Power of "Yet" by Working Moms World
4. Model The Strategies Yourself!
As creative problem-solving skills for kids are being learned, there will likely be moments where they are frustrated or unsure. Here are some easy ways you can model what creative problem-solving looks and sounds like.
Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand something
Admit when don't know the correct answer
Talk through multiple possible outcomes for different situations
Verbalize how you’re feeling when you find a problem
Practicing these strategies with your students will help create a learning environment where grappling, failing, and growing is celebrated!
Problem-Solving Skill for Kids
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How to Teach Problem-Solving to Children and Preteens
Whether it’s a toy-related conflict, a tough math equation, or negative peer pressure, kids of ALL ages face problems and challenges on a daily basis.
As parents or teachers, we can’t always be there to solve every problem for our children. In fact, this isn’t our job. Our job is to TEACH our children how to solve problems by themselves. This way, they can become confident, independent, and successful individuals.
Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, kids with problem-solving skills manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist until they find a solution. Naturally, these abilities go hand-in-hand with a growth mindset.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit. With these 10 one-page parenting guides, you will know exactly how to speak to your child to help them stand up for themselves, be more confident, and develop a growth mindset.
So HOW do you teach problem-solving skills to kids?
Well, it depends on their age. As cognitive abilities and the size of the child’s challenges grow/evolve over time, so should your approach to teaching problem-solving skills.
Read on to learn key strategies for teaching problem-solving to kids, as well as some age-by-age ideas and activities.
3 General Strategies to Teach Problem-Solving at Any Age
1. Model Effective Problem-Solving
When YOU encounter a challenge, do a “think-aloud” for the benefit of your child. MODEL how to apply the same problem-solving skills you’ve been working on together, giving the real-world examples that she can implement in her own life.
At the same time, show your child a willingness to make mistakes. Everyone encounters problems, and that’s okay. Sometimes the first solution you try won’t work, and that’s okay too!
When you model problem-solving, explain that there are some things that are out of our control. As we're solving a problem at hand we should focus on the things we CAN actually control.
You and your child can listen to Episode 35 of the Big Life Kids Podcast to learn about focusing on what you can control.
2. Ask for Advice
Ask your kids for advice when you have a problem. This teaches them that it’s common to make mistakes and face challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to practice problem-solving skills.
Plus, when you indicate that their ideas are valued, they’ll gain the confidence to attempt solving problems on their own.
3. Don’t Provide “The Answer”
As difficult as it may be, allow your child to struggle, sometimes fail, and ultimately LEARN from experiencing consequences.
Now, let’s take a look at some age-specific strategies and activities. The ages listed below are general guidelines, feel free to choose any strategies or activities that you feel will work for YOUR child.
Use Emotion Coaching
To step into a problem-solving mindset, young children need to first learn to manage their emotions. After all, it’s difficult for a small child to logically consider solutions to a problem if he’s mid-tantrum.
One way to accomplish this is by using the emotion coaching process outlined by John Gottman.
First, teach your kids that ALL emotions are acceptable. There are NO “bad” emotions. Even seemingly negative emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration can teach us valuable lessons. What matters is how we respond to these emotions.
Second, follow this process:
Step One: Naming and validating emotions. When your child is upset, help her process the way she’s feeling. Say something like, “I understand that you’re upset because Jessica is playing with the toy you wanted.”
Step Two:Processing emotions. Guide your child to her calming space. If she doesn't have one, it's a good idea to create one. Let her calm her body and process her emotions so she can problem-solve, learn, and grow.
Step Three: Problem Solving. Brainstorm solutions with your child, doing moreLISTENINGthan talking during the conversation. This allows your child to practice her problem-solving skills, and she’s more likely to actually implement the solutions she came up with herself.
Say, “Show Me the Hard Part”
When your child struggles or feels frustrated, try a technique suggested by mom and parenting blogger Lauren Tamm. Simply say, “Show me the hard part.”
This helps your child identify the ROOTof the problem, making it less intimidating and easier to solve.
