How do you foster creative problem solving skills in young children? We need the next generation to be able to seek creative alternative solutions to our current world problems. One quick tip is to give them an opportunity to experience problem solving skills in everyday life situations that are important to them. In other words, let them practice.
Here is an example. When we went on vacation my son wanted to bring a suitcase full of his toy trains with all the tracks. I convinced him to bring a few trains, no tracks and some clothes instead. He quickly unpacked his trains upon arrival but was at a loss as to what to substitute for tracks.
Family members suggested he look around the room and see what materials he could find. Several objects where rejected until he came upon some shoes. A few general suggestions were all he needed to spark his own idea and off he went to build a train yard.
It helps young children to witness objects being used for various purposes to learn the versatility they offer. Once a child has their own idea, I’ve learned it’s important to stand back and give them time to pursue it. Often as adults, we want to solve their problems but it’s more valuable if we step back and give them a chance to solve it their own way.
My son decided that each shoe could be a loading dock for his trains. Open-ended objects (like shoes, blocks, pipe cleaners) have the ability to transform and be whatever your child needs them to be for their current game.
The children extended the train yard themselves and built a drawbridge and other features. Games that involve problem solving and creation last much longer than games with set parameters. Open-ended play engages the child’s imagination, challenges them to see objects in new ways and experiment with their own solutions.
The next time a child in your care has a dilemma, consider offering them a few general suggestions and then give them time to practice and experiment with some of their own solutions. It’s fascinating to witness children’s ideas and solutions to their own challenges.
Do you have a tip to share about helping a child develop diverse problem solving skills?