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Home » Kid » Development
15 Fun Activities To Teach Problem Solving To Kids
Problem-solving skills help children efficiently manage difficult moments in their lives.
Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri MD
Specialty: Psychiatrist, motivational speaker, writer
Experience: 15 years
Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, popularly referred to as ‘The Celebrity Shrink,’ is an award-winning neuro-psychiatrist and mental health advocate with over 15 years experience.She is the medical director and psychiatrist-in-chief at Pin... more
advaitaa ravi BBA
Specialty: Kids Fun and Activities
Experience: 7 years
Advaitaa is a digital marketing and content writing specialist with around seven years of experience. She’s worked on a variety of genres including travel, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and health and w... more
Children receive numerous opportunities to learn about the world as they get older. However, they also regularly encounter problems, whether it is peer pressure, difficult arithmetic calculations, or disagreements with their peers. The benefits of problem-solving skills for kids are numerous and can help them effectively deal with such situations.
They will learn to find practical solutions independently without relying on an adult. Further, when they encounter difficulties, they will be more confident in their ability to employ their problem-solving skills and develop innovative solutions on their own.
Read this post to know the importance of problem-solving abilities for children, how to inculcate this skill in them, and for some exercises to help them develop this essential skill.
Importance Of Problem-Solving Skills For Kids
Problem-solving benefits children in numerous ways. It helps them
- Cope with challenges in everyday life.
- Make effective decisions.
- Pick up other skills, such as cooperation , critical thinking, and collaboration along the way.
- Resolve problems without breaking them down.
- Think outside the box.
- Become more independent.
How To Inculcate Problem-Solving Skills In Children
Here are a few ways to encourage your child to utilize their problem-solving skills.
1. Test it out
Whenever your child encounters a problem, ask them to acknowledge it and embrace the challenge. If the outcome is not effective, they can try out different approaches. This will encourage your child to look at a problem from different angles .
2. Ask for advice
Sometimes, you may struggle to make decisions in your everyday life. For instance, you might struggle to decide what to cook for dinner or what to wear to the movies. Ask your children to help you make these simple decisions . When you ask them for their advice, it teaches them that they’re not the only ones who face problems. When you value their ideas, it will give them the confidence to solve problems independently.
3. Take a deep breath
One of the first steps to effective problem solving is remaining calm. Even with youngsters, when their emotions go out of hand, it’s difficult to look at things rationally, and the tendency to make impulsive decisions becomes higher. It’s important to teach your child to take deep breaths every time they feel they’re losing control of their emotions . Once they’re calm, they can assess the situation better.
4. Verbalize the problem
It would help your child if they verbally express how they feel and what they’re struggling with after calming down. It helps them gain perspective and makes it easier for them to come up with potential solutions.
5. Don’t provide “the answer”
While it’s difficult to watch your children struggle with an issue, do not give them the answer outright. Instead, give them hints to help them solve the problem independently. This way, they can learn to come up with creative solutions independently .
6. Lead by example
Children are like sponges and pick up things very quickly. So, when you confront a problem and come up with an effective solution, they’ll notice how you address issues and try to emulate you.
7. Allow natural consequences to unfold
Sometimes, letting the problem run its course is the best way to deal with it. So, when your child is faced with a problem, let them be. Let’s suppose your child spent all their weekly allowance in a day or two; let them go the entire week without allowance. This will set them up to make better choices in the future.
15 Problem-Solving Activities For Kids
There’s no better way to learn than through play. The following activities are quite fun and require children to display their problem-solving skills.
One of the best problem-solving activities for children is puzzles. They come in various difficulty levels. Based on your child’s age, you can pick the appropriate one. Give them a puzzle, and they will learn to analyze the problem/question, find different ways of solving it, and arrive at the solution .
Additionally, the activity will help improve their critical-thinking skills, gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
2. Scavenger hunt
One of the educational activities that every parent should introduce to their children is scavenger hunt. It is an inexpensive, easy, fun activity that can be done both indoors and outdoors and requires nothing more than the items you already have at home. The activity allows children to think outside the box. Without being aware, they’re learning problem-solving skills in a fun way.
Reading offers a plethora of benefits. One of them is problem-solving. When children read stories , they come across various characters and the roles they play. Most often, children get attached to these characters. So, when they come across a problem, ask them how their favorite character would have solved it. Encourage them to come up with a variety of solutions and discuss the possible outcomes of each.
Engaging them in arts and crafts is another excellent way to teach children problem-solving skills. Give your child a variety of materials lying around the house. Let them come up with all sorts of exciting creations or repair broken toys or gadgets. Allow them to work independently, and guide them only when they are out of ideas.
5. Open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions is an excellent way to improve your child’s ability to think creatively and critically and improve their problem-solving skills . With these questions, there’s no right or wrong answer, and the answer goes beyond a simple ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ They have to put some thought into their answers. Here are a few questions you can ask after each session.
- What was difficult? What was easy?
- What did you learn?
- What do you think will happen next?
- How did you arrive at the solution?
- What would you do differently the next time?
Mazes are fun and safe for all age groups. When they work on mazes, it makes them think. The activity also improves their motor skills, observational skills, sense of direction, and problem-solving skills. Think beyond book mazes – you can find many maze games on the web. With practice, they’ll get better at finding their way out. Eventually, you can give them more complex mazes to solve.
7. Mini treasure hunt
Treasure hunt is one game that can get the entire family involved. You can keep their minds at work, especially if they know they’re going to win something in the end. Give them clues that encourage them to think outside the box and use their problem-solving skills to find the treasure in the end. Here are a few hints you could use to let them find the treasure:
- My job is to put an end to your sleep. I do so with a beep, buzz, or music. (Ans: alarm clock)
- I don’t have a face or arms, but I have hands that move at a steady pace. (Ans: Clock)
- I’m filled with soft feathers, and it’s quite impossible for you to sleep without me. (Ans: Pillow/blanket)
- Use me to clean your car in a jiffy or to give plants a drink. (Ans: Water hose)
8. Building with toys
Give your children LEGO blocks, wooden blocks, engineering blocks, etc., and make them build whatever they wish. Building with toys requires your child to think about what to build and how to put the pieces together and come up with creative solutions to ensure it’s a functional design. You can once in a way ask them to build something challenging, such as a creature with three arms or two towers with a joining bridge. Watch them rack their brains as they try to come up with a structure.
9. Wool web
Give the children a multi-colored yarn and ask them to stand in a circle. One person loops the ball of yarn across a finger and passes it to another person. Once every person gets a chance to hold the ball and loop the yarn across their finger, a web would be created.
Now, blindfold one member and ask them to follow the verbal instructions of the others to unwind the web. This group activity involves teamwork, focus, patience, coordination, concentration, and problem-solving skills to figure a way out.
10. The human knot
It is a simple game that’s extremely fun. In this game, you need a group of children. Make the children form a circle and raise their hands. Start with one player, who has to use their right hand to hold onto a player’s hand from across the circle and their left hand onto someone else’s hand. Check if everyone has held both hands with different players. Now, without breaking the circle, they must untangle themselves. The challenge is complete once everyone’s hands are free and they are back in the circle.
11. Impromptu skits
Divide the players into teams. Write down different scenarios, such as dealing with bullying in school or resolving a fight between siblings, on pieces of paper, fold them, and place them in a bowl. Each team/player picks a chit and acts out the scenario. You can give them a time limit to prepare. Such impromptu activities help children identify a problem, formulate a solution, and execute it.
12. Group drawing
Another excellent team-building activity for sharpening children’s problem-solving skills is group drawing. Divide children into teams of three. Each of the three players in the team has a role to play .
One person is the drawer, who takes directions from the instructor to attempt to create a design. They should stand with their back to the instructor and viewer and must not talk.
Next is the instructor. The instructor is the one who gives out verbal instructions as to how the drawer must draw a particular design.
The viewer looks at the design. But, they’re not allowed to talk and can only communicate with the instructor via gestures.
You have a winner when the viewer is satisfied with the drawer’s picture. You can let the children take turns playing different roles.
13. Clue me in
Clue me in is a fun detective game that encourages cognitive development, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Start by selecting five to six target answers, such as a public figure, animal, historical event, social trend, or profession. Now, collect five to ten items associated with each target answer. They can be pictures from the Internet too. Place them in different bags.
Now decide how many clues a child can pick before making a guess. If it’s two, let the child pick up two clues from a bag and make their first guess. See who’s able to answer the quickest.
14. Survivor scenarios
Here’s another game that doesn’t require any items. In this game, you have to create pretend-play scenarios for children, and they have to analyze and think out of the box to solve. For instance, give them this scenario, “You’re stuck on an island, and you know help will not come for two days. How will you create a shelter for yourself with items around you?” This encourages them to think about different scenarios and find solutions to get out of the situation.
15. Moral dilemma
Children often find themselves in a dilemma. This simple game, without their knowledge, will help them cope with such scenarios. On pieces of paper, write down different dilemmas, such as ‘The cashier gave me $1 extra in change; what should I do?’ or ‘I saw my friend bullying someone at school. Should I stop them or let them be?’ Then fold it up and place it in a bowl. Get each child to pick one piece of paper, read it aloud, and come up with creative solutions on the spot to handle the situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. At what age do children begin problem-solving?
Children are believed to acquire the basics of problem-solving by age three. But it is not refined since it is intervened by short attention span and difficulty in understanding the problems on their own. Their problem-solving skills develop as they grow up (1) .
2. What are three problem-solving strategies?
The three common problem-solving strategies are (2) :
- Trial and error: Trying different ways to solve a problem until it is resolved
- Algorithm: Following a step-by-step formula to solve the problem
- Heuristic: Following a problem-solving framework such as breaking it into steps
Problems are a part of life, and the sooner children learn to tackle them, the better. Problem-solving for kids is an important skill because it helps them cope with everyday difficulties, challenges them to think differently and learn more critical thinking skills. You may teach problem-solving skills to your children by encouraging them to share their problems, driving them to find their answers, or setting a good example. You can also involve them in problem-solving activities, such as puzzles, scavenger hunts, and mazes. Your focused efforts will help your children grow independent and confident in their skills.
Infographic: “IDEALS” – A Method Of Problem Solving
Illustration: Momjunction Design Team
Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.
- Problem-solving skills teach kids to think out of the box and independently cope with life’s challenges.
- Guiding them to acknowledge the problem and letting them solve the problem themselves could teach problem-solving skills in children.
- Puzzles, scavenger hunts, mazes, and many more fun and engaging activities to hone your child’s problem-solving skills as you scroll down.
- ACADEMIC AND FUNCTIONAL LITERACY Outcome Component 2: Demonstrates Competence in Problem Solving; https://cals.arizona.edu/sfcs/cyfernet/nowg/academic_component2.html
- Problem Solving; https://opentext.wsu.edu/psych105/chapter/7-4-problem-solving/
Advaitaa Ravi BBA
17 Fun Problem Solving Activities for Kids
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As a child, I would spend hours putting together puzzles… whether it was 3-D puzzles or figuring out a crossword. I also loved it when teachers would give the class an open-ended question and we had to work in groups to figure out the answer in our own way.
Even something as simple as playing checkers with my brothers gave me the chance to use strategy as a way to win the game. I honestly believe that it’s so important for kids to solve problems at a young age, as it helps them think critically and outside the box.
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So, Why Is It Important To Teach Kids Problem Solving?
I think these kinds of activities are so important for kids to do because it helps them learn how to think analytically and solve problems on their own. It's a great way to get kids to use their imaginations and be creative.
Rote memorization simply does not have the same effect. This type of learning is great for learning facts like historical dates, but it’s not going to help kids figure out how events in history happened and the results.
We take these problem-solving skills into college, the workforce, and travel . My ability to problem solve since childhood has certainly got me through many sticky situations while in a new city or country.
Additionally, problem-solving helps children learn how to find creative solutions to challenges they may face both in and out of the classroom . These activities can also be fun and used in cohesion with school or playtime.
17 Fun Problem-Solving Activities for Kids
1. marble mazes.
This activity was selected because it requires them to think spatially. Spatial learning will benefit kids when they start driving, riding a bike, playing sports,etc.
To do this activity in its simplest form, you will need a piece of paper, a pencil, and some marbles. First, draw a maze on a piece of paper using a pencil.
Make sure to create a start and finish point. Then, place the marbles at the start of the maze. The goal is to get the marbles from the start to the finish by tilting the paper and using gravity to guide the marbles through the maze.
Another example of a marble maze can involve using toilet paper rolls taped together to create a three-dimensional maze. The larger the maze, the harder you can make it.
Check Price on Amazon!
If you are not into the DIY method, you can always buy a toy maze on Amazon. A good 48 piece puzzle is the Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor puzzle.
2. The Tower Challenge
Building a tower gives kids the chance to think about gravity, structure, and balance.
To do this activity, you will need some building materials like legos, blocks, or even toilet paper rolls. The challenge is to see how high they can stack the materials without the tower toppling over.
This can be done individually or in teams. An activity like this is good for younger kids and is the building block to learning about harder topics like engineering.
3. The Egg Drop Challenge
The egg drop challenge helps kids learn how to engineer a solution that prevents something from breaking. It requires them to think critically about which materials will best protect something fragile like an egg when dropped from a height.
To do this activity, you will need some eggs and various materials such as straws, cotton balls, bubble wrap, etc. The goal is to construct a device that will protect an egg from breaking upon impact.
This can be done individually or in teams . Teams can even have a competition for the best egg drop device.
As children begin handling, shopping for, and cooking their own food, activities like this will help them understand how to handle breakable items like bottles, eggs, delicate fruit,.etc. Ideally, this is best for age groups 8 and up.
4. The Penny Drop Challenge
This activity was selected because it requires kids to think about physics and how different materials affect sound.
To do this activity, you will need a penny ( or another coin), a cup, and various materials such as paper towels, cotton balls, etc.
The goal is to drop the penny into the cup without making any noise. Begin by placing different materials into the cup and then drop the penny into it. The children should also drop the penny from different heights into the same material to see if/how the impact from a higher drop affects sound.
Group kids into teams or let them try it on their own.
Kids should make note of what type of sounds are made when the penny hits different materials. This is a great activity for kids who are interested in science and physics.
5. The Balloon Race Challenge
This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about aerodynamics and Bernoulli’s principle . It also requires them to think creatively about how to design a balloon-powered vehicle.
To do this activity, you will need balloons, straws, masking tape, and markers. The goal is to design a balloon-powered vehicle that can travel a distance of at least 10 feet. Kids can begin this activity by sketching out their designs on paper.
After they have a basic design, they can begin building their vehicle from various materials. Then kids can explain why they think the balloon traveled or did not travel as far as it did.
6. The Marshmallow Challenge
Marshmallows are not only delicious, but they are also soft and malleable. So kids can have fun using it for some construction projects.
This activity was selected because it requires kids to think creatively about how to build a structure using limited materials. It also helps them learn about engineering and work as a team.
To do this activity, you will need marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. The goal is to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. If you don't have spaghetti noodles, use something similar like pretzel sticks.
You may even want to establish certain rules like each team can only use a certain number of marshmallows or noodles. A time limit can also make it more fun and challenging.
For more fun activities, check out our post on problem solving exercises for team building .
7. The Balloon Pop Challenge
If you remember your childhood, you probably remember popping balloons for fun at times. But this activity is different because it requires kids to use strategy and critical thinking.
This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about patterns and problem-solving. It is also a lot of fun for kids who like popping balloons. The goal is to create a device that will allow them to pop a balloon without using their hands.
To do this activity, you will need balloons and various materials such as straws, string, paper clips, etc.
8. Picture Pieces Puzzle Game
As mentioned earlier, puzzles are a great pastime – especially in childhood. Kids must think critically about how to put the pieces together to create a certain picture. It also helps them learn about shapes, colors, and other concepts.
You can take a medium to large picture and cut it into pieces. If you have younger kids, you may want to make the pieces larger. However, if you have kids closer to the 8-11 age range, you should be able to provide a challenge and make the pieces smaller.
9. Copy the Block Model
For this challenge, you can build a model out of blocks for the kids to copy. Put kids into groups and make sure each group has the same number of blocks you used for your model.
Make your model block as simple or complex as needed for your child's age group.
Set a time limit and make sure each group starts at the same time.
10. Team Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is great for kids because they have to search for items and use investigative skills. It is also a lot of fun and can be done both indoors and outdoors .
To do this activity, you will need to create a list of items for the kids to find. The items can be anything from common household items to things you would find outside.
These types of activities can also revolve around a theme like a holiday, movie, or book. For example, if the kids are fans of “Harry Potter” you can make a list of items to find that are related to the movie.
11. Obstacle Course
This activity requires kids to think creatively about how to get from one point to another while maneuvering around obstacles. If you have outdoor space, this can be done with common objects such as hula hoops, cones, etc.
If you don't have access to an outdoor space, you can use common household items to create an indoor obstacle course. For example, you can use chairs, blankets, pillows, etc.
Begin by setting up the course and then timing each child as they complete it. You can also have them race against each other to make it more fun.
Obstacle courses are also great because kids get to be physically active while they are thinking critically.
12. Reading Storybooks
There are many great benefits for kids that read storybooks. One of the excellent benefits is the ability to problem-solve. When they read the stories in the books, they see scenarios that cause them to be attached to the various characters they read about.
So, when they encounter a real-life problem, it is often productive to ask a child how their favorite character would solve that problem. Your kids can also be encouraged to come up with various options and possible outcomes for some of the situations they may encounter.
This not only helps kids solve various problems but become more independent as well.
13. Ask Them Open-Ended Questions
A good way to improve a child's ability to think critically and creatively and improve their ability to solve problems is by asking open-ended questions. It also helps them to develop healthy personalities .
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. In addition, the solution requires more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Furthermore, it allows kids to put some extra thought into their responses.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions you may want to ask.
- What did this experience teach you?
- Was this easy? What was easy about it?
- What this difficult? What is complicated about it?
- What may happen next in this situation?
- How did you come to this solution?
- What, if anything, would you do differently next time?
- What can we do to make things more fun next time?
14. Build Various Structures with Toys
Whether wooden blocks, LEGO blocks, or engineering blocks… giving your kid blocks to build whatever their minds can dream up is fun. In addition, it requires them to think about how they will make a structure, put the pieces together, and creatively ensure the building's function and design.
You may also want to challenge them to build something more complicated and watch them use their brain power to make it happen.
15. Acting Out Skits
Impromptu activities like acting out skits help kids identify problems, develop solutions, and execute them. This process works with multiple kids being divided into teams.
First, you will want to write down different situations, such as resolving a disagreement between siblings or dealing with bullying on the playground on a piece of paper. Second, you will fold the paper and place it in a hat or bowl.
Third, each team will pick a scenario out of the hat. Finally, you can give the kids a few minutes to discuss their solution and act out.
16. Solving Moral Dilemmas
In this simple game, you will help your kids solve simple dilemmas they may find themselves in. You could write down a situation your child may find themselves in and help them learn the moral way to solve the problem.
For instance, “The cashier gave them an additional $5 change back on my purchase. What should they do?” Another scenario could be, “I saw my friend cheating on a test. Should I tell on them or let it go?” A third one could be, “I caught my friends stealing some gum from the store. What should I do?”
After writing down the dilemmas and placing them in a bowl, get each child to select one and read it aloud. Finally, you will help them devise morally correct solutions to the moral dilemma.
