Modeling gives children a start on problem-solving skills, but to fully learn something, a person needs to practice. You could wait until a problem arises and use it to teach, which is the next step after this one, but finding a way to teach these skills before a problem arises will give your child an advantage. Often, in the midst of a problem, children will automatically resort to methods that have worked in the past. Emotions lead and this can make a problem even greater. Let’s look at ways to create opportunities for your child to practice problem-solving skills.
Rained Out Picnic
Remember that trip to the park? This is an excellent opportunity to have your child figure out what can be done to alleviate the stress and disappointment. State the problem, which is not being able to have a picnic at the park, and then ask your child what he thinks you can do instead. He may surprise you by suggesting you have an indoor picnic or make an indoor fort, or even both. At first, you will need to lead your child toward solutions, but before long he will come up with suggestions on his own.
Search and Find
Say you have “accidentally” lost your keys right before you need to run errands. Have your child come up with suggestions on where to look. This can work on anything that is lost. Start by saying, “I had them when I walked in the door.” then see if he can follow a logical path through the house to find the keys. For younger kids, you can coach by asking “Where did I go next?” Praise him for his problem-solving skills when the keys are found.
When you do things like put together an item or make a meal or even plan a vacation, allow your child to be a part of it. Help him learn to recognize what the problem is, what the final result needs to be and the steps to get from Point A to Point B. You are giving him the opportunity to determine what tools he needs to succeed, such as measuring cups or brochures to vacation spots.
Set up situations where he has to choose between two or three equally enjoyable activities. Help him determine the good points and decide which is likely to be the most enjoyable. Start to make a recipe and “discover” you are missing an important ingredient and ask him to help decide what you can do. Place objects just out of his reach and then later ask him to retrieve the item. By giving him the chance to figure out solutions now, with you there to guide him, he has more of a chance of learning and using these skills later.
There are many opportunities to set up problem-solving opportunities but the real test will come in the midst of an actual problem. Next time, we will talk about how to use actual problems as teaching opportunities.
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