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10 Fun Elementary School Classroom Decorations
An elementary school classroom that is decorated with fun colors and themes can help create an exciting learning atmosphere for children of all ages. Here are 10 fun elementary school classroom decorations that can help engage young students.
Use Bright Colors
Children love bright colors, and an exciting classroom can spark imagination and keep children wanting to learn more.
Make the Walls Count
The walls in any elementary school classroom should be instructional in nature and inspire students to work hard and be kind.
Offer a Warm Welcoming
The first thing a student sees upon entering a classroom is the door. Make the door stand out and creates a warm, inviting welcome.
Display Student Artwork
Nothing makes a student feel more proud than seeing his or her artwork on display. Create a Fine Art Gallery to proudly display students work.
Create a Reading Nook
There’s nothing better than an inviting reading nook in an elementary classroom. A bookshelf and a cozy cushion or two can help students foster a love for reading that will last a lifetime.
Create a Classroom Theme
A classroom theme ties the room together and can get students focused on a specific topic. Fun themes include under the sea, desert plants, jungle animals and rainbows.
Classroom calendars are a great interactive decoration that students can update daily. A calendar can help students establish a routine and commit important dates to memory.
Create a Wall of Fame
A fun way for teachers and students to get to know each other is to create a Wall of Fame in the classroom. Students can submit pictures or have their pictures taken in school.
Every student loves to feel important. A classroom job is the perfect way to teach children responsibility and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Computer access for students is important in every 21st century classroom. An elementary classroom should have a space for students to safely access the web. Kahoot is a fun way to play interactive and educational games for students of all ages. Some of the games available to students on Kahoot include lessons in world history, geometry and vocabulary. Google Classroom is an innovative online classroom where students can join a class created by an educator. In order to access Google Classroom, students must first receive an access code from his or her teacher. Students cannot access Google Classroom with their personal Google login. Schools must have a G Suite For Education aCC0unt before creating classes for students.
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30 Problem Solving Scenarios for Speech Therapy Practice
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Problem solving scenarios.
- Your friends came over to your house for a movie night. One of your friends brought another friend so there are more people than you planned for. You want to pass out the drinks but you only have five cans of soda and you need 6 for everyone to have one. What could you do?
- After basketball practice you go back to the locker room with your team to shower and change. When you are done dressing, you can't find your shoes. What could you do?
- You have been waiting all day for lunch to come because you are starving. Finally class gets over and you get to go to lunch. Except when you go to get to your lunch, it's not there. You probably left it at home. What could you do?
- There is a guy in your class who is always mean to you. He always bumps you when he walks by and he calls you names. He knocks stuff out of your hands and makes you feel stupid. You don't think you can take it anymore. What could you do?
- You really want to invite this new girl/guy to come to your birthday party, but you have never talked to them before. You are worried they will say no. What could you do?
- You rode the bus to school today and on the way in people are pointing and laughing at you. You go in the bathroom and see that you have pink gum all over the back of your pants. What could you do?
- You wake up and see that your alarm never went off. So you are starting your morning 15 minutes later than you planned. It is a really important day at school and you cannot be late. What could you do?
- You are giving a group presentation in front of class and it's your turn to talk. All of the sudden you sneeze. You cover it with your hand, but now your hand is full of stuff you sneezed out. What could you do?
- You are eating dinner at a fancy restaurant with your parents and their friends. You have a really messy dinner and accidentally flip a noodle into the lady's lap. They are busy talking and don't notice it. What could you do?
- You are taking a test and there is no talking allowed. You are writing your answers on the paper and your pencil breaks. What could you do?
- You are taking a test and the guy behind you asks you for help. He wants to know what you put for question number two. What could you do?
- You are at a birthday party and you have waited in line for a long time for your turn to hit the pinata. It is finally going to be your turn and it looks like the next hit will break the pinata. But you suddenly have to go to the bathroom. What could you do?
- You are hanging outside with your friend and she decides to pick your neighbor's flowers. She gives you the pretty handful of flowers and right then your neighbor opens the door. She asks you why you picked her flowers. What could you do?
- You borrowed your sister's skates one day without asking and they broke while you were using them. What could you do?
- You are eating at a friend's house and the mom piles your plate full of food. It looks really good and you want to eat it all but you can't because you just ate a snack. What could you do so you don't hurt her feelings?
SEE ALSO: The Best Free App for Speech Therapy
- Your teacher was working at her desk. You wanted to ask her a question, but she didn't see your hand raised. What should you do?
- You started to do your work, but you weren't sure if you were doing it right. What should you do?
- You were playing tether-ball and were the champion so far. In the next game, you slightly touched the rope. Only one student saw you touch the rope. What will you do?
- The teacher is giving directions, but your friend sitting next to you keeps talking. You can't hear the directions. What should you do?
- You didn't do your homework. Your teacher was upset with you. What should you do?
- You finished eating and felt a burp coming. What are you going to do?
- You were waiting to swing. When it was your turn, another boy jumped in front of you and took the swing. What would you do?
- You waited a long time, but your mom didn't come to pick you up after school. What should you do?
- A bully threatened to beat you up after school. What should you do?
- A boy on the playground keeps pushing you and making you mad. What would you do?
- You were sitting in class doing your work and you hear the fire alarm. What should you do?
- An adult you didn't know came on to the playground and asked if you would help look for his lost dog. What would you do?
- You forgot your lunch at home. What would you do?
- The person sitting behind you keeps tapping your chair with his foot. What should you do?
- You finished your work early. What should you do?
This list of functional words was professionally selected to be the most useful for a child or adult who has difficulty with problem solving scenarios.
We encourage you to use this list when practicing at home.
Home practice will make progress toward meeting individual language goals much faster.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are only able to see students/clients 30-60 mins (or less) per week. This is not enough time or practice for someone to handle Problem solving scenarios.
Every day that your loved one goes without practice it becomes more difficult to help them.
SEE ALSO: The Best Books for Speech Therapy Practice
We know life is busy , but if you're reading this you're probably someone who cares about helping their loved one as much as you can.
Practice 5-10 minutes whenever you can, but try to do it on a consistent basis (daily).
Please, please, please use this list to practice.
It will be a great benefit to you and your loved one's progress.
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45 Fun and Clever Brain Teasers for Kids with Answers!
Reviewed by Sarah Tino, M.Ed.
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- Game-Based Learning
- What brain teasers are
- The benefits of brain teasers for kids
Math brain teasers for kids
Sometimes keeping your students engaged during a (long) school day feels like a losing battle. How do you gain their full attention while teaching the skills they need to succeed? How do you turn tough and intimidating concepts into fun, entertaining lessons that actually spark life in the classroom?
Brain teasers for kids are a great form of game-based learning that not only entertain children but also inspire some creative thought in the classroom. People of all ages can indulge in these playful — yet challenging — activities.
And some examples of when teachers might want to use brain teasers are on a bulletin board in the classroom, as a partnered activity to start a new concept or lesson, or during a rainy day indoor recess box.
We’ve gathered 45 examples of brain teasers for kids with answers, organized by category:
Table of Contents
Language brain teasers for kids :
Riddles ; Language associations ; Lateral thinking problems.
Math brain teasers for kids :
Math riddles ; Pattern problems ; Prodigy.
Visual brain teasers for kids :
Spot the difference ; Rebus puzzles ; Optical illusions ; Stroop effect test.
Use the list below to find the perfect brain teaser for your class!
What are brain teasers?
Before you explore our examples, you might be wondering what brain teasers actually are.
Cambridge Dictionary defines a brain teaser as “a problem for which it is hard to find the answer, especially one which people enjoy trying to solve as a game.”
Brain teasers are a type of puzzle — and as the list below reveals, they come in many different forms. Often presented as a riddle, question or activity, brain teasers require a little extra brainpower to solve.
It's important to note that if you have any English language learners in your class, brain teasers for kids might pose a challenge for them. If that's the case, they might need you to walk them through the brain teaser more closely, or you can find ones that better suit their language level.
Brain teasers for kids differ from other complex or abstract problems because they’re usually done for fun. Although you can use them to analyze problem-solving and critical thinking skills, they’re often used as an amusing activity to encourage logical and lateral thinking , or thinking “outside the box.”
45 Brain teasers for kids
We’ve compiled a list of language, math and visual brain teasers to get your students thinking. Get inspired by the examples below — including answers!
Language brain teasers for kids
When you hear the term “brain teaser,” a riddle is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Riddles are perplexing — sometimes misleading — questions or statements that require creative thought to solve.
Riddles are usually fun, and plenty of them can add some humour to your classroom.
Enjoy our list of riddles for kids below!
a) Billy’s mother had five children. The first was named Lala, the second was named Lele, the third was named Lili, the fourth was named Lolo. What was the fifth child named?
b) Choose the correct sentence: “The yolk of the egg is white” or “the yolk of the egg is white.”
c) It’s as light as a feather, but the strongest person can’t hold it for more than five minutes. What is it?
d) The more there is, the less you see. What is it?
e) What gets more wet while it dries?
f) You can find it in Mercury, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but not in Venus or Neptune. What is it?
g) It likes food, but water kills it. What is it?
h) What’s full of holes but can still hold water?
i) Which is heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks?
j) How far can a dog run into the woods?
k) You’re driving a city bus. At the first stop, three women get on. At the second stop, one woman gets off and a man gets on. At the third stop, two children get on. The bus is blue and it’s raining outside in December. What colour is the bus driver’s hair?
l) There are three houses. One is red, one is blue and one is white. If the red house is to the left of the house in the middle, and the blue house is to the right of the house in the middle, where’s the white house?
m) It’s at the center of gravity and you can find it in Venus, but not Mars. What is it?
n) What goes on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening? (This is from the classic myth, Oedipus and the Riddle of the Sphinx )
o) What travels faster: heat or cold?
p) A man was walking in the rain in the middle of nowhere without a coat or an umbrella. He got soaked, but not a single hair on his head was wet. How can this be?
q) A cowboy rode into town on Friday. He stayed in town for three days and rode back out on Friday. How is this possible?
b) Neither. Egg yolks are yellow, not white!
f) The letter “R”
h) A sponge
i) Neither. Both weigh a pound!
j) Halfway. Once it reaches halfway, it’s running out of the woods.
k) Whatever colour your hair is. Remember, you’re driving the bus!
l) In Washington, D.C.
m) The letter “V”
n) A human. The times of day represent stages of human life. At the beginning of life, a baby crawls on four “feet.” As a person gets older, they walk on two feet. Later in life, a person will walk on three “feet” (two feet, plus a cane to help them walk).
o) Heat travels faster because you can catch a cold!
p) He was bald.
q) The horse’s name was Friday.