Repeat back what your child says, “So you’re saying…”
Once you both understand the real problem, prompt your child to come up with solutions. “There must be some way you can fix that…” or “There must be something you can do…”
Now that your child has identified “the hard part,” she’ll likely be able to come up with a solution. If not, help her brainstorm some ideas. You may try asking the question, “If you DID know, what would you think?” and see what she comes up with.
Problem-Solve with Creative Play
Allow your child to choose activities and games based on her interests. Free play provides plenty of opportunities to navigate and creatively solve problems.
Children often learn best through play. Playing with items like blocks, simple puzzles, and dress-up clothes can teach your child the process of problem-solving.
Even while playing, your child thinks critically: Where does this puzzle piece fit? What does this do? I want to dress up as a queen. What should I wear?Where did I put my tiara? Is it under the couch?
Problem-Solve with Storybooks
Read age-appropriate stories featuring characters who experience problems, such as:
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Jacky Davis: The story of two friends who want to play together but can’t find a game to agree on. After taking turns making suggestions, they arrive at a game they both want to play: Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy.
The Curious George Series by Margaret and H.E. Rey: A curious little monkey gets into and out of dilemmas, teaching kids to find solutions to problems of their own.
Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber: Ira’s thrilled to have a sleepover at his friend Reggie’s house. But there’s one problem: Should he or should he not bring his teddy bear? It may seem small, but this is the type of early social problem your child might relate to.
Connect these experiences to similar events in your child’s own life, and ASK your child HOW the characters in these stories could solve their problems. Encourage a variety of solutions, and discuss the possible outcomes of each.
This is a form of dialogue reading, or actively ENGAGINGyour child in the reading experience. Interacting with the text instead of passively listening can “turbocharge” the development of literacy skills such as comprehension in preschool-aged children.
By asking questions about the characters’ challenges, you can also give your child’s problem-solving abilities a boost.
You can even have your child role-play the problem and potential solutions to reinforce the lesson.
For book suggestions, refer to our Top 85 Growth Mindset Books for Children & Adults list.
Teach the Problem-Solving Steps
Come up with a simple problem-solving process for your child, one that you can consistently implement. For example, you might try the following five steps:
Step 1:What am I feeling? Help your child understand what she’s feeling in the moment (frustration, anger, curiosity, disappointment, excitement, etc.) Noticing and naming emotions will diffuse their charge and give your child a chance to take a step back.
Step 2:What’s the problem? Guide your child to identify the specific problem. In most cases, help her take responsibility for what happened rather than pointing fingers. For instance, instead of, “Joey got me in trouble at recess,” your child might say, “I got in trouble at recess for arguing with Joey.”
Step 3:What are the solutions? Encourage your child to come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, they don’t even need to be “good” solutions. They’re just brainstorming here, not yet evaluating the ideas they’ve generated.
Step 4:What would happen if…? What would happen if your child attempted each of these solutions? Is the solution safe and fair? How will it make others feel? You can also try role-playing at this step. It’s important for your child to consider BOTH positive and negative consequences of her actions.
Step 5:Which one will I try? Ask your child to pick one or more solutions to try. If the solution didn't work, discuss WHY and move on to another one. Encourage your child to keep trying until the problem is solved.
Consistently practice these steps so that they become second nature, and model solving problems of your own the same way. It's a good idea to reflect: What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?
Problem-Solve with Craft Materials
Crafting is another form of play that can teach kids to solve problems creatively.
Provide your child with markers, modeling clay, cardboard boxes, tape, paper, etc. They’ll come up with all sorts of interesting creations and inventive games with these simple materials.
These “open-ended toys” don’t have a “right way to play,” allowing your child to get creative and generate ideas independently.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions improves a child’s ability to think critically and creatively, ultimately making them better problem-solvers. Examples of open-ended questions include:
How could we work together to solve this?
How did you work it out? or How do you know that?
Tell me about what you built, made, or created.
What do you think will happen next?
What do you think would happen if…?
What did you learn?
What was easy? What was hard?
What would you do differently next time?
Open-ended questions have no right answer and can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”
You can ask open-ended questions even when your child isn’t currently solving a problem to help her practice her thinking skills, which will come in handy when she does have a problem to solve.
