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12 Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers And Preschoolers

Intriguing ideas to boost their analytical and rational thinking skills.

manjari srivastava , BA (Psychology)

Specialty: Kids Fun, Activities and Education

Manjari Srivastava is a graduate of psychology. She also holds certificates in Basics In Clinical Psychology and Identifying Early Signs Of Psychosis In Adolescents And Young Adults.  Previously, she ... more

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Problem-solving preschool activities are an essential part of learning, leading to the development of the most crucial skills for your child. Your child’s journey between realizing a problem and finding a solution involves effort, thinking, and patience. What comes in between realization and solution is important to understand, as it is the key to a lightning-fast intellect. The process is the most beautiful part, which is also the beginning of making a new genius for the world to witness. These little minds could one day become billionaires, philanthropists, or someone far more successful .

Read on to know some of the problem-solving activities for toddlers and preschoolers and how it helps them.

What Is Problem-Solving?

Problem-solving is the art of realizing a problem and finding an apt solution by a series of interconnected thoughts in the cognitive area of the mind (1) . It requires identifying the problem and pondering over the causes and attempting to chalk out the reason. The next step would be to find a solution out of the many alternatives. Identifying the causes of a problem would involve some deep thinking, which can benefit a child’s growth.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are what every child needs to survive in this world. A few problem-solving skills are analytical thinking, logical reasoning, lateral thinking, creativity, initiative, persistence, negotiation, listening skills, cognitive skills, math skills, and decision-making. Good communication skills are also important as they improve the self-esteem of your child.

Why Is Problem-Solving Important In Preschool?

As parents, you may not want to fill your child’s minds with every problem-solving ability. But you must trust the process, as it is the most important phase of life, and they are learning new things every day.

How To Teach Problem-Solving Skills To Preschoolers?

Making them listen with patience and willingness is a skill that will help them comprehend what you teach them. Here are some steps that you can follow:

12 Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers

You may try several problem-solving activities at home. We have listed some of the best activates here:

1. Simon Says

One of the children becomes Simon and gives commands. The rest have to follow the commands and enact only when they hear ’Simon says’ at the beginning of the command. If anyone acts when the words ‘Simon says’ is not told at the beginning, then that particular child is out. This game will improve listening skills and response time.

2. Tic–tac–toe

The game teaches decision-making and the cost of consequences. This game involves two players. One player has to mark X anywhere on the tic-tac-toe, followed by another player marking O. The idea is to make a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line with either three X’s or O’s. Both players have to stop each other from winning. Sounds fun, right?

3. Treasure hunt

Divide the children into groups and give them clues to find hidden objects. Activities such as treasure hunt evidently improve their problem-solving skills and induce the idea of competition.

Puzzles can make a child think out of the box. They can develop a child’s logical reasoning. Arranging the crumbled pieces will surely improve their level of patience.

5. Hide and seek

Playing in a group can make them less shy and socialize with others. And, with hide and seek activity, children can learn devising strategies, escaping from a troublesome situation, and various other skills.

6. Sorting together

Give them various toys, pieces of clothing, or other random objects at home and some bins. Now ask your child to sort and place everything in the right bin.

7. Spot the difference

Show them printouts of two similar pictures, with one picture having some differences. Ask them to spot the differences. This helps in actively improving their concentration and attention to detail.

8. Matching animals with sounds

Play sounds of various animals and let the children guess their names. You can also take them to an animal farm where they can observe their behavior. This activity may improve their sound recognition ability over time.

Give your child a blank canvas and some paints or color pencils. Let them get creative and produce a masterpiece.

10. Memory games

Memory games can improve a child’s retaining capacity. One such game is to sit in a circle and play “Chinese Whisper.” In this game, kids sit in a circle. Each of them has to whisper a word in their peer’s ear. The same word, along with a new one, is whispered into the next child’s ear. This should be continued till the last child in the circle announces it for all to hear.

11. Fort building

Building forts using toy material, Lego, pillows, or blankets can be fun. During the process of building a fort, children may have to face minor or major difficulties. Overcoming such issues and completing the target successfully helps in the improvement of logical and analytical abilities.

Solving mazes can also help a kid improve their approach towards dealing with problems and dead ends. It will enable lateral thinking and thinking out of the box.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the stages of problem-solving?

Problem-solving is a cognitive skill that works through six stages – determining the problem, generating alternative ideas or solutions, evaluating alternatives, selecting the best suitable solution, implementing the solution, and follow-up (3) .

2. At what age do toddlers begin problem-solving?

According to research, children begin problem-solving right after birth. Between zero to two years, children learn problem-solving through exploration, whereas by three years of age, they learn problem-solving through experimentation and trial and error. Four-year-olds learn problem-solving through cooperative activities with peers and friends. By five and six years, kids get enough experience to deal with problems that would need abstract thinking skills (4) .

3. How do toddlers develop critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking skills don’t develop in a day or week. Rather, it takes constant exposure to environments that hone a child’s critical thinking abilities. Asking your toddlers open-ended questions, indulging them in critical thinking activities, such as block building and puzzles, and motivating them to think out of the box are simple ways to bolster your child’s critical thinking.

Problem-solving activities for toddlers enhance their thinking abilities and promote early brain development. You may introduce problem-solving activities such as tic-tac-toe, Simon says, hide and seek, treasure hunt, puzzles, etc., to enhance cognitive skills in toddlers. The problem-solving skills in preschoolers help them cope with various situations and mingle with other children. Problem-solving skills help children think differently and take the initiative in making decisions and solving problems. These activities help build the skills without any force or pressure.

Infographic: Hone Your Toddler’s Problem-Solving Skills

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Manjari Srivastava , BA (Psychology)

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15 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I looked over to her table and she’s crying. Again. While everyone else is happily working away, she sat there, unable to move, just crying. 

Not asking for help.

Not trying to solve her problem.

Just crying.

I took a deep breath before heading over. We’ve already been at this for several months…isn’t it about time the problem-solving has kicked in yet?

One glance and I could tell what her problem was. She didn’t have her pencil.

Know how I knew?

It laid on the floor beside her. In plain sight.

As a kindergarten teacher, I don’t jump right in and solve problems for kids. It’s good for them to try to solve the problem themselves. This is something she struggled with. 

I reminded myself of the need for patience and empathy as I walked up to her. “What’s wrong, Amanda?” 

“I…can’t…find…my…pencil….” she sputtered out between sobs. 

“Ok, that’s a problem we can solve. What have you tried?” 

“I don’t know.” 

After a long time trying to first, calm her down, and second, come up with some strategies she could try, she finally found her pencil. At that point, everyone else had finished the project. 

Toddlers playing with wooden blocks

What is Problem Solving?

Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution to your problem . This can be quite tricky for some young children, especially those with little experience in finding more than one way to solve a problem.

Why is Problem Solving Important? 

Problem-solving skills are used throughout childhood into adulthood. As adults, we solve problems on a daily basis. Some problems we solve without thinking much- I wanted to make tacos for dinner but forgot to buy the ground beef. What are we going to have for dinner now?

Other problems are significantly more complicated. 

Problems for kiddos can be problems with friendships, the inability to find something that’s needed, or even what to do when things don’t go your way. 

Kids who lack problem-solving skills struggle to maintain friendships or even begin to attempt to solve their own problems. 

Children who lack problem-solving skills are at a higher risk for depression as well.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are:

That’s a big list to teach toddlers and preschoolers. Where do you begin?

The Problem-Solving Steps

Sometimes kids are so overwhelmed with frustration that it affects their ability to solve problems.

Kids feel safe in routines, and routines help them learn and grow. After a few times of repeating this routine, you’ll find your kiddo starts to do this on their own. 

It’s important not to skip straight to solving the problem , because your kiddo needs to be in a calm state of mind to solve the problem, and also they need to know their feelings are valid. 

In doing this, they will feel more understood and learn that their emotions are okay. There are no bad feelings, and we must learn how to manage our emotions. 

This might sound something like “Oh, I can see you are really frustrated that the block won’t fit on there right. Let’s take some deep breaths to help us calm down before we think about what to do next.”

problem solving game 2 year old

Are you tired of hearing “It’s TOO HARD!” followed by a meltdown?

Using this one simple phrase you’ll get in this powerful lesson, you’ll not only be able to help your kiddo not give up but you’ll:

>Activate their superpower of perseverance so that they can turn around a meltdown and keep trying

>Inspire them to use perseverance …even when it’s hard

>Teach them to recognize the warning signs of giving up , and how to turn it around by taking control of their choices.

Grab your powerful FREE video lesson to teach your kiddo one of the most powerful keys to perseverance.

Powerful Activities that Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Toddlers & Preschoolers

These activities below may look simple, but don’t let that deter you from trying them. A lot happens in little developing brains and these powerful activities help toddlers and preschoolers make connections and develop {many} essential skills-more than just problem-solving.

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Puzzles are fun and a great way to encourage cognitive development in children. They are great for spacial reasoning and strengthening problem-solving skills. They also develop memory skills, critical thinking, and the ability to plan and execute the plan. Toddlers will enjoy the simple puzzles, and preschoolers will do great with floor puzzles with larger puzzle pieces.

problem solving game 2 year old

Doing Simple Chores

Doing simple chores is a great way to teach children problem-solving skills, and it strengthens responsibility and perseverance as well. 

During the toddler years , you may start with just picking up their toys, or helping you put their dirty clothes in the hamper. 

Preschoolers can take their dirty dishes to the sink (or load them in the dishwasher), collect the trash, dust, wipe baseboards, and do their own personal care items like making their bed, taking care of their dirty clothes, and putting clean clothes away.

Stacking Rings

When watching a toddler play with stacking rings it doesn’t look like much is happening, but playing with these toys is full of ways to encourage development. It helps with visual and spacial perception and planning ahead, but it also with balance control, crossing the midline, creative play, and gross motor skills. Not to mention it’s a great opportunity to practice problem-solving. 

problem solving game 2 year old

Playing Hide-and-Seek

Hide and seek has many surprising benefits for kids. Playing hide and seek is like a treasure hunt that helps develop gross motor skills and encourages physical development, as well as problem-solving skills. It also helps young children develop visual tracking, working memory, and social-emotional skills.

Preschooler playing construction worker

Imaginative Play

Imaginative play (also called role-play) builds important skills. Through pretending to be in different situations, kids develop social skills, emotional skills, better communication, and problem-solving skills. Imaginative play is a great idea for young toddlers all the way to older children.

Free Play 

Many young children don’t have {enough} time for free play. Free play is important for healthy brain development , not only developing imagination, cooperation, physical skills, and independence but also providing a great opportunity to strengthen problem-solving skills. 

Playing with Wooden Blocks

Building blocks are a fun way for children to develop creative thinking, imagination, problem-solving, fine motor skills, and if working with others, cooperation, communication, and friendship.

problem solving game 2 year old

Playing Memory

Memory games improve attention, focus, visual recognition, and concentration. It helps children recognize details and of course, strengthens problem-solving skills. 

problem solving game 2 year old

Ask Questions

When I see my son struggling with something, my first instinct is to give him choices or at least lead him in the right direction. The better thing to do is to ask very open-ended questions that lead his process, not his thoughts.

Questions like “What’s one way to solve your problem?” are much more effective in teaching problem-solving skills than “Well, where did you last see your stuffy?” 

Read Books and Social Stories

Reading books is one of my favorite ways to teach any skill. It’s extremely effective at teaching, and it’s also an amazing bonding time with kids.

When we read stories, our brain reacts as if we’re living in the story. This is why reading books about skills such as problem-solving is so effective. 

Kids of all ages learn from the people they love . (Yes, even those older kids who you don’t think are paying attention.) Often as adults, we’re too busy going through our daily routine to think about talking about the way we solved the problem at work that day.

Talking about how you use skills such as problem-solving, perseverance, and integrity is a great way to set an example, and an expectation that this is how we do things, and it will provide encouragement for your kiddo to do the same.

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are a great group activity that can strengthen your child’s logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

When Your Kiddo is Ready, Add These Activities

Preschoolers would benefit from all of the fun activities on the list above and when they’re ready, feel free to add in the following activities.   

Mazes are great for problem-solving and perseverance, but your kiddo will need to have decent fine motor skills to do these activities. Mazes are one of our favorite activities. We love to take our activity book of mazes in the car with us for road trips. 

problem solving game 2 year old

Board Games  

Board games are a good way to strengthen problem-solving, teamwork, planning skills, patience, sportsmanship, and communication skills. They also strengthen family relationships by providing some intentional time of connection .

Any board game can also be turned into an academic game with just a deck of cards for whatever skill you’re working on. If you’re working on the alphabet, put one letter on each card. Before each player’s turn, they draw a letter card and say the letter’s name. (You may accidentally forget the name of a letter every now and then to see if your kiddo is really paying attention!) 

Allow Opportunities for Hands-On Investigations

Kids are tactile. They love to touch and explore things with their hands. This is a good activity for toddlers also, as long as they are out of the putting everything in their mouth stage. Hands-on exploration is great for language development, sensory exploration, and problem-solving.

Allowing kids to investigate with their hands allows them to see how the world works up close. It also gives them time and space to try to make things work…and problem-solve when it doesn’t go as they think it should.