As a bonus, use these riddles to challenge preconceived notions and get students thinking about natural bias .
a) Two boxers are in a match scheduled for 12 rounds. (Pure boxing only - no kicking, UFC takedowns, or anything else). One of the boxers gets knocked out after only six rounds, yet no man throws a punch. How is this possible?
b) A father and son have a car accident and both are very injured. They are taken to separate hospitals for treatment. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon says, “I can’t do this surgery…. this boy is my son!” How is this possible?
a) The two boxers are women.
b) The surgeon is the boy’s mother.
2. Language associations
These brain teasers for kids explore the complexities of the English language. Use them to boost student knowledge of sounds, words, spelling, categorization and more.a) Word association : find a word that associates with the following sets of words.
- Cake, swiss, cottage
- Glasses, screen, day
- Cream, cube, cap
- Knife, fly, cup
b) Find the mystery word . Replace the third letter of each word with a new letter to create a different word. When read vertically, the new letters will reveal the mystery word.
For example, the word MA K E could become MA R E, MA L E, MA T E and so on. It’s your job to figure out which one works to create the mystery word.
Hint: It’s something you’ll find outside.
c) Find rhyming pairs . Unscramble the words below so that each pair of words rhymes.
- RBAE & HREAS
- WNROED & UTRHNDE
- TUGHAT & HBTUGO
- ODULC & ODOG
Mystery word: FLOWER
- BEAR (or BARE) & SHARE
- WONDER & THUNDER
- TAUGHT & BOUGHT
- COULD & GOOD
You can also use printable brain teasers for kids like this one:
Image source: Spelling Words Well
Answer: The “happy word” is SMILE.
3. Lateral thinking problems
Lateral thinking problems require creative thinking with an indirect approach.
These questions require logic and careful thought to solve. The most notable example of a lateral thinking problem is the classic Monty Hall problem .
Here are two examples of lateral thinking problems kids can try to solve.
a) The river crossing problem
Image source: Popular Mechanics
A farmer is travelling with a fox, a goose, and a bag of beans. During his journey, he comes across a river with a boat to cross it.
The farmer can only fit one thing in the boat with him at a time. If left alone together, the fox will eat the goose or the goose will eat the beans. How does the farmer get everything across the river safely?
b) The light bulb problem
There are three light switches outside of a room-- labeled number one, number two, and number three. The door to the room is closed and you can’t see in. All three switches are off.
You need to figure out which switch belongs to which bulb. You can use the switches however you want to, but can only enter the room once. How do you do it?
a) Here’s the step-by-step solution:
- The farmer brings the goose across the river first (if he leaves the goose alone, it will either eat the beans or be eaten by the fox).
- The farmer brings either the fox or the beans across and leaves the other one alone.
- Now the farmer has two items on the other side of the river, including the goose. If he leaves the goose again, the same problem will occur. So, the farmer must bring the goose back to the other side.
- The farmer brings the other item back (either the fox or the beans) and leaves the goose alone again. The fox and the beans are now on the other side of the river.
- The farmer returns and brings the goose across the river again.
b) Turn on the first switch and leave it on. Turn on the second switch for a few minutes, and then turn it off again. When you enter the room, one light bulb will be on. You’ll know it goes with switch one because you turned it on. Another bulb will be hot. You’ll know that goes with switch two because it was on for a little while. The bulb that’s off and cold goes with switch three because you didn’t touch it.
Like math puzzles , these brain teasers for kids can increase engagement with math content and inspire your students to work on math concepts and problems outside of regular lessons.
1. Math riddles
These riddles are just as amusing as the ones above, but they’re math-focused . Use them to give students some extra math practice and encourage resourceful thinking.
a) Divide 30 by ½ and add 10. What’s the answer?
b) A clerk at the butcher shop is six feet tall and wears size 10 shoes. What does he weigh?
c) A farmer has 19 sheep on his land. One day, a big storm hits and all but seven run away. How many sheep does the farmer have left?
d) Your sock drawer only contains 18 white socks and 18 blue socks. How many times do you need to reach inside the drawer and take out a sock to guarantee a matching pair?
e) You planted sunflower seeds in your back garden. Every day, the number of flowers doubles. If it takes 52 days for the flowers to fill the garden, how many days would it take for them to fill half the garden?
f) Using only addition, how can you use eight eights to get the number 1,000?
g) When Ashley was 15, her mother was 37. Now, her mother is twice her age. How old is Ashley?
a) It's 70. You’re dividing 30 by ½, not by two. Thirty divided by ½ is the same thing as multiplying it by two, which is 60. Plus 10 makes 70!
b) Meat. He works at the butcher shop, so he weighs meat for a living.
c) Seven. The riddle says all but seven run away, meaning there are seven left who didn’t.
d) Three times. On the third time, you’ll get either a white or a blue sock to match with one of the other two you’ve already grabbed.
e) It would take 51 days. If the number of flowers doubles every day, half the garden would be full the day before, on the 51st day.
f) 888 +88 +8 +8 +8
g) Ashley is 22. Her mother is 22 years older, so when Ashley is 22, she’s now half her mother’s age.
2. Pattern problems
These questions require students to identify a pattern before they can answer a particular question. Kids must use creative and logical thinking to find the answers.
4 + 4 = 168
5 + 5 = 2510.
b) What makes this number unique: 8,549,176,320?
c) Solve the pattern puzzle below. Find the missing number to replace the question mark.
Image source: Genius Puzzles
d) Solve the following:
Image source: AOL
a) The missing number is 3612. The answer is the number multiplied by itself and then the number added to itself. Six multiplied by six is 36, and six plus six is 12.
b) It contains each one-digit number, zero through nine, listed in alphabetical order.
c) The missing number is 17. Each number in the circle is the sum of the numbers in the opposite quadrant. In this case, the numbers are eight and nine — added together makes 17.
d) The answer is 14 (or 16), if you’re on the other side of the debate .
3. Prodigy Math Game
This math activity is a bit different from others on the list. It’s not a traditional brain teaser, but it can also be used as a fun, skill-building alternative to traditional math class.
Prodigy is a game-based learning platform that takes your students on an online fantasy adventure while they answer standards-aligned math questions. It’s engaging and effective at teaching necessary skills.
Prodigy's free teacher tools help you differentiate learning, send assessments in-game and even collect student insights!
Visual brain teasers for kids
1. spot the difference.
This ever-popular activity might remind you of your own childhood — and kids still love it! Spot the difference puzzles require lots of deduction and attention to detail.
Here’s an example of a printable spot the difference activity.
Image source: Tim’s Printables
2. Rebus puzzles
A rebus is a visual word puzzle that uses lateral thinking to find its intended meaning. The word or phrase is depicted with a visual illustration, including letters and words. Students must think creatively to figure out the meaning from the clues they’re given.
Image source: Wikipedia
Image source: Stack Exchange
a) Top secret
b) Think outside the box
Visit the link below if you want more fun rebus puzzles for your students:
3. Optical illusions
Get tricky with your students! Optical illusions use visual tricks that alter the perception of what you’re really seeing. Students will love trying to figure out what’s really going on in these examples.
a) How many legs does the elephant have?
Image source: Optics For Kids
b) Are the two squares different colours?
Image source: Brain Den
b) They’re exactly the same colour. If you place your finger over the spot where the squares meet, you can see they’re the same. Try this impossible paper puzzle if you want a more hands-on optical illusion. You can make one to show your class, then have students make their own as a fun brain teaser to show friends and family.
4. Stroop effect test
The Stroop effect was discovered in the 1930s by John Ridley Stroop. During the test, you’re given a list of colour names, with each word being a different colour than what they describe.
The test involves saying the colour of a word, rather than reading the word itself. Your mind must process the two conflicting pieces of information, which slows down reaction speed and requires careful thought to get through.
Image source: The Crafty Classroom
Benefits of brain teasers for kids
You know your students enjoy them, but did you know there are plenty of additional reasons to make brain teasers a regular activity in the classroom?
A study on the attention spans of six-year-olds found children who were given brain teasers were more attentive than those who were not — showing brain teasers were effective at boosting children’s attention spans.
Brain teasers for kids can also:
- Strengthen problem solving and critical thinking skills
- Encourage lateral thinking and build new perspectives
- Improve cognitive abilities like memory and processing speed
- Inspire teamwork and communication
- Engage students and motivate them to learn
- Provide necessary breaks from traditional class work
How to use brain teasers in the classroom
In addition to their many learning advantages, brain teasers are a great way to break up the day and engage your students. Here are just a few ways you can use brain teasers for kids as a teaching strategy and maximize the benefits in your classroom:
- Engagement-boosting activity before or after lessons
- Bonus questions in assignments and tests
- Optional “free time” activity
- Encourage team building — split students into groups to solve them together
- Supplement lessons — choose brain teasers about the subject you’re teaching
Final thoughts on brain teasers for kids
No matter what subject or skill you want to focus on, a brain teaser is a great addition to traditional teaching methods. Plus, it’s something students will actually be excited to do.