17. Animal Pairing Game
This is a fun and creative game to help your kids with focus, critical thinking, and team building skills . In addition, this activity requires an even number of players to participate (4, 6, 8, etc.)
Before starting the game, you will want to write the names of different animals twice, each on a separate slip of paper. Then pass out the slips of paper to each individual or team member, instructing them not to share with anyone the name of the animal they received.
Then the children will perform activities the animals might do without talking or making sounds. Some of these activities might include:
- The way the animal cleans or grooms itself
- The way the animal sleeps
- The way the animal fights
- The way the animal eats or drinks
- The way the animal walks or runs
The goal is for each child to successfully pair up with the other child who has selected the same animal.
How Problem Solving in Childhood Helps in Adulthood
Children are not born with problem-solving skills. It is something that needs to be learned and developed over time .
From babies who learn how to communicate their needs to toddlers who figure out how to get what they want, to children who are starting to understand the consequences of their actions – problem-solving is a process that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.
Some of the benefits of teaching problem-solving skills to children include:
- Improved critical thinking skills
- Better decision-making skills
- Enhanced creativity
- Improved communication and collaboration skills
- Increased confidence
There are many ways to teach problem-solving skills to children. The activities mentioned above are just a few examples. It is important to find activities that are appropriate for the age and abilities of the child.
With practice, children will develop these skills and be better prepared to face challenges in both childhood and adulthood.
Final Thoughts About Fun Problem Solving Activities For Kids
These are just a few ideas to get you started on teaching your child crucial problem solving skills. Perhaps they’ve inspired to come with some of your own, or seek out others? The important thing is to make sure the activity is age-appropriate and challenging enough to engage the kids.
Problem-solving skills are important for kids to learn because they can be applied to various situations in life. These skills also promote critical thinking, which is an important life skill.
There are many other problem-solving activities for kids out there. In time, you’ll find the ones that work best for your child. And be sure not to forget about your own needs and self-improvement, both of which will make you a better parent and mentor. Here are some useful activities for adults to get your started.
Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control .
Critical Thinking: 11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids
As parents and teachers, it’s our responsibility to teach the children in our lives appropriate critical thinking and conflict resolution skills to help them develop and maintain relationships, excel in academics and extracurricular activities, and exercise proper self-regulation and anger management skills. If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids, we’re sharing 11 of our favorites that can be used at home and in the classroom.
Why Is Problem Solving Important for Child Development?
As adults, we field all kinds of problems on a daily basis, many of which we resolve without much thought. We’re able to approach challenges rationally, come up with possible solutions, and weigh the pros and cons of each before we act. Of course, some problems are more complex than others, but for the most part, we’re able to work through each of them and try different strategies and techniques along the way until we come up with a solution that works. This is a natural process we’ve learned throughout the course of our lives, and in order for our children to learn appropriate problem solving skills as they grow, we need to teach them strategies and work with them as they apply these techniques to their lives.
When children aren’t equipped with appropriate problem solving skills, they tend to avoid situations and activities that feel challenging to them, which can have a huge impact on their ability to form and maintain relationships with their peers, excel in a school environment, and pursue interests and hobbies. The absence of critical thinking and conflict resolution skills can also lead to negative, and often impulsive behavior.
Teaching kids proper problem solving skills helps boost their self-esteem and self-confidence, helps them become more independent, and has a positive impact on their mental health.
6 Problem Solving Strategies for Kids
1) Take a deep breath
The first step in teaching problem solving skills to kids is to ensure they are calm. When our emotions are high, it’s much more challenging to see things rationally, making impulsive reactions more likely. Teach your child how to calm his or her body through mindful breathing so he or she has a go-to strategy to return to a state of calm when his or her emotions are high.
2) Verbalize the problem
Once your child is calm, ask him or her to verbalize the problem he or she is struggling with. Putting our thoughts into words can help us gain perspective and make it easier for us to search for solutions.
3) Brainstorm solutions
You can have your child do this verbally, or you can ask him or her to write them down, but the idea is to come up with as many solutions as possible, no matter how silly or far-fetched they may seem. A great idea is to set a timer (we LOVE our Time Timer as it visually shows the passage of time) and challenge your little one to strategize as many ideas as he or she can in that timeframe.
4) Evaluate each option
Work with your child to evaluate each idea he or she has come up with. Help him or her anticipate the pros and cons of each, and then identify which solution is the best.
Encourage your child to put his or her solution to practice to see if it works!
When it comes to enforcing problem solving strategies for kids, this one is often overlooked but it’s so important! Once your child has tested out a solution to his or her problems, it’s essential that you take the time to help him or her assess whether or not it was successful. What went wrong? What went right? Should he or she try another strategy?
11 Problem Solving Activities for Kids
If you want to help build your child’s social, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and anger management skills, these fun and effective problem solving activities are for you! We’ve included family games, team building activities, task cards, and other creative challenges for small groups that can be used both at home and in the classroom.
1) Problems in a Jar Mosswood Connections is one of my favorite resources for kids activities, and I recently found this Problems in a Jar activity on their site. It’s designed to help kids learn how to define a problem, generate possible solutions, evaluate and select the best solution, and then implement the solution independently. It’s a great social skills activity to work through with your child at home.
2) HedBanz If you’ve never played HedBanz, you’re in for a REAL treat. Not only is this game fun, the question and answer premise behind this game will also challenge your child’s critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills. This is definitely high on my list of the best problem solving activities for kids!
3) The Tower of Self Esteem If you’re looking for team building activities for kids, this is a great ice breaker to consider. This game gets kids talking while also allowing them to see their own self-worth by identifying their own strengths. It’s also a great fine motor activity, and since it can be difficult and frustrating to stack the plastic cards into a tower, it’s one of my favorite problem solving activities for kids!
4) Team Scavenger Hunt This will require a bit of upfront work on your part, but it’s a great way to get kids to work collaboratively and it can be extremely fun and engaging! Divide kids into teams of 4 or 5 and provide them with a set of clues to see who can work together to find all of the items the fastest. What I love most about scavenger hunts is that you can create subject-specific scavenger hunts to compliment lesson plans, holidays, etc. Teachers Pay Teachers has TONS of great ideas you can purchase for a small fee.
5) What Would You Do At School If… If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids you can do at home – or in therapy – this is another good one to consider. With 56 cards to choose from, this activity gets kids thinking of different scenarios and helps them strategize how they can make good choices at school.
6) Quirkle Board Game If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids you can enjoy as a family, I highly recommend Quirkle! It’s easy to play but definitely puts players’ problem solving skills to the test, and I love that it’s a game the whole family can enjoy!
7) Size of the Problem Activity Pack Teachers Pay Teachers is one of my favorite resources for kids activities, and if you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids, this is a great option. The activities in this set help kids identify the size of their problems and the feelings they create, identify which reactions are/are not appropriate, and strategize possible solutions, making it a great way to engage in meaningful back-and-forth communication with your child while simultaneously teaching appropriate problem solving strategies.
8) Human Knot This is another one of my favorite problem solving activities for kids as it requires no setup and can be done absolutely anywhere. It also doubles as a great team building activity and it’s super fun! Have a group of kids stand in a circle and ask everyone to raise their right arm before reaching forward to grab hands with someone opposite from them. Next, ask everyone to raise their left arms and do the same thing. Be sure no one is holding hands with someone standing directly next to him or her. The object of this activity is for the group to find a way to detangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hands.
9) Osmo Genius Kit While I like to find ways to get kids off their electronics, the Osmo system has really captured my heart. It teaches so many important concepts in a fun and creative way, and if you’re looking for independent problem solving activities for kids, the Tangram game is one of my absolute favorites!
10) Fingertip Hula Hoop If you’re looking for activities that help kids learn how to work collaboratively to solve problems, this is a fun one to try. Create groups of about 6-8 kids, have them stand together in a circle with their arms raised above their heads, and then place a hula hoop on their finger tips. Using nothing but their fingertips, each team must work together to lower the hula hoop to the ground without dropping it.
11) Kids’ Daily Dilemmas in a Jar I have heard nothing but positive things about these cards, but have been warned some of the topics are a bit mature. If you’re looking for problem solving activities for kids in middle school or high school, this is a great one to consider – just be careful to review the cards ahead of time so you can remove any you feel are inappropriate.
I hope this collection of problem solving activities for kids inspires you to find new and creative ways to develop your little one’s critical thinking and conflict resolution skills. Remember to keep your child calm, to verbalize and strategize together, to evaluate and reassess, and – more importantly – to keep things fun!
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5 Problem-Solving Activities for the Classroom
Problem-solving skills are necessary in all areas of life, and classroom problem solving activities can be a great way to get students prepped and ready to solve real problems in real life scenarios. Whether in school, work or in their social relationships, the ability to critically analyze a problem, map out all its elements and then prepare a workable solution is one of the most valuable skills one can acquire in life.
Educating your students about problem solving skills from an early age in school can be facilitated through classroom problem solving activities. Such endeavors encourage cognitive as well as social development, and can equip students with the tools they’ll need to address and solve problems throughout the rest of their lives. Here are five classroom problem solving activities your students are sure to benefit from as well as enjoy doing:
1. Brainstorm bonanza
Having your students create lists related to whatever you are currently studying can be a great way to help them to enrich their understanding of a topic while learning to problem-solve. For example, if you are studying a historical, current or fictional event that did not turn out favorably, have your students brainstorm ways that the protagonist or participants could have created a different, more positive outcome. They can brainstorm on paper individually or on a chalkboard or white board in front of the class.
2. Problem-solving as a group
Have your students create and decorate a medium-sized box with a slot in the top. Label the box “The Problem-Solving Box.” Invite students to anonymously write down and submit any problem or issue they might be having at school or at home, ones that they can’t seem to figure out on their own. Once or twice a week, have a student draw one of the items from the box and read it aloud. Then have the class as a group figure out the ideal way the student can address the issue and hopefully solve it.