The Most Difficult Way (and Most Important Way) To Strengthen Problem-Solving Skills

Watching our kids struggle is hard ! We don’t want to see them having a hard time…and most of the time we don’t want to deal with the impending meltdown. Standing back and giving our kids time and space to work through even simple problems is hard to do. It’s also the most important way to strengthen problem-solving skills. 

As parents, we’re like frogs in boiling water. When our kids are infants, they need us to recognize their needs and solve them immediately. As they get older, they can point to what they want, but we still have a lot of interpreting and problem-solving to do on our own. If we aren’t careful, we stay in this stage and don’t teach our kiddos the steps to problem-solving for themselves. 

The next most difficult thing? Allowing natural consequences to happen. (As long as your child is safe of course.) If your child saves their money for a long time to buy a new toy, but walks down the toy aisle and picks up something you know they’ll be disappointed with, let it happen. It will teach a valuable lesson that will last for years to come.

Another Essential Part of Problem-Solving

Perseverance is a big part of problem-solving. We are rarely able to solve problems the first time, and it’s essential that kids can find more than one solution to a problem. Studies have found that perseverance is actually the biggest predictor of success, even more than aptitude or raw talent. 

An entire module is dedicated to perseverance in our course for kids, Super Kid Adventures . Your kiddo will get 25 teacher-led lessons on character traits (perseverance, empathy, friendship, responsibility, and wellness) and activities that take their learning further. 

Super Kid Adventures

Want a free preview? Grab a FREE Perseverance video lesson that teaches your kiddo one of the most important secrets that help them use perseverance.

Want More? 

If you like this, you’ll love: 

The Ultimate List of Books that Teach Perseverance

7 Simple Ways to Encourage Independence in Young Children

How to Help Your Child Develop Self-Help Skills

Your Turn 

What are your favorite ways to teach problem-solving skills?

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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a mama of two boys, a former teacher, and the founder of Discovery Play with Littles. Her mission is to make raising kids with character simple and fun. Join us for our best learning through play ideas, character growth activities, and family connection ideas so you can watch your child thrive.

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Free Perseverance Lesson

Perseverance is the biggest predictor of success, even more than raw talent or aptitude.

Grab a FREE lesson to teach your kiddo one of the keys to perseverance...which is how we talk to our brains.

They'll learn what to say when they encounter something difficult, and why it's so important.

PLAY is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. -Mr. Rogers

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8 problem solving games to play with your preschooler.

problem solving game 2 year old

Want to Improve Your Child's Problem Solving Skills?

Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning companion for kids.

As a toddler, my daughter once got stuck in an opened cardboard box. She climbed in all by herself, but once inside she couldn’t figure how to maneuver her way out.

Like any good mom, I helped by handing her a crayon and allowing her to spend the next 15 minutes inside the box scribbling her little heart out so I could power clean the living room until she remembered she was stuck.

It’s true, I may have been taking slight advantage of her not-yet-fully-developed problem solving skills, but as a mom of a toddler tornado, you take what you can get 🙂

She’s now a preschooler and her problem solving skills have improved since daily life has provided her with ample opportunities (darn those jacket zippers!).

That said, I also believe that presenting her with social problem solving games and activities to utilize her thinking cap has been an important part of her pre-operational development.

I’ve compiled this list of 8 creative activities to assist in developing those skills that are needed when she hits those frustrating preschooler obstacles.

I believe in keeping things fun for the child and easy for mom, so these problem solving activities for preschoolers are simple to set up and many require only your child’s own creativity!

1. Make it Move

For this activity, you’ll need some masking tape and a crumpled ball of paper.

The challenge comes when you place the ball of paper in between two lines of masking tape and ask your preschooler to move it outside the lines — without touching it.

Some preschoolers can’t get enough of this experiment and figure out several ways to move the paper.  Others can get frustrated easily and want to give up.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so don’t let your child get discouraged.  Hints are fully ok; just try to wait until they are absolutely needed.

We want them to stretch their problem solving muscles, but not feel defeated.

2. Fit the Top

This is one of my favorites because it’s a delicious learning mix of fine motor, spatial awareness, problem solving and pantry clean-out skills!

For Fit the Top you will need to dig out your entire mess of a Tupperware collection from that forgotten kitchen cupboard.

Or, if your Tupperware is unusually orderly (round of applause from us!), grab a large collection of different sized plastic water bottles and their lids.

Water bottles are probably more fun, but using Tupperware does double duty of getting you organized, so maybe a combo of both is best.

Lay out all Tupperware and water bottles in one pile and put lids in another.  Ask your preschooler to help you organize by finding the right lids to go with the right container.

Popping and screwing the lids on their correct containers exercises those fine motor muscles.

Ensuring the right size/shape lid goes with the right container helps practice both spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

Pro Tip: Help Your Child Become Better at Problem Solving

Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission and let your child play with this award-winning educational program. Your child will become better at problem solving without even realizing it!

3. I’m Being Silly

I’m Being Silly is an on-the-fly story telling game.  The parent starts off with a simple story and the preschooler has to stop them when they’ve said something silly.  Here’s an example:

Johnny was a four-year-old boy on his way to school. As he left, he grabbed his car keys and buckled himself into the driver’s seat.

If they don’t stop you here at the silliness of Johnny driving the car himself to school, just keep going.  Maybe Johnny gets to recess and all the teachers are playing on the slides and swings while Johnny has playground duty.

When he gets home he might first take off his socks and then his shoes.

Customize the difficulty of the hidden sillies to the level of your child’s problem solving skills.  Chances are they will love this game enough to turn the tables and see if you can catch the silliness in their own stories!

4. Pattern Blocks

Pattern blocks or tangrams (the colorful blocks that come in different geometrical shapes) provide fun problem solving activities simply by being played with.

If you want to increase the challenge, a quick google search will pull up hundreds of patterns to print and copy.  Your preschooler will be proud of the intricate designs he can create just by following the cards.

This is a great independent activity when you need some quiet time for yourself or you can build something and ask your child to copy it. Take turns trying to stump each other with your designs.

5. Fort Building and Escaping Lava Alligators

Every child must build a fort in their living room. It’s a rite of passage.

Equally, they must pretend the living room floor is lava filled with alligators and use your couch cushions to create a safe route around them.

Whether you set out materials or just consciously ignore your urge to remind your preschooler that the couch cushions are not trampolines, this creative game is an exercise in solving problems — albeit imaginary ones.

The easiest materials for fort building are sheets and clothespins, but anything your child finds is fine.

To escape Lava Alligators, the appropriate tools are (unfortunately) your favorite couch cushions, but Lava Alligators can also be rehomed to the driveway with hand drawn sidewalk chalk squares working as the safety stones if necessary.

6. Build a Maze

Using blocks, chairs, cardboard boxes, or masking tape you can create a maze for your preschooler to get lost in while working on his critical problem solving skills. It can be small enough for his cars to drive through or big enough for him to walk through.

