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25 Fun Problem Solving Activities for Kids

Problem-solving activities for kids : Explore 24 fun problem-solving games and activities, and learn effective tips and strategies to teach kids problem-solving skills. If you want to explore problem-solving strategies more in-depth, you can also grab our workbook “ Problem-Solving for Kids ” (printable resource).

Problem-solving is the cognitive process of finding solutions to challenges or complex situations.

A systematic approach to problem-solving tends to include defining the problem, gathering information and data, generating potential solutions, evaluating the pros and cons of each solution, making a decision, and implementing the chosen solution.

Effective problem-solving often requires critical thinking, a good dose of creativity, and the ability to consider multiple perspectives. It may also involve identifying patterns, breaking down a problem into manageable chunks, and applying our logic to develop solutions.

Problem-solving is present in everyday situations and across all fields: business, science, personal life, and education. There is not one single aspect in our lives where we don’t need to apply our problem-solving skills.

Table of Contents

  • Problem-solving steps
  • Development of problem-solving in childhood
  • Benefits of developing problem-solving skills
  • 10 Tips to teach kids problem-solving skills
  • 10 Examples of problem-solving strategies
  • 25 Problem-solving activities and games for kids

Problem-Solving Steps

Some key components of problem-solving include:

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

  • Identifying the problem Recognizing and defining the issue or challenge that needs to be addressed.
  • Analyzing the problem Investigating and understanding the underlying causes, factors, and relationships related to the problem.
  • Generating solutions Generating potential solutions or strategies to address the problem.
  • Evaluating all possible solutions (Pros and Cons Analysis) Assessing the feasibility, effectiveness, and potential consequences of each solution. Considering the positive and negative aspects of each solution.
  • Decision-making Selecting the best solution based on our analysis and judgment.
  • Implementing the best solution Actioning our chosen solution
  • Monitoring progress and results
  • Reflecting on the outcomes Reviewing and evaluating the outcomes of the implemented solution, learning from the experience, and making adjustments if necessary.

Development of Problem-Solving Skills in Childhood

Children begin to develop problem-solving skills from a very early age, and these skills continue to develop and refine throughout childhood and adolescence.

Babies soon learn about action and reaction. And, as early as eight months, they begin to acquire an understanding of cause and effect (they shake a rattle, it makes a sound; they push a toy, it falls)

Between 13 and 24 months, they start solving simple problems through trial and error and engage in symbolic play using their imagination.

As children progress into middle childhood (ages 7-11), they develop more advanced problem-solving skills. They become capable of understanding multiple perspectives and can consider multiple factors when solving problems. They start using logic and reasoning to solve increasingly complex problems.

During adolescence (ages 12 and up), problem-solving skills continue to develop. Teenagers can generate and test hypotheses and use deductive and inductive reasoning to arrive at solutions.

Each child will develop their problem-solving skills at their own pace. Some children may show advanced problem-solving abilities at an earlier age. Others may require more time and experience to develop these skills fully.

Benefits of Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Children

Problem-solving skills in children are crucial for children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. It equips them to approach challenges, think critically, make informed decisions, and find creative solutions. 

The benefits of good problem-solving skills in children include:

  • Positive impact on self-esteem and confidence Identifying, analyzing, and solving their problems contributes to our kids’ sense of competence .
  • Fosters Independence and Autonomy When our kids are able to problem-solve on their own, they take one more step toward independence
  • Academic Success Problem-solving skills contribute to academic achievement, as they help students analyze and solve complex problems across various subjects.
  • Cognitive Development Problem-solving fosters cognitive skills such as logical reasoning, analytical thinking, and abstract reasoning.
  • Critical Thinking Problem-solving enhances critical thinking abilities, enabling children to evaluate information, identify biases, and make informed judgments.
  • Creativity Problem-solving promotes creativity by encouraging children to think outside the box, generate innovative ideas, and explore multiple solutions.
  • Emotional Resilience Problem-solving skills enhance emotional resilience by enabling children to manage and cope with challenges effectively, reducing stress and promoting well-being.
  • Improved Social Interactions/Relationships Problem-solving abilities contribute to better social interactions, conflict resolution , and peer collaboration, promoting healthy relationships.
  • Future career success Problem-solving skills are highly valued in the workplace and can positively influence future career success.

10+ Helpful Tips to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills

Teaching problem-solving skills to kids is an important part of their cognitive development. It helps them develop critical thinking, creativity, and resilience.

But how can we help our kids and students to develop this essential skill?

We can help our kids and students develop and improve their problem-solving skills in many ways.  These are some helpful tips that you could consider:

  • Model problem-solving behavior When you see yourself in a problem-solving situation, verbalize your thought process: “I wonder how I should address this issue. I guess my alternatives could be… They all have positives and negatives….”
  • Let them participate in the problem-solving situation “Could you help me solve this puzzle?”
  • Provide real-life problem-solving situations Real-life scenarios make problem-solving more meaningful for kids. For example, discuss how to resolve a conflict with a sibling or how to make the morning routine smoother.
  • Teach them how to break down problems Show them how to break down complex problems into manageable sub-problems.
  • Practice brainstorming Create brainstorming situations where all the family (or the classroom) can contribute to solving a problem
  • Teach the value of perseverance Sometimes, we must stick to a situation and persevere before finding a solution. Encourage kids to persevere through challenges and setbacks, emphasizing that mistakes and failures are opportunities for learning.
  • Encourage critical thinking Encourage kids to analyze situations, consider different perspectives, and evaluate possible outcomes.
  • How could we make your school lunch healthier but still yummy?
  • How could we reuse/recycle all this paper?
  • What could we do to help you remember all the steps in your night routine?
  • Encourage reflection When they can find a solution for a problem, don’t jump to solve it for them. Encourage them to reflect on the problem and find and evaluate alternatives. And after a problem is solved, think about the whole process and the learnings. “How did this work?” “What did you learn” “Do you need to change anything?”
  • Foster creativity Provide them with opportunities for imaginative play, creative projects, and brainstorming sessions.
  • Teach the value of teamwork Teach kids the importance of working together to solve problems. Engage them in group activities or projects that require teamwork and collaboration. This helps kids learn the value of different perspectives and work together towards an objective while they practice their communication skills.
  • Teach decision-making skills Teach kids how to approach problems systematically by going through the steps we have mentioned in our first section.
  • Encourage both structured and free play. Structured play can help you create good problem-solving situations, while free play will foster creativity.

