Ideas for Teaching Children about Problem Solving

Ideas for Teaching Children about Problem Solving

Daily Ideas

  • 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 problems, 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 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?”
  • Include a note about a situation that arose at school and how it was solved when reporting to parents. Encourage the parents to ask the children about the problems and offer praise for solving them.
  • Encourage the children while they are working through a problem and praise them 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.
  • Model problem solving with others adults in the classroom. You can make small things into problems large enough to require additional help. For example, if you are preparing for an art activity and the assistant is using your scissors, make it into a problem that needs help. Discuss with the adult and the children in the area what you can do. Try their solutions and discuss the outcome.
  • Make up a song about what to do when children have a problem. For example (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.”

Weekly Ideas

  • 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 they arise, and the teacher can prompt a child to go look at it.
  • Create a problem solving area of the room where you post the visual steps to solving a problem. You can find problem solving steps on the CSEFEL website at Make the solution visuals removable with Velcro or magnets so children can bring the solution to where they are having a problem.
  • Create a “I have been a great problem solver” badge. When you notice a child that has been a good problem solver call attention to the child and what they did to solve the problem. Then give the child the problem solving badge to wear for the day.

Home Ideas

  • When driving in your car or waiting in line, create stories of times your child has a problem at home. Talk through or act out what the child could do at home to solve the problem.
  • Create a solution kit that can be used at home when you child has a problem. Add solutions such as ask a sibling or parent for help, choosing a different toy, or going outside to play. Post them on the fridge for easy access!
This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.