We all encounter hurdles in our daily lives, and children are no exception. This is why you should be deliberate about developing problem-solving skills in early childhood.
If you nurture these soft skills, your little one will learn how to keep their composure when faced with a challenge. They also know how to make wise decisions, effective communication skills, and teamwork. So, in the following post, I’ll explain how you can help your child develop crucial problem-solving skills.
How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills in Child
Use Emotion Coaching
To be able to solve any problem, kids need to figure out how to manage their emotions first. Here’s the thing: you cannot expect your child to brainstorm solutions when they’re having an outburst. They need to get into the right mindset, and this is where emotion coaching comes in.
First off, you should teach your child that there’s nothing wrong with experiencing certain feelings. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, or frustrated when faced with an issue. What matters is how they respond and manage these emotions. Once they’ve mastered this, follow these next steps:
- Name and validate their feelings - first, you need to help your toddler identify and validate the specific emotions they’re experiencing. You could respond by saying, "I know you're unhappy you didn't win the race."
- Process these emotions - after identification, the next step is training them on how to process those feelings. Specifically, guide them through the process of calming down. They could step away from the environment, count from 1 to 10 or take deep breaths.
- Identify solutions - once they’re calm, the last thing they need to do is identify possible solutions.
Leverage Everyday Situations
The beauty of teaching kids problem-solving kids is that it doesn’t require any special tools, tutorials, or worksheets. You can use scenarios and activities that happen in their day-to-day lives to train them- from house chores to running errands at the grocery store and more.
For instance, asking them to perform house duties is one way of training them to solve a problem. Whether they’re doing dishes, organizing books and magazines on shelves, or tidying the yard, each chore presents a problem that needs a solution.
When it comes to housework, don’t just create a chore chart and leave them to handle everything. The best way to develop these problem-solving skills is to work alongside them and engage them through questions.
You can ask, "What household task might you like to help with today?" They have a sense of control, which increases their motivation to complete activities and acquire problem-solving skills.
Let Natural Consequences Unfold
This might sound extreme. But, sometimes, the best way to train your child in some problem-solving skills is to allow natural consequences to unfold. Just monitor the situation to ensure that it’s safe to do so.
Let’s say you’re taking your kids out to a local fair and decide to give each of them some pocket money. However, one of them uses all their money within the first 15 minutes. Instead of giving them more - which would be unfair to the rest - let them spend the rest of the day without any extra money.
This creates an opportunity to discuss problem-solving with them. This way, they’ll learn the best choices to make next time to avoid encountering similar hurdles.
Use Open-Ended Questions
One way of encouraging kids to get creative in finding solutions to problems is by asking questions.
Let’s say that your 4-year-old is struggling to zip up their jacket. Most parents will simply take over the entire process and zip it up. Although this action is well-intentioned, it’s not the best way to do it.
Instead, it would be best to ask them questions to understand the part they’re struggling with. Perhaps their only challenge is aligning the zipper at the bottom, after which they can close the jacket by themselves.
Posing conversational questions encourages your child to think independently and brainstorm possible solutions. This leads me to my following point: let's discuss that.
One of the most important things to teach your child is that there’s often more than one way to solve a problem. So, it’s up to them to brainstorm viable solutions and ultimately pick the best one.
Whenever they encounter a hurdle or challenge, please encourage them to get creative and develop different strategies to resolve it.
At the same time, you should also keep an open mind and embrace whatever ideas they suggest, no matter how outrageous or incorrect they might be. What matters is that your child is thinking outside the box.
Allow Them to Make Mistakes
As parents, it’s natural to want to protect your child from negative things, including failure. But sometimes, children learn best from making mistakes.
Once they realize they’ve done something wrong, they’ll look for ways to correct or amend the problem. So try not to be overprotective 24/7.
Allow your child the space and chance to make those errors, as long as they’re not hurtful. The next time they face a similar situation, they’ll think twice and look for better alternatives.
Use Storybooks and Storytelling
On the surface, book reading and storytelling may only seem like fun activities. But the truth is, they instill many crucial skills in your young one- including problem-solving.
In almost every storybook, the author begins by introducing a problem. They then proceed to explain how the character solved the hurdle successfully. This allows your child to think critically and brainstorm resolution ideas if they ever face similar issues.
Problem-solving skills don’t come naturally to kids. This is why parents and guardians should nurture these skills more often.
One way to do this is by asking open-ended questions instead of providing a straightforward answer. These inquiries cause your child to think more critically about the issue at hand and, sometimes, identify a solution independently.
Storytelling, emotion coaching, and letting them make mistakes are other ways to develop problem-solving skills in young ones.