Developing problem-solving skills is an ongoing process that will also continue in adulthood. Provide your kids with guidance and support, and celebrate their efforts and achievements along the way.

Examples of worksheet for kids on problem-solving strategies

10 Examples of Problem-Solving Strategies

There are different strategies that can help us solve a wide range of problems. Here are some commonly recognized problem-solving strategies:

1 . Trial and Error : This is the first problem strategy that we ever learn. We start using trial and error strategies in infancy, and it continues serving its purpose in many situations. This strategy involves trying different solutions or approaches and learning from the errors or failures until a successful solution is found.

2. Algorithm: An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure or a set of rules that guarantees a solution to a specific problem. It is a systematic approach to problem-solving that follows a predetermined set of instructions.

3. Heuristics: Heuristics are mental shortcuts or rules of thumb that help simplify problem-solving by providing quick and efficient strategies. While heuristics can be effective in many situations, they may also lead to biases and errors.

4. Divide and Conquer: This strategy involves breaking down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable chunks or steps that make the overall problem easier to tackle.

5. Working Backwards: This strategy involves starting from the desired outcome and working backward to determine the steps or actions needed to reach that outcome. We often use this problem-solving strategy when we set goals.

6. Analogical Reasoning: Analogical reasoning involves drawing parallels between the current problem and a similar problem that has been solved in the past. By applying the solution from the previous problem to the current one, individuals can find a solution more efficiently.

7. Brainstorming: Brainstorming gets lots of brains working on the same problem. It is a great collaborative problem-solving strategy that can bring different perspectives and experiences to the table and may result in lots of creative ideas and solutions. 

8. Decision Matrix: A decision matrix is a systematic approach to evaluating and comparing different options or solutions. It involves creating a matrix that lists alternatives and the criteria for evaluation. It assigns weights or scores to each criterion to come up with the optimal alternative.

9. Root Cause Analysis: Sometimes, we need to understand what is causing a problem before we can attempt to solve it, as different causes may require different approaches (for example, when you are sick, your doctor may need to understand what is causing the problem before prescribing a medicine)

10. Simulation and Modeling: Simulation involves creating a simplified representation or model of a problem situation to gain insights and test different scenarios.

Our choice of strategy will depend on the problem, available resources, and our own personal preferences and circumstances. We may also need to combine strategies or apply different ones to different aspects of a complex problem.

Workbook for kids on Problem solving strategies

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Best Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Play-based activities are centered around play and are designed to engage children in active learning and exploration. And fun problem-solving activities are a great way to develop children’s critical thinking, creativity, and decision-making skills.

In this section, we will review some problem-solving games and activities that will engage your kids’ critical-thinking skills and creativity.

1. Puzzle Games Puzzles are a fun activity for children of all ages. Young children will enjoy simple puzzles, while older children (and adults!) can have fun with more complex ones. Encourage them to use logical thinking and problem-solving strategies to complete the puzzles.

2. Crosswords A crossword is another fun type of puzzle and a good source of mental stimulation.

3. Sudoku Sudoku is a popular logic-based puzzle that involves filling a grid with numbers.

It can be extremely easy or very challenging, adaptable even for young learners.

Let’s go now for a couple of building challenges!

4. Build the Tallest Tower Give the child a set of materials (Legos, building blocks, wooden blocks, or other construction materials) and ask them to build the tallest tower they can. This simple game will encourage them to problem-solve as they build and figure out how to make the tower stable.

5. Build Towers with Different Materials Ask your child to build three different towers with different materials. Then assess how stable they are and how much weight they can hold. Analyze the pros and cons of using each type of material.

6. Treasure Hunt Set up a treasure hunt with clues leading to hidden objects or rewards. Children will have to follow the clues and solve puzzles to find the ultimate prize. This activity encourages problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.

7. Scavenger Hunt Playing Scavenger Hunt can be a fun way for our kids to put their creative problem-solving skills to good use. Provide them with clues and puzzles that they must solve in order to find the next clue.

8. Mystery Bag Fill a bag with random objects and ask children to come up with creative uses for each item. Encourage them to think outside the box and find innovative solutions.

9. Memory Game While memory games primarily focus on memory retention and recall, they can indirectly contribute to problem-solving skills by developing cognitive abilities such as attention, information processing, and adjusting their strategies.

10. Role-Playing Scenarios Create role-playing scenarios where children have to solve a problem or make decisions. For example, pretend to be stranded on a desert island and ask them to decide what items they will take and how they will survive.

11. Role-Play Social Situations Work in developing social skills with social problem-solving situations.

12. Brainstorming Sessions Choose a topic or problem and hold brainstorming sessions where children can generate as many ideas as possible. Encourage them not to limit themselves (even if alternatives feel unfeasible!)

13. Team Building Activities and Games Engage children in team-building games like building a balloon tower. Each team member will need to collaborate, communicate, and problem-solve together to complete the project.

14. Escape Rooms An escape room is a super fun team problem-solving activity.

In an escape room, participants are locked inside a themed room and must work together to solve puzzles, find clues, and accomplish tasks within a given time limit in order to “escape” from the room.

15. Science Experiments Conduct simple science experiments that involve problem-solving. For example, in the classic “sink or float” experiment, children predict and test which objects will sink or float in water.