Be warned, giant cardboard mazes in the backyard have a tendency to attract all the neighborhood kids for a full afternoon of problem-solving fun.

You may end up being forever known as the Coolest Mom on the Block.

We hope you can handle that.

7. Pack my Bag

With Pack my Bag, your preschooler can prepare for a real trip or an imaginary one.  Have him help you prepare for the day’s activities by asking him questions.

What does the weather look like outside? What clothes should we wear? Will we need an umbrella, sunscreen, or a parka?

After we get out of the pool, we will want to get dry, so what will we need? I think we will be gone a while, do you think someone will get hungry?

My example questions might be too direct or just enough depending on your preschooler’s current problem solving skills. The trick is to ask questions that lead him just enough, but still give him some thinking work to do on his own.

8. Preschool Detective

This game can be done with or without the detective hat and magnifying glass.  In this game, Mom gives a clue about an object, then preschooler makes a guess.

Likely she will guess wrong after just one clue, so Mom will provide another one and she can guess again.  This keeps going until the preschooler has guessed correctly. Here’s an example of how this game could go:

Mom: I’m thinking of something big and soft

Preschooler: A bear?

Mom: Nope, it’s something you keep in the house.

Preschooler: The rug?

Mom: Not quite.  It’s something that you use at night and should be in right now, but you’ve left it three times to ask for another glass of water.

Preschooler: My bed?

Mom: That’s right! You win!

As her problem solving skills increase, the clues can be made harder encouraging her to ask more questions.

This is a fun game as is, or can be played with a point system where the preschooler gets a point for each incorrect guess. Each time she plays, she can try to finish with fewer points than the last time.

Usually, no prize is needed for this game, but if this exact scenario arises, a one-way trip back to the above-mentioned bed with one last Mom tuck-in is a fantastic grand prize for guessing.

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Jodi Burnett

About the Author

Jodi Burnett creates educational content for the Atlas Mission . In an earlier life, she used to write the parenting column for a leading regional newspaper, the Tremonton Leader. She now spends her days researching educational methods, playing with microscopes, homeschooling her 4 children, and having a crazy time learning out in the world alongside her kids. She lives near the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake City with her husband, 4 children, and a chubby snorting pug.

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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

problem solving game 2 year old

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 .

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.

Boy thinking about a problem

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 :

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 will also form a large part of academic life as teachers will be actively developing this skill through various activities, for example:

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

Lady at work doing problem solving

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.

Pinterest image - 10 simple activities to teach problem solving.

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?

Mom and child constructing

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:

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.

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:

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.

problem solving game 2 year old

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:

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.

problem solving game 2 year old

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:

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.

problem solving game 2 year old

Card games like Go Fish are also great for teaching young children to think ahead and solve problems.

8.  Tic-Tac-Toe

This is a perfect game to teach decision-making skills , thinking before acting and weighing up the possible consequences.

Tic-tac-toe game

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:

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.

Get FREE access to Printable Puzzles, Stories, Activity Packs and more!

Join Empowered Parents + and you’ll receive a downloadable set of printable puzzles, games and short stories , as well as the Learning Through Play Activity Pack which includes an entire year of activities for 3 to 6-year-olds. Access is free forever.

Signing up for a free Grow account is fast and easy and will allow you to bookmark articles to read later, on this website as well as many websites worldwide that use Grow .

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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

Tanja Mcilroy

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

Thanks Ann.

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


Problem Solving Activities for Toddlers

Problem solving activities for toddlers

Benefits of Problem Activities for Toddlers

No matter how hard we work to protect our children, there are always going to be challenges that they will have to work through and overcome. As adults, we problem solve every single day, using the tools we learned throughout our life to help us navigate our daily lives. Children also encounter many problems that need solving. 

For example, your child may find themselves fighting with another classmate over the same tiara in dress up or they might run out of a specific paint color during arts and crafts. Problems are always around us! With this in mind, it’s important to help your child work on problem solving! 

So, even if we can’t solve our kids’ problems, we can help them learn the skills necessary to solve and conquer the problems coming their way, setting them up for future success. 

What are problem solving activities?

To help work on your child’s problem solving skills, it's important to know what a problem solving activity is! Essentially, a problem solving activity presents your child with a challenge they must solve using the knowledge provided within the activity or event. Your child uses their resources and current knowledge, along with potentially your help, to accomplish their goal. 

Within a problem solving activity there is always one, if not more, solutions. Your child works on skills such as adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness, critical thinking, active listening, decision making, and even vulnerability. 

Problem solving activities can be more than some of the immediate things that come to mind. You may immediately think of math problems or hypothetical situations that they could solve. These are great options! But there are plenty more out there. 

Here are some examples that involve problem solving and activities ideas that go with them! 

Simple problem solving activities for toddlers

Even if you don’t have blocks, there are plenty of toys that can be stacked or objects that you have around your home! Playing cards, legos, shoes, toilet paper rolls, and plastic plates/utensils are some great and easy options!  

With any toy, make sure your child is not at risk of choking or swallowing the toy parts. Check out our parent's guide to toy safety  to help you feel safe and secure with the toys you have at home! 

The people behind board games put a lot of thought and effort into the rules and purpose of their game! Your child is being challenged appropriately for their age while having fun! 

problem solving activities for infants and toddlers

When creating a story, try to incorporate a conflict for your child to come up with a solution for. Perhaps without even realizing it, your child is working on problem solving while having fun! 

Cognitive problem solving activities for toddler 

In order to win, your child must remember where the matching card lays! 

Be Creative!

Problem solving occurs whether the environment is controlled or uncontrolled, meaning even if you don’t intend for a problem, it can happen anywhere and at any time. Use these moments as teaching moments! You don’t need a formal plan to help your child work on problem solving as a skill. Instead, use the world around you! 

How can I help my toddler with problem solving?

Now, you may be wondering, “How exactly do I work on and/or teach problem solving?”. You now understand what a problem solving activity is, but you now need to actually try one out. Here are some ideas for you to use as inspiration! 

Work alongside your child!

Having your support will help your child feel comfortable to ask questions and think through the problem in front of them. At times, it's important to allow your child to figure out a problem or toy on their own! Here at ToyVentive we highly recommend Montessori toys that emphasize independent play, but we also know the value of being a source of support for your child. 

Prompt your child through questions

At times, the only thing standing between your child and a solution is the right question being asked. Communication is so important in problem solving at any age! Emphasize asking and answering questions to help your child understand the importance of talking out a problem. 

Make sure they understand what the problem is 

Similar to asking the right questions, make sure your child understands what the problem exactly is in front of them. If they don’t understand this, they’re likelihood of solving the activity is very low. Have them verbally identify the problem so you know they are on the right track for success! 