Remember that brain teaser are designed to be fun for kids. it’s not about finding the right answer, but the mental exercise they get from trying to find the solution.
Use any of the brain teasers in this list whenever you need a boost of energy in your classroom. Bonus points if you can stump any adults!
Create or log in to your free teacher account on Prodigy – a game-based learning platform for math that’s easy to use for educators and students alike. Aligned with standards across the English-speaking world, it’s used by more than a million teachers and 90 million students.
71+ Free Social Problem-Solving Scenarios
Do you have kiddos who struggle with their social problem-solving skills? Teach your students the simple process of how to solve a problem along with having them review how well their solution worked or didn’t work.
Learning to problem solve is an essential skill that is used not only throughout childhood but also into adulthood. Social problem solving is the ability to change or adapt to undesirable situations that arise throughout our day. On a daily basis, a child will encounter social problems that they will need to solve. Anything from arguing with another student, to hurting a friend’s feelings, to having a difficult conversation, or working with others.
Start with Small Problems
Many of the “problems” children encounter are often small problems which the child may be over-reacting to, such as wanting a different coloring crayon or wanting to be first in line, however, these small problems are still very real to the child. Practicing problem-solving with these small problems can be a great learning opportunity. Children can practice problem-solving with a small problem which can help them learn how to handle bigger problems in the future.
Problem Solving Importance
Social problem-solving skills are critical to a child’s social interactions, personal and professional relationships. A child’s ability to handle change, cope with stress, and handle challenges improves with a child’s ability to successfully solve social problems.
The ultimate goal is that the child will be able to solve social problems all on their own, but until they can independently solve a problem they will need to learn how to communicate and self-advocate to positively solve their problems.
Students with Autism Problem Solving
Students with autism and other social challenges need to learn to problem solve as well. These social problem-solving skills will help them throughout their childhood and into their adulthood. Children can be taught how to problem solve through a guided process of breaking down the problem and using simple steps to solve the problem. Learning specific steps to problem-solving can allow children to remember how to solve a problem when they become overwhelmed or stressed. Although learning to solve a problem independently can take some time and practice it is well worth the investment to have a child who can eventually solve most social situations in a positive manner on their own.
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Problem Solving Form
Teach your students the 4 steps to becoming a social problem-solver.
- Identify the problem. For instance, start by having your student identify the social problem.
- Create three solutions. Also, have your student come up with three different solutions that they could use to solve the problem that they identified.
- Identify the consequences. Then, identify the consequence for each individual solution.
- Pick the best solution. Lastly, have your student identify which of their three solutions is the best choice Then have your student put into words why they think that solution is the best solution.
What we learnt about solving problems is don't freak out, if one thing doesn't work , try something else out. And work together as a team. #melthammathsweek #MELTHAMPUPILVOICE @problemsolveit pic.twitter.com/iVm1Im4Aue — yr6melthamce (@yr6melthamce) February 4, 2019
Problem Solving Review Form
After your students go through the social problem-solver have them use the social problem-solving review form.
- What happened. For instance, after your student tried their solution have them explain what happened next.
- Review the results. Also, have your student identify whether or not their solution got them the results they wanted.
- Use this solution again. Furthermore, have your student identify whether or not they would use this solution again in the future to solve the same or similar problem.
- What would you do differently? Finally, have your student explain what they would do differently if they didn’t get the results they wanted or if they wouldn’t use that solution again in the future.
71+ Social Problem Scenarios + 6 Blank Scenarios
Use the 71 social problem-solving scenarios to have your students get great experience practicing how to solve a social problem. Also, included are 6 blank scenarios. Then laminate them so you can use them over and over again. Therefore, create social problems that the student experiences and needs help solving.
Wordless Video teaching Problem Solving
Watch this super cute wordless animation with your students and have them discuss the problem they see and how to best solve the problem.
Use this as a fun practice example to get your students started towards learning how to problem-solve.
Demonstrate Through Modeling
- Model and discuss empathy. First and foremost, children need to understand how another person might be feeling in a given situation in order to become a good social problem solver. The student needs to learn how to “stand in someone else’s shoes” for a little bit. One way you can work on this skill is during the reading time you can focus on how a particular character in the story might be feeling. Ask questions, such as, “How do they feel right now? How would you feel in that same situation? Why do you think they feel that way?”, etc.
- Model problem-solving skills as the teacher. When you are faced with a problem you can solve the problem by thinking aloud for the students to hear how you solve a problem. You can state the problem, then come up with possible solutions, then identify the possible consequences to each solution, then pick and explain why a solution is the best option. For example, you could say, “I was hoping to take the class outside for a stress walk around the track before the reading test, but the problem is that it is raining outside. I could still take you outside, but then you will get wet, or we could walk the halls, but then we’d have to be really quiet because there are other classes learning, or we could just skip the walk and take the reading test, but then you might not do as well on the test. I think based on all of those solutions the best solution will be to walk the hallway, but you guys will have to promise to be quiet so that we don’t disrupt other classes. Modeling the problem-solving process can be very helpful for the students to watch, observe, and later implement themselves.
- Have students communicate how they are feeling . Teaching your students to share their emotions in a respectful way can improve their ability to problem-solve. Have students use an “I” sentence frame, such as, “I feel _____ (insert feeling word) when _____ (identify what made you feel that way).” For example, “I felt sad when Jackson broke my favorite pencil” or “I was mad when I wasn’t picked to be first in line. “This way students can communicate how they are feeling using honest and open communication. Teaching students to appropriately communicate their emotions can help solve some social problems from the beginning.
- Encourage your student to problem solve. If your student is struggling to problem solve independently encourage them to do so using open-ended questions, such as “How could you fix this problem?” “What would be a fair solution?” “What would happen if you used that solution?”, etc.
- Let the student try to problem solve independently. Give your students the space to try and solve their own problems using the guided strategies. Try not to come running to their rescue for every little problem. Some problems are small and a great opportunity for the student to learn and practice. If an adult does all of the problem solving for a student then what are they really learning. Give your students the time and space they need to practice solving small problems on their own. Of course, if it is a bigger or more serious problem then have an adult help guide the problem-solving process.
- Tell an adult. Remind your students that there are still some problems that are too big for them to solve on their own and that it is okay to get help from an adult to solve big problems. For example, if the student doesn’t feel safe, someone is being hurt physically or emotionally, or if they tried to solve a problem independently but it didn’t work and they need help. Let them know that it’s okay to tell an adult.
Teach How to Disagree and How to Make Up
- Discuss how to disagree respectfully. Remind your student that they won’t always agree with their teacher, friends, classmate, or parents and that’s okay. Even the people we like might have different opinions, interests, and likes than we do. However, even if we disagree with someone we should still treat them with respect. Treating someone with respect means to not call them names, ignore them, yell or hit them. It means that you do try to create solutions that both parties can agree with and to apologize when we hurt others’ feelings.
- Role-play how to make up. Practice in everyday life how to make up after a social problem .
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I hope you and your students love this freebie!
Students are really having to stretch their brains today. It's @NSPCC #NumberDay and @problemsolveit are challenging Y9 and 10 to solve the escape room boxes. It's not as easy as it looks! The promise of a few sweet treats for the winners seems to be helping though! pic.twitter.com/AxRRJnJIv2 — CongletonHS (@CongletonHS) February 2, 2018
Have your students use task card scenarios to help them identify how they and others might feel in different social scenarios. Be sure to discuss the problem, identify possible solutions, identify the consequences of those possible solutions, and then based on those consequences pick the best solution. Make social problem-solving a game by telling the students that they are social detectives and that it is their job to use what they know about social rules to help them identify the possible and best solutions. Start practicing today with 71+ free social problem social task cards! Do your students need more practice? Be sure to check out my other freebie for 31 wordless animated videos to teach problem-solving and so much more.
Get More Problem Solving Time Saving Materials
Next, be sure to check out the following time-saving materials to continue to teach your students how to solve their social problems in addition to this freebie.
Weekly Social Pragmatics Homework
- Weekly problem-solving. Send home a weekly homework page that includes a problem-solving scenario plus an idiom and a conversational practice scenario.
Restorative Justice Problem Solving Flip Book
- Restorative justice graphic visual. Use this graphic visual to help your student restore a social relationship after a social problem.
Self-Advocating Role-Play Scenarios
- Self-advocating in high school. Teach your high schoolers the process to self-advocate for what they need.
5th-12th Grade Life Skills Problem Solving
- Life skills problem-solving. In addition, this life skills differentiated bundle includes a problem-solving lesson plan.
I recommend you read Problem Solving Wheel: Help Kids Solve Their Own Problems , 61+ Free Fillable SLP Planner Pages 2020-2021 , 430+ Free Multisyllabic Words List Activity Bundle , or 432+ Free IEP Goal Bank to Save You Time posts because they include freebies as well and who doesn’t want more freebies!
Got questions? Leave a comment. Let’s chat!
Monday 30th of January 2023
Hello! I have entered my name and email twice (yesterday & today) to receive to 71+ Free Social Problem-Solving Senarios, but I have not received anything yet. Not even an email back to mine in order to subcribe. Thanks for your help! Tracy
Tuesday 31st of January 2023
Hi Tracy, Thanks so much for reaching out! Sorry about that. We went ahead and sent you an email with the PDF attached. Wishing you all my best, Melissa
Problem Solving Skills
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I truly love your site. Excellent colors, theme and writing. Thanks for sharing.
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Tuesday 12th of April 2022
Hi Laura, I'm glad you found this resource helpful. Melissa
Modified Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - Speech Therapy Store
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Problem Solving Wheel: Help Kids Solve Their Own Problems - Speech Therapy Store
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Problem-Solving in Elementary School
Elementary students practice problem-solving and self-questioning techniques to improve reading and social and emotional learning skills.