Problem-Solving Board Games

There are many board games that will test our kids problems solving activities. These are just a few examples:

16. Cluedo Players must solve a murder mystery by deducing the murderer, the weapon used, and the location of the crime. Players collect and examine clues to eliminate possibilities and make logical deductions.

17. Codenames Another classic game where players are split into two teams and must guess words based on clues from their teammates.

There are many codenames games available, including themes like Disney or Harry Potter.

18. Mastermind Game In this strategy game players take turns setting and solving secret codes

19. Scrabble Scrabble is a classic word game where players form words on a game board using letter tiles.

Kids must use their problem-solving skills to analyze the available letters, consider the best word combination and strategically place those words to score the highest points.

Learning Problem-Solving with Card Games

Card games provide opportunities for kids to develop problem-solving skills such as strategy, memory, pattern recognition, decision-making, and observation.

Just a couple of examples:

20. Uno Uno is a classic card game where kids match cards based on color or number. They need to assess their cards, strategize and make decisions about which cards to play to get rid of their cards while also considering the cards in their opponents’ hands.

21. Go Fish Go Fish is a classic card game where players try to collect sets of cards by asking other players if they have specific cards. Players need to remember which cards they have and make decisions about who to ask and what sets to pursue.

22. Coding Challenges Introduce children to coding activities using platforms like Scratch (or ScratchJr for younger kids), Code.org, or Tynker. Coding involves problem-solving and logical thinking, and children can create interactive stories, games, or animations.

23. Outdoor Problem Solving Take children outside and present them with challenges that require problem-solving, such as building a shelter using natural materials or finding their way through an obstacle course.

24. Problem-Solving Worksheets Help your child follow a systematic approach to problem-solving with these helpful worksheets

25. Goal-Setting Activities for Kids Learning to set goals and make plans to achieve them is also a problem-solving activity. I have several resources to teach kids about goal-setting that I will list below:

  • Goal-Setting Activities for Kids
  • SMART Goals for Kids
  • Goal Tracker Thermometer

Remember to provide guidance and support during these activities while encouraging children to think independently and come up with their own solutions.

Problem-Solving Worksheets

Problem Solving Strategies_Workbook for Kids

Looking for kid-friendly examples of problem-solving strategies ?

This workbook explores the following  problem-solving strategies  (with child-friendly examples and activities):

  • Trial and Error
  • Heuristics (Clever shortcuts)
  • Divide and Conquer
  • Working Backwards
  • Brainstorming
  • Decision Matrix
  • Root Cause Analysis
  • Systematic problem-solving

Kid in a bubble that represents personal space and title "Personal Space Activities for Kids"

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Develop Good Habits

17 Fun Problem Solving Activities for Kids

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As a child, I would spend hours putting together puzzles… whether it was 3-D puzzles or figuring out a crossword. I also loved it when teachers would give the class an open-ended question and we had to work in groups to figure out the answer in our own way.

Even something as simple as playing checkers with my brothers gave me the chance to use strategy as a way to win the game. I honestly believe that it’s so important for kids to solve problems at a young age, as it helps them think critically and outside the box.

Table of Contents

So, Why Is It Important To Teach Kids Problem Solving?

I think these kinds of activities are so important for kids to do because it helps them learn how to think analytically and solve problems on their own. It's a great way to get kids to use their imaginations and be creative.

Rote memorization simply does not have the same effect. This type of learning is great for learning facts like historical dates, but it’s not going to help kids figure out how events in history happened and the results.

We take these problem-solving skills into college, the workforce, and travel . My ability to problem solve since childhood has certainly got me through many sticky situations while in a new city or country.

Additionally, problem-solving helps children learn how to find creative solutions to challenges they may face both in and out of the classroom . These activities can also be fun and used in cohesion with school or playtime.

17 Fun Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

1. marble mazes.

This activity was selected because it requires them to think spatially. Spatial learning will benefit kids when they start driving, riding a bike, playing sports,etc.

To do this activity in its simplest form, you will need a piece of paper, a pencil, and some marbles. First, draw a maze on a piece of paper using a pencil.

Make sure to create a start and finish point. Then, place the marbles at the start of the maze. The goal is to get the marbles from the start to the finish by tilting the paper and using gravity to guide the marbles through the maze.

Another example of a marble maze can involve using toilet paper rolls taped together to create a three-dimensional maze. The larger the maze, the harder you can make it.

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

Check Price on Amazon!

If you are not into the DIY method, you can always buy a toy maze on Amazon. A good 48 piece puzzle is the Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor puzzle.

2. The Tower Challenge

Building a tower gives kids the chance to think about gravity, structure, and balance.

To do this activity, you will need some building materials like legos, blocks, or even toilet paper rolls. The challenge is to see how high they can stack the materials without the tower toppling over.

This can be done individually or in teams. An activity like this is good for younger kids and is the building block to learning about harder topics like engineering.

3. The Egg Drop Challenge

The egg drop challenge helps kids learn how to engineer a solution that prevents something from breaking. It requires them to think critically about which materials will best protect something fragile like an egg when dropped from a height.

To do this activity, you will need some eggs and various materials such as straws, cotton balls, bubble wrap, etc. The goal is to construct a device that will protect an egg from breaking upon impact.

This can be done individually or in teams . Teams can even have a competition for the best egg drop device.

As children begin handling, shopping for, and cooking their own food, activities like this will help them understand how to handle breakable items like bottles, eggs, delicate fruit,.etc. Ideally, this is best for age groups 8 and up.

4. The Penny Drop Challenge

This activity was selected because it requires kids to think about physics and how different materials affect sound.

To do this activity, you will need a penny ( or another coin), a cup, and various materials such as paper towels, cotton balls, etc.