Offer alternative solutions! 

Oftentimes, there are multiple solutions to a single problem. After your child has taken the time to come up with a solution, consider throwing out other options! This will help them see the problem in new ways and that there isn’t always one way to approach a problem. This creates conversation between you and your child! 

Make the activity fun and lighthearted! 

Problem solving can be scary. Your child is working on their vulnerability and confidence by offering up a solution to a newly presented problem. If they get it wrong, encourage them to try again and emphasize that it's okay to be wrong. If they feel comfortable, they are more likely to offer up answers and try out new solutions. 

Allow them to fail! 

As harsh as it sounds, failing is inevitable. However, it's an important lesson that can be applied to many aspects of life. Oftentimes failing leads to a new and better solution. Talk to them about why that solution didn’t work so they can learn from the moment. If you see them working in a way that won’t lead them to success, don’t intervene. Rather, watch, assess, and use this failure as motivation to keep trying. 

problem solving games for 1 year olds

How do you teach preschool problem solving?

In teaching anything, it's important to engage your child in the lesson. Customize your activity to your child’s interests. Food is a great tool. If your child loves bananas, consider talking about bananas in your activity. For example, think about a simple math problem. You could ask your child if they had three bananas and they ate one, how many would be left? This will help your child be interested and want to learn. 

Also, make the activity relevant to what your child is learning about. Your little one may be working on feelings and understanding many different emotions. Create an activity with hypothetical situations and ask your child what they would do and how they would feel. They can incorporate their knowledge on emotions while working on figuring out how to solve certain situations. 

If your child is in school, ask them about what they are learning. Not only do you show interest in their life, but you are also gaining valuable knowledge that you can use at home! 

Consider purchasing premade toys that emphasize problem solving! We know you don’t always have the time to come up with activities and lesson plans. Check out our products for some great options! With each of our toys , your child is faced with a unique set of challenges. 

With our wooden activity cube , your toddler has a variety of problems to solve. Each side offers a new challenge.  

Montessori toys for babies

With our puzzles , your child begins to understand and conceptualize size and shape. Check out this article for new ways to play with puzzles!

Even if you don’t use our products or want to clutter your house with a new toy, your environment is full of options for your child to problem solve. If you use your creativity, your child will also work on their own! 

Emphasize patience 

In problem solving, the answer is not always an easy solution, especially for children still learning so much about the world around them. For your toddler, it can be easy for feelings of frustration and anger to take over. Let them feel whatever they feel. It’s so important to validate and affirm feelings; however, use this as an opportunity to teach patience as well! 

Tell them that even you as an adult struggle with frustration. It’s a lifelong struggle! However, just like anything, practice makes perfect. As long as you put in the effort, you’ll get a result. 

At any age, problem solving is no easy task. But, the younger you start to work on problem solving, the easier it will be to solve challenges as you grow. When your child is an adult, they will need to problem solve in their workplace and in their personal life. The younger you start teaching them, the stronger and more effective their skills will be! 

We hope you found this blog helpful and as a great starting point in helping your 2-3 year old solve their current or future problems! Comment down below any challenges or successes you have found! 

Activity cube large toddler

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The Ultimate List of Creative Problem Solving Activities for Toddlers

We will explore problem solving skills, milestones and creative problem solving examples for kids that you will have fun trying with your little one.

Let’s Define Problem Solving

It’s simple. Problem solving is a skill set used by your baby that incorporates his or her ability to perceive, think, and gain understanding about his or her world; including remembering and decision-making. All of these problem solving skills are also known as cognitive skills .

Purposeful Problem Solving

Problem solving is a skill that begins early in your baby’s life. But there is a difference between simple problem solving and purposeful problem solving. Let’s explain.

Purposeful problem solving involves an intended action to achieve a desired result. Your child will use a specific problem solving approach to achieve this. They may include:

Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming obstacles is a necessity in becoming good at problem solving . There are times when you will be convinced that your child is a genius with the clever ways he can overcome the obstacles that stand in his way!

Everyday Problems and Solutions

Make way for your little creative thinker! Overcoming obstacles in clever ways is what your little one does best. These clever ways are not always verbal (especially at a younger age), it is important to practice nonverbal problem solving activities. So, what will your baby’s creative problem solving abilities look like? Take a look at two examples of problem solving life skills activities:

Life Problem: Your child sees her bottle sticking out of the diaper bag that is slightly out of reach. Solution: Your child pulls at the strap of the diaper bag to pull it closer to her.

Life Problem: Your child sees his favorite toy on the other side of the laundry basket. Solution: He crawls around the laundry basket to get his toy.

Understanding Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is your child’s ability to communicate, think, and problem solve. As your child grows, his or her brain is growing as well. As your child’s cognitive skills become more developed, the more he or she will begin to explore their world and test things in his or her environment. Understanding your baby’s cognitive development is key to chosing the best activities to help your baby master his or her problem solving skills.

Resist Coming to the Rescue

One great tip for parents is to not be so quick to come to the aid of your child when he or she faces small everyday problems. By allowing your baby the time and space to figure things out for himself, you help him build confidence and grow his ability to problem solve.

Tips for Easy Creative Problem Solving Activities

We at ADAM & Mila wish to provide practical and easy to apply ideas for fun and educational activities. There is a variety of easy brain boosting activities to stimulate your baby’s brain, increase his or her critical thinking skills , and help your little one become a great problem solver. There are a lot of activities that you can do with your child.

Problem Solving Activities For Infants

Problem Solving Activities For Toddlers

Problem Solving Activities For Children Age 2-3

The Milestones of Developing Methodical Problem Solving Skills

Below we have collected all the milestones your child will go through month-by-month as he or she acquire these critical problem solving skills.

That Second Reach

Development Milestone emerges from age 5 to 7 months.

At about 5 months old, your child will begin to purposely reach for second objects while still holding on to the first one. For example, while holding one toy in his hands, he may use his other hand to reach for a second toy. He does not, however, have to necessarily pick it up.

Works for It

Development Milestone emerges from age 5 to 9 months.

Now, your baby’s movements start to demonstrate clear purpose, intention, and persistence while repeatedly reaching for objects. This is when your child will try and try again to get that ball he really wants that is out of his reach. He may reach, stretch, or even wiggle to get it.

Drops Object to Pick Up New Object

Development Milestone emerges from age 6 to 8 months.

At this age, if your little one is holding an object or toy in each of her hands, she may drop one of them to pick up a new object without even thinking about it. She isn’t yet purposefully trying to think of a way to hold all three, which is why she will drop one toy to get the new one.

Reaches for New Object While Holding Two

Development Milestone emerges from age 8 to 10 months.

