Thursday, October 15, 2015

In a few days my daughter turns 9. She is an intelligent and curious child who enjoys challenges and approaches life with a healthy attitude of optimism and confidence. I was going down a memory lane lately and looking at some of my first posts on this blog when she was not even 3 years old yet. One of them was about raising problem solvers, and I decided to rewrite that post and share some ideas about establishing problem solving mind set in preschoolers.
How to teach preschoolers to problem solve

Let Them Try Things Out

When our kids are young, we are so very focused on teaching them how the world works. We demonstrate, explain, correct, and we talk, talk, talk. It’s also very tempting to always do things with out children. However, all these good intentions have a dark side – our kids learn to look for our approval as they try things out and they expect us to entertain them. We always tried to give our daughter a chance to spend some time in open-ended and unstructured play where she could exercise both her creativity and her problem solving skills.

Put Away the Coloring Books!

Coloring books and worksheets could be producing anxiety in your young children making them believe that there is only one “right” way to do things. Looking back, I wish we could do even more joyful process art that we did when Smarty was young. If you do not know where to start with process art, check out 25 Process Art techniques for preschoolers from Happy Hooligans.

Praise the Effort

Have you heard about observer effect? I think we all see it in our daily interaction with children who look up to us for guidance and praise. Even now, at almost 9, Smarty wants us to recognize her achievements. We make a point to praise her not when she expects praise but rather when we observe her showing problem solving or perseverance. In other words, we try to follow a well known rules of praise – catch them when they are good, praise the effort, celebrate honest mistakes. If she specifically asks for our feedback, we usually ask her to evaluate herself with what do you think about your work? question or try to make our responses (not always positive) very specific.

Encourage Different Forms of Thinking

Encourage your children explain their reasoning by moving beyond questions that require yes/no or one sentence answers. Here are a few example of questions that will encourage kids to think like problem solvers:
Means-End Thinking:
  • What could you do to reach the light switch?
  • Where could we look for an answer to this question?
Consequential Thinking:
  • If we want to have a picnic later today, what should we pack?
  • What do you think will happen if we leave a chocolate bar in a hot car?
Divergent Thinking:
  • What can we do with these empty rolls of toilet paper?
  • What else can you build with these blocks?
  • What shapes can you see in the clouds?

Model Problem Solving

Our children learn from our actions a lot more than they learn from our lectures. The best way to teach problem solving to kids is to be a problem solver. Try to model problem solving next time you have a challenging situation, whether it happens to be a broken object or inability to find papers that you need. It’s even better if your children hear you identifying a problem and have a chance to offer their input while looking for a solution. Their divergent thinking might pleasantly surprise you, because every preschooler is really a problem solving genius when given a chance!

Your Turn

How to nurture problem solving qualities starting in preschool age

What are your tips for raising problem solvers?

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Ticia said...

It took me a moment to figure out where I wanted to pin this post.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Great ideas in this post! I have used crafting a lot to teach my kids problem solving - especially that if you don't like what you make you can start over or take it out and try again. It is important not to be focused on an end product, though - as you note - especially with very young children but really all ages.