The goal is to drop the penny into the cup without making any noise. Begin by placing different materials into the cup and then drop the penny into it. The children should also drop the penny from different heights into the same material to see if/how the impact from a higher drop affects sound.

Group kids into teams or let them try it on their own.

Kids should make note of what type of sounds are made when the penny hits different materials. This is a great activity for kids who are interested in science and physics.

5. The Balloon Race Challenge

This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about aerodynamics and Bernoulli’s principle . It also requires them to think creatively about how to design a balloon-powered vehicle.

To do this activity, you will need balloons, straws, masking tape, and markers. The goal is to design a balloon-powered vehicle that can travel a distance of at least 10 feet. Kids can begin this activity by sketching out their designs on paper.

After they have a basic design, they can begin building their vehicle from various materials. Then kids can explain why they think the balloon traveled or did not travel as far as it did.

6. The Marshmallow Challenge

Marshmallows are not only delicious, but they are also soft and malleable. So kids can have fun using it for some construction projects.

This activity was selected because it requires kids to think creatively about how to build a structure using limited materials. It also helps them learn about engineering and work as a team.

To do this activity, you will need marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. The goal is to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. If you don't have spaghetti noodles, use something similar like pretzel sticks.

You may even want to establish certain rules like each team can only use a certain number of marshmallows or noodles. A time limit can also make it more fun and challenging.

For more fun activities, check out our post on problem solving exercises for team building .

7. The Balloon Pop Challenge

If you remember your childhood, you probably remember popping balloons for fun at times. But this activity is different because it requires kids to use strategy and critical thinking.

This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about patterns and problem-solving. It is also a lot of fun for kids who like popping balloons. The goal is to create a device that will allow them to pop a balloon without using their hands.

To do this activity, you will need balloons and various materials such as straws, string, paper clips, etc.

8. Picture Pieces Puzzle Game

As mentioned earlier, puzzles are a great pastime – especially in childhood. Kids must think critically about how to put the pieces together to create a certain picture. It also helps them learn about shapes, colors, and other concepts.

problem solving activities | how do you teach a child problem solving skills | are problem-solving games good for kids

You can take a medium to large picture and cut it into pieces. If you have younger kids, you may want to make the pieces larger. However, if you have kids closer to the 8-11 age range, you should be able to provide a challenge and make the pieces smaller.

9. Copy the Block Model

For this challenge, you can build a model out of blocks for the kids to copy. Put kids into groups and make sure each group has the same number of blocks you used for your model.

Make your model block as simple or complex as needed for your child's age group.

Set a time limit and make sure each group starts at the same time.

10. Team Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is great for kids because they have to search for items and use investigative skills. It is also a lot of fun and can be done both indoors and outdoors .

To do this activity, you will need to create a list of items for the kids to find. The items can be anything from common household items to things you would find outside.

These types of activities can also revolve around a theme like a holiday, movie, or book. For example, if the kids are fans of “Harry Potter” you can make a list of items to find that are related to the movie.

11. Obstacle Course

This activity requires kids to think creatively about how to get from one point to another while maneuvering around obstacles. If you have outdoor space, this can be done with common objects such as hula hoops, cones, etc.

If you don't have access to an outdoor space, you can use common household items to create an indoor obstacle course. For example, you can use chairs, blankets, pillows, etc.

Begin by setting up the course and then timing each child as they complete it. You can also have them race against each other to make it more fun.

Obstacle courses are also great because kids get to be physically active while they are thinking critically.

12. Reading Storybooks

There are many great benefits for kids that read storybooks.  One of the excellent benefits is the ability to problem-solve.  When they read the stories in the books, they see scenarios that cause them to be attached to the various characters they read about. 

So, when they encounter a real-life problem, it is often productive to ask a child how their favorite character would solve that problem.  Your kids can also be encouraged to come up with various options and possible outcomes for some of the situations they may encounter. 

This not only helps kids solve various problems but become more independent as well. 

13. Ask Them Open-Ended Questions

A good way to improve a child's ability to think critically and creatively and improve their ability to solve problems is by asking open-ended questions.  It also helps them to develop healthy personalities .

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  In addition, the solution requires more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  Furthermore, it allows kids to put some extra thought into their responses. 

Here are some examples of open-ended questions you may want to ask. 

  • What did this experience teach you?
  • Was this easy?  What was easy about it?
  • What this difficult?  What is complicated about it?
  • What may happen next in this situation?
  • How did you come to this solution?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently next time?
  • What can we do to make things more fun next time?

14. Build Various Structures with Toys

Whether wooden blocks, LEGO blocks, or engineering blocks… giving your kid blocks to build whatever their minds can dream up is fun.  In addition, it requires them to think about how they will make a structure, put the pieces together, and creatively ensure the building's function and design. 

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You may also want to challenge them to build something more complicated and watch them use their brain power to make it happen. 

15. Acting Out Skits

Impromptu activities like acting out skits help kids identify problems, develop solutions, and execute them.  This process works with multiple kids being divided into teams. 

First, you will want to write down different situations, such as resolving a disagreement between siblings or dealing with bullying on the playground on a piece of paper.  Second, you will fold the paper and place it in a hat or bowl.  

Third, each team will pick a scenario out of the hat.  Finally, you can give the kids a few minutes to discuss their solution and act out. 

16. Solving Moral Dilemmas   

In this simple game, you will help your kids solve simple dilemmas they may find themselves in.  You could write down a situation your child may find themselves in and help them learn the moral way to solve the problem.   

For instance, “The cashier gave them an additional $5 change back on my purchase.  What should they do?”  Another scenario could be, “I saw my friend cheating on a test.  Should I tell on them or let it go?”  A third one could be, “I caught my friends stealing some gum from the store.  What should I do?” 

After writing down the dilemmas and placing them in a bowl, get each child to select one and read it aloud.  Finally, you will help them devise morally correct solutions to the moral dilemma. 