Unlike the stage before, this time when your child is holding an object in each of his hands, he will attempt to pick up a third one without dropping the ones he is already holding. There is a thought process of how to hold the third item, whether it is by adjusting his grasp on the current two items, reaching with his mouth for the third item or coming up with another way.

Pulling It Closer

Now, when your child sees his favorite toy resting on a towel or sheet out of reach, he will simply purposely pull the towel or sheet with the toy on it closer to him. Observe this milestone on your child by simply placing a toy on a towel on the floor and see what your child does.

Development Milestone emerges from age 8 to 11 months.

Nothing is going to stop your little one from getting to the toy he wants! Not a box, laundry basket, or pillow. At this age, your baby will figure out a way to get that toy he wants, even if he has to push, reach above, or move around something to get it.

Getting in Motion to Grab an Object

Development Milestone emerges from age 9 to 12 months.

Now, your child is ready to crawl, creep, scoot, roll, climb, or walk to get to that toy she wants! You can test to see if your child has mastered this milestone by placing a toy that has multiple pieces like a stacking toy around the room. Place the base of the stacking toy by your child and the rings around the room and watch as your child problem solves to find the rings and bring them back to the base.

Pulling Toy Horizontally by a Handle or Strap

This stage shows your child’s understanding of how two objects are connected and how one can influence the movement of the other. So, you may see your child pull at a shoestring to get her shoe or the strap of a diaper bag to get her bottle or sippy cup.

Pulling Toy Vertically by a Handle or Strap

Development Milestone emerges from age 13 to 15 months.

Now that she has mastered pulling horizontally at a string or strap of an object to bring it closer to her, she will begin to pull at strings or straps that are hanging to pull an object up to her. For example, she may pull a string or plastic chain link of a toy dangling from her high chair.

Flips Over Container to Get to Small Objects

Development Milestone emerges from age 12 to 18 months.

When trying to get at a small object inside of a container, your baby will likely try to get at it by poking his finger in it or shaking it. However, after showing him how, your baby will flip over the container and begin to shake it until the desired object falls out.

Simple Problem Solving with Tools

Development Milestone emerges from age 17 to 24 months.

At this stage, your child will use an unrelated object to get the object she actually wants. For example, she may grab a nearby stick (or spatula) to get her favorite toy out from underneath the couch or she may invent other ways to solve her problem of getting her favorite toy out.

Turning Doorknobs

Development Milestone emerges from age 21 to 23 months.

Now, the fun begins (depending on your idea of fun) because your toddler has figured out that he or she can get to the other side of the door by simply turning the doorknob. This means you need to do another round of baby proofing. A door is no longer an obstacle.

These are some of the many milestones that your child is mastering as he or she is growing from infant to toddler. Your baby’s ability to problem solve is an important one. It can also be a lot of fun to help them along the way as that skill continues to develop. It is important to note that every baby learns at his or her own pace. So, don’t worry if your baby isn’t doing what your neighbor’s kid was doing at that age. Always speak to your pediatrician for serious concerns. Otherwise, try out some fun activities with your baby that we know will benefit both you and your child. Oh, and remember to have fun!

We hope that this article was helpful to you. We would love to know what you think! Please share our article with others who might benefit from it.

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April 3, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Enjoyed reading your article on early childhood growth and thinking process for problem solving. Helpful

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You Can Do It: Teaching Toddlers Problem-Solving Skills

You Can Do It: Teaching Toddlers Problem-Solving Skills on  https://va.gapitc.org

Problem-solving skills are necessary for early childhood development

Problem-solving skills build upon how toddlers sense, think, and understand the world around them, making them vital for early childhood development. By being active participants in exploration, toddlers learn to make connections they can apply to other areas of life through new experiences.

Luckily, curiosity and play-based activities come naturally to toddlers. But you can encourage them to develop problem-solving skills by showing them exercises and activities that will inspire them to think creatively and critically.

Identify the problem

Problem-solving means finding solutions to a problem. And the ability to solve problems requires mental development, which toddlers need to think, communicate, and take action.

In terms of cognitive development, problem-solving skills include the following:

Toddlers are like little scientists constantly experimenting with cause and effect, socially and physically. This interest is a marker for the development of problem-solving skills, so keep their natural efforts focused to encourage their problem-solving.

Determine the solution

Although as adults we are inclined to help toddlers, letting them solve problems on their own helps them learn better problem-solving skills. Independence will also encourage them to develop the confidence needed for more advanced problem-solving.

The language you use to address a toddler or answer their questions also presents an opportunity to teach problem-solving. Ask a toddler for their opinion on or interpretation of a problem, and make an effort to guide them toward their own solution. Ask questions that start with what , why , how , when , where , and who , and look to them for answers.

Aside from giving a toddler independence to play and learn, consider the following simple activities to promote their problem-solving:

Challenging a toddler to solve problems doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive, but you should do so while they’re still young. Investing time and effort into helping them learn these skills now will give them a foundation to overcome obstacles independently throughout life. The VA Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.

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Parenting and motherhood in the midst of military life

50+ Best Simple Games for 2 Year Olds and Up

collage of games inside the post

The ultimate list of games for 2 year olds includes board games, DIY games, classic games, free online games and apps, learning games. All of these can help boost your child’s focus, memory, problem-solving, teamwork and critical thinking skills.

Post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

“For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play.” ~ Penelope Leach

On This Page…

What are the best games for 2 year olds, benefits of games with toddlers..

When I’m looking for a toddler game, I’m looking for a couple of things:

1. Is it easy to set up and put away?  If you have a 2 year old not listening , you don’t want a huge mess to clean up.

2. Is it taste safe?  If your child likes to put things in their mouths, this is something to consider.

3. Is it something your child can be successful with?  No need to purposely instigate a toddler tantrum .

4. Does it involve some fine motor or gross motor movement? Young children want to move , not sit still for periods of time.

At first glance, a game seems like a simple way to occupy your child and maybe have a moment of peace.

Surprisingly, you are accomplishing so much more when playing ANY kind of game with a child!

In just twenty minutes of game play with your kids, you can help your child develop:

That’s some pretty serious parenting multi-tasking if you ask me!

The  Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University shares that when you play many kinds of games with your kids, you help them develop executive function skills.

Translation: Playing games develops the awesome brain skills listed above.

Let’s dive into the many types of awesome games for 2 year olds!

Best board games and learning puzzles and toys.

1. Coogam Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game

2. Haba First Orchard Cooperative Board Game

3. Interactive Pound a Mole Game

4. Think Fun Roll and Play Game 

5. Stepping Stones Obstacle Course Coordination Game

6. Bean Bag Toss Game for Kids

Collage of activities and puzzles.