In a school district in New Jersey, beginning in kindergarten each child is seen as a future problem solver with creative ideas that can help the world. Vince Caputo, superintendent of the Metuchen School District, explained that what drew him to the position was “a shared value for whole child education.”
Caputo’s first hire as superintendent was Rick Cohen, who works as both the district’s K–12 director of curriculum and principal of Moss Elementary School . Cohen is committed to integrating social and emotional learning (SEL) into academic curriculum and instruction by linking cognitive processes and guided self-talk.
Cohen’s first focus was kindergarten students. “I recommended Moss teachers teach just one problem-solving process to our 6-year-olds across all academic content areas and challenge students to use the same process for social problem-solving,” he explained.
Reading and Social Problem-Solving
Moss Elementary classrooms use a specific process to develop problem-solving skills focused on tending to social and interpersonal relationships. The process also concentrates on building reading skills—specifically, decoding and comprehension.
Stop, Look, and Think. Students define the problem. As they read, they look at the pictures and text for clues, searching for information and asking, “What is important and what is not?” Social problem-solving aspect: Students look for signs of feelings in others’ faces, postures, and tone of voice.
Gather Information . Next, students explore what feelings they’re having and what feelings others may be having. As they read, they look at the beginning sound of a word and ask, “What else sounds like this?” Social problem-solving aspect: Students reflect on questions such as, “What word or words describe the feeling you see or hear in others? What word describes your feeling? How do you know, and how sure are you?”
Brainstorming . Then students seek different solutions. As they read, they wonder, “Does it sound right? Does it make sense? How else could it sound to make more sense? What other sounds do those letters make?” Social problem-solving aspect: Students reflect on questions such as, “How can you solve the problem or make the situation better? What else can you think of? What else can you try? What other ideas do you have?”
Pick the Best One. Next, students evaluate the solution. While reading, they scan for smaller words they know within larger, more difficult words. They read the difficult words the way they think they sound while asking, “Will it make sense to other people?” Social problem-solving aspect: Students reflect on prompts such as, “Pick the solution that you think will be best to solve the problem. Ask yourself, ‘What will happen if I do this—for me, and for others involved?’”
Go . In the next step, students make a plan and act. They do this by rereading the text. Social problem-solving aspect: Students are asked to try out what they will say and how they will say it. They’re asked to pick a good time to do this, when they’re willing to try it.
Check . Finally, students reflect and revise. After they have read, they ponder what exactly was challenging about what they read and, based on this, decide what to do next. Social problem-solving aspect: Students reflect on questions such as, “How did it work out? Did you solve the problem? How did others feel about what happened? What did you learn? What would you do if the same thing happened again?”
You can watch the Moss Elementary Problem Solvers video and see aspects of this process in action.
The Process of Self-Questioning
Moss Elementary students and other students in the district are also taught structured self-questioning. Cohen notes, “We realized that many of our elementary students would struggle to generalize the same steps and thinking skills they previously used to figure out an unknown word in a text or resolve social conflicts to think through complex inquiries and research projects.” The solution? Teach students how to self-question, knowing they can also apply this effective strategy across contexts. The self-questioning process students use looks like this:
Stop and Think. “What’s the question?”
Gather Information. “How do I gather information? What are different sides of the issue?”
Brainstorm and Choose. “How do I select, organize, and choose the information? What are some ways to solve the problem? What’s the best choice?”
Plan and Try. “What does the plan look like? When and how can it happen? Who needs to be involved?”
Check & Revise. “How can I present the information? What did I do well? How can I improve?”
Since using the problem-solving and self-questioning processes, the students at Moss Elementary have had growth in their scores for the last two years on the fifth-grade English language arts PARCC tests . However, as Cohen shares, “More important than preparing our students for the tests on state standards, there is evidence that we are also preparing them for the tests of life.”
Home » Blog » General » Free Elementary Problem-Solving Worksheet
Free Elementary Problem-Solving Worksheet
In need of a resource for teaching problem-solving to your elementary students? Look no further, download our free elementary problem-solving worksheet!
Teaching Problem-Solving to Elementary Students
You can successfully teach problem-solving using Everyday Speech’s free problem-solving worksheet! Problem-solving is a complex goal that pulls together multiple cognitive skills used in order to make decisions. New thinking pathways are created as students practice a series of steps to analyze the problem, determine if there is a need for help, devise logical solutions, and use critical thinking skills to choose the best solution.
Lesson Plan – Using Your Free Problem-Solving Worksheet
1. introduce the problem-solving steps.
Before using our free problem-solving worksheet with your student, introduce the problem-solving steps. The five problem-solving steps become a mental checklist that learners can use to solve their problems without needing an adult’s assistance. The problem-solving steps are: identify the problem, decide if you need help, come up with multiple solutions, choose the best solution, and decide if the problem is solved.
2. Practice Using the Problem-Solving Steps
Provide your student with the opportunity to apply the problem-solving steps by giving them 2-3 hypothetical problems they need to solve. Help them work through the 5 problem-solving steps to find the right solution!
3. Use Our Free Elementary Problem-Solving Material
Our free elementary problem-solving material called ‘Pick the Solution to the Problem’ provides your students with the opportunity to pick the correct solution to a problem based on its size. You can teach your students that we must remember that small problems are problems we can handle independently or on our own, whereas big problems need help from an adult to be resolved.
Sample Elementary Problem-Solving Video:
This sample elementary video on problem-solving is s great enhancement to this lesson! Everyday Speech provides real-life scenarios as age-appropriate actors model new skills. We offer a 30-day free trial for all of our social skills materials!
Related Blog Posts:
The Whole-Child Approach and Why it Matters
Free High School Problem-Solving Material
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Top 15 Problem Solving Activities for Kids [2022 List]
As they get older, children have countless opportunities to learn about the world. They do, however, face issues daily, whether it be peer pressure, complex mathematical computations, or arguments with their peers.
The advantages of problem-solving abilities for children are vast, and they may help them deal with such circumstances efficiently.
They will learn to develop practical answers on their own, without the assistance of an adult. Furthermore, when faced with challenges, students will be more confident in their abilities to use problem-solving skills and generate unique solutions on their own.
Read on to learn about the importance of problem-solving abilities in children, how to install this talent in them, and some activities to help them develop this important skill.
Table of contents
- The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in Children
- How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills?
- 15 Problem Solving Activities for Kids
The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in Children
Children gain from problem-solving in a variety of ways. It is beneficial to them.
- Deal with problems in regular life.
- Make sound judgments.
- Along the way, learn additional skills including teamwork, critical thinking, and collaboration.
- Problems should be solved without being broken down.
- Consider thinking beyond the box.
- Develop your independence.
How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills?
Here are a few ideas for encouraging your child to use their problem-solving abilities.
- Put it to the Test!
Encourage your youngster to accept the challenge when they are confronted with a problem. If the outcomes are unsuccessful, they might try different strategies.
Your child will be able to think about a subject from several angles as a result.
- Seek Counsel
Decision-making is a tough task. For example, you could have difficulty deciding what to prepare for supper or what to wear to the movies. Asking your children for assistance in decisions is an excellent choice.
When you approach them for guidance, they believe that they are not alone in their struggles. When you appreciate their ideas, they will gain the confidence to tackle challenges on their own.
- Take a Long, Deep Breath.
Maintaining your calm in difficult situations is one of the first steps toward effective problem-solving. Even among children, when their emotions run wild, it is difficult to think sensibly, and the temptation to make rash judgments increases.
It is critical to encourage your youngster to take deep breaths whenever they feel out of control of their emotions. They can better appraise the problem once they are calm.
- State the Issue Verbally.
Your child should openly express how they feel and what they are going through when they have calmed down. It provides them with a distinct perspective and facilitates the generation of alternate solutions.
- Do not give “The Solution”
It is not a good idea to provide immediate solutions to children’s problems. Instead, provide them with advice to assist them in solving the problem on their own. This will help them to think about solutions that are beneficial to them.
- Set a Good Example
Children quickly absorb knowledge like sponges. Therefore, when you approach an issue and find a workable solution, children will be inspired by your strategy and want to follow you.
- Allow the Natural Consequences to Play out.
Allowing a situation to take its course is sometimes the best approach to dealing with it. So, if your child encounters a challenge, let them be.
Assume your child spent their entire weekly allowance in a day or two; allow them to go the entire week without receiving any money. This will position them to make better decisions in the future.
15 Problem Solving Activities for Kids
There is no better way to learn than by playing. The following exercises are enjoyable and challenge youngsters to demonstrate their problem-solving abilities.
Riddles for kids are fantastic games for problem-solving. They come at various levels of difficulty. The appropriate one may be chosen based on your child’s age.
If you give children a puzzle, they will learn to consider the issue or question, generate potential answers, and select one.
Additionally, the practice will help students improve their hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, and critical thinking. Also, if your kids have a way with words then what better than to engage them in wordle for kids !
- Scavenger Quest
Scavenger hunts are an instructive activity that every parent should offer to their children. It is a low-cost, easy, and entertaining activity that can be practiced both inside and outside and just requires materials you already have at home.
The activity encourages youngsters to think beyond the box. They are pleasantly acquiring problem-solving skills without even realizing it.
The advantages of reading are countless. Problem-solving is one of them. While reading, children are introduced to several characters and their roles. They frequently connect with these figures. Undoubtedly, stories for kids are great resources to stimulate their minds!
So, if kids encounter an issue, ask them how their favourite character would solve it. Encourage them to produce as many options as they can and discuss the results of each.
- Arts and Crafts
Another fantastic technique to educate youngsters about problem-solving abilities is via arts and crafts. Give your child a variety of things from around the house. Allow them to create fantastic creations or repair damaged devices or toys. Also checkout art hub for kids that can provide an immersive experience to your little ones!