If you need some tips on how to encourage a growth mindset in your child, don't forget to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit.
Break Down Problems into Chunks
This strategy is a more advanced version of “Show me the hard part. ”
The bigger your child gets, the bigger her problems get too. When your child is facing a challenge that seems overwhelming or insurmountable, encourage her to break it into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For instance, let’s say your child has a poor grade in history class. Why is the grade so low? What are the causes of this problem?
As usual, LISTEN as your child brainstorms, asking open-ended questions to help if she gets stuck.
If the low grade is the result of missing assignments, perhaps your child can make a list of these assignments and tackle them one at a time. Or if tests are the issue, what’s causing your child to struggle on exams?
Perhaps she’s distracted by friends in the class, has trouble asking for help, and doesn’t spend enough time studying at home. Once you’ve identified these “chunks,” help your child tackle them one at a time until the problem is solved.
Show “The Broken Escalator Video”
Discuss the importance of embracing challenges and solving problems independently with the “broken escalator video. ”
In the video, an escalator unexpectedly breaks. The people on the escalator are “stuck” and yelling for help. At this age, it’s likely that your child will find the video funny and immediately offer a solution: “Just walk! Get off the escalator!”
Tell your child that this is a simple example of how people sometimes act in difficult situations. Ask, “Why do you think they didn’t get off the escalator?” (they didn’t know how, they were waiting for help, etc.)
Sometimes, your child might feel “stuck” when facing problems. They may stop and ask for help before even attempting to find a solution. Encourage your child to embrace challenges and work through problems instead.
Problem-Solve with Prompts
Provide your child or a group of children with materials such as straws, cotton balls, yarn, clothespins, tape, paper clips, sticky notes, Popsicle sticks, etc.
With just these materials, challenge your kids to solve unusual problems like:
Make a leprechaun trap
Create a jump ramp for cars
Design your own game with rules
Make a device for two people to communicate with one another
This is a fun way to practice critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Most likely, it will take multiple attempts to find a solution that works, which can apply to just about any aspect of life.
Make Them Work for It
When your child asks for a new toy, technology, or clothes, have her make a plan to obtain the desired item herself. Not only will your child have to brainstorm and evaluate solutions, but she’ll also gain confidence.
Ask your child HOW she can earn the money for the item that she wants, and encourage her as she works toward her goal.
Put It on Paper
Have your child write out their problems on paper and brainstorm some potential solutions.
But now, she takes this process a step further: After attempting each solution, which succeeded? Which were unsuccessful? Why?
This helps your child reflect on various outcomes, learning what works and what doesn’t. The lessons she learns here will be useful when she encounters similar problems in the future.
Play Chess Together
Learning to play chess is a great way for kids to learn problem-solving AND build their brains at the same time. It requires players to use critical thinking, creativity, analysis of the board, recognize patterns, and more. There are online versions of the game, books on how to play, videos, and other resources. Don’t know how to play? Learn with your teen to connectand problem solve together!
Have Them Learn To Code
Our teens and tweens are already tech-savvy and can use their skills to solve problems by learning to code. Coding promotes creativity, logic, planning, and persistence. There are many great tools and online or in-person programs that can boost your child’s coding skills.
Encourage to Start a Meaningful Project
This project has to be meaningful to your teen, for example starting a YouTube channel. Your teen will practice problem-solving skills as they’re figuring out how to grow their audience, how to have their videos discovered, and much more.
In the Big Life Journal - Teen Edition, there’s a section that guides them through planning their YouTube channel and beginning the problem-solving process.
Apply the SODAS Method
Looking for a game plan that your teen can employ when faced with a problem? The SODAS method can be used for big or small problems. Just remember this simple acronym and follow these ideas:
Encourage to Join Problem-Solving Groups
Does your teen enjoy solving problems in a team? Have them join a group or club that helps them hone their skills in a variety of settings--from science and robotics to debating and international affairs. Some examples of groups include:
Odyssey of the Mind
Looking for additional resources? The Bestseller’s Bundle includes our three most popular printable kits packed with science-based activities, guides, and crafts for children. Our Growth Mindset Kit, Resilience Kit, and Challenges Kit work together as a comprehensive system designed specifically for children ages 5-11.
