Teaching your kids to be problem solvers



At this point information is everywhere anyone can go to their phone and find anything they need no need to memorize formulas or concepts you can always look for them. And surely technology will just make this information availability even easier in the coming years so our kids will just have more avenues to get information maybe some kind of enhanced glasses that give you information real time.

So what you we teach our kids, my view is that you should teach problem solving. In the future creative problem solving will be what distinguishes average kids from non average kids.

I am looking at ways to come up with creative problems that could be setup as play for my kids and have them work these through as games or exercises. I may very well look into setting up some quick games, do you have any recommendations for creative problem solving games?

In any case here are some pointers on how to help you kids develop creative thinking

1. Don’t be a “Drone Parent”.

Give your child some space. Whatever age your kids are, allow them to make mistakes and teach them how to move forward. Guide them in the direction but make sure to let them fail. Fail fast and recover.

2. Encourage creative play.

Remember that time you or you son played more with the toy packing that with the toy? well same concept. Maybe encourage your kids to make their own characters from scrap bottles or wood sticks the idea is that they always use their imagination.

3. Build the occasional road block into their experience.

This is the opposite of solving your kids’ problems. Make the difficulty reasonable, and make sure a solution is possible. The more informed choices they have to make the better.

4. Provide multiple potential solutions.

Usually life problems are not black and white they lie somewhere in the grey color spectrum. If you can help them find alternative solutions or ways of looking at the problem, maybe ask them what would happen if they looked at the problem upside down or if they did the opposite.

5. Make problem solving a fun part of the culture of your home.

Make surmounting difficulties fun. In early years problem solving should feel like your playing a game. This feeling will stay with you as they grow an may allow you kids to revert back to the “fun days” when encountering difficult situation in the future.

6. Read problem-solving stories together.

In his classic young adult novel Hatchet, author Gary Paulsen tells the story of a teen lost in the wilderness. He survives by keeping his wits about him and solving problems as they come along. Use stories like this to inspire.

7. Try some do-it-yourself projects together.

Nothing better that do it yourself projects, but better yet find something they need (i.e. a spot to put their lego ) and have them build something, it does not have to be pretty the idea is to engage their creativity.

8. Teach them basic problem-solving steps.

a. Identify the problem. (For example, “I always miss the school bus.”)
b. Break the problem into manageable parts, so each task does not seem impossible.

  • My homework is not complete.
  • I didn’t eat my breakfast.
  • I haven’t brushed my teeth.
  • My lunch isn’t packed.
  • My backpack is not ready.
  • Tackle the parts one at a time until the problem is solved.

9. Allow children to experience failure.

Fail fast and recover. If we’re unwilling to see our children fail at a task, then we’re unwilling for our children to learn.

10. Routinely ask your kids for help.

Make sure the children understand that you respect their capacity to solve problems. This is a great practice to help them feel part of a team. I tend to ask my kids what could be wrong with a certain thing, for example washer is not working and they come up with the craziest ideas. Practice brainstorming as a family. You’d be surprised at how creative they can be.


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