Give them complete freedom to do their task and only offer guidance when they are running out of ideas. And if your kids like to be more hands-on then check out crafts for kids !
- Free-Form Questions
Asking open-ended questions is an excellent method to help your child think creatively and critically and develop their problem-solving abilities.
As there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and the answer extends beyond a simple “no” or “yes,” they must give some consideration to their responses.
The questions mentioned in the image above are some examples of open-ended questions.
Mazes are enjoyable and safe for people of all ages. Working on mazes forces them to think. The practice also helps them strengthen their motor skills, observation skills, sense of direction, and problem-solving abilities.
Think beyond book mazes. There are other maze games available on the internet. They will get better at finding their way out with practice. You may eventually give them increasingly difficult mazes to solve.
- A Little Treasure Quest
The whole family can enjoy a treasure hunt. If they believe they will succeed, you can maintain their concentration on the task at hand.
Give them tips that encourage them to use their imaginations and resolve issues to win the prize.
- Toy Construction
Give your kids building materials like LEGO, wood blocks, engineering blocks, etc., and let them construct anything they want.
Toy construction requires your child to consider what to make, how to assemble the parts, and produce creative solutions to make sure the design is functional.
You can occasionally ask them to build something challenging, like a monster with three arms or two buildings joined by a bridge. Watch as they struggle to come up with a structure.
- Woollen Web
Each child should be given a piece of colorful yarn, and they should be told to construct a circle. The yarn ball is passed from one person to the next by wrapping their finger around it.
Once everyone got an opportunity to hold the ball and wrap the yarn around their finger, a web would begin to grow. Now, blindfold one person and instruct them to unwind the web by following the vocal directions of the others.
To figure out a way out, this group exercise requires collaboration, attention, patience, coordination, concentration, and problem-solving abilities.
- The Human Knot
It is a simple game, but very entertaining. A group of youngsters is required for this game. Form a circle with the youngsters and have them raise their hands.
Begin with one player, who must use their right hand to grasp a player’s hand from across the circle and their left hand to grasp someone else’s hand. Examine whether everyone has held both hands with various players.
They must now detangle themselves without breaking the circle. When everyone’s hands are free and they are back in the circle, the challenge is over.
- Improvised Skits
Form teams out of the players. On pieces of paper, write out several scenarios, such as coping with bullying at school or resolving a quarrel between siblings, folding them, and arranging them in a bowl.
Each team or participant chooses a chit and executes the scenario. You may give them a deadline to get ready. These impromptu activities help kids see a problem, come up with a solution, and implement it.
- Group Drawing
Another excellent team-building activity for developing children’s problem-solving skills is group sketching. Form groups of three youngsters.
Each of the team’s three members has a certain function to play. The teacher comes next. The instructor is the one who offers the drawer verbal directions on how to draw a certain design.
The spectator examines the design. However, they are not permitted to speak and must interact with the instructor by using gestures. When the viewer is happy with the drawer’s image, you have a winner. Allow the kids to take turns playing various parts.
- Give me a Hint!
Clue Me In is an entertaining detective game that promotes cognitive growth, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Begin by choosing five to six target responses, such as a prominent figure, an animal, a historical event, a societal trend, or a career. Collect five to ten objects related to each goal answer. They might also be images from the Internet.
Sort them into various bags. Determine how many hints a child can select before making a guess. If there are two, let the youngster choose two clues from a bag and make their first guess. See who can respond the fastest.
- Survivor Case Studies
Here is another game where no items are required. In this game, you must construct pretend-play scenarios for youngsters to solve, and they must analyze and think creatively to do so.
For example, tell them, “You’re stranded on an island, and you know aid won’t arrive for two days” or “How will you build a shelter for yourself out of the materials around you?”
Kids are encouraged by this to think of many scenarios and come up with solutions to the problem. There are many programs for kids .
- Ethical Quandary
Children are frequently put in challenging circumstances. This simple game will help children deal with these situations without them even being aware of them.
Write down several difficulties on pieces of paper, such as “The cashier handed me $1 more in change; what should I do?” or “I watched my friend harassing someone at school.” Should I intervene or let them go? Fold it up and put it in a bowl.
Give each child the opportunity to select one piece of paper, read it aloud, and provide creative solutions to the problem at hand.
Are you interested to know more about kids coding languages ? Checkout here!
Problem-solving is a crucial skill to have. Guiding kids in this decision-making skill not only enhances their thinking and creative ability but also trains them to face problems in the future and figure out good decisions.
The above-mentioned activities for kids are some of those, that will help them develop decision-making skills.
To learn more about problem-solving activities for kids, check out the fun yet amazing articles on the BrightCHAMPS blog.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Children are believed to have learned the basics of problem-solving by the age of three. However, it is not perfected since it is hampered by a short attention span and trouble grasping problems on its own. Children grow better at solving problems as they get older.
The three most prevalent problem-solving techniques are: ● Trial and error: trying several solutions to an issue until it is solved. ● Algorithm: The process of solving a problem by following a step-by-step formula. ● Following a problem-solving framework, such as breaking it down into steps, is a heuristic.
These games can help you improve your problem-solving, planning, multitasking, and pattern-identification skills. ● Crossword puzzles. ● Sudoku puzzles. ● Jigsaw puzzles. ● Chess. Board games. ● Computer games. ● List games.
Creative problem-solving is a technique that employs imagination and invention. This technique encourages the creative aspect of issue resolution and allows for the generation of fresh ideas in novel ways. It also makes the process more enjoyable and fosters teamwork.
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How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens
- By Ashley Cullins
Whether it’s a toy-related conflict, a tough math equation, or negative peer pressure, kids of ALL ages face problems and challenges on a daily basis.
As parents or teachers, we can’t always be there to solve every problem for our children. In fact, this isn’t our job. Our job is to TEACH our children how to solve problems by themselves . This way, they can become confident , independent, and successful individuals.
Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, kids with problem-solving skills manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist until they find a solution. Naturally, these abilities go hand-in-hand with a growth mindset .
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit . With these 10 one-page parenting guides, you will know exactly how to speak to your child to help them stand up for themselves, be more confident, and develop a growth mindset.
So HOW do you teach problem-solving skills to kids?
Well, it depends on their age . As cognitive abilities and the size of the child’s challenges grow/evolve over time, so should your approach to teaching problem-solving skills.
Read on to learn key strategies for teaching problem-solving to kids, as well as some age-by-age ideas and activities.
3 General Strategies to Teach Problem-Solving at Any Age
1. model effective problem-solving .
When YOU encounter a challenge, do a “think-aloud” for the benefit of your child. MODEL how to apply the same problem-solving skills you’ve been working on together, giving the real-world examples that she can implement in her own life.
At the same time, show your child a willingness to make mistakes . Everyone encounters problems, and that’s okay. Sometimes the first solution you try won’t work, and that’s okay too!
When you model problem-solving, explain that there are some things that are out of our control. As we're solving a problem at hand we should focus on the things we CAN actually control.
You and your child can listen to Episode 35 of the Big Life Kids Podcast to learn about focusing on what you can control.
2. Ask for Advice
Ask your kids for advice when you have a problem. This teaches them that it’s common to make mistakes and face challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to practice problem-solving skills.
Plus, when you indicate that their ideas are valued , they’ll gain the confidence to attempt solving problems on their own.
3. Don’t Provide “The Answer”
As difficult as it may be, allow your child to struggle, sometimes fail , and ultimately LEARN from experiencing consequences.
Now, let’s take a look at some age-specific strategies and activities. The ages listed below are general guidelines, feel free to choose any strategies or activities that you feel will work for YOUR child.
Use Emotion Coaching
To step into a problem-solving mindset, young children need to first learn to manage their emotions . After all, it’s difficult for a small child to logically consider solutions to a problem if he’s mid-tantrum.
One way to accomplish this is by using the emotion coaching process outlined by John Gottman.
First, teach your kids that ALL emotions are acceptable. There are NO “bad” emotions. Even seemingly negative emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration can teach us valuable lessons. What matters is how we respond to these emotions.
Second, follow this process:
- Step One: Naming and validating emotions. When your child is upset, help her process the way she’s feeling. Say something like, “I understand that you’re upset because Jessica is playing with the toy you wanted.”
- Step Two: Processing emotions. Guide your child to her calming space. If she doesn't have one, it's a good idea to create one. Let her calm her body and process her emotions so she can problem-solve, learn, and grow.
- Step Three: Problem Solving. Brainstorm solutions with your child, doing more LISTENING than talking during the conversation. This allows your child to practice her problem-solving skills, and she’s more likely to actually implement the solutions she came up with herself.
Say, “Show Me the Hard Part”
When your child struggles or feels frustrated, try a technique suggested by mom and parenting blogger Lauren Tamm . Simply say, “Show me the hard part.”
This helps your child identify the ROOT of the problem, making it less intimidating and easier to solve.
Repeat back what your child says, “So you’re saying…”
Once you both understand the real problem, prompt your child to come up with solutions . “There must be some way you can fix that…” or “There must be something you can do…”
Now that your child has identified “the hard part,” she’ll likely be able to come up with a solution. If not, help her brainstorm some ideas. You may try asking the question, “If you DID know, what would you think?” and see what she comes up with.
Problem-Solve with Creative Play
Allow your child to choose activities and games based on her interests . Free play provides plenty of opportunities to navigate and creatively solve problems.
Children often learn best through play. Playing with items like blocks, simple puzzles, and dress-up clothes can teach your child the process of problem-solving.
Even while playing, your child thinks critically: Where does this puzzle piece fit? What does this do? I want to dress up as a queen. What should I wear? Where did I put my tiara? Is it under the couch?
Problem-Solve with Storybooks
Read age-appropriate stories featuring characters who experience problems, such as:
- Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Jacky Davis: The story of two friends who want to play together but can’t find a game to agree on. After taking turns making suggestions, they arrive at a game they both want to play: Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy.
