Teaching Problem Solving to Young Children: Passive Problem Solving

learning to problem solveToday I’d like to talk about modeling passive problem solving skills for your young child. Passive problem-solving is the easiest place for a beginner to start as critical thinking skills don’t have to be fully developed.  While there are several passive methods to problem-solving, we will focus on three today: asking for help, waiting and taking a break.

Asking for Assistance 

Doing everything yourself would be wonderful, but we all learn at one point in life that we can’t always do what we set out to achieve.  It may be necessary to ask someone else to help us or even to do whatever needs done. Let’s explore a situation where this might be necessary.

You start to do your weekly laundry and the washing machine won’t stop filling and floods the laundry room.  You have two problems here – the flooded floor and the broken washer.  Instead of silently clenching your teeth as you clean up the mess, start talking to yourself where your child can hear.

“It looks like I have a big problem.  I can fix the mess easily with this mop but I don’t know how to fix washing machines.I will have to ask someone to help me with it.”

When you call for repair, talk about what you are doing as you are calling someone to help.  Once the washer has been repaired, express how happy you are that there was someone who knew how to solve your problem when you asked.


When something goes wrong we have no control over and nobody else can change the problem, it can be extremely frustrating.  At first, waiting may seem like giving up, but it is actually a simple delay.  Today, we have a rained-out trip to the park.

You have packed a picnic, some bread for the ducks and everyone is ready to walk out the door.  A clap of thunder shakes the house and a previously sunny day becomes darkened with rain clouds and the rain is coming down hard.  Everyone is very disappointed because they were looking forward to a morning of fun. Start by noting the problem.

“This is a disappointing problem.  We can’t go to the park in the rain and we can’t make the rain stop. I guess we will have to wait until the rain stops.”

You can go on to mention that it might be sunny in the afternoon or tomorrow and then talk about how the outing will be just as much fun even if you have to wait until the rain stops.

Take a break

Sometimes we try so hard to accomplish something and keep failing.  The more frustrated we get, the harder it becomes.  Yet, if we take a break and come back to it later, everything seems to easily fall into place. Let’s use creating your monthly budget as an example.

In the middle of working on your budget, you can set your pen down and comment, where your child can hear, that something is wrong and the numbers are not coming out correctly. Go on to say something like:

“I’m having a problem finding the error.  Maybe if I take a break and come back to it when I’m not so frustrated I can do better.”

Then get up and do something else and go back to it later.  When you do finish, comment on how glad you were that you took the break because it helped you see the problem with fresh eyes.

Looking Ahead

Next time, we will explore ways to model active problem-solving skills.  In the meantime, practice modeling these passive ones.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at http://www.thomaslearningcenters.com , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: