Problem solving is the way in which we find solutions to difficult issues. For young children, it is often social problems that they are needing to solve. Effective problem solving skills tend to lead to better outcomes, which make it possible for children to have positive interactions with their peers.
Preschoolers are beginning to seek out playful interactions with their peers, but those interactions are still a bit clumsy at times. This can lead to issues with effectively communicating, sharing, and playing cooperatively. As your preschoolers are learning how to interact with their peers and exploring how things work they will need strong problem solving skills. The best way to teach problem solving in preschool is through play because it offers many meaningful opportunities for them to solve problems.
Stories are a very useful tool in teaching preschoolers problem solving. You can read relatable stories, or tell stories with puppets or dolls, in order to show different scenarios. Ask your preschoolers for suggestions on how the characters in the story can solve their problem. Write their responses down and then talk about what would be the most fair solution that everyone could agree to if it were them.
ENCOURAGE CREATIVE THINKING
When you provide your preschoolers with open-ended materials you are encouraging them to think creatively. Whether it is in the building, blocks, and loose parts center or the art and easel center, open-ended materials allow your preschoolers to come up with their own creations. This requires a lot of forward thinking for planning and experimenting with what will work and what will not.
LET THEM FIND THEIR OWN SOLUTIONS
It is important not to solve preschoolers problems for them. They need opportunities to find solutions to their own problems through trial and error. Finding solutions on their own have a more meaningful impact and therefore will reinforce their learning. Of course, if they appear to be struggling you can do things such as ask questions or make observations to help guide them towards a potential workable solution.
ALLOW FOR NATURAL CONSEQUENCES
With natural consequences, you do not have to interfere at all. Natural consequences are the naturally occurring effects of something that your preschoolers do. Natural consequences make for great teachable moments, as their peers or even nature determine the outcome.
For example, a preschooler may leave a toy that they are playing with on a table while they go to the bathroom. When they come back they find that it is gone and one of their friends is now playing with the toy. Now the child is unable to play with the toy that they were playing with before using the bathroom. Natural consequences showed that leaving the toy on the table was not a good solution. Next time, the child will most likely try leaving their toy somewhere else or asking someone to save it for them.
ACTIVITIES THAT PROMOTE PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS
Play allows for many naturally occurring problem solving opportunities. Here’s a list of activities that will help build problem solving skills in preschoolers.
- Memory games
- Construction toys
- Pattern blocks
- Sort by color, shape, or size
- Working with patterns
- Trains & train tracks
- Process art
Teach your preschoolers problem solving skills through their natural play experiences and they will be better able to solve problems independently. These skills help them with their social interactions and build their confidence and resiliency.