Helping Pre-schoolers Become Problem Solvers

When they become pre-schoolers, children are going through a period of rapid learning. One area in which they’re gaining new skills is in solving problems – and you can do your bit to help them learn to become problem solvers.

Children are referred to as being pre-schoolers when they’re between the ages of three and five years old and before they attend school. During this time, they’re gradually becoming more adept intellectually, in ways that help them to become better at communicating, thinking in a creative manner and an abstract manner. They’ll also be getting to grips more with problem solving, a skill that comes in handy in many areas of life.

For example, being able to solve problems is useful for when they’re at school, with subjects such as maths. But it’s also useful at home too, when they’re trying to work out ways of dealing with situations – anything from putting their coat on and doing it up properly, to trying to open something or sticking things together to form an artistic collage.

What Help Can You Give?

A pre-schoolers method of learning to become a problem solver is very much through trial and error. They’re keen to explore new methods and try new things, but sometimes don’t fully grasp how something works or what you can do until they’ve had several attempts and failed. Learning through trial and error is good in its own right, but you can also help your child learn by intervening and assisting.

For example, imagine your child is trying to work out how best to stick buttons onto a piece of artwork. He’s been trying to use sticky tape, but the buttons keep falling off and is getting a bit frustrated. Rather than wading in and automatically passing over a more effective glue for your child to use, you can help his problem solving learning experience by talking through the problem. So, you could ask him why he thinks the buttons aren’t sticking properly and what other options might work better.

Ideally, it would be good if he eventually thinks of trying glue himself, via a process of elimination. If it doesn’t come to mind on this occasion, then you could perhaps suggest trying glue. This isn’t a case of giving up, as on future occasions, when he’s trying to work out how something might stick, the chances are that he’ll remember the glue and realise that might work.

Dealing With Frustration

As pre-schoolers get to grips with developing problem solving abilities, it’s normal for them to become a bit frustrated that the tasks they’re doing aren’t working out. When a child is aged three, their problem solving ability will only just be developing and they may not have sussed out that alternatives to problems might be available. So it’s normal for three year olds to get particularly frustrated with themselves.

But by the age of four, children should be progressing well, have more patience and realisation that other possibilities do exist. Four year olds are also more likely to think about negotiating and working out problems with their peers or adults. As their language skills are developing well too, they’re in a better position to be able to explain the problem and talk about how it could be solved.

As a parent, it’s great to be there to help your child if they need it, but also to give encouragement to them about how they could solve problems. Be prepared to make suggestions, take time to listen to them when they’re trying to explain how they might reach a solution and be there to congratulate them when they achieve their goal.