17. Animal Pairing Game  

This is a fun and creative game to help your kids with focus, critical thinking, and team building skills .  In addition, this activity requires an even number of players to participate (4, 6, 8, etc.) 

Before starting the game, you will want to write the names of different animals twice, each on a separate slip of paper.  Then pass out the slips of paper to each individual or team member, instructing them not to share with anyone the name of the animal they received. 

Then the children will perform activities the animals might do without talking or making sounds.  Some of these activities might include:

  • The way the animal cleans or grooms itself
  • The way the animal sleeps
  • The way the animal fights
  • The way the animal eats or drinks
  • The way the animal walks or runs

The goal is for each child to successfully pair up with the other child who has selected the same animal.

How Problem Solving in Childhood Helps in Adulthood

Children are not born with problem-solving skills. It is something that needs to be learned and developed over time .

From babies who learn how to communicate their needs to toddlers who figure out how to get what they want, to children who are starting to understand the consequences of their actions – problem-solving is a process that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.

Some of the benefits of teaching problem-solving skills to children include:

  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Better decision-making skills
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Improved communication and collaboration skills
  • Increased confidence

There are many ways to teach problem-solving skills to children. The activities mentioned above are just a few examples. It is important to find activities that are appropriate for the age and abilities of the child.

With practice, children will develop these skills and be better prepared to face challenges in both childhood and adulthood.

Final Thoughts About Fun Problem Solving Activities For Kids

These are just a few ideas to get you started on teaching your child crucial problem solving skills. Perhaps they’ve inspired to come with some of your own, or seek out others? The important thing is to make sure the activity is age-appropriate and challenging enough to engage the kids.

Problem-solving skills are important for kids to learn because they can be applied to various situations in life. These skills also promote critical thinking, which is an important life skill.

There are many other problem-solving activities for kids out there. In time, you’ll find the ones that work best for your child.  And be sure not to forget about your own needs and self-improvement, both of which will make you a better parent and mentor. Here are some useful activities for adults to get your started.

Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control .

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problem solving scenarios kindergarten

How to Teach Problem Solving in Kindergarten

Teaching kids to be independent thinkers is a huge part of education.  We want students to be able to solve their own “problems” without relying on adults for help.  While many kindergarteners aren't ready for complex problem solving, we can teach them how to address their own challenges on a smaller scale.  Keep reading for some tips on how to teach problem solving in kindergarten.

How to teach problem solving

Tips for Teaching Problem Solving in Kindergarten

Learning how to problem solve is an advanced skill that people work on throughout their lives.  We definitely shouldn't expect children to be perfect in this skill!  However, your students can definitely start to understand that they can solve some of their small problems without adult intervention. Here are a few tips for how to teach problem solving in kindergarten.

1. Focus on Common Kindergarten Problems

When people think of solving problems in kindergarten, they often focus on conflict resolution between students.  However, in kindergarten, there can be a wide range of challenges that students experience during the day. For young students, this often means turning to an adult for help.

A child is thinking with an illustrated lightbulb next to her head

Procedural – Kindergartners are very routine-oriented.  When there is a small bump in the daily routines and procedures, the default is to ask the teacher what to do. These problems could include school supply issues or misplaced items.

Personal – Whether it’s untied shoes or complicated emotions, there are a variety of personal challenges that students experience throughout the school day.  These could include personal injury, self-care challenges, and emotional regulation difficulties.

Interpersonal – Kindergarten can be a challenging time for students who are learning to interact with their peers!  Students might experience problems related to turn-taking, making shared decisions, and working in groups. These are often the small problems that result in tattling.

2. Identify Your Preferred Solutions

Before teaching problem-solving skills to your students, take some time to identify the solutions that would be preferable in your classroom.  For example, when a child finds a lost school supply on the ground, would you prefer that they try to find the correct location for it, put it in your classroom Lost and Found bucket, or set it on your desk?

Two problem solving scenario posters

Since many of the challenges kindergartners experience can be procedural, it’s helpful to teach them appropriate solution options that fit within your classroom management system . For interpersonal problems, you might want to identify solutions that fit within your school’s conflict resolution procedures.

3. Teach the Steps of Problem Solving

Once you’ve identified the problems and solutions you’d like to discuss with your students, it’s time for the instruction!  Teach your students the three easy steps of solving a problem:

First, they need to stop what they are doing.  This helps them focus on the challenge they are facing.

Next, they need to think about the problem and possible solutions. Problems and solutions at school can often be different than those at home or other places.

Finally, they need to choose the best solution for their problem. They should consider how their solutions impact those around them.

Problem solving posters on a bulletin board

These simple steps are easy for students to remember so they are more likely to use them!  It's a good idea to keep these reminders posted as visual support in the classroom so students can reference them throughout the school year.

4. Practice with Real-Life Scenarios

Now that you’ve introduced the steps to problem-solving, it’s time to practice using real-life examples and scenarios!  Introduce a common problem that your students might experience in the classroom, on the playground, or even in the lunchroom.  Discuss the problem so that all students can understand the challenge that needs to be addressed.  

Once your students can identify the problem that needs to be solved, you can discuss possible solutions.  It’s helpful for students to learn that there can be different ways to solve a problem.  Sometimes students are hesitant to address challenges without adult intervention because they want to know what the “right” thing is to do.

Finally, it’s time for the students to choose the best solution.  Students should think about how their solution will impact those around them and find the best option. You can discuss why this particular choice is the best option for the scenario.  

A problem solving poster and worksheet

After discussing this real-life scenario together as a class, you can also encourage students to practice independently. Invite your students to complete an independent practice worksheet to show how they would solve the problem.  

5. Repeat and Remind

It’s an ongoing process to teach students how to be more independent thinkers and problem solvers.  This process of discussing real-life situations will be ongoing in your classroom.  Take opportunities to repeat your instruction whenever you can!  