7. Montessori Shape Sorting Puzzle

8. Animals Sorting and Stacking Game

9. Peaceable Kingdom Monkey Around Game

10. Ladybug Montessori Memory Game (So much fun!)

11. Farm animals barn set board game

12. Stepping Stones Active Movement Game

13. Daniel Tiger’s Welcome to Mainstreet

Collage of games for 2-4 year olds.

14. The Elephant Stacking Tower Game

15. Peaceable Kingdom Where’s Bear?

16. Eric Carle Brown Bear, Brown Bear Puzzle Pairs

17. CozyBomB Magnetic Wooden Fishing Game

18. Seek-a-Boo

Collage of board games you can play with your 2 year old.

19. Acorn Soup

20. Gamewright Hiss Card Game

21. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game

22. Mollybee Toddler Scavenger Hunt Cooperative Game

23. Montessori Magnetic Worm Toy

Find a comprehensive list of best board games for 2 year olds here .

Fun DIY Games (Using things you already have at home!)

Many of these are educational games that you can create at home, and most of the time, they are created using things you already have on hand. No need to head to the store.

Bonus: I often find that my kids love a homemade game better than a traditional board game. And they like to help set it up too! When kids help create what they play with, they are naturally more inclined to use it and enjoy it.

Skills often learned during these games include:

1. Montessori Games for 2 Year Olds

2. Sorting Games for Toddlers

3. Alphabet Matching Game

4. Pool Noodle Fishing Game

5. Straw Sorting Game

6. Feed the Bunny Color Game

7. Matching Game with Socks

8. 40+ Painters Tape Games

Collage of games you can make at home for your 2 year old or 3 year old.

9. 10 Games Using Only Hands / Voice / Body

10. DIY Emotion Card Games

11. Printable Roll-A-Shape Game

12. Sidewalk Chalk Game

13. Flashlight Games

14. Car-Parking Numbers Game

15. Post It Name Game for Kids

16. DIY Rainbow Game (Printable Board Game)

Collage of easy diy games.

17. Indoor Scavenger Hunt Game

18. Construction Pom-Pom Sort Game (Super cute!)

19. Fishing Fun Number Recognition Game

20. Pom-Pom Color Match Game

21. Ball Games for 2 Year Olds

22. DIY Printable Dice Game for Toddlers

Top Picks for Classic Games

These are great for preschoolers too!

1. Simon Says

One person is Simon or Elmo or Dora or Spiderman or Teacher or Whoever, and this person is the “leader.” Simon gives a set of instructions and everyone else follows. The person who doesn’t follow the instructions is “out.” And the person who follows the instructions throughout the game, wins Simon Says.

2. Red Light, Green Light

One person is the leader who calls out “Red Light” or “Green Light.” When the leader calls out “Red Light,” everyone stops. When the leader calls out “Green Light,” everyone goes. Anyone who doesn’t stop or freeze during “Red Light” is out.

3. Follow the Leader

Take a walk around your house or outside and whatever you (or the leader) does, everyone else must follow. This is a great game to allow your child to be the leader and have you follow your child. It’s a perfect opportunity to model following directions for your child!

4. Visual Direction “Games”

With kids, visual directions are so important! You can make life simpler and fun using visual directions for your kids, such as  a printable daily schedule for kids .

visual routine cards with morning routine

5. Scavenger Hunt

You can do a verbal version of this and just tell your child what you’ll be looking for next, or you can find some pictures of items, print it out, and have your child look for these items around the house, and mark them off as they find each item.

6. Dance Party

Turn up the music and have a dance party. 2-year-olds have a lot to teach us when it comes to unhindered dance moves!

7. Count and Clap

Clap for certain number of times while counting aloud. Have your child repeat the claps the same number of times. Keep going with different numbers 1-10.

8. Draw on Back

Draw letters or numbers on your child’s back and have them guess the letter. Then have the child draw a letter or number on your back and you have to guess what it is.

9. Hide and Seek

Have your child hide while you count to 10. Find your child. Then have your child count (if they can’t, it’s okay. Have them pretend) and come find you.

problem solving game 2 year old

10. Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Music games for 2 year olds are my favorite because they keep a toddler engaged and happy!

You and your child sing the song while pointing to your heads, shoulders, knees, and toes. Speed it up to make it more challenging, and throw in some different body parts—eyes, elbows, mouths, and nose—to mix it up. Or leave out one of the body parts to see your child is paying attention.

Other song games include:

11. Freeze Dance

Find a great dance song and and your child dances. Stop the music at various intervals and your child has to freeze in whatever crazy dance position they’re in.

12. Sleeping Lions (or Bears)

Ask the kids to lie on the floor as still as they can possibly be. Each person that moves is out. And the person who stays the most still wins.

13. Pretend to Be Animals

Turn on some fun songs and have the kids pretend to be different animals.

14. Keep the Balloon Up

Blow up a few balloons and have your child try to keep them in the air. 

Free Online Toddler Games and Apps

I try to avoid screens as much as possible with a 2 year old. But the reality is this: Sometimes technology comes in real handy when your child is “on the verge” and you need to wait for a long period of time.

Keep these apps as a backup if you need it!

Collage of app icons listed in post.

1. PBS Kids Games | iPhone | Android

2. ABC Mouse (Free for first 30 days) | iPhone | Android

3. LEGO® DUPLO® World | iPhone | Android

4. Peek-a-Zoo | iPhone

5.Toca Kitchen Monsters | iPhone

6. Balloon Pop | iPhone | Android

Games Keep Kids Happy and Mom Sane

While I wouldn’t say that games for 2 year olds are my favorite time of day (I prefer naptime ☺️), they are a fantastic way to help your child develop awesome brain skills, break up the day, keep kids engaged, moving and happy.

This is all a huge stress relief to me as a parent.

“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

Want more on parenting?

I've created a free email series just for you!

If you are struggling with feeling happy in motherhood, let me help you streamline your family's daily routines so you can enjoy your family life without the stress. Yes, really. I've seen my routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.

This free email series will help you:

Routines with kids email series for parents

About Lauren Tamm

I'm Lauren, a military spouse and Language of Listening® master parent coach. I write about my crazy parenting adventures, discovering happiness in motherhood and navigating the ups and downs of military life. I spend my days re-heating coffee while chasing my kids around the house. Hang around for a bit and join the fun!

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Ashlee overdick.

problem solving game 2 year old

Love the listening course and the routine card printables and listening workbook so far. Listening has been our biggest challenge lately. My son was flat out just ignoring our voices. I started implementing the strategies yesterday and it was such smooth sailing all day long. Not only that, but the empathy statements and “turning a no into a yes” actually had my three year old saying “okay, mom” happily and complying right away without fighting or tears, by the end of the day! And it has worked wonders for my mood and frustration level when the arguing and tears are not averted. Trying to keep the 5:1 ratio has made me realize what a bad habit I’d fallen into. It becomes so easy to give commands and warnings and issue no’s, that you forget to take notice of the good! I feel so much better, as a mom, now that I’m intentionally encouraging my kid for his strengths. Thank you so much!

