Want to Improve Your Child's Problem Solving Skills?
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning game for kids.
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning game for kids.
As a toddler, my daughter once got stuck in an opened cardboard box. She climbed in all by herself, but once inside she couldn’t figure how to maneuver her way out.
Like any good mom, I helped by handing her a crayon and allowing her to spend the next 15 minutes inside the box scribbling her little heart out so I could power clean the living room until she remembered she was stuck.
It’s true, I may have been taking slight advantage of her not-yet-fully-developed problem solving skills, but as a mom of a toddler tornado, you take what you can get 🙂
She’s now a preschooler and her problem solving skills have improved since daily life has provided her with ample opportunities (darn those jacket zippers!).
That said, I also believe that presenting her with games and activities to utilize her thinking cap has been an important part of her pre-operational development.
I’ve compiled this list of 8 creative activities to assist in developing those skills that are needed when she hits those frustrating preschooler obstacles.
I believe in keeping things fun for the child and easy for mom, so every activity on the list is simple to set up and many require only your child’s own creativity!
For this activity, you’ll need some masking tape and a crumpled ball of paper.
The challenge comes when you place the ball of paper in between two lines of masking tape and ask your preschooler to move it outside the lines — without touching it.
Some preschoolers can’t get enough of this experiment and figure out several ways to move the paper. Others can get frustrated easily and want to give up.
Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so don’t let your child get discouraged. Hints are fully ok; just try to wait until they are absolutely needed.
We want them to stretch their problem solving muscles, but not feel defeated.
This is one of my favorites because it’s a delicious learning mix of fine motor, spatial awareness, problem solving and pantry clean-out skills!
For Fit the Top you will need to dig out your entire mess of a Tupperware collection from that forgotten kitchen cupboard.
Or, if your Tupperware is unusually orderly (round of applause from us!), grab a large collection of different sized plastic water bottles and their lids.
Water bottles are probably more fun, but using Tupperware does double duty of getting you organized, so maybe a combo of both is best.
Lay out all Tupperware and water bottles in one pile and put lids in another. Ask your preschooler to help you organize by finding the right lids to go with the right container.
Popping and screwing the lids on their correct containers exercises those fine motor muscles.
Ensuring the right size/shape lid goes with the right container helps practice both spatial awareness and problem solving skills.
Putting it all back encourages (Mom’s) commitment to keeping all plastic containers organized from now on (uh-huh).
Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission and let your child play with this award-winning educational game. Your child will become better at problem solving without even realizing it!
I’m Being Silly is an on-the-fly story telling game. The parent starts off with a simple story and the preschooler has to stop them when they’ve said something silly. Here’s an example:
Johnny was a four-year-old boy on his way to school. As he left, he grabbed his car keys and buckled himself into the driver’s seat.
If they don’t stop you here at the silliness of Johnny driving the car himself to school, just keep going. Maybe Johnny gets to recess and all the teachers are playing on the slides and swings while Johnny has playground duty.
When he gets home he might first take off his socks and then his shoes.
Customize the difficulty of the hidden sillies to the level of your child’s problem solving skills. Chances are they will love this game enough to turn the tables and see if you can catch the silliness in their own stories!
Pattern blocks or tangrams (the colorful blocks that come in different geometrical shapes) provide problem solving opportunities simply by being played with.
If you want to increase the challenge, a quick google search will pull up hundreds of patterns to print and copy. Your preschooler will be proud of the intricate designs he can create just by following the cards.
This is a great independent activity when you need some quiet time for yourself or you can build something and ask your child to copy it. Take turns trying to stump each other with your designs.
Every child must build a fort in their living room. It’s a rite of passage.
Equally, they must pretend the living room floor is lava filled with alligators and use your couch cushions to create a safe route around them.
Whether you set out materials or just consciously ignore your urge to remind your preschooler that the couch cushions are not trampolines, this creative game is an exercise in solving problems — albeit imaginary ones.
The easiest materials for fort building are sheets and clothespins, but anything your child finds is fine.
To escape Lava Alligators, the appropriate tools are (unfortunately) your favorite couch cushions, but Lava Alligators can also be rehomed to the driveway with hand drawn sidewalk chalk squares working as the safety stones if necessary.
Using blocks, chairs, cardboard boxes, or masking tape you can create a maze for your preschooler to get lost in while working on his critical problem solving skills. It can be small enough for his cars to drive through or big enough for him to walk through.
Be warned, giant cardboard mazes in the backyard have a tendency to attract all the neighborhood kids for a full afternoon of problem-solving fun.
You may end up being forever known as the Coolest Mom on the Block.
We hope you can handle that.
With Pack my Bag, your preschooler can prepare for a real trip or an imaginary one. Have him help you prepare for the day’s activities by asking him questions.
What does the weather look like outside? What clothes should we wear? Will we need an umbrella, sunscreen, or a parka?
After we get out of the pool, we will want to get dry, so what will we need? I think we will be gone a while, do you think someone will get hungry?
My example questions might be too direct or just enough depending on your preschooler’s current problem solving skills. The trick is to ask questions that lead him just enough, but still give him some thinking work to do on his own.
This game can be done with or without the detective hat and magnifying glass. In this game, Mom gives a clue about an object, then preschooler makes a guess.
Likely she will guess wrong after just one clue, so Mom will provide another one and she can guess again. This keeps going until the preschooler has guessed correctly. Here’s an example of how this game could go:
Mom: I’m thinking of something big and soft
Preschooler: A bear?
Mom: Nope, it’s something you keep in the house.
Preschooler: The rug?
Mom: Not quite. It’s something that you use at night and should be in right now, but you’ve left it three times to ask for another glass of water.
Preschooler: My bed?
Mom: That’s right! You win!
As her problem solving skills increase, the clues can be made harder encouraging her to ask more questions.
This is a fun game as is, or can be played with a point system where the preschooler gets a point for each incorrect guess. Each time she plays, she can try to finish with fewer points than the last time.
Usually, no prize is needed for this game, but if this exact scenario arises, a one-way trip back to the above-mentioned bed with one last Mom tuck-in is a fantastic grand prize for guessing.
P.S. Did you know that the Atlas Mission is the only educational game that teaches your child ALL the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century?
It covers both core skills like reading, writing & STEM, as well as 21st century skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving & coding.
Use the button below to download your free copy:
Atlas Mission – the new educational game for 3-7 year old children that increases their awareness of other countries and cultures.
Jodi Burnett creates educational content for the Atlas Mission. In an earlier life, she used to write the parenting column for a leading regional newspaper, the Tremonton Leader. She now spends her days researching educational methods, playing with microscopes, homeschooling her 4 children, and having a crazy time learning out in the world alongside her kids. She lives near the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake City with her husband, 4 children, and a chubby snorting pug.