- The Curious George Series by Margaret and H.E. Rey: A curious little monkey gets into and out of dilemmas, teaching kids to find solutions to problems of their own.
- Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber: Ira’s thrilled to have a sleepover at his friend Reggie’s house. But there’s one problem: Should he or should he not bring his teddy bear? It may seem small, but this is the type of early social problem your child might relate to.
Connect these experiences to similar events in your child’s own life, and ASK your child HOW the characters in these stories could solve their problems. Encourage a variety of solutions, and discuss the possible outcomes of each.
This is a form of dialogue reading , or actively ENGAGING your child in the reading experience. Interacting with the text instead of passively listening can “turbocharge” the development of literacy skills such as comprehension in preschool-aged children.
By asking questions about the characters’ challenges, you can also give your child’s problem-solving abilities a boost.
You can even have your child role-play the problem and potential solutions to reinforce the lesson.
For book suggestions, refer to our Top 85 Growth Mindset Books for Children & Adults list.
Teach the Problem-Solving Steps
Come up with a simple problem-solving process for your child, one that you can consistently implement. For example, you might try the following five steps:
- Step 1: What am I feeling? Help your child understand what she’s feeling in the moment (frustration, anger, curiosity, disappointment, excitement, etc.) Noticing and naming emotions will diffuse their charge and give your child a chance to take a step back.
- Step 2: What’s the problem? Guide your child to identify the specific problem. In most cases, help her take responsibility for what happened rather than pointing fingers. For instance, instead of, “Joey got me in trouble at recess,” your child might say, “I got in trouble at recess for arguing with Joey.”
- Step 3: What are the solutions? Encourage your child to come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, they don’t even need to be “good” solutions. They’re just brainstorming here, not yet evaluating the ideas they’ve generated.
- Step 4: What would happen if…? What would happen if your child attempted each of these solutions? Is the solution safe and fair? How will it make others feel? You can also try role-playing at this step. It’s important for your child to consider BOTH positive and negative consequences of her actions.
- Step 5: Which one will I try? Ask your child to pick one or more solutions to try. If the solution didn't work, discuss WHY and move on to another one. Encourage your child to keep trying until the problem is solved.
Consistently practice these steps so that they become second nature, and model solving problems of your own the same way. It's a good idea to reflect : What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?
Problem-Solve with Craft Materials
Crafting is another form of play that can teach kids to solve problems creatively.
Provide your child with markers, modeling clay, cardboard boxes, tape, paper, etc. They’ll come up with all sorts of interesting creations and inventive games with these simple materials.
These “open-ended toys” don’t have a “right way to play,” allowing your child to get creative and generate ideas independently .
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions improves a child’s ability to think critically and creatively, ultimately making them better problem-solvers. Examples of open-ended questions include:
- How could we work together to solve this?
- How did you work it out? or How do you know that?
- Tell me about what you built, made, or created.
- What do you think will happen next?
- What do you think would happen if…?
- What did you learn?
- What was easy? What was hard?
- What would you do differently next time?
Open-ended questions have no right answer and can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”
You can ask open-ended questions even when your child isn’t currently solving a problem to help her practice her thinking skills, which will come in handy when she does have a problem to solve.
If you need some tips on how to encourage a growth mindset in your child, don't forget to download our FREE Your Words Matter Volume 2 Kit .
Break Down Problems into Chunks
This strategy is a more advanced version of “Show me the hard part.”
The bigger your child gets, the bigger her problems get too. When your child is facing a challenge that seems overwhelming or insurmountable, encourage her to break it into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For instance, let’s say your child has a poor grade in history class. Why is the grade so low? What are the causes of this problem?
As usual, LISTEN as your child brainstorms, asking open-ended questions to help if she gets stuck.
If the low grade is the result of missing assignments, perhaps your child can make a list of these assignments and tackle them one at a time. Or if tests are the issue, what’s causing your child to struggle on exams?
Perhaps she’s distracted by friends in the class, has trouble asking for help, and doesn’t spend enough time studying at home. Once you’ve identified these “chunks,” help your child tackle them one at a time until the problem is solved.
Show “ The Broken Escalator Video ”
Discuss the importance of embracing challenges and solving problems independently with the “broken escalator video.”
In the video, an escalator unexpectedly breaks. The people on the escalator are “stuck” and yelling for help. At this age, it’s likely that your child will find the video funny and immediately offer a solution: “Just walk! Get off the escalator!”
Tell your child that this is a simple example of how people sometimes act in difficult situations. Ask, “Why do you think they didn’t get off the escalator?” (they didn’t know how, they were waiting for help, etc.)
Sometimes, your child might feel “stuck” when facing problems. They may stop and ask for help before even attempting to find a solution. Encourage your child to embrace challenges and work through problems instead.
Problem-Solve with Prompts
Provide your child or a group of children with materials such as straws, cotton balls, yarn, clothespins, tape, paper clips, sticky notes, Popsicle sticks, etc.
With just these materials, challenge your kids to solve unusual problems like:
- Make a leprechaun trap
- Create a jump ramp for cars
- Design your own game with rules
- Make a device for two people to communicate with one another
This is a fun way to practice critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Most likely, it will take multiple attempts to find a solution that works, which can apply to just about any aspect of life.
Make Them Work for It
When your child asks for a new toy, technology, or clothes, have her make a plan to obtain the desired item herself. Not only will your child have to brainstorm and evaluate solutions, but she’ll also gain confidence .
Ask your child HOW she can earn the money for the item that she wants, and encourage her as she works toward her goal .
Put It on Paper
Have your child write out their problems on paper and brainstorm some potential solutions.
But now, she takes this process a step further: After attempting each solution, which succeeded? Which were unsuccessful? Why ?
This helps your child reflect on various outcomes, learning what works and what doesn’t. The lessons she learns here will be useful when she encounters similar problems in the future.
Play Chess Together
Learning to play chess is a great way for kids to learn problem-solving AND build their brains at the same time. It requires players to use critical thinking, creativity, analysis of the board, recognize patterns, and more. There are online versions of the game, books on how to play, videos, and other resources. Don’t know how to play? Learn with your teen to connect and problem solve together!
Have Them Learn To Code
Our teens and tweens are already tech-savvy and can use their skills to solve problems by learning to code. Coding promotes creativity, logic, planning, and persistence . There are many great tools and online or in-person programs that can boost your child’s coding skills.
Encourage to Start a Meaningful Project
This project has to be meaningful to your teen, for example starting a YouTube channel. Your teen will practice problem-solving skills as they’re figuring out how to grow their audience, how to have their videos discovered, and much more.
In the Big Life Journal - Teen Edition , there’s a section that guides them through planning their YouTube channel and beginning the problem-solving process.
Apply the SODAS Method
Looking for a game plan that your teen can employ when faced with a problem? The SODAS method can be used for big or small problems. Just remember this simple acronym and follow these ideas:
- D isadvantages
- A dvantages
Encourage to Join Problem-Solving Groups
Does your teen enjoy solving problems in a team? Have them join a group or club that helps them hone their skills in a variety of settings--from science and robotics to debating and international affairs. Some examples of groups include:
- Odyssey of the Mind
- Debate team
- Science Olympiad
Looking for additional resources? The Bestseller’s Bundle includes our three most popular printable kits packed with science-based activities, guides, and crafts for children. Our Growth Mindset Kit, Resilience Kit, and Challenges Kit work together as a comprehensive system designed specifically for children ages 5-11.
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25 thoughts on “ How to Teach Problem-Solving Skills to Children and Preteens ”
I love, love, love the point about emotional coaching. It’s so important to identify how children are feeling about a problem and then approach the solutions accordingly.
Thank you for putting this together. I wrote an article on problem-solving specifically from the point of view of developing a STEM aptitude in kids, if you like to check it out – https://kidpillar.com/how-to-teach-problem-solving-to-your-kids-5-8-years/
I feel that these techniques will work for my kid.. Worthy.. Thank you
I love you guys
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15 Best Problem Solving Activities for Kids to Encourage Critical Thinking
1. Rolling Dice
2. build a tower, 3. tic tac toe, 4. scavenger hunt, 6. activity books, 7. board games, 9. human knot, 10. open-ended questions.
Problem solving activities for kids are a great way to teach them how to think critically and creatively, and how to develop a growth mindset . We’re sure you must have also played many educational games as a kid that helped you develop critical thinking or problem-solving- skills you’re using even today. These activities can be tailored to be fun and engaging, and they help kids understand that challenges and difficulties are opportunities to learn and grow instead of things to be feared.
By providing kids with problem-solving activities, we can give them the tools to develop their problem-solving skills and build the confidence to tackle difficult challenges, which will be valuable to them throughout their life. It will also help them understand that their abilities can be developed with practice and hard work, encouraging them to persevere through difficult tasks and not give up easily when faced with obstacles. If you’re looking for some fun and engaging problem solving activities for children to develop a growth mindset, we have curated a list of activities for you.
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15 Best Problem Solving Activities for Kids
Things you’ll need: A die or dice, some flashcards and a pen
How to do: You can play tons of different games with dice. Playing with two dice encourages kids to quickly add up numbers and learn math in a fun way . One fun game you can play with a single die involves flashcards. For this game, you can assign a category to each number on the die and when the kid rolls the die, they have to name any 3 examples from the category assigned to the number rolled. For example, if number 4 is assigned to animals and it is rolled, they will have to name any 3 animals.
Things you’ll need: Building blocks, lego, toilet rolls or anything that can be stacked
How to do: If you’re looking for problem solving activities for 5 year olds, this is for you. To play this game, just give the kids anything that can be stacked on top of the other. This can be building blocks, lego, Jenga blocks, toilet rolls, etc. The challenge is to stack one on top of the other and see how high a tower they can build. This game can be played in teams or individually as well.