3. Clue me in
This fun detective game encourages problem-solving, critical thinking and cognitive development. Collect a number of items that are associated with a specific profession, social trend, place, public figure, historical event, animal, etc. Assemble actual items (or pictures of items) that are commonly associated with the target answer. Place them all in a bag (five-10 clues should be sufficient.) Then have a student reach into the bag and one by one pull out clues. Choose a minimum number of clues they must draw out before making their first guess (two- three). After this, the student must venture a guess after each clue pulled until they guess correctly. See how quickly the student is able to solve the riddle.
4. Survivor scenarios
Create a pretend scenario for students that requires them to think creatively to make it through. An example might be getting stranded on an island, knowing that help will not arrive for three days. The group has a limited amount of food and water and must create shelter from items around the island. Encourage working together as a group and hearing out every child that has an idea about how to make it through the three days as safely and comfortably as possible.
5. Moral dilemma
Create a number of possible moral dilemmas your students might encounter in life, write them down, and place each item folded up in a bowl or bag. Some of the items might include things like, “I saw a good friend of mine shoplifting. What should I do?” or “The cashier gave me an extra $1.50 in change after I bought candy at the store. What should I do?” Have each student draw an item from the bag one by one, read it aloud, then tell the class their answer on the spot as to how they would handle the situation.
Classroom problem solving activities need not be dull and routine. Ideally, the problem solving activities you give your students will engage their senses and be genuinely fun to do. The activities and lessons learned will leave an impression on each child, increasing the likelihood that they will take the lesson forward into their everyday lives.
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Home » Games » 17 Fun Problem Solving Activities & Games [for Kids, Adults and Teens]
17 Fun Problem Solving Activities & Games [for Kids, Adults and Teens]
Everyone should learn problem solving, as it is important in both our personal and professional lives. Problems occur all around us and many people react with spontaneous emotion. Instead, effective use of problem solving skills can lead to rational thinking, a component of any successful endeavor.
Creative problem involves using one or more of the basic steps of problem solving in exercises designed to challenge the thinking. Problem solving activities work for every age group. In this article, we will present problem-solving activities for adults and kids. We will also provide you with group and team building problem solving ideas.
Table of Contents
- 1.1 Wool Webs
- 1.2 To Do Scavenger Hunt
- 1.3 Impromptu Skits
- 1.4 Block Duplicating
- 2.1 Tower Building
- 2.2 Personalized Crossword
- 2.3 Picture Pieces Puzzle Game
- 3.1 Move It!
- 3.2 Playing Card Mix-up
- 3.3 Blind Formations
- 3.4 Line up Blind
- 3.5 Balloon Tower
- 4.1 Walking the Plank
- 4.2 “Laser” Web
- 4.3 Group Drawing
- 4.4 Animals
- 4.5 Alphabet Game
- 4.6 Related Posts
There are four basic steps in problem solving:
- define the problem
- generate possible solutions
- evaluate and select possible solutions
- implement solutions
Problem solving activities use one of more of these steps.
Group Problem Solving Activities
Group activities provide an effective way to learn problem-solving skills. The following list of activities present problem solving skills in the form of games, a non-threatening and fun way.
Divide your group into teams of equal numbers. Give each team a ball of yarn. Instruct the teams to create a web using only the yarn. Once the teams have finished (you may have to set an amount of time for completion), switch the teams around so that every team has a web other than their own. Each team then blindfolds one team member. The goal is for the blindfolded individual to unwind the web following the verbal instruction of their teammates. In order to be successful, team members must concentrate, and give/follow directions. The first team that has dismantled the web wins this game.
To Do Scavenger Hunt
This scavenger hunt game involves solving a list of problem activities. Begin by dividing your group into teams. Give each group a list of to do activities. The list should begin with some simple tasks, with increasingly more difficult activities. Some suggested activities are:
- Write a one hundred word poem on a given theme.
- Find an object readily available in the area in which you are playing
- Drink a whole can or glass of a liquid
- Solve a Sudoku or cross word puzzle
- Write out all the lyrics of a song (a Christmas carol works well at holiday time)
The team that completes all the activities first, wins.
Prior to playing this game, write down a few appropriate situations that deal events in the venue in which you are playing. For example, for a group involved in customer service, use dealing with an angry customer on the phone. If you have a large group, divide them into teams of six to eight members. Have each group choose a folded piece of paper on which you have written the subject of a skit they must create. Give a set amount of time to prepare the skit and then have each team present their skit to the group. If you have a small group, have each person create one side of a conversation dealing with the problem for presentation to everyone.
Build a model out of building blocks. Provide each group member (or divide into teams for a large group ) enough blocks to duplicate the model. Set a specific amount of time for completing the duplicated model. The team that is the first to finish – or gets the furthest on completing their model – wins. The more difficult the original model, the longer this task will take.
Team Building Problem Solving Activities
When choosing team building problem solving activities, make sure the game you use suits the group of people – their ages and interests. The activities we have listed will help with not only problem solving, but also build decision making, collaboration, and listening skills.
Although there are many variations to this game, this one using spaghetti and marsh mellows is our favorite. Divide you group into teams with an equal number of players. Provide each team with an equal amount of spaghetti and marsh mellows. The goal is to see which team can build the highest tower within a set amount of time.
For this game to be effective, you need one or more teams of 8 to 10 people. Have each team list the first and last names of their group members. The goal is to create a crossword puzzle with clues composed of hints about the person, for example, if only one team member has red hair, the two clues for her first and last name could be, “Red hair,” and “Ginger.” It should take each team 20 to 30 minutes to complete their puzzle. When all the teams are finished, trade puzzles so that every team has a different one. Make sure you provide a list of names for the puzzle solvers.
Picture Pieces Puzzle Game
Prepare for this problem solving activity by choosing a well-known picture or cartoon full of detail. Cut the picture into equal sized squares and give one to each member of the group. You will need as many pieces as you have participants. Additionally, give each person a pencil, ruler for help enlarging the picture, colored markers, and a clean sheet of paper. Instruct them to make the puzzle piece five times larger.
Problem Solving Activities for Adults
Divide your group into two teams. Line up the two teams front to back. Have the two groups face each other. Using chalk, spray paint, or masking tape (depending on the play surface) mark a square space for each person to stand on with one extra empty space between the two facing rows. You may also use a piece of paper for each person. The goal is for the two facing lines of players to change places.
Place these restrictions on movement:
- Only one person may move at a time.
- A person may not move around anyone facing the same direction.
- A person may not move backward.
- A person may not move around more than one person on the other team at a time.
Playing Card Mix-up
Divide your group into teams of six to eight participants. Give each team two decks of cards randomly mixed together. Tell the group they must sort them out without talking. As they working at the task, after a few minutes, change the way in which they are doing so using one of the following:
- If a team is sorting by suits from ace to king (4 stacks), tell them to collect the suits together by number (13 stacks).
- If a team begins by collecting the suits together, i.e. all the ones, twos, threes, etc., tell them to sort the suits from ace to king.
The team(s) that do so successfully by the end of a given time (depending on the size of your group) share what methods they used to accomplish the task.
Blindfolded games are always fun and provide the perfect challenge for adult problem solving. We have provided two for you.
Have your group of adults put on blindfolds and form a large circle. Tie the ends of a rope together and lay in it a circle in the middle of the group, close enough that each person can reach down and pick up the rope. Tell them they must create a shape – a square, triangle, pentagon, etc. If you have a very large group, divide them into teams and provide a rope for each team. Let them compete to see who forms a particular shape quickest.
Line up Blind
Blindfold everyone and number the group by whispering a number to each individual beginning at one. Tell them to line up in numerical order without talking. Variations are many, with some of the favorites not requiring the whispering step being to line up according to height, birthday, surname, color of hair, etc.
Divide you group into teams of three and provide ten balloons and four 3-foot long strips of masking tape for each team. The object of this problem solving activity is to build the tallest freestanding tower in ten minutes. They can break the balloons if they wish. However, they may not use any additional materials and the tower must be built on a table or the floor. If you wish, you may add the following instructions:
- No talking.
- Each team member may use only one hand.
- One team member may not touch the materials and only give directions.
You can use one or more of these limitations in 60-second intervals. The first team to complete their tower wins this challenge.
Problem Solving Activities for Kids
The purpose of problem solving activities for kids is to get kids to think about a problem in a different way and have fun while solving it. Children will develop their creativity as they seek to implement a solution.
Walking the Plank
For this problem solving activity for older kids or teens, you will need four 2×6 boards. Divide your group into two teams with an equal number of children on each team. Place two of the four boards end to end on the ground or floor. Set the other two parallel to the first two about two or three feet apart. The goal is for each team to pass one board forward while standing on the other board in single file. If someone steps off a board, the team must start over. The team that succeeds in passing the boards a set number of times, or reaches a predetermined spot is the winner.
Use a large ball of string to create a giant web from one end of a room to the other. The goal is for individuals or teams to move through the web without touching the string. If they do so, they have been “zapped by a laser” and must try again. For greater suspense and for older players, use blindfolds or turn off the lights, allowing players to touch the string, but not pull it down or out of its original shape.
Divide your group of kids into teams of three. Each person on the team has a one of the following roles:
- Drawer . The drawer attempts to recreate a pre-drawn design they cannot see. They take directions from the talker. They stand with their back to the talker and viewer and may not talk.
- Talker . The talker describes the design to the drawer, without seeing the design. They may question the viewer. They may not use hand gestures.
- Viewer . The viewer sees the design. However, they are not allowed to talk and must communicate nonverbally to the talker. Additionally, they must not draw the design in the air or actually show the design with their gestures.
The activity ends when the viewers say they are satisfied with the drawings. You may wish to award a prize to the best drawing.
Prior to playing this game, write on individual slips of paper the names of animal pairs, one name on each slip. Distribute the slips of paper to each group, instructing them not to share which animal name they received. The kids then move around performing activities their animal might do. The goal is for the kids to get into pairs successfully in a set amount of time without talking or making any noises. Suggest the following activities:
- Cleaning or grooming
- Eating and drinking
- Walking or running
Have your players sit or stand in a circle. The goal is to shout out words in alphabetical order. Give the kids one of the following categories (or choose your own):
If a player takes longer than five seconds to think of a word, they are out. The last player remaining wins the game.
People achieve more when they solve problems and make decisions together. Our problem solving activities teach participants how to work out a solution, a talent useful in many different environments. Problem solving:
- Improves team work
- Helps participants address complex situations
- Utilizes different thinking styles
- Increases creativity
- Collectively leads to decision making
- Teaches both negotiation and cooperation
After completing a problem solving activity, encourage participants to discuss what process(es) they used in the exercise. Even kids are able to participate in such discussions. Also ask what was learned and if they have any opinions about how they could have solved the problem more efficiently.
Team-building exercises can improve problem solving and decision making in a new or established team. They work with every age group and in many different environments. Use our exercises to help solve problems and have some fun doing so.
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.
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Thanks for your help!!
excellent ideas – thanks !
Thank you. My students have requested we do team-building activities; I thought we would start with problem-solving.
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7 Fun Problem Solving Activities to Support Kids’ Growth
by Suzanne Wintner, MSW, LICSW, PhD
The ability to evaluate a situation, assess your options, and choose the most appropriate course of action can bring feelings of peace and happiness. Problem solving skills are an amazing gift to bestow on your developing child to help them feel empowered and prepared to take on life challenges.
Play presents a powerful opportunity for learning. Approach teaching problem solving skills as yet another learning game with the following fun activities:
1. Interactive storytelling. Children of all ages are easily captivated by a compelling story. From picture books for preschoolers to young adult literature, there’s always a plot offering up a conflict to solve or a social problem to work through. Help your child enjoy a more engaging reading experience by asking questions about what the main character may be feeling or experiencing, and ask for their opinion about what steps the character could take to solve the challenges they may be facing.
2. Pretend play . Roleplaying is a fun way to expose your child to new experiences or situations in a safe, low-pressure setting. Join your child in creative play and gently guide them towards scenarios that require problem solving. For instance, if you’re playing school, take on the role of a student who doesn’t want to do the assigned activity. If you’re playing grocery store, act as if a power outage has made the cash register inoperable. What should we do now? Invite your child to save the day with their solution and talk about a variety of ways they could tackle the problem.
3. Board games. Family game night can be even more meaningful than simply spending time together because it provides a potential opportunity for problem solving.. Check out games like Lion in My Way, Quirkle, Mind Blox, Cat Crimes, or more traditional options like chess or checkers, based on the age ranges and interests of your family. Board games are also an excellent lesson in taking turns, being a good sport, and anger management.
4. Team building activities. Working together to solve a problem is an ideal way to practice social skills in a small group, while also focusing on critical thinking skills. Organizations like Odyssey of the Mind challenge children of all ages to think creatively while working collaboratively, but you could arrange something less formal with a friend group, sports team, or scout den. Many of the activities consist of using everyday items in unusual ways. For instance, ask the group to build a structure using seven pieces of paper — no tape, paperclips, string, or other components — and award points for every inch of height. Set a timer for a group planning period and then a time limit for completing their challenge. Encourage the group to review the project after the fact to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of their strategy.
5. Treasure hunt. For a fun rainy day or indoor activity, design a problem-solving treasure hunt for your child by hiding small items or treats around the house along with cards that contain obscure hints that would direct them to the next clue. You can use picture-based clues or riddles regarding household objects to easily customize your treasure hunt to your child’s age range or skill level.
6. Question and answer quiz. Thought-provoking conversation is an excellent learning aid and a good way to keep the family entertained on long car rides, in waiting rooms, or at your dinner table. Make up a list of “What would you do if…” type questions and ask everyone to take turns answering. If your child thrives off of friendly competition, you can up the ante by assigning points for the most creative or unusual answer or continue the conversation by asking even more questions based on their offered solution.
7. Open ended play. Sometimes the best way to learn can be through life’s more natural lessons. Young children discover a lot about cause and effect and creative thinking through unstructured play. Provide toys like LEGO, train tracks, art supplies, or wooden building blocks and step back and watch the magic happen. Open-ended play is the perfect way to “teach” problem solving as it is a natural and fun way to practice trying solutions independently.
Note from Mightier Clinicians
You can’t solve every problem for your child, but you can teach them how to use critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are a far more valuable contribution to their self-esteem and personal development. Help your child learn how to identify an issue, ask the right questions, brainstorm ideas, choose the best option available, and reflect on the outcome by framing problem solving as a fun activity instead of an obstacle.
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Engaging ways to teach problem & solution.
When talking about teaching story elements, it is important to note that each of the elements has essential parts. So, when we are teaching any of those elements, we must take a deeper look into the actual standard. Today, we are going to focus on teaching problem and solution, or what is referred to in Common Core terminology as “challenge” and “response.”
I like the terms challenge and response because they encourage us to look into the character over the actual events. How does the character respond to certain events? What are the actions, feelings, thoughts of a character that stem from an event in the story? In Kindergarten and 1st grades, students will be learning how to identify the major characters and events in a story. By 2nd grade, the focus will shift into character response and continues to dive deeper with 3rd and 4th, focusing on specific character feelings, thoughts, and actions. So, how do we teach this?
Make It Personal
Initially, you will want to make it personal. Allow students to connect to the concept by facilitating a discussion on challenges. Have students share with the class, or turn and talk about simple challenges they have faced and how they reacted to them.
Here are a few ideas to start with during the students’ turn and talk.
- Your pencil tip broke.
- You left your homework at school.
- Your science test is this Friday.
- You wake up with a fever.
- You spill juice in the living room.
These simple problems have fairly straightforward solutions. So, students will be able to build connections to the concept before diving into deeper challenges.
A simple t-chart could be made with some of your students’ scenarios as examples. Write the simple problem on the left and the simple solution on the right.
Then, Use Problem and Solution Scenarios
After discussing simple challenges/problems, your students will be ready to read short texts that contain a character facing a challenge. Allow students time to discuss the challenge and the character’s response to it. You can also continue your discussion from earlier, including larger challenges or problems.
Add to your anchor chart (or create a new one) noting the difference in simple problems and solutions and character challenges and responses. *This may be a time for you to discuss bigger challenges that your students have faced in their lifetimes, recalling how students may have responded differently. It is important for students to understand that different people/characters will respond differently to certain events. This is what helps us understand them.
Gather Books with a Strong Problem and Solution Plot
When teaching problem and solutions, read alouds are going to be essential. You will need to collect books that have a strong problem/solution or challenge/response plot. Look for books where the main character faces a clear and difficult challenge. One that allows us to see how the character acts, thinks, feels, etc.
Here are a few affiliate titles I suggest from Amazon!
- Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
- Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
- Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Havill
- Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Each of these stories provides an opportunity for your students to look at character responses. They are great for group discussions about challenges and the different ways to face them.
Ask Students to Find Problem and Solution in Text
Subsequently, students will need to identify and describe the problem/solution within texts. When first learning the skill, students can illustrate what they think the problem and solution look like. Then, they can build their skills by writing their descriptions. The more opportunities students have with communicating their understanding, the better they will become. So, consider allowing them to do this multiple times before moving on.
Similarly, students will need to be able to read and comprehend fiction stories independently. So, the next step is for students to read on-level texts with comprehension questions. Printable or digital passages with skill-specific questions will be a huge help during this stage of the learning process. One of the great things about problem and solution practice is that, even in isolation, it can build students’ understanding of other elements like plot, character, theme, etc. So, include plenty of comprehension passages in your student practice activities.
Suggested Resource Focused on Problem and Solution
The second-grade standard, RL.2.3 is focused specifically on challenge and response. The unit above (some activities seen in the photos in today’s post) is complete with lesson plans, activities, graphic organizers, comprehension passages, task cards, and more, all focused on building this specific skill. However, each of the other grades contains an element of this skill within their own RL.3 standards. It is so important to ensure adequate practice and direct skill-focus for each of our grade levels!
- RL.2.3- Character Response Unit
Other Grade Level Units That Help Build/Continue Skill
- RL.K.3- Kindergarten
- RL.1.3- 1st Grade
- RL.3.3- 3rd Grade
- RL.4.3- 4th Grade
Want to read more about story elements? Check out these blog posts.
- 3 Engaging Story Elements Activities
- Characters- Story Elements Study
- Events- Teaching Events to Students
- All About Setting- Story Elements Study
- Story Elements- Teaching Tips
- Read more about: Common Core Aligned , Comprehension , Reading Blog Posts
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10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving
By: Author Tanja Mcilroy
Posted on Last updated: 7 Nov 2022
Categories Cognitive Development
During the first years of a child’s life, an important set of cognitive skills known as problem-solving abilities are developed. These skills are used throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Find out what problem solving is, why it’s important and how you can develop these skills with 10 problem-solving games and activities.
What is Problem Solving in Early Childhood?
So, what exactly is problem solving? Quite simply, it refers to the process of finding a solution to a problem .
A person uses their own knowledge and experience, as well as the information at hand to try and reach a solution. Problem solving is therefore about the thought processes involved in finding a solution.
This could be as complex as an adult working out how to get out of a financial crisis or as simple as a child working out how two blocks fit together.
Problem Solving Skills for Kids
Problem-solving skills refer to the specific thinking skills a person uses when faced with a challenge. Some problems require the use of many skills, while others are simple and may only require one or two skills.
These are some examples of problem-solving skills for preschoolers , as listed by kent.ac.uk .
