Problem solvers have a great advantage in life. When faced with a dilemma their natural reaction is to begin looking for solutions. Problem solvers tend to see failures as one step closer to family and a successful solution.
Children can learn to be great problem solvers. Critical thinking is something that can be encouraged with a variety of activities. It can begin at a very young age and grow with the child.
Puzzles are all about learning how things fit together and trying several times you get it right. A puzzle is a problem that has to be solved. Children are simply playing and that is how they learn. Parent reinforce the learning by pointing out how they solved the puzzle.
Even the simplest stacking rings that children play with improve critical thinking and problem solving.
– Allow the child to experience consequences
It is not easy to watch a child struggle with failure and mistakes. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do, is let them have the struggle and work through it. Other times parents may want to remove the child from the situation, talk them through some possible outcomes and then send them back to the project.
With younger children, clay comes to mind. They try and make something and it does not turn out. It is a tragedy. Point out that they can start over and try again.
Older children may not get all the answers correct on a test. Ask them if they know where to find the right answers and suggest they do so.
– Explore possible outcomes
When reading books talk about possible outcomes. “What if something happens and they don’t find the car?” This is fun for the kids. Even though they have read the book 50 times, they will come up with new scenarios. It is great practice for exploring possible solutions.
– Talk openly about every day choices
Every day families make 100’s of little choices and decisions. If a child is included in the process they are familiar with problem solving.
“We overslept this morning, and we need a quick breakfast. How can we solve this problem?”
“It looks like it is raining today so there will be no soccer games. What can we do that would be a good use of our time?”
“You two seem to be fighting over the x-box. Is there something we can do to solve the problem or do we just need to put the x-box away?”
Most children will enjoy problem solving if it begins early and is a part of their everyday routine.