Things you’ll need: A tic tac tow board or pen and paper
How to do: This is one of the most exciting problem solving fun activities for students. You can either play this game on a tic tac toe board or on paper. If you’re playing it on paper, draw a table so that you have 9 boxes. Now each player must choose X or O and try to make a continuous row of their chosen symbol. Whoever succeeds wins.
Things you’ll need: Small toys, stationery items, or anything you want to include in a scavenger hunt
How to do: Assign the teams or individual players specific items they have to find in a defined area. This can be an indoor or outdoor activity for kids . Give them a list of the things they need to find, and you can also give them hints on where to find these things. Whoever or whichever team finds all the things first wins.
Things you’ll need: A puzzle game
How to do: Get a puzzle set. This can be a regular cardboard puzzle or a wooden puzzle and ask the players or teams to arrange it. You can make this a timed challenge or just let the kids solve the puzzle in their own time and have fun.
Things you’ll need: Activity books and pencils
How to do: This is one of the best problem solving activities for kids. Activity books are great for children’s problem-solving skills to develop. Buy them activity books containing games like find the element, what’s wrong with the pictures, or hidden picture books.
Things you’ll need: Board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, and Go Fish
How to do: Give them board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, Go Fish, etc. These board games help kids to develop logic, think deeper, plan ahead and solve problems.
Things you’ll need: A chalk
How to do: Build a maze with chalk on the sidewalk. Make sure you add a few dead-end ways to make it more challenging for the kids. Once the kid is able to walk through and come out of the maze, take the game to the next level by adding even more dead-end ways and see how they overcome the challenge.
Things you’ll need: Just a playground or garden
How to do: This is a great group activity for kids that’ll also teach them lots of skills. Ask the kids to form a circle and raise their right arm up. Now ask them to reach out to someone standing opposite to them in the circle and hold their left hand with their left hand. Now ask them to raise their left hands up and repeat the process with their right hands. The objective is to entangle them completely and then ask them to detangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hands.
Things you’ll need: Pen and paper
How to do: Once you’re done with an activity, ask kids open-ended questions. These are questions that have no right or wrong answers. Some examples of such questions are- “Did you find this activity easy?”, “What did you enjoy the most about this activity?”, “How would you make this activity more fun?”, etc.
11. Wool Web
Things you’ll need: Balls of yarn
How to do: This is one of the most exciting group problem solving classroom activities for kids . Divide the players into equal teams and ask them to form a circle. Hand them over one ball of yarn each and ask them to make a web of it amongst the teams. Set a time limit for this step, and once it is done, switch the webs so that none of the teams has their own webs. Now the teams will decide on one player from each team to be blindfolded. This blindfolded player will have to untangle to web assigned to their team with the help of verbal instructions from their teams. The team that untangles the web first wins.
12. Fingertip Hula Hoop
Things you’ll need: Hula hoops
How to do: Divide the kids into teams of 6-8 for this game. Each team will stand in a circle and then be asked to raise their hands up. Now, place a hula hoop on top of their fingertips and ask them to bring it down slowly and make it touch the ground without it falling down or leaving the fingertips. The team to finish the task first wins.
13. Obstacle Course
Things you’ll need: Pillows, blankets, mattresses, cones, balls, chairs, etc.
How to do: Build an obstacle course indoors or outdoors with whatever you can find. This makes for one of the most engaging problem solving games for kids. Ask your kids to cross the obstacle course as fast as they can. To make it a bit more challenging, you can also ask them to race against each other to cross the obstacle course.
14. Memory Games
Things you’ll need: Playing cards
How to do: For this fun cards game, place all the cards face down and take turns to turn 2-4 cards. If you are able to open two similar cards (in number), you get to keep the pair. The player with the highest number of cards with them in the end wins.
15. Impromptu Plays
Things you’ll need: A stage
How to do: This is one of the best problem-solving exercises for kids to play in groups. If you have a large group, divide the kids into teams of 6-8. If the group is smaller, just make the kids stand individually. Now make a few chits on a theme that has questions that form a difficult situation or a challenge. For example, you can put in chits with questions like “You just found your friend cheating in an exam. What do you tell them?” or “Your younger sibling just broke your favorite toy. How do you react?”. Each team must enact a scene that includes the situation their chit has. If the group isn’t that big, each kid must speak about the same chit but have different perspectives.
Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important for Kids?
Developing problem solving skills is extremely important for kids as it helps them to navigate easily around difficulties later on in life. As adults, we’re faced with challenging situations every day, and without our basic problem-solving skills, we wouldn’t be able to survive.
Problem solving skills also help kids to make effective decisions. It helps them resolve problems all at once without reducing them to smaller problems. Once kids develop problem solving skills, it is easier for them to develop other skills as well like critical thinking, cooperation and collaboration with others.
Having problem solving skills helps kids to become more creative and think differently than others and enables them to become independent. These skills also help kids develop decision-making skills and build their confidence along the way as they take the right decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the 5 problem solving skills.
The five problem solving skills are identifying the problem, producing possible results that might work, picking one solution from these, applying the chosen solution and evaluating the results.
What are some examples of problem-solving skills in kids?
Some of the problem solving skills in kids are research, creativity, team-building, communication, active listening, decision-making, and analysis. If you find some of these skills in a kid, chances are they’re great at problem solving.
What is problem solving learning?
According to cornell.edu, Problem solving learning is an approach wherein students are asked open-ended questions about a certain topic, and they must resolve and answer the same in groups.
At what age do children begin problem-solving?
According to a study by Shaffer , kids can start developing basic problem solving skills from the age of three. This further continues to develop as they grow.
What are three problem-solving techniques
According to deakin.edu , the three most basic problem solving techniques are defining the problem, listing out all the possible solutions, and evaluating the options.
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10 ideas for problem solving activities.
When children start school in Reception they are given lots of opportunity to work together to solve problems; to find out that being stuck is good, because when they become unstuck, that’s where learning happens. At Willow Lane we know these types of activities are important not just for our Early Years children but also for other children throughout the school. That’s why we also use our Wild Life area to deliver forest school sessions. Many of these activities are taken from our Forest School Curriculum and can be done in the back garden or in the home. They are a great way to encourage children to think of different ways of solving problems and working together. They are also a great way for all of the family to be involved.
At the end of each Forest School session we have a period of reflection. This would be good to do at home as well. You could ask questions like: Did everyone get a chance to speak? Did you have different jobs or did you do the same jobs? How did you decide what to do? What did you do when something went wrong? When did you work best as a team? Why was that successful? If you could do it again, what would you like to be different?
1. Tower building
There are lots of different variants on this game of engineering and teamwork. A favourite resource many teachers use is dried spaghetti and marshmallows, some give ten balloons and 1 long strip of masking tape. When we have done this in Forest School we have used what we can find in our Wildlife Area – you could use tins, cereal boxes, recycling, DVD cases or whatever you wanted. The object of this problem solving activity is to build the tallest freestanding tower in ten minutes. Give any extra instructions you wish, e.g. they can break the balloons if they wish, they can only use the materials that you have said, you give an extra challenge by saying it must hold a certain object for 3 seconds. The tower must be built on a table or the floor. If you wish, you may add the following instructions:
Each team member may use only one hand.
One team member may not touch the materials and only give directions.
You can use one or more of these limitations in 60-second intervals. If you have enough to split into teams, the first team to complete their tower wins.
This game can be set up by drawing a grid with an odd number of cells. The higher the number of cells the harder it is. The following website has a link to this activity on line (which will make it clearer than this explanation!) HTTPS://nrich.maths.org/1246
In the above grid you have two sets of objects (coloured squares) with one free cell. You have to swap the squares so they are on the opposite side. You can only move one at a time, you can only move into a free cell, you can jump over one other rectangle at a time.
You could set this out on the floor and use any two sets of different objects. Increase the grid and objects to make it harder.
What is the fewest number of moves it can be done in?
3. “Laser” Web
Use a large ball of string to create a giant web from one end of a room to the other. The goal is for individuals or teams to move through the web without touching the string. If they do so, they have been “zapped by a laser” and must try again. For greater suspense and for older players, use blindfolds or turn off the lights, allowing players to touch the string, but not pull it down or out of its original shape. You could even try it with one person blindfolded and another person giving instructions!
4. Group Drawing
For this activity to work best it needs a group of 3, so adults may need to be involved! Each person on the team has a one of the following roles:
Drawer. The drawer attempts to recreate a pre-drawn design they cannot see (a picture from a magazine or newspaper would work well as they may know a familiar picture from the house). They take directions from the talker. They stand with their back to the talker and viewer and may not talk.
Talker. The talker describes the design to the drawer, without seeing the design. They may question the viewer. They may not use hand gestures.
Viewer. The viewer sees the design. However, they are not allowed to talk and must communicate nonverbally to the talker. Additionally, they must not draw the design in the air or actually show the design with their gestures.
The activity ends when the viewers say they are satisfied with the drawings. The activity can be repeated so everyone has a chance to do the different roles. At the end you could celebrate all the drawings
For the activity to work with two people – you can allow the talker to see the picture and impose a time limit for when they need to be finished.
5. Cross the River
This can work in small teams or one small group (if you search ‘cross the river’ you will find other examples). When enlisting adult and older children to help, make sure the younger children get a chance to lead the learning. Create a “river” (using chalk, masking tape for two parallel lines, or a rug or blanket although the physical material will cause its own problems to be overcome).