Five-step instruction on how to teach children to solve any problems
A five-step guide to teaching children how to solve any problem
October 11, 2021 54 733 views
Imagine that your child is anxious or depressed. What are you going to do? Feeling the need to help their child, many parents seek to solve his problems, but according to psychologists and the authors of the book "Calm", this can negatively affect the child's ability to cope with difficult situations in the future. That is why it is very important to teach a child independence.
A step-by-step approach to problem solving
Calm people The authors of the book give a list of steps on how to learn to solve problems effectively:
Define the problem.
We come up with as many solutions as possible.
We analyze the consequences of each of the options and look for the best solution.
We make a decision and act!
We evaluate how everything went and try another option if the previous one did not work.
The authors recommend that this sequence of steps be followed until the child develops the habit of solving problems in this way. Below we describe each step in detail.
“To gain confidence that problems can be overcome, whether you are around or not, the child needs to learn how to solve them himself. This does not mean that he cannot ask others for help. This is one of the solutions to many problems.”
Although this step seems obvious, many people miss it. The authors of the book recommend starting with finding out the essence of the problem. Ask the child to tell what is bothering him, then repeat what you heard and clarify whether you understood everything correctly. Even if the problem seems trifling to you, it excites the child, which means it deserves attention. After you identify the problem with your child, you can move on to the next step.
It may be difficult for the child to cope with this task at first, especially if he has previously avoided it. The goal of parents is to help him learn to independently look for solutions to the problem. Support any of the child's ideas, even if they do not fit and obviously will not work.
The more options he can find, the better.
If the child is having trouble coming up with anything, give him some hints or ask a leading question. The authors of the book give several examples of such questions: “What would someone else do in this situation?”, “Try to remember what you did when it happened before?”, “If a friend had such a problem, what would you would you advise?"
An example of a hint if you still can't find an idea after asking questions: "I know someone who had this problem and he. .. Do you think you could do something like this?"
“The ability to think of a way out—any one—is commendable in itself, and every idea deserves to be taken seriously. The fact that the child is thinking about ways to overcome problems and fears is very important.”
Looking for the best solution
At this stage, your child will have to choose the best solution to the problem. To do this, consider in turn each option from those that he came up with. Think about how practical and feasible this method is and what will happen (in the short and long term) if you choose it.
Discuss each option in detail, even if it seems fantastic or silly to you.
The authors of the book give several questions to help the child think about the consequences of each decision: “What do you think will happen if you do this?”, “What will be the final result?”, “How will your feelings change [in this situation] ? After that, the child will have to choose the most appropriate solution.
Here are some more questions you can ask him to help him decide: “Is it possible to do this?”, “Can it be done?”, “Is there anything that will prevent you from doing this?” In addition, the authors propose to assign each option from 0 to 10 points, where 10 is an excellent option, 5 is good, and 0 is not very good.
“Try not to voice your own opinion and let your child determine how good each solution is. The main thing is that he is ready to try something.”
After the child chooses, in his opinion, the most appropriate solution to the problem, you can proceed to action. Make sure your child has everything they need to implement the plan. Invite him to practice or role-play the situation. If necessary, involve one of your relatives or friends in this.
The final stage is summing up. The child tried one of the options for solving the problem and got a new experience. It is important to think and evaluate how everything went. Here are some questions to analyze what happened that you can ask your child: “What happened?”, “How did you cope with the situation?”, “Did you manage better than expected?”, “Were you able to influence the situation?”, “ What have you learned by implementing your decision?”
If things didn't go as well as the child planned, help the child determine if and how it might be possible to choose a different solution next time. Whether things worked out well or not, the child deserves credit for making an attempt to solve the problem on his own.
Based on the materials of the book "Quiet". In it you will find many practical tips on how to help your child cope with anxiety and develop self-confidence
Post cover: unsplash.com
How to teach a child to solve problems - Child Development
Fourteen simple tips to help your child develop effective problem-solving skills
Even as adults, we often get overwhelmed with emotions because we lose our clarity of thought and do not know how to respond to a particular problem. Yes, emotions make us human, but in addition to them, a person is given an unsurpassed intelligence in order to be aware and put aside their negative emotions and solve the problem that caused them.