- Lateral thinking
- Analytical thinking
- Decision-making skills
- Logical reasoning
- Communication skills
- Negotiation skills
The Importance of Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Early Childhood
Problem solving is a skill that would be difficult to suddenly develop as an adult. While you can still improve a skill at any age, the majority of learning occurs during the early years.
Preschool is the best time for a child to learn to problem solve in a fun way. The benefits of learning early will last a lifetime and the beauty of learning anything at a young age is that it is effortless .
It is like learning to play an instrument or picking up a new language – it’s just much easier and more natural at an early age.
Of all the many things preschoolers need to learn , what makes problem solving so important?
There aren’t many situations in life, at work or at school that don’t require some level of problem resolution.
Child’s play itself is filled with opportunity upon opportunity to solve all kinds of tricky situations and come up with solutions to challenges.
Problem Solving in Preschool
During the foundational years, children are constantly solving problems as they play .
Here are just a few examples of problem solving in early childhood :
- Resolving a fight over the same toy
- Reaching a ball that’s stuck in the tree
- Forming a circle while holding hands
- Making a bridge to connect two block towers
- Tying or untying a shoe
- Making up rules for a new game
- Trying to get the consistency of a mud cake right so it stops falling over
The more creative play opportunities and challenges children are given, the more they get to exercise their problem-solving muscles.
During free play , there are non-stop experiences for this, and parents and teachers can also encourage specific problem-solving skills through guided activities .
Problem Solving for Older Children
During the grades, children experience problems in many forms, some of which may be related to their academic, social and emotional well-being at school. Problems may come in the form of dealing with life issues, such as:
- Problems with friendships
- Struggling to understand something during a lesson
- Learning to balance the demands of sport and homework
- Finding the best way to study for a test
- Asking a teacher for help when needed
Problems will also form a large part of academic life as teachers will be actively developing this skill through various activities, for example:
- Solving a riddle or understanding a work of literature
- Working on projects with a friend
- Finding solutions during science experiments
- Solving mathematical problems
- Solving hypothetical problems during lessons
- Answering questions and completing exam papers
Children who have had practice during preschool will be a lot more capable when facing these challenges.
Solving Problems in Mathematics
Mathematics needs to be mentioned separately as although it is part of schooling, it is such a huge part and it depends heavily on a child’s ability to solve problems.
The entire subject of mathematics is based on solving problems. Whether you are adding 2 and 3, working out how many eggs will fit into each basket, or solving an algebraic expression, there is a problem in every question.
Mathematics is just a series of problems that need to be solved.
What we refer to as problem solving in Maths is usually answering word problems .
The reason many children find these so difficult to answer is that the question is presented as a problem through a story, rather than just numbers with symbols telling you what operation to use (addition, division, etc.)
This means a child is forced to think carefully, understand the problem and determine the best way to solve it.
These problems can involve various units (e.g. mass, capacity or currency) as well as fractions, decimals, equations and angles, to name a few. Problems tend to become more and more complex over the years.
My experience in the classroom has shown that many, many children struggle with solving word problems, from the early grades right into the senior years.
They struggle to analyze the question, understand it, determine what information they’ve been given, and what exactly they are required to solve.
The good news is that exposing a child to regular problem-solving activities and games in preschool can greatly help him to solve word problems later on in school.
If you need one good reason to do these kinds of activities, let it be for a smoother experience in mathematics – a subject so many children unnecessarily fear.
Problem Solving in the Workplace
Adults in the workplace seldom thrive without problem-solving skills. They are required to regularly solve problems .
As adults, employees are expected to independently deal with the frequent challenges, setbacks and problems that are a big part of every working environment.
Those who can face and solve their own problems will go further and cope better than those who seek constant help from others or cannot show initiative.
Some career websites even refer to problem solving as a universal job skill. They also mention that many employees are not good at it.
Again, although it may seem far removed, learning this skill at a young age will help a child cope right into adulthood and in the working world.
How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills
If early childhood is the best time to grow these skills in your young children, then how does one go about teaching them to toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners?
Problem solving can be taught in such a way that you expose your child to various opportunities where they will be faced with challenges.
You would not necessarily sit your 3-year-old down and tell or “teach” him all about fixing problems. Instead, you want to create opportunities for your child to grow this skill .
Using the brain to think and find solutions is a bit like working a muscle over time. Eventually, your muscle gets stronger and can handle more “ weight. ” Your child will learn to problem solve in two ways:
- Incidentally – through free play
- Through guided opportunities provided by a parent or teacher
If you make a point of encouraging thinking through games and activities, your child will develop stronger skills than if you let it all happen incidentally.
Problem-Solving Strategies and Steps
If we take a look at the steps involved in solving a problem, we can see that there are many layers involved and different types of skills. Here are the problem-solving steps according to the University of Ken.
Step 1: Identify the problem
Step 2: Define the problem
Step 3: Examine the options
Step 4: Act on a plan
Step 5: Look at the consequences
Therefore, activities at a preschool level need not present complicated high-level problems.
- A simple activity such as identifying differences in a picture can work on the first skill needed – identifying a problem.
- Playing with construction toys can develop a child’s ability to try various solutions and examine the options when faced with a problem such as trying to find the best way to build something.
- Playing Tic-Tac-Toe would make a child predict the consequences of placing their mark in a particular square.
The most basic of activities can work on all these skills and make children competent solution finders.
How to Teach Problem Solving with Questions
The language you use around your child and your questioning technique will also greatly affect their understanding of a problem or challenge as merely something waiting for a solution to be found .
While your child is playing or when she comes to you with a problem, ask open-ended questions that will guide her in finding a potential answer independently. Use the steps listed above to formulate your questions.
Here are some examples of questions:
- What do you think made the tower of blocks fall down?
- If we build it again, how can we change the structure so that it won’t fall down next time?
- Is there a better way we can do it? If you think of a different way, we can both try it and see which works better.
- Did that work? The tower fell again so let’s try another solution.
Resist the temptation to fix every one of your child’s problems, including conflict with friends or siblings. These are important opportunities for children to learn how to resolve things by negotiating, thinking and reasoning.
With time, your child will get used to seeing a problem, understanding it, weighing up the options, taking action and evaluating the consequences.
Problems will be seen as challenges to be faced logically and not “problems.”
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10 Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers
Here are 10 simple, easy games and problem solving activities for kids at home or at school. Many of them are the kinds of activities children should have daily exposure to.
Puzzles are one of the best thinking activities out there. Each puzzle is basically one big set of muddled-up things to be sorted out and put back together again. Find out why puzzles are important for development .
Children should have regular exposure to puzzles. They are great for developing thinking skills.
2. Memory games
Memory games will develop your child’s memory and attention to detail.
Get your own memory game cards by downloading the FREE set of printables at the end of the post.
Use pairs of matching pictures and turn them all face down, shuffled, on a table. Take turns choosing any two cards and turning them face up on the table. If you turn over a matching pair you keep the cards and if the pair doesn’t match, turn the cards back over until it is your turn to try again.
Encourage your child to concentrate and pay attention to where the pictures are and try to find a matching pair on each turn.
3. Building with Construction Toys
Construction toys such as engineering blocks , a proper set of wooden blocks or Legos should be a daily staple in your home.
Everything your child builds is a challenge because it requires thinking about what to build and how to put the pieces together to get a design that works and is functional.
Leave your child to construct freely and occasionally set a challenge and ask him to build a specific structure, with conditions. For example:
- Make two towers with a bridge joining them together
- Build a creature that stands on its own and has 3 arms.
Then watch your child wracking his brain until he finds a way to make his structure work.
4. Activity Books
These activity books are really fun and develop a child’s ability to identify problems and search for information.
5. Following Patterns
This simple activity can be played with a set of coloured blocks , shapes or counters.
Simply make a pattern with the blocks and ask your child to continue it. Vary the pattern by changing the colours, shapes or sizes.
This activity will train your child to analyse the given information, make sense of it, recognise the pattern and re-create it.
6. Story Time Questions
Get into the habit of asking questions during your daily story time that develop higher-order thinking skills . Instead of just reading and your child passively listening, ask questions throughout, concentrating on solving problems.
Here are some examples:
- Why do you think the bear did that?
- Do you think his friend will be happy? Why?
- What would you do if you were the monkey?
- How do you think Peter can make things better with his friend?
- If the crocodile had decided not to eat the rabbit, how could the story have ended?
7. Board Games
Board games are an excellent way to develop problem-solving skills.
Start off with simple games like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to teach the skill of following rules and moving in a logical sequence.
Card games like Go Fish are also great for teaching young children to think ahead and solve problems.
This is a perfect game to teach decision-making skills , thinking before acting and weighing up the possible consequences.
Use a Tic Tac Toe Board or d raw a simple table like the one above on paper or a chalkboard. Take turns to add a nought or a cross to the table and see who can make a row of three first.
Your child will probably catch on in no time and start thinking carefully before placing their symbol. This game can also be played with coloured counters or different objects.
9. Classifying and Grouping Activities
This activity can be done with a tin of buttons or beads or even by unpacking the dishwasher. The idea is to teach the skill of classifying and categorizing information by learning with physical objects. Here are some other ideas for categorizing:
- Separate the washing – mom’s clothes, dad’s clothes, etc; or socks, tops, shorts, etc.
- Empty out the cutlery drawer for cleaning, mix all the utensils up and then sort into knives, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.
- Classify and sort out the toys in your child’s bedroom together – all books, construction toys, soft toys, etc.
Here are more button activities for kids .
10. Building a Maze
This activity is lots of fun and suitable for any age. It is also going to be way more fun than doing a maze in an activity book, especially for younger children.
Draw a big maze on the paving with sidewalk chalk . Make passages, including one or two that end in a dead-end. Teach your child to find her way out .
As your child gets better at figuring out a route and finding the way out, make the maze more complex and add more dead-end passages.
