Is problem-solving meant for just engineers, accountants and scientists? Let’s think again. As kids, didn’t we try to find a way around a tricky situation?
“How can I reach the biscuits kept on the counter?” “How should I put on my shoes?” “How do I solve this puzzle?” “How do I search for my toys?”
Unknowingly, we start analysing situations and evaluating choices from an early age to take decisions and solve everyday problems. However, the way of reaching a solution, depends not only on age and experience but also, on thinking, skills, exposure, nurturing and overall mental development.
Why Do Children Need Problem-Solving Skills More Than Ever?
Little ones need 21st-century skills to make healthy choices, which direct them towards a bright future. Also, to build new concepts and skills using existing knowledge—crucial for their survival.
When a child starts solving problems independently, he/she:
- Tries new things
- Grows more confident and efficient
- Builds resilience and perseverance
- Thinks of different solutions, which evoke lateral thinking
- Views challenges as a learning opportunity
- Avoids unnecessary frustration
They start applying complex skills in different social settings and eventually develop the grit to keep trying without quitting. It aids their academic learning and future growth.
Nurture A Child’s Innate Abilities To Build Problem-Solving Skills
Whenever an issue arises, children turn to solutions that usually work for others, but may also abandon a tested-and-tried method in favour of better results. We can develop this innate ability to build new skills.
1. Stimulate Curiosity
Children learn better by mastering observations, asking questions and exploring theories. Acknowledging their questions and helping them find answers is a good way to nurture their innate curiosity.
If you don’t have an answer at the moment, then find it together with your child, whether by reading, researching, visualising, observing or talking. This shows them how to work problems and seek answers.
2. Encourage Social Belongingness
Munchkins have a unique ability to connect with others of their age. They get excited about their vision and enrol peers, resources, and ideas to achieve their mission. Nonetheless, childhood friendships are often underrated and overlooked as a positive influence.
According to psychologist and child behaviour expert Paul Schwartz, maintaining childhood relations contributes significantly to the development of interpersonal skills, communication and age-appropriate behaviour.
Being adults, we should encourage kids to continue pre-school friendships into adulthood. It makes kids sensitive to others’ perspectives and teaches them the value of collaboration and teamwork—skills required to be a leader, negotiator and problem solver in the future.
3. Fuel Imagination
A child’s creativity knows no bounds! They imagine things in their minds and draw pictures to visualise & remember their daily routine. Imagination leads to creative thinking—a skill which is important for solving problems.
There are multiple ways to develop a child’s creativity in everyday life, besides enrolling them for performing arts programmes (music, drama, arts, etc.).
- Ask them ‘What will happen next?’ while reading them a paragraph from their book.
- Resist the urge to solve their problem at the very first instance, when they approach you with a school project, homework assignment or social concern.
- Help them understand and classify issues, think & brainstorm solutions together to reach a conclusion.
4. Set The Right Thinking
Whenever kids encounter a roadblock, their minds kick into gear, and they start thinking. Stimulating their critical thinking helps them analyse the root cause of all problems. We can do it every day!
“Dad ill? Let’s find a way to help him recover?” “Raining outside? Can we think of some indoor activities for entertainment?” “Cook on leave? Can we find an easy-to-make dinner recipe?”
When children see us test-and-try multiple solutions to tackle everyday challenges—they watch, they think, they learn and believe that they can solve problems too.
5. Make Room For Decision-Making
“Blue or red shirt?” “Book or movie?” “Strawberry or Chocolate ice cream?”
Young ones unconsciously make decisions every day without knowing the possibilities and consequences. If we could help them recognise these, they can easily arrive at solutions by making correct decisions.
Once in a while, allow poor but safe decisions to make them reconsider their actions and use alternatives to reach the desired results.
Skill building starts from the moment we let children choose their toys, and continues throughout their life. However, instead of pushing them to learn something new, let’s take cues from their innate abilities and build skills around them to ensure life-long learning.