Megan Schrag

problem solving game 2 year old

I have been reading your blog now for a few months and I really respect your advice and ideas. I also signed up for your “better listening” email series and have been learning a ton and working on implementing your advice with my 21 month & 3 1/2 year olds. They are responding well and I am looking particularly forward to working through these strategies with my youngest. He is as sharp as a tack and just coming into his own now. These tools are great and it’s awesome to have been equipped with  them right as he’s coming into the defiance stage. I feel much more confident in my ability to manage the challenges of this stage now. Thank you!

Heather Goffrier

problem solving game 2 year old

I picked up these routine cards this week from The Military Wife and Mom because my 3 year old tends to put up a fight when getting ready to leave the house, or go to bed. Or eat a meal. Or start her day. These made a HUGE difference in like one day.

Instead of reminding and counting down and trying to avoid meltdowns, last night we sang the Olaf song as she cheerfully picked out her Olaf underwear and put them on.

This morning she pumped her fist and said, “the last one is ‘comb hair!’” before she came into the bathroom and started brushing her own hair. I’m sold! I truly love these and think any toddler mom could benefit!

I’m loving receiving your emails. What strategies you suggest are common knowledge, but having the time to sit back and think about them is another thing.  I have used the 2 choices a lot this week. It’s amazing how it can work. Our power struggles have decreased, kids have been getting along together better. I know it has been only a week, but it feels like a massive change. I wish I had have signed up for emails 3 weeks ago and used the strategies on their school holidays lol.

Nikki Olson

problem solving game 2 year old

Right before I gave up, I came across your site from Pinterest. My heart sunk and I signed up for your daily email list of listening. Every morning I received an email from you before I got out of the bed for the day, which couldn’t have been more perfect and encouraging to start the days. I immediately put your advice in action. My husband and I saw a different child within minutes . It’s been a few weeks since I started and the list could go on! I’m really grateful I came across your site! It changed my relationship 180°. Thank you said so much! I’ve already shared your link with my family and friends! I think every parent needs to read this!

problem solving game 2 year old

Oh my goodness. I needed this so much. I stumbled upon another post of yours on Pinterest, and it lead me here. My 2 year is soooo strong willed. This had me in tears because finally someone gets it! Without wanting to admit it… I needed some help. Thank you so much for putting this out there.

problem solving game 2 year old

I am so glad I came across your blog. This really opened my eyes as to why my nearly 2 year-old son will not listen. I was reaching my limit with him not listening, and the techniques you share here are exactly what I need.

problem solving game 2 year old

A quick thank you while my 15 month old son is sleeping. So glad I found you on my motherhood journey.  After 17 years of being childless (but envisioning a future life with a calm and peaceful soul), I gave birth at 43 to a larger-than-life, highly spirited, vocal baby whom I couldn’t relate to. Everyday has been a challenge to meet his ever increasing needs.  Your guidance has helped organize me and prepare me mentally more than any other blog or support group, thank you .

Articles & Guides

8 pre-K games to teach problem-solving skills

If you're looking for some great problem-solving activities for toddlers and pre-K kids, look no further. These games can bring them all those benefits and more.

Keren Perles

8 pre-K games to teach problem-solving skills

You want to build your child’s problem-solving skills, but you aren’t sure how. Although talking about hypothetical problems may seem like the obvious choice, consider using a game instead.

“Games are fun and bring joy to the child and give them a sense of accomplishment,” says Barbie Gallini, who has over 20 years’ experience working with children and is the co-founder of  Robots and Mud Pies Preschool . “Games also provide bonding time with parents, family and friends.”

Pre-K games that involve problem solving can bring you and your child together — if you give them a chance.

“Many parents shy away from problem-solving games,” says Darla Hutson, creator of The Preschool Toolbox  blog and family child care owner with 34 years’ experience, “as they are not sure exactly how to play them or what kinds of games enhance critical thinking.”

If you’re looking for some great pre-K games and activities that will build your child’s problem-solving skills, look no further. Here are eight games that can bring them all those benefits and more:

1. Off the Ground

This game is perfect for a cluttered playroom or a small living room. Challenge preschoolers to work together to create a way to walk around the entire room without touching the ground. That might mean stretching from a chair onto a trampoline, then walking across a pool noodle to reach a small table. Encourage children to be creative, and then to try out their plans.

2. Treasure Hunt

Not only is a treasure hunt a great way to build problem-solving skills, it can also teach kids how to work together, an integral part of most preschool activities. Decide on 5 to 10 locations around the house and write out one clue to place at each location. Each clue should lead to the next clue. At the end of the clue trail, leave something exciting like a snack or the next fun activity.

Putting together a puzzle teaches preschoolers how to use trial and error, as well as fine motor skills and visual cues, to create the final picture. You can play a game with puzzles by challenging preschoolers to try to beat their best time to complete one. Alternatively, let preschoolers make their own puzzles out of crayons, paper and scissors. Then they can swap with a friend and race to see who can complete each other’s puzzle first.

4. Paper Airplane Race

Preschoolers can learn how to create a basic paper airplane with practice. You can challenge them to take it a step further, however, by asking them to create an airplane that can fly the farthest. They’ll need to use their problem-solving skills to figure out how each change slightly affects the way the plane flies.

5. Dotted Squares

This classic game is fun for preschoolers to play with each other or an adult. Make rows of dots — five dots in each of five rows, for starters — and then take turns drawing one line to connect the dots horizontally or vertically. Players who complete a box can write their initials in the box and take another turn. The goal is to claim as many boxes as possible.

6. Skyscraper

Does your preschooler love to build? If so, hold a contest to see who can build the tallest skyscraper in a given amount of time. You can use whatever building materials you have available — blocks, Legos or other building toys — but emphasize that the “skyscraper” needs to stand independently. Children will realize that they need to think before they begin in order to create a sturdy structure.

7. Engineering Games

Gallini has several  engineering games  on her preschool’s website that can be helpful for nannies or babysitters of preschoolers. For example, she suggests providing children with blocks, a piece of wood, balls and colored tape. Challenge students to use the blocks to build a ramp for the ball to roll down that will make the ball reach a given line of tape. Alternatively, you can challenge children to create a building using pipe cleaners. Can they make it stable enough to remain standing?

8. Commercial Games

While homemade games are always fun, many commercial games can teach problem-solving skills as well. Cooperative games, such as  Max ,  Harvest Time  or  Richard Scarry’s Busytown , can teach kids to work together to solve problems.

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problem solving game 2 year old


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