There are various ways of doing this activity – essentially you have to get all the team across the river – that could be width ways or length ways. Sometimes stepping stones are used. You could have one raft for each team. They could each have a pebble (a small piece of paper). They all have to work together to manoeuvre the raft or stepping stones across the river so that at the end they can all jump off it at the same time. To make it easier you could put an ‘island’’ or two in the river that players can use to stand on but can’t move, players could be given a rock to put in the river that can’t be moved once it’s placed. To make it harder reduce the number of pebbles, make the river wider, pebbles can only be placed by certain players, or they can only be used a certain number of times (if the river is very poisonous and toxic for example). The raft is very unstable and will sink if you jump on it. If you give each player his or her own small raft, add the rule that you must have 3 points of your body on the raft at all times i.e. 2 hands and a foot.
Create an “island” in the middle of a large area using tape, chalk or whatever is to hand. Two or more people from each team go to the “island” and the other team members try to find something to get the “stranded” children off the island. They may use shoelaces, items of clothing (socks tied together), or any other items they can find. You may need to hide some appropriate gear for them to use if you are inside. Outside games of Stranded usually provide more options – tree limbs, ivy vines, etc.
This game reminds me of another problem of the Konigsberg Bridge. You could set up a situation similar to the one in the link below. For the keen problem solvers out there, research the Konigsberg Bridge to find out how it opened up a new branch of mathematics.
7. Memory Game
This can be done with household items or with things you collect if you go out for some exercise through Fairfield nature reserve or near the Lune.
What you need: Collection bags The activity:
- Ask the children to make a collection of things that they find in their natural area i.e. leaf, moss, feather, stone, acorn, pine cone. (If necessary prepare the area beforehand with appropriate objects). Avoid wild flowers as the children should not be encouraged to pick these as the bees need them, especially in early spring
- Lay a collection out on the ground
- Ask a child to memorise the objects and turn away
- Remove one object and ask the child chosen to guess which object has been removed
- Discuss strategies for memorising them, are they taking a picture of what’s there? Are they linking the objects together in their mind to help remember a chain of objects? Some children wowed us in assembly at being able to remember several digits of Pi not long ago, so with some practise at this game, there will be some new challengers next time
8. Building bridges
In a group of no more than 5, have three lengths of string (each about 1 metre). Show the children a drinks bottle (which is full of water). They can hold it if they want to, or measure it, but cannot take it away from the teacher / leader. The groups are then challenged to build a freestanding bridge using sticks (or other materials from around the home) and the pieces of string. If using home materials, it would be a good idea to say what these can be, rather than have children ransacking the house for more materials. Newspaper folded very tightly and twisted can be very strong. The bridge has to be tall enough for the bottle to be passed underneath standing upright. It also has to be wide enough for the bottle to be passed underneath lying on its side, and strong enough for the bottle to balance on top for 10 seconds. Hint: decide how much help you want to give the children – you could suggest using three sticks tied at each end, to make tripods (which are strong structures and will support the top of the bridge), OR they could build a tower at each end of the bridge using the same technique used in the previous activity for tower building.
Give the groups 10-15 minutes to build the bridges and then test for height, width and strength.
The next step could be to use their skills of building small bridges to build something bigger and stronger. This time, the bridge needs to be high enough for a child to crawl underneath it, and strong enough for a child to sit on top of it. Give the groups more string – it needs to be thick string this time – we suggest decent garden twine.
Health and safety point – We don’t want any injuries so be aware that children may fall off the bridges. They are unlikely to be very high – we suggest that when the first child sits on the bridge, they are helped by other members of their team who can hold their hands. Once one child has tried the bridge, it is likely that they will all want to sit on it at the same time, this would probably end up with a heap on the floor so we would advise against it. Also, the bridge would probably become more unstable after one person has sat on it so it would be a good idea to end the activity before an older member of the family comes to test it as well!
Give the groups 15-20 minutes to build the bridges and then, as before, go round to test each bridge for height and strength.
9. Categories or ‘Stop the bus!’
The game: Using some way of generating a random letter (there are apps for this, or you could use letters in a scrabble bag, or you cut up letters from the alphabet), players have to write down one item/object/thing for each category. When you have filled in each section you shout ‘stop the bus!’ and then you check your answers to make sure they are all accepted by the group. You get a point for each one if no one else has the same answer as you. If you ‘stop the bus’ and everyone agrees your answers are acceptable you get an extra point.
Setting it up: Each person needs a piece of paper and something to write with. Decide on the headings you want to use, make sure that they are something that everyone can do. You’ll need a section for each heading and a section for the points at the end of each round. Some headings you might want to use are: Animals, Foods, countries, cities, clothing, furniture, things you can find on the beach, things you might do in the park. You could link it to the topic the children have been studying, such as item from prehistoric time or places in Europe.
10. Rory’s story cubes
This is a great way to help children make up stories. Problem solving often involves making links and connections and this is a great way of doing it. It is taken from this toy https://www.storycubes.com/en/
But you can make your own with some pebbles and permanent marker or just some card and will be a fun activity in itself. You need different symbols that are simple and clear – it doesn’t matter if people interpret them in different ways. In the game you can buy, there are 9 cubes so there are 54 different images – but you don’t need that many. They could be linked to topics the children remember e.g.
If you search for ‘story cubes printable’ there are lots of ideas.
One game you can play is to see who can make the longest chain of events without hesitating (too long). A player picks out or rolls the dice to find the first symbol, then starts their story with that. They then pick out another symbol and continue their story. You could play it by making up a story together each taking turns, or everyone could see the next symbol and the first person to link it into the story gets a point. The first person to get a number of points wins, or you could do it in rounds if you use a timer for each round.
This website has ideas of how you might take this further and write your own story from it.
- First Week Back and Reminders
- Korfball Club
- Flu Vaccinations- Reception and Year 6
- Heritage Open Day at Quernmore Park Hall
- Summer wellbeing and grief support
- British Values
- Extended Services
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- Outdoor learning
- School Council
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- Willow Passport
Developing Problem-Solving Skills for Kids | Strategies & Tips
We've made teaching problem-solving skills for kids a whole lot easier! Keep reading and comment below with any other tips you have for your classroom!
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: The Real Deal
Picture this: You've carefully created an assignment for your class. The step-by-step instructions are crystal clear. During class time, you walk through all the directions, and the response is awesome. Your students are ready! It's finally time for them to start working individually and then... 8 hands shoot up with questions. You hear one student mumble in the distance, "Wait, I don't get this" followed by the dreaded, "What are we supposed to be doing again?"
When I was a new computer science teacher, I would have this exact situation happen. As a result, I would end up scrambling to help each individual student with their problems until half the class period was eaten up. I assumed that in order for my students to learn best, I needed to be there to help answer questions immediately so they could move forward and complete the assignment.
Here's what I wish I had known when I started teaching coding to elementary students - the process of grappling with an assignment's content can be more important than completing the assignment's product. That said, not every student knows how to grapple, or struggle, in order to get to the "aha!" moment and solve a problem independently. The good news is, the ability to creatively solve problems is not a fixed skill. It can be learned by students, nurtured by teachers, and practiced by everyone!
Your students are absolutely capable of navigating and solving problems on their own. Here are some strategies, tips, and resources that can help:
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: Student Strategies
These are strategies your students can use during independent work time to become creative problem solvers.
1. Go Step-By-Step Through The Problem-Solving Sequence
Post problem-solving anchor charts and references on your classroom wall or pin them to your Google Classroom - anything to make them accessible to students. When they ask for help, invite them to reference the charts first.
2. Revisit Past Problems
If a student gets stuck, they should ask themself, "Have I ever seen a problem like this before? If so, how did I solve it?" Chances are, your students have tackled something similar already and can recycle the same strategies they used before to solve the problem this time around.
3. Document What Doesn’t Work
Sometimes finding the answer to a problem requires the process of elimination. Have your students attempt to solve a problem at least two different ways before reaching out to you for help. Even better, encourage them write down their "Not-The-Answers" so you can see their thought process when you do step in to support. Cool thing is, you likely won't need to! By attempting to solve a problem in multiple different ways, students will often come across the answer on their own.
4. "3 Before Me"
Let's say your students have gone through the Problem Solving Process, revisited past problems, and documented what doesn't work. Now, they know it's time to ask someone for help. Great! But before you jump into save the day, practice "3 Before Me". This means students need to ask 3 other classmates their question before asking the teacher. By doing this, students practice helpful 21st century skills like collaboration and communication, and can usually find the info they're looking for on the way.
Problem-Solving Skills for Kids: Teacher Tips
These are tips that you, the teacher, can use to support students in developing creative problem-solving skills for kids.
1. Ask Open Ended Questions
When a student asks for help, it can be tempting to give them the answer they're looking for so you can both move on. But what this actually does is prevent the student from developing the skills needed to solve the problem on their own. Instead of giving answers, try using open-ended questions and prompts. Here are some examples:
2. Encourage Grappling
Grappling is everything a student might do when faced with a problem that does not have a clear solution. As explained in this article from Edutopia , this doesn't just mean perseverance! Grappling is more than that - it includes critical thinking, asking questions, observing evidence, asking more questions, forming hypotheses, and constructing a deep understanding of an issue.
There are lots of ways to provide opportunities for grappling. Anything that includes the Engineering Design Process is a good one! Examples include:
- Engineering or Art Projects
- Design-thinking challenges
- Computer science projects
- Science experiments
3. Emphasize Process Over Product
For elementary students, reflecting on the process of solving a problem helps them develop a growth mindset . Getting an answer "wrong" doesn't need to be a bad thing! What matters most are the steps they took to get there and how they might change their approach next time. As a teacher, you can support students in learning this reflection process.
4. Model The Strategies Yourself!
As creative problem-solving skills for kids are being learned, there will likely be moments where they are frustrated or unsure. Here are some easy ways you can model what creative problem-solving looks and sounds like.
- Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand something
- Admit when don't know the correct answer
- Talk through multiple possible outcomes for different situations
- Verbalize how you’re feeling when you find a problem
Practicing these strategies with your students will help create a learning environment where grappling, failing, and growing is celebrated!
Problem-Solving Skill for Kids
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