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Problem-Solving Strategies For Children

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Children of all ages face problems; while a three-year-old may be struggling to button up a shirt, a five-year-old might feel stuck with a challenging puzzle. Indeed as they grow older, the variety and complexity of problems can only increase. The following article provides information on problem-solving strategies for children so that they eventually learn to look for solutions on their own.

Identify The Problem

Children, like the best among us, often get bogged down by the consequence of a problem, rather than the cause. So a child may be frustrated at not completing a colouring task in time whereas the real problem may be difficulty in finding the right colours. A useful starting point may then be helping your learners identify the specific problem by saying something like, “Show me the hard part.” This makes it easier to identify the root of the problem and makes it less overwhelming.

When dealing with interpersonal problems, teach children to take responsibility for what happened rather than levelling accusations. Thus instead of saying, “Carlos got me in trouble at recess”, help the child say, “I got in trouble at recess for quarrelling with Carlos.”

Elicit Likely Solutions

Once the child is able to pinpoint the exact problem, they can usually come up with solutions themselves - with just a bit of prompting. So you might ask Gina what would help her avoid getting into an argument with Carlos.

If your learners cannot seem to come up with answers, help them brainstorm a few ideas. But instead of coming up with the suggestions yourself, use questions to elicit responses that point in the desired direction. For example, if a child is struggling to complete a jigsaw puzzle, ask, “How do you think the top of a rooster’s head looks like?” and then suggest they look for such a puzzle piece.

Exploring Possibilities

When working with older kids, ask what they think would happen if their solutions are implemented. Encourage them to consider if the solution is fair to others or how it might make someone else feel. With younger kids, you can try role-playing to help them understand possible outcomes since it is necessary that children learn to figure out both the positive and negative fallout of their actions.

Allow For Mistakes

Even after going through all the right steps, it is quite likely that the solution won’t work. If this happens, invite the child to think about why and then move on to another solution. A good idea is to support them with emotional skills like resilience and patience besides teaching them how to process disappointments and frustration.

Integrate With Learning

Use classroom learning opportunities to hone problem-solving skills.

  • When children play with blocks, lego and puzzles, they use their analytical skills which in turn strengthens problem-solving processes.
  • Read or tell stories in which the major characters come upon obstacles. Pause at certain points in the narrative to ask your learners if they can think of ways to solve the character’s problems.

Encourage a variety of suggestions and discuss possible consequences. Look for ways to relate the character’s dilemmas to events in the children’s own lives so that they have a deeper understanding of problem-solving scenarios.

Further Reading

Importance Of Puzzles In Early Childhood - The following article provides information on the benefits of puzzles for children.

EYLF Outcome 4 - Children Are Confident And Involved Learners V2.0 - The following lists the sub-outcomes, examples of evidence when children achieve each sub-outcome and how educators can promote and help children to achieve EYLF Outcome 4 -  Children Are Confident And Involved Learners V2.0.

Created On June 22, 2023 Last modified on Thursday, June 22, 2023
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