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Friday 3rd of June 2022
hi maam , This Is Uma from India,Can i get this in pdf format or a book. Thank You
Monday 6th of June 2022
Hi Uma, thanks for your message. These articles are not available in PDF, but you are welcome to copy and paste them from the website, as long as you add the reference: https://empoweredparents.co/problem-solving-activities-preschoolers/ Thanks for reading!
Wednesday 20th of May 2020
Very very useful content. Good work. Thank you.
Friday 22nd of May 2020
Tuesday 19th of May 2020
Would like to download the free activity pack please.
Hi Kelly, Please download the activity pack on this page: www.empoweredparents.co
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How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens
- By Ashley Cullins
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 more LISTENING than 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 ROOT of 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 ENGAGING your 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 connect and 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:
- D isadvantages
- A dvantages
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
- Debate team
- Science Olympiad
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.
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25 thoughts on “ How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens ”
I love, love, love the point about emotional coaching. It’s so important to identify how children are feeling about a problem and then approach the solutions accordingly.
Thank you for putting this together. I wrote an article on problem-solving specifically from the point of view of developing a STEM aptitude in kids, if you like to check it out – https://kidpillar.com/how-to-teach-problem-solving-to-your-kids-5-8-years/
I feel that these techniques will work for my kid.. Worthy.. Thank you
I love you guys
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Top 15 Problem Solving Activities for Kids [2022 List]
As they get older, children have countless opportunities to learn about the world. They do, however, face issues daily, whether it be peer pressure, complex mathematical computations, or arguments with their peers.
The advantages of problem-solving abilities for children are vast, and they may help them deal with such circumstances efficiently.
They will learn to develop practical answers on their own, without the assistance of an adult. Furthermore, when faced with challenges, students will be more confident in their abilities to use problem-solving skills and generate unique solutions on their own.
Read on to learn about the importance of problem-solving abilities in children, how to install this talent in them, and some activities to help them develop this important skill.
Table of contents
The importance of problem solving skills in children .
- How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills?
15 Problem Solving Activities for Kids
Children gain from problem-solving in a variety of ways. It is beneficial to them.
- Deal with problems in regular life.
- Make sound judgments.
- Along the way, learn additional skills including teamwork, critical thinking, and collaboration.
- Problems should be solved without being broken down.
- Consider thinking beyond the box.
- Develop your independence.
How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills?
Here are a few ideas for encouraging your child to use their problem-solving abilities.
- Put it to the Test!
Encourage your youngster to accept the challenge when they are confronted with a problem. If the outcomes are unsuccessful, they might try different strategies.
Your child will be able to think about a subject from several angles as a result.
- Seek Counsel
Decision-making is a tough task. For example, you could have difficulty deciding what to prepare for supper or what to wear to the movies. Asking your children for assistance in decisions is an excellent choice.
When you approach them for guidance, they believe that they are not alone in their struggles. When you appreciate their ideas, they will gain the confidence to tackle challenges on their own.
- Take a Long, Deep Breath.
Maintaining your calm in difficult situations is one of the first steps toward effective problem-solving. Even among children, when their emotions run wild, it is difficult to think sensibly, and the temptation to make rash judgments increases.
It is critical to encourage your youngster to take deep breaths whenever they feel out of control of their emotions. They can better appraise the problem once they are calm.
- State the Issue Verbally.
Your child should openly express how they feel and what they are going through when they have calmed down. It provides them with a distinct perspective and facilitates the generation of alternate solutions.
- Do not give “The Solution”
It is not a good idea to provide immediate solutions to children’s problems. Instead, provide them with advice to assist them in solving the problem on their own. This will help them to think about solutions that are beneficial to them.
- Set a Good Example
Children quickly absorb knowledge like sponges. Therefore, when you approach an issue and find a workable solution, children will be inspired by your strategy and want to follow you.
- Allow the Natural Consequences to Play out.
Allowing a situation to take its course is sometimes the best approach to dealing with it. So, if your child encounters a challenge, let them be.
Assume your child spent their entire weekly allowance in a day or two; allow them to go the entire week without receiving any money. This will position them to make better decisions in the future.
There is no better way to learn than by playing. The following exercises are enjoyable and challenge youngsters to demonstrate their problem-solving abilities.
For kids, puzzles are fantastic games for problem-solving. They come at various levels of difficulty. The appropriate one may be chosen based on your child’s age.
If you give children a puzzle, they will learn to consider the issue or question, generate potential answers, and select one.
Additionally, the practice will help students improve their hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, and critical thinking.
- Scavenger Quest
Scavenger hunts are an instructive activity that every parent should offer to their children. It is a low-cost, easy, and entertaining activity that can be practiced both inside and outside and just requires materials you already have at home.
The activity encourages youngsters to think beyond the box. They are pleasantly acquiring problem-solving skills without even realizing it.
The advantages of reading are countless. Problem-solving is one of them. While reading, children are introduced to several characters and their roles. They frequently connect with these figures.
So, if kids encounter an issue, ask them how their favourite character would solve it. Encourage them to produce as many options as they can and discuss the results of each.
- Arts and Crafts
Another fantastic technique to educate youngsters about problem-solving abilities is via arts and crafts. Give your child a variety of things from around the house. Allow them to create fantastic creations or repair damaged devices or toys.
Give them complete freedom to do their task and only offer guidance when they are running out of ideas.
- Free-Form Questions
Asking open-ended questions is an excellent method to help your child think creatively and critically and develop their problem-solving abilities.
As there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and the answer extends beyond a simple “no” or “yes,” they must give some consideration to their responses.
The questions mentioned in the image above are some examples of open-ended questions.
Mazes are enjoyable and safe for people of all ages. Working on mazes forces them to think. The practice also helps them strengthen their motor skills, observation skills, sense of direction, and problem-solving abilities.
Think beyond book mazes. There are other maze games available on the internet. They will get better at finding their way out with practice. You may eventually give them increasingly difficult mazes to solve.
- A Little Treasure Quest
The whole family can enjoy a treasure hunt. If they believe they will succeed, you can maintain their concentration on the task at hand.
Give them tips that encourage them to use their imaginations and resolve issues to win the prize.
- Toy Construction
Give your kids building materials like LEGO, wood blocks, engineering blocks, etc., and let them construct anything they want.
Toy construction requires your child to consider what to make, how to assemble the parts, and produce creative solutions to make sure the design is functional.
You can occasionally ask them to build something challenging, like a monster with three arms or two buildings joined by a bridge. Watch as they struggle to come up with a structure.
- Woollen Web
Each child should be given a piece of colorful yarn, and they should be told to construct a circle. The yarn ball is passed from one person to the next by wrapping their finger around it.
Once everyone got an opportunity to hold the ball and wrap the yarn around their finger, a web would begin to grow. Now, blindfold one person and instruct them to unwind the web by following the vocal directions of the others.
To figure out a way out, this group exercise requires collaboration, attention, patience, coordination, concentration, and problem-solving abilities.
- The Human Knot
It is a simple game, but very entertaining. A group of youngsters is required for this game. Form a circle with the youngsters and have them raise their hands.
Begin with one player, who must use their right hand to grasp a player’s hand from across the circle and their left hand to grasp someone else’s hand. Examine whether everyone has held both hands with various players.
They must now detangle themselves without breaking the circle. When everyone’s hands are free and they are back in the circle, the challenge is over.
- Improvised Skits
Form teams out of the players. On pieces of paper, write out several scenarios, such as coping with bullying at school or resolving a quarrel between siblings, folding them, and arranging them in a bowl.
Each team or participant chooses a chit and executes the scenario. You may give them a deadline to get ready. These impromptu activities help kids see a problem, come up with a solution, and implement it.
- Group Drawing
Another excellent team-building activity for developing children’s problem-solving skills is group sketching. Form groups of three youngsters.
Each of the team’s three members has a certain function to play. The teacher comes next. The instructor is the one who offers the drawer verbal directions on how to draw a certain design.
The spectator examines the design. However, they are not permitted to speak and must interact with the instructor by using gestures. When the viewer is happy with the drawer’s image, you have a winner. Allow the kids to take turns playing various parts.
- Give me a Hint!
Clue Me In is an entertaining detective game that promotes cognitive growth, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Begin by choosing five to six target responses, such as a prominent figure, an animal, a historical event, a societal trend, or a career. Collect five to ten objects related to each goal answer. They might also be images from the Internet.
Sort them into various bags. Determine how many hints a child can select before making a guess. If there are two, let the youngster choose two clues from a bag and make their first guess. See who can respond the fastest.
- Survivor Case Studies
Here is another game where no items are required. In this game, you must construct pretend-play scenarios for youngsters to solve, and they must analyze and think creatively to do so.
For example, tell them, “You’re stranded on an island, and you know aid won’t arrive for two days” or “How will you build a shelter for yourself out of the materials around you?”
Kids are encouraged by this to think of many scenarios and come up with solutions to the problem.
- Ethical Quandary
Children are frequently put in challenging circumstances. This simple game will help children deal with these situations without them even being aware of them.
Write down several difficulties on pieces of paper, such as “The cashier handed me $1 more in change; what should I do?” or “I watched my friend harassing someone at school.” Should I intervene or let them go? Fold it up and put it in a bowl.
Give each child the opportunity to select one piece of paper, read it aloud, and provide creative solutions to the problem at hand.
Problem-solving is a crucial skill to have. Guiding kids in this decision-making skill not only enhances their thinking and creative ability but also trains them to face problems in the future and figure out good decisions.
The above-mentioned activities for kids are some of those, that will help them develop decision-making skills.
To learn more about problem solving activities for kids, check out the fun yet amazing articles on the BrightCHAMPS blog.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Children are believed to have learned the basics of problem-solving by the age of three. However, it is not perfected since it is hampered by a short attention span and trouble grasping problems on its own. Children grow better at solving problems as they get older.
