Teaching Children about Problem-Solving Everyday life presents many opportunities for children to engage in identifying problems and generating and trying out solutions. Here are some ideas for in the classroom:
Use naturally occurring opportunities to work problem-solving words into the classroom vocabulary. When there aren’t enough glue sticks or too many people wanting to go in a certain center, say things like, “We have a problem. What can we do to fix it?”
Use naturally occurring problems in small groups to brainstorm possible solutions. Talk about that problem and come up with some ideas that could work to solve the problem.
Use puppets to act out problem situations during group time. Ask the children to come up with a solution for the problem.
When a child asks for help, take the opportunity to involve another child in solving the problem. You can say, “Let’s look and see if one of your friends can help you. Marne, Sheila needs a glue stick and there are no more. Can you help her solve her problem?”
Encourage the children while they are working through a problem and provide them with recognition when they solve it. You can use a situation that ended well as an example to discuss in large group.
Discuss the problems that characters are having in the books you are reading. Brainstorm some possible solutions and guess what they are going to do.
Make up a song about what to do when children have a problem. For example, to the Row, Row, Row Your Boat tune: “Problem, problem, problem, oh what can we do? Stop and think of something new. I’ll try it out with you.”
If similar solutions keep coming up during discussions of problem-solving, start a “Solution Board” that shows the different solutions with an image to represent it. Children can use it to help think of solutions as problems arise, and the teacher can prompt a child to go look at it.