Problem Solving Fun at Home for All Ages

The ability to problem solve is an important skill for children to achieve. Children learn problem solving skills in all areas of curriculum as well as in their physical, social, and emotional development. Problem solving includes logic and critical thinking skills vital for success in school and everyday life. Here are ways to increase your child's ability to problem solve in fun and engaging ways:

Puzzles
Arranging information, thinking within pictures, and spatial reasoning are all skills that will increase by completing puzzles. Gather your family together to build a puzzle. Try puzzles with fewer, larger pieces for preschoolers and kindergarteners and puzzles with more, smaller pieces for first through third graders. After the puzzle is complete, glue a piece of thick poster board to the back and hang it up for everyone to admire. What a fun way to decorate a basement or a playroom!

Situational Questions
Divergent thinking is the process of thinking of many possible solutions in a short period of time. Any age is a good time to encourage divergent thinking. Have fun asking your child situational questions that have a variety of possible answers. By asking social situation questions (What would you do if your friend wanted to do something you knew was wrong?) your child will not only be working on problem solving skills, but it opens the door for good discussions.

Obstacle Courses
Sequencing is an important problem solving skill. Even before they enter preschool, children learn sequencing skills (get up, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc.) As they get older, children work with sequencing in many content areas, especially reading, writing, and math. Create an indoor or outdoor obstacle course. Have your child determine the best sequence (order) to complete the obstacle course. To add interest for older grades, time your child with a stopwatch or kitchen timer to see which sequence is completed the fastest.

Mazes
Another important critical thinking skill is strategic planning. This involves examining things from multiple angles. Mazes of all levels are a great way to Increase strategic planning. Look for simpler mazes with wider path widths for preschoolers through first graders and more complex mazes with narrower paths for older or more advanced children. Mazes with more than one correct path are a good challenge for third graders.

Categories
Classifying items into sets or categories helps increase problem solving skills. Preschool is a great time to introduce sorting. Give your child a group of items like stuffed animals, blocks, toys, or clothes. Challenge your child to sort the items into different sets or categories. Ask your child to explain the reasoning behind how the items were sorted. For older children, ask them to sort the items into categories with two similar attributes. Try items like coins, dried pasta, crayons, or cereal.

Conclusions
Making inferences involves using information to draw conclusions. Without saying what the task is, name the fist two or three steps to completing the task. Examples may be building a bird house, baking cookies, painting a picture, getting dressed, etc. Ask your child to name the net two or three logical steps to complete the task. Encourage older children to name the first three steps and see if you can guess the task.

Put your thinking caps on and get ready to have fun while increasing your whole family's problem solving skills!

Debbie Frank
Adjunct Professor Teacher Education
NEW from Mead:

Problem Solving workbooks for grades PreK through 3rd

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Multi-subect workooks for grades Preschool - 2nd

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