Problem-solving skills are critical to:
A child's behavioral development.
Intellectual development of the child.
Building more effective relationships (rather than resorting to violence as a way to solve problems).
Development of listening skills.
Formation of self-confidence.
Ability to solve problems consists of:
Creative thinking that allows you to consider the problem from different points of view. Creative thinking is characterized by a willingness to take risks, experiment and make mistakes.
Critical thinking which allows a person to mentally break down a problem or idea into its component parts and analyze them. This skill consists of the ability to sort, categorize, and compare similarities and differences to arrive at a valid, unbiased conclusion.
Here are fourteen simple tips to help your child develop effective problem-solving skills.
1. Help your child recognize (identify) the problem or emotion that is bothering him. Sometimes children get frustrated and upset simply because they are unable to understand what their problem is. Help your child become aware of the problem or emotion that is bothering them. Tell him that it's okay to be angry or sad, and teach him how to describe his condition in the right words. Teach your child to break the problem into parts that will be easier to understand and analyze.
2. Do not solve problems for children. It may be easier for you to solve your child's problem and move on. But the real problem is that your child won't learn anything from this approach. The only thing he will know is that he is dependent on you. And once the addiction becomes a habit, the child will become unable to solve their problems when you are not around.
3. Identify possible solutions. Once the problem is identified, you can move on to finding a solution. Ask your child open-ended questions to help him find a possible solution. Show him how to think flexibly and freely in order to learn to consider the problem from different points of view. Brainstorm and encourage him to choose both obvious and non-obvious and non-standard solutions. This approach will stimulate both creative and critical thinking.
4. Discuss possible solutions. Help your child understand and detail each decision and its consequences. If he had a fight with a friend, ask him to go into detail about the possible solutions needed to achieve reconciliation. You can ask leading questions to help your child find more solutions.
5. Choose one solution. Invite the child to choose one of the possible solutions to the problem. Making a decision on his own will give him a sense of freedom and competence. It will also teach him to take responsibility for his choices.
6. Make a plan of action and follow it. Help your child develop a plan of action that will help him resolve the current conflict. Encourage him to carry out each item of this plan. Thinking and planning are meaningless if they don't lead to appropriate action.
7. Think and analyze. Following a certain plan may or may not produce the desired results. This is part of the growth that never stops. But for such growth to really take place, you need to reflect on your mistakes and learn from them. Let your child make mistakes and learn from them. If he succeeds, encourage him.
8. Show confidence. Children seek moral support from you. Showing confidence in their abilities, whether they succeed or not, will help them develop the habit of never giving up.
9. Encourage freedom in your child's play. Structured activities are really good for a child, but playing without any restrictions is the key to his cognitive development. When a child solves everyday problems, such as the collapse of a structure he made with blocks, or the clash of ideas with the ideas of friends on the playground, he develops his ability to think critically. Learning how causality works is an integral part of unstructured games.
10. There are no rules for creativity and imagination. If the child wants to color the elephant red, let the elephant be red. Children are not bound by the realities of this world. Their imagination allows them to look at problems in their own way. Create an atmosphere in which the child will not hear reproaches or judgment. If children are afraid of making mistakes, they will never try to do anything.
11. Be a role model in problem solving. As in everything else, children will observe your behavior. If you become stressed, react emotionally, or give up quickly, you will unwittingly teach your child an unconstructive attitude towards problems. Act wisely.
12. Sometimes a child may need your help. Try to always carefully observe how your child relates to problem solving in daily activities, whether it is playing with a favorite construction set or playing together on the playground. If your child seems overly upset or ready to quit, intervene with the minimum amount of help to help them not give up.
13. Teach your child about empathy. We are not alone in this world, and therefore our problems are usually the result of interaction with other people. Empathy is essential for effective problem solving. Explain to your child that he must learn to genuinely empathize with other people, and to consider their feelings and views when making decisions. Finding empathy is not easy, but it will certainly come with consistent effort.