The three most prevalent problem-solving techniques are: ● Trial and error: trying several solutions to an issue until it is solved. ● Algorithm: The process of solving a problem by following a step-by-step formula. ● Following a problem-solving framework, such as breaking it down into steps, is a heuristic.
These games can help you improve your problem-solving, planning, multitasking, and pattern identification skills. ● Crossword puzzles. ● Sudoku puzzles. ● Jigsaw puzzles. ● Chess. Board games. ● Computer games. ● List games.
Creative problem-solving is a technique that employs imagination and invention. This technique encourages the creative aspect of issue resolution and allows for the generation of fresh ideas in novel ways. It also makes the process more enjoyable and fosters teamwork.
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Top 15 Problem-Solving Activities for Your Team to Master
Some people see problems as roadblocks, others see them as opportunities! Problem-solving activities are a great way to get to know how members of your team work, both individually and together. It’s important to teach your team strategies to help them quickly overcome obstacles in the way of achieving project goals.
The importance of problem-solving skills in today’s workplace
According to a 2019 report by McKinsey , soft skills are increasingly important in today's world — and problem-solving is the top area in which skills are lacking. A company or team’s success weighs heavily on the willingness of managers to help employees improve their problem-solving abilities. Team building activities targeting focus areas like communication and collaboration, adaptability, or strengthening decision-making techniques help.
All problem-solving processes start with identifying the problem. Next, the team must assess potential courses of action and choose the best way to tackle the problem. This requires a deep understanding of your team and its core strengths. A problem-solving exercise or game helps identify those strengths and builds problem-solving skills and strategies while having fun with your team.
Problem-solving games aren't for just any team. Participants must have an open mind and accept all ideas and solutions . They must also have an Agile mindset and embrace different structures, planning , and processes. Problems usually arise when we least expect them, so there's no better way to prepare than to encourage agility and flexibility.
Another aspect to keep in mind when engaging in problem-solving games and activities: There are no winners or losers. Sure, some games might end with a single winner, but the true goal of these exercises is to learn how to work together as a team to develop an Agile mindset . The winning team of each game should share their strategies and thought processes at the end of the exercise to help everyone learn.
Here’s a list of fun problem-solving activity examples to try with your team. From blindfolds to raw eggs, these problem-solving, team-building activities will have your team solving problems faster than Scooby and the gang.
Classic team-building, problem-solving activities
1. a shrinking vessel.
Helps with: Adaptability
Why adaptability is important for problem-solving: Adaptability is highly associated with cognitive diversity, which helps teams solve problems faster , according to the Harvard Business Review. Innovation and disruption are happening faster than ever before . People, teams, and organizations that can adapt will come out on top.
What you’ll need:
- A rope or string
1. Using the rope, make a shape on the floor everyone can fit into.
2. Slowly shrink the space over 10-15 minutes.
3. Work together to figure out how to keep everyone within the shrinking boundaries.
2. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower
Helps with: Collaboration
Why collaboration is important for problem-solving: “Collectively, we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually,” writes Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline . We can solve problems better as a team than we can alone, which means developing your team’s collaboration skills will lead to better problem-solving outcomes.
What you’ll need (per team):
- 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti
- 1 roll of masking tape
- 1 yard of string
- 1 marshmallow
1. The goal of this exercise is to see which team can use the materials provided to build the tallest tower within an allotted time period. The tower must be able to stand on its own.
2. To make this exercise more challenging, try adding a marshmallow to the top of the tower. This team problem-solving exercise helps people think on their toes while building camaraderie and leadership.
3. Egg Drop
Helps with: Collaboration, decision-making
Why decision-making is important for problem-solving: Making decisions isn’t easy , but indecision leads to team paralysis, stagnant thinking, and unsolved problems. Decision-making activities help your team practice making quick, effective choices. Train your team’s decision-making muscles and they will become more adept at problem-solving.
- A carton of eggs
- Basic construction materials such as newspapers, straws, tape, plastic wrap, balloons, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, etc., tarp, or drop cloth
- A parking lot, or some other place you don’t mind getting messy!
1. Each team gets an egg and must select from the construction materials.
2. Give everyone 20-30 minutes to construct a carrier for the egg and protect it from breaking.
3. Drop each egg carrier off a ledge (i.e. over a balcony) and see whose carrier protects the egg from breaking.
4. If multiple eggs survive, keep increasing the height until only one egg is left.
Helps with: Communication, decision-making
Why communication is important for problem-solving: More employees work remotely than ever before. Good communication skills are vital to solving problems across virtual teams . Working on communication skills while your team is together will help them solve problems more effectively when they’re apart.
Here's the setting: Your team has been stranded in the office. The doors are locked, and knocking down the doors or breaking the windows is not an option. Give your team 30 minutes to decide on ten items in the office they need for survival and rank them in order of importance. The goal of the game is to have everyone agree on the ten items and their rankings in 30 minutes.
Creative problem-solving activities
Helps with: Communication
What you'll need:
1. Divide everyone into small teams of two or more.
2. Select an overseer who isn't on a team to build a random structure using Lego building blocks within ten minutes.
3. The other teams must replicate the structure exactly (including size and color) within 15 minutes. However, only one member from each group may look at the original structure. They must figure out how to communicate the size, color, and shape of the original structure to their team.
4. If this is too easy, add a rule that the member who can see the original structure can't touch the new structure.
- A lockable room
- 5-10 puzzles or clues (depending on how much time you want to spend on the game)
1. The goal of this exercise is to solve the clues, find the key, and escape a locked room within the time allotted.
2. Hide the key and a list of clues around the room.
3. Gather the team into the empty room and "lock" the door.
4. Give them 30 minutes to an hour to find the key using the clues hidden around the room.
Helps with: Decision-making, adaptability
- A blindfold
- 1 packet of construction materials (such as card stock, toothpicks, rubber bands, and sticky notes) for each team
- An electric fan
Instructions: Your employees are Arctic explorers adventuring across an icy tundra! Separate them into teams of four or five and have them select a leader to guide their exploration. Each team must build a shelter from the materials provided before the storm hits in 30 minutes. However, both the team leader’s hands have frostbite, so they can’t physically help construct the shelter, and the rest of the team has snow blindness and is unable to see. When the 30 minutes is up, turn on the fan and see which shelter can withstand the high winds of the storm.
- An empty room or hallway
- A collection of common office items
1. Place the items (boxes, chairs, water bottles, bags, etc.) around the room so there's no clear path from one end of the room to the other.
2. Divide your team into pairs and blindfold one person on the team.
3. The other must verbally guide that person from one end of the room to the other, avoiding the "mines."
4. The partner who is not blindfolded can't touch the other.
5. If you want to make the activity more challenging, have all the pairs go simultaneously so teams must find ways to strategically communicate with each other.
9. Blind Formations
1. Have the group put on blindfolds and form a large circle.
2. Tie two ends of a rope together and lay it in a circle in the middle of the group, close enough so each person can reach down and touch it.
3. Instruct the group to communicate to create a shape with the rope — a square, triangle, rectangle, etc.
4. If you have a very large group, divide them into teams and provide a rope for each team. Let them compete to see who forms a particular shape quickest.
Quick and easy problem-solving activities
10. line up blind.
1. Blindfold everyone and whisper a number to each person, beginning with one.
2. Tell them to line up in numerical order without talking.
3. Instead of giving them a number, you could also have them line up numerically by height, age, birthday, etc.
11. Reverse Pyramid
Helps with: Adaptability, collaboration
1. Have everyone stand in a pyramid shape, horizontally.
2. Ask them to flip the base and the apex of the pyramid moving only three people.
3. This quick exercise works best when smaller groups compete to see who can reverse the pyramid the fastest.
12. Move It!
- Chalk, rope, tape, or paper (something to mark a space)
1. Divide your group into two teams and line them up front to back, facing each other.
2. Using the chalk, tape, rope, or paper (depending on the playing surface), mark a square space for each person to stand on. Leave one extra empty space between the two facing rows.
3. The goal is for the two facing lines of players to switch places.
4. Place these restrictions on movement:
- Only one person may move at a time.
- A person may not move around anyone facing the same direction.
- No one may not move backward.
- A person may not move around more than one person on the other team at a time.
13. Human Knot
1. Have everyone stand in a circle, and ask each person to hold hands with two people who aren’t directly next to them.
2. When everyone is tangled together, ask them to untangle the knot and form a perfect circle — without letting go of anyone's hand.
Our last two problem-solving activities work best when dealing with an actual problem:
14. Dumbest Idea First
Helps with: Instant problem-solving
1. "Dumb" ideas are sometimes the best ideas. Ask everyone to think of the absolute dumbest possible solution to the problem at hand.
2. After you have a long list, look through it and see which ones might not be as dumb as you think.
3. Brainstorm your solutions in Wrike. It's free and everyone can start collaborating instantly!
15. What Would X Do
1. Have everyone pretend they're someone famous.
2. Each person must approach the problem as if they were their chosen famous person. What options would they consider? How would they handle it?
3. This allows everyone to consider solutions they might not have thought of originally.
Looking for more team-building and virtual meeting games ? Check out these virtual icebreaker games or our Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities that Don't Suck.
Additional resources on problem-solving activities
- Problem-Solving Model : Looking for a model to provide a problem-solving structure? This detailed guide gives you the tools to quickly solve any problem.
- The Simplex Process: Popularized by Min Basadur's book, The Power of Innovation , the Simplex Process provides training and techniques for each problem-solving stage. It helps frame problem-solving as a continuous cycle, rather than a “one and done” process.
- Fun Problem-Solving Activities and Games : Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of interesting and creative problem-solving activities for adults and kids!
- The Secret to Better Problem-Solving: This article provides tips, use cases, and fresh examples to help you become a whiz at solving the toughest problems.
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Quick and easy problem-solving activities ; 10. Line Up Blind · Communication · Blindfolds ; 11. Reverse Pyramid · Adaptability, collaboration.