Consider modeling for your students when there is a problem that you need to solve as a teacher.  This helps them see that you go through the same three steps of problem solving! If a challenge arises that involves the whole class, you might also decide to discuss this together.

If you created an anchor chart during your class discussion of scenarios, you can keep those on display in your classroom.  Problem solving posters can serve as a helpful reminder to your students when they find themselves in a challenging situation.

Problem Solving Printables for Kindergarten

Would you like to help your students become more independent in addressing their own challenges?  I have created a resource to make it easy to teach problem solving in kindergarten.  

Three problem solving printables

These posters and worksheets will help your students practice problem solving with engaging and relevant scenarios.  Every classroom is different and each teacher sets specific classroom expectations. This resource is editable so that you can customize the problem solving scenarios to fit the needs of your classroom.  

Would you like to take a closer look at everything included in this resource?  You can find it in the Teaching Exceptional Kinders shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers .

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problem solving scenarios kindergarten


teach with a problem solving approach

Learning how to approach and solve problems early in life, not only helps children enjoy and look forward to sorting them out, it also helps them make and keep friends.

Preschool and kindergarten problem solving activities give children an opportunity to use skills they have learned previously and give you an opening to teach new problem solving strategies.

Introduce the vocabulary of solving problems with stories, puppets and everyday situations that occur. “We only have 10 apples but there are 20 students.  This is a problem . Let’s think of some ways that we can  solve this problem ?”

Use terms like, “a different way, let’s brainstorm, that’s a challenge, let’s think of some different solutions”.

How do I develop a problem solving approach?

Asking children questions such as , “How would you…?” or “Show me how you could…?”, help set the stage for teaching with a problem solving approach. Keep problem solving topics about subjects that interest the students. Kids are constantly trying to problem solve as they play.

Students are learning to:

  • Identify problems or challenges
  • Fact find (what do I know, what have I tried)
  • Think of ways to solve the problem (brainstorm, creative thinking, generate ideas)
  • Test their ideas

What preschool and kindergarten problem solving strategies can I teach?

Young children need real objects, pictures, diagrams, and models to solve problems. Start with real objects and move slowly to diagrams and pictures. Any of the following problem solving strategies will help them work through the four steps above:

  • using objects
  • acting the problem out
  • looking for patterns
  • guessing and checking
  • drawing pictures
  • making a graph
  • teach with projects

Play creates classroom opportunities for problem solving

creative problem solving for kids

Perhaps a child is getting frustrated as he/she plays with blocks. To help him/her focus on the problem ask questions such as:

  • What are you trying to do with your blocks?
  • What isn’t working?
  • What have you tried?
  • Can you think of another way to stack the blocks?
  • What else can you try?

Encourage creative thinking

Reinforce creative thinking, not results. The ability to solve problems and think creativity is important.

Talk about the different ways the child tried to solve the problem rather than the outcome. “Joe tried three different ways to stack the blocks. That was a great effort, Joe.”

Social classroom problem solving opportunities are abundant…

kindergarten problem solving

  • Identify the problem – – Talk about the problem. For instance, some children may be worried because other kids are hiding the center markers for the play center and giving them to their friends. Other kids are not getting turns.
  • Fact find – – There are only 4 center markers for the play center because it is small and more than 4 kids would be too crowded. Some kids are hiding them so they can play with the same children each time.
  • Brainstorm ideas – How can everyone have turns? What ideas do you have? What could we try?
  • Test the idea – Let’’s try that idea and meet again tomorrow and see how it’s working.


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8 real-life kindergarten problem-solving strategies for your munchkin.

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

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I always hear about problem solving in schools. It seems to be a term that is thrown around a lot but never clearly defined. “We worked on problem solving today” is a bit confusing to parents.

I always want to respond, so did I, all day long, here’s my laundry list of examples. It’s almost like it is this golden term but not a lot of people know what it actually means.

Problem solving is actually one of the most real-life skills we can help teach our little munchkins. It involves identifying problems, evaluating them, and seeking out solutions through processes.

Although problem solving can relate to any academic subject, it more commonly relates to life.

Here are 8 real-life problem solving strategies for kids:

1. Talk it out

My son and 99% of every kindergartener on the planet loves to talk. My son will talk about anything and everything. He will point to various objects and start up a conversation.

Quiet is not really part of his nature, so why not use this to our educational advantage?

Propose a real-life problem to your little nugget. It can be anything. My dishwasher is broken so let’s start with that. Ask your kid something like, how are you going to fix the dishwasher? And let your kid talk.

Let him babble. Let him ask you any question (appropriate) about the task at hand.

Through this, he will identify the problem, analyze it, and come up with some possible solutions. And maybe for your dirty sink’s sake, he will actually solve the issue.

2. Acting the problem out and role-playing

Another kindergarten problem-solving strategy for your little thinker involves acting. A lot of kids love to be the star of the show. This is why role-playing is a great problem-solving strategy.

Present a real-life problem question: what would you do if your friend took your favorite stuffed toy away from you?

Then have your kiddo act out the scene with you or a playmate. Having difficulties thinking of scenarios because your mind is too focused on dinner tonight and the dry cleaning?

Then print out these cards and let your munchkin problem solve away!

My son also loves to draw. If he can’t find our crayons, he will say the word “color” on repeat until I either find some crayons or I scream into a pillow.  Still, drawing can be utilized in so many educational ways.

There are many real-life problems that you can have your little rascal solve by drawing. Here is one on capacity and here is another that involves math.

Pro Tip: Help Your Child Become Better at Problem Solving

Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission and let your child play with this award-winning educational program. Your child will become better at problem solving without even realizing it!

4. Use manipulatives

Teachers love manipulatives and so do kids. Manipulatives are objects that kids can use to learn. For example, pattern blocks, cubes, cards, etc., but they can also be everyday objects from the house as well.

