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Billy's Blog

Teaching problem solving skills to kids

Problem solving

As children begin to explore the world around them, they naturally engage in the process of problem solving. “What happens if I…..?” or “I wonder if I can…”  Adults can help them to grasp their independence, gain a sense of self, and pick up the skills to see a dilemma through from start to finish. That’s what problem solving skills are - the tools which allow youngsters to make their own decisions, after weighing up the pros and cons of their actions. And these lessons lead to success both inside and outside the classroom.

One of the main benefits of children coming to Barracudas is that we put them in situations which may be outside of their comfort zone just a little – and then take a guiding role to seeing them through. We’re always there. But by encouraging kids to consider their own approach to new and different challenges, we watch them grow and develop into confident young people. This may be through specific problem solving games, or simply by spurring them on to attempt something they’ve been nervous to try before.

Problem solving for kids is a process which couldn’t be simpler:

• “I see a problem”
• “Let’s stay calm”
• “What can I do?”
• “Let’s try this”
• “Did it work?” (If the answer is no, go back to step 3)

Depending on their age and stage of development, every child will view problem solving exercises differently. But from the age of 2, youngsters are able to remember how they’ve tackled problems in the past, or how they’ve seen others get past a dilemma. From there, the skills develop into adulthood.

Here are a few ways you can encourage problem solving activities at home, just with everyday issues which might arise.

Don’t intervene
The temptation will be there to fix things for them. But if it’s not too difficult, give them a chance to work it out.

Keep channels open
Communicate – don’t just leave them to their own devices. But ask open-ended questions like “What do you think would work?” Try not to judge their suggestions based on what you would do. They may take a different approach, but get good results.

Let them fail
If they are not likely to hurt themselves, let them try actions which you know are going to fail. Then brainstorm with them about what went wrong. If they try real solutions and discover the consequences for themselves, they’ll know what to do next time.

Empathise and guide
Offer just enough support and comfort if things don’t go as planned, to avoid frustration turning to tantrums.  And guide your child to a solution rather than telling them the answer, with questions like “If we try this, do you think it would work – or should we go another way?”

Make it fun
Problem solving activities for kids can be turned into fun quizzes or treasure hunts, with a small prize or reward at the end to encourage patience and endurance to see a task through from start to finish.

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