This is the second installment from our 5 Skills Essential for Kindergarten article. A few weeks ago, we talked about Following Directions, but now it’s time to talk about solving problems! Problem solving skills are ESSENTIAL no matter how old you are. Whether you are going into kindergarten or you’re a fortune 500 CEO, you need problem solving skills (in fact the fortune 500 CEO likely got that job because he/she is a good problem solver).

Problem solving skills allow you to overcome obstacles, find solutions to unfamiliar situations, and build your confidence as you enter new challenges. Below are 5 ways you can help your preschooler and future kindergartener build their problem solving skills.

Let Your Child Struggle a Little
This is the easiest and yet the hardest aspect of parenting. Your preschooler will learn so much and engage their problem solving skills if you simply step back and let them figure things out on their own.

I know how hard this can be. Rea is learning to dress herself and she is PAINFULLY slow and I just want to take her pj’s off and help her get dressed, but the only way she is going to learn is if I step back and let her dress herself.

Encourage Your Child to Try and Explore New Things
You know how when you get a new phone, you spend 1-2 hours playing with it trying to learn all about your new gadget? That is you engaging in problem-solving skills, learning through trial and error. Kids are the same way. Give them a new toy and don’t show them how it works or introduce them to a new skill. They will play with that toy until they figure out how it works or practice that skill over and over until they get it. So encourage your preschooler to try new skills like throwing a ball, climbing up the big playground, going down the big slide, crossing the monkey bars, or swinging on their own.

Allowing them to explore their surroundings will also improve their problem-solving skills. This will take some patience and practice on your part though. I often find myself starting to redirect Rea’s behaviors and then stop myself and think, “What is the harm in her exploring x?” If there is no harm, I try to allow her to continue whatever it is she is doing. (*This also leads to A LOT of lessons on cleaning up after ourselves, because more often than not her explorations create a big mess.)

Tinker Trays
Tinker trays are a fun way for your preschooler to explore a variety of materials and how they work or how they can work together. This is an activity where it is all about the process, NOT the product.

Tinker trays do not have to be formulaic. In fact, I encourage you to go through your junk drawers and empty out anything you don’t want. Put all those materials out for your Lil’ and let them explore.

The Teaching Mama has some great ideas on themed tinker trays if you want to check them out.

Mini Movies
I came across a list on Speech is Beautiful of mini movies on YouTube that are wonderful for teaching our preschoolers about problem solving. I watched a few of them and they remind of the Pixar Shorts before a Disney movie (which is a big plus in my house because we are MAJOR Disney lovers.) I watched several of the videos and I loved the tenacity of the characters, plus they made me giggle quite a few times.

My personal favorite is Ormie the Pig

Strategies for Problems with Friends
So far, all of the problem skills activities we have suggested encourage kids to be creative and innovative, which is wonderful, but what can your preschooeler do when their problem is social and involves others?

I found this chart over at Therapy and Learning Services. It gives kids multiple ways to resolve a problem with their peers. This is a skill that is unbelievably important. Teaching your child to resolve or walk away from problems is a crucial skill for all walks of life, but as a elementary teacher I can assure you that I can do my job teaching your child a million times better if I am able to focus on teaching academics rather than resolving peer conflicts.

Check out the chart HERE.

Asking for help

Here’s the final skill: asking for help!