One easy activity that my son and I love is counting and grouping his snacks. It also requires no additional prep than the usual snack time, and I am all about that.

How many carrot sticks do you have today? Can you group together all the foods by colors? Which foods do you like? Which foods do you not like?

I think you get the idea. Now I wouldn’t recommend doing this for your evening dinner of spaghetti, but it works well during a snack.

5. Work in a group

Another way to integrate real-life kindergarten problem-solving strategies for your little munchkin is to have her work in groups to solve a problem.

Learning how to work in groups is a skill in itself that presents its own set of problems. As an adult, you have probably had your share of group work issues at your job. Group work is just not something that goes away.

All you need to do is give your child’s group a simple task. It could be as easy as giving them a bunch of random materials and telling them to build something.

Sometimes the emphasis on these activities is on more of the group process than the actual final product.

Group activities teach kids how to be leaders, settle conflicts, and listen to others’ ideas – just to name a few.

6. Practice Trial and Error

One of the most valuable kindergarten problem-solving strategies is to let your munchkin make mistakes.  Yoda, a very wise movie character, once said, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” This quote proves true in regards to problem solving.

Give your little nugget a problem that they will struggle with for a while. For example, tell her to guess how many cups of water will it take to fill a bigger bucket.

She will guess and then she has to actually fill up each cup, pour it into the larger bucket, and take note of how far off she is.

She will most likely fail at this activity a couple times, but she will eventually arrive at a conclusion through trial and error. Trial and error is perhaps the most real-life skill I know of. After all, I use this strategy when I parent – every single day.

7. Make a model

Kids learn in a variety of different ways. Some learn best by drawing, writing, talking, moving, etc. Some kids also learn well through building.

Making a model is a wonderfully visual way to solve problems by making them come to life.

There are many kindergarten problem-solving activities that involve the use of models. One popular one is the popsicle bridge.

Tell your child that he needs to make the strongest bridge possible out of popsicles, and when he is done, you are going to see how many weights it can hold.

You can tell him that he can even do it twice to compare the results.

You’re welcome, because your entire afternoon has just been planned.

8. Give your munchkin errands

You heard me correctly. Put your little one to work by assigning him some errands. Going grocery shopping and you can’t find the pickles? Send little Jonny on a mission with few directions.

Need the air in your tires filled? “Jonny, I have a task for you!” (wink).

Everyday errands offer perfect kindergarten problem-solving strategies. Taking part in the family errands will not only help out little Jonny, but it will also help out you, and we are all about that.

Problem solving can be done anywhere, and it is a skill that we all need to continuously work on. I hope the examples above and the breakdown of real-life kindergarten problem-solving strategies clarify all the hoopla.

Now go get Jonny and your grocery list, so you can work on some problem solving together.

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Organize your routines to promote plenty of kindergarten math problem solving.

It’ll help children make sense of math concepts as they solve problems using real life objects and everyday situations that they can relate to.

When children learn to recognize a problem, try a few problem solving strategies, suggest a variety of solutions to solve the problem, and finally, test their ideas. They will gain confidence and have a chance to use skills that they have learned previously.

Keep Math Problem Solving Activities Simple


  • Jars from pasta sauce and other products work well also.
  • Ask parents to save clean jar lids that are large enough to hold 3 one-inch blocks. Check there are no sharp edges.
  • Cups are too deep for the following activities as the children cannot easily see how many counters they have put into each cup.

Literature based problem solving games…


Game – Birthday party across the river

Set up the problem by reading a book such as Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present.

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

After reading it, talk about:

  • What was the little girl’s problem?
  • What did she do to solve it?
  • How did Mr. Rabbit help?
  • How did they solve the problem?

Boats and River Game

  • Boats – One jar lid per child (such as the ones that pasta sauce comes in) that hold 3 one-inch Unifix™ cubes. The lids represent the boats.
  • Presents – Ten one-inch Unifix™ cubes for each student. These represent the presents. Vary the number of blocks, depending on the children’s abilities.
  • 1/2 sheet of blue construction paper cut lengthwise – this is the river
  • Recording sheet and pencils
  • Introduce the problem – Tell your students that you are pretending that all ten of Mr. Rabbit’s  presents (cubes) have to get across the river for a birthday party. The presents will have to go in the boats (jar lids) but can not be stacked on top of each other or they will fall in the water. Only 3 presents can fit into a boat but all the presents have to get to the party.
  • How many trips across the river does your boat need to take?
  • Each child loads their boat with 3 cubes and take them across the river then unloads their boat
  • Children record each trip with a tally line.
  • Vary the number of blocks with each game

Sharing type problem solving …

  • Counters, blocks or crackers
  • Small paper plates – 4 per child
  • Lids and blocks as above

Focus on different ways of solving the problems. Vary the games and materials each time:

  • Game #1 – Say to the children – “You have 4 plates, one for each friend, and 12 crackers. How can you make sure that all your friends get the same number of crackers?”
  • Game #2 – Each child gets 4 lids and 12 blocks. “How you can put the blocks into the lids so all the lids have the same number of blocks?”
  • Game #3 – Each child gets 2 plates. Goldfish type crackers are in bowls near the children. “How can we figure out how many crackers we will need if each plate has 10 crackers?”

Seating & PE equipment type kindergarten problem solving …

One group of children watches while the other group acts out the problem.

Prompt with suggestions as necessary. E.G. How could we figure that out? All the children can contribute ideas to solve these types of problems.

#1 – Four children can sit around each table. We have 12 children. How can we figure out how many tables we need so everybody can sit down?

#2 – We have 6 balls and 12 children. How can we share the balls so all the children get to play with the same number of balls?

#3 – This group has 4 children. If each child jumps 3 times, how can we keep track of how many jumps will they jump all together?

Extra tips for educators

Tip – Save these types of problems for after the children have had plenty of activity and are ready to sit and rest for a while.

Spatial type problem solving

  • Pattern blocks

Ask questions such as the ones below.

1. How many ways can you make a bird (or flower or star…) using only 5 pattern blocks? Children spend 5 minutes making birds. Have them count the number of pattern blocks in each bird as they sometimes get carried away and end up making a bird with many more blocks!


2. Show me how you can make 3 different stars can with your pattern blocks?


Recording problem solving activities

Prompt students to record the results of most activities, even if they are only able to make a simple picture.


Many opportunities for math problem solving will arise in a regular preschool or kindergarten day.

  • Keep problem solving simple and age appropriate
  • Focus on problems that have open-ended results
  • If children get frustrated, give them the option of leaving the problem and coming back to it later
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30 Problem Solving Scenarios for Speech Therapy Practice

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Problem solving scenarios.

  • Your friends came over to your house for a movie night. One of your friends brought another friend so there are more people than you planned for. You want to pass out the drinks but you only have five cans of soda and you need 6 for everyone to have one. What could you do?
  • After basketball practice you go back to the locker room with your team to shower and change. When you are done dressing, you can't find your shoes. What could you do?
  • You have been waiting all day for lunch to come because you are starving. Finally class gets over and you get to go to lunch. Except when you go to get to your lunch, it's not there. You probably left it at home. What could you do?
  • There is a guy in your class who is always mean to you. He always bumps you when he walks by and he calls you names. He knocks stuff out of your hands and makes you feel stupid. You don't think you can take it anymore. What could you do?
  • You really want to invite this new girl/guy to come to your birthday party, but you have never talked to them before. You are worried they will say no. What could you do?
  • You rode the bus to school today and on the way in people are pointing and laughing at you. You go in the bathroom and see that you have pink gum all over the back of your pants. What could you do?
  • You wake up and see that your alarm never went off. So you are starting your morning 15 minutes later than you planned. It is a really important day at school and you cannot be late. What could you do?
  • You are giving a group presentation in front of class and it's your turn to talk. All of the sudden you sneeze. You cover it with your hand, but now your hand is full of stuff you sneezed out. What could you do?
  • You are eating dinner at a fancy restaurant with your parents and their friends. You have a really messy dinner and accidentally flip a noodle into the lady's lap. They are busy talking and don't notice it. What could you do?
  • You are taking a test and there is no talking allowed. You are writing your answers on the paper and your pencil breaks. What could you do?
  • You are taking a test and the guy behind you asks you for help. He wants to know what you put for question number two. What could you do?
  • You are at a birthday party and you have waited in line for a long time for your turn to hit the pinata. It is finally going to be your turn and it looks like the next hit will break the pinata. But you suddenly have to go to the bathroom. What could you do?
  • You are hanging outside with your friend and she decides to pick your neighbor's flowers. She gives you the pretty handful of flowers and right then your neighbor opens the door. She asks you why you picked her flowers. What could you do?
  • You borrowed your sister's skates one day without asking and they broke while you were using them. What could you do?
  • You are eating at a friend's house and the mom piles your plate full of food. It looks really good and you want to eat it all but you can't because you just ate a snack. What could you do so you don't hurt her feelings?

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problem solving scenarios kindergarten

  • Your teacher was working at her desk.  You wanted to ask her a question, but she didn't see your hand raised. What should you do?
  • You started to do your work, but you weren't sure if you were doing it right. What should you do?
  • You were playing tether-ball and were the champion so far.  In the next game, you slightly touched the rope.  Only one student saw you touch the rope. What will you do?
  • The teacher is giving directions, but your friend sitting next to you keeps talking.  You can't hear the directions. What should you do?
  • You didn't do your homework.  Your teacher was upset with you. What should you do?
  • You finished eating and felt a burp coming. What are you going to do?
  • You were waiting to swing.  When it was your turn, another boy jumped in front of you and took the swing. What would you do?
  • You waited a long time, but your mom didn't come to pick you up after school. What should you do?
  • A bully threatened to beat you up after school. What should you do?
  • A boy on the playground keeps pushing you and making you mad. What would you do?
  • You were sitting in class doing your work and you hear the fire alarm. What should you do?
  • An adult you didn't know came on to the playground and asked if you would help look for his lost dog. What would you do?
  • You forgot your lunch at home. What would you do?
  • The person sitting behind you keeps tapping your chair with his foot. What should you do?
  • You finished your work early. What should you do?

This list of functional words was professionally selected to be the most useful for a child or adult who has difficulty with problem solving scenarios.

We encourage you to use this list when practicing at home.

Home practice will make progress toward meeting individual language goals much faster.

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are only able to see students/clients 30-60 mins (or less) per week. This is not enough time or practice for someone to handle Problem solving scenarios.

Every day that your loved one goes without practice it becomes more difficult to help them. 

SEE ALSO:   The Best Books for Speech Therapy Practice

Speech therapy books for targeting multiple goals

We know life is busy , but if you're reading this you're probably someone who cares about helping their loved one as much as you can.

Practice 5-10 minutes whenever you can, but try to do it on a consistent basis (daily).

Please, please, please use this list to practice.

It will be a great benefit to you and your loved one's progress.

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5-step problem solving for young children.

  • Solves Problems Peacefully

Even young children can be taught to solve their problems peacefully with these 5 steps: 

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

Step One: How do you feel? Calm down. – Often when we encounter a problem, we feel frustrated or angry. Before we can solve our problem, we need to know how we are feeling and calm down. There are different ways to calm down; we could take a break, take three deep breaths, use " milkshake breathing [ 1 ] ".

Step Two: What is the Problem? – We need to know what the problem is before we can solve it. Why do you feel angry or upset? Remember this problem belongs to you, not other people.

Step Three: Come up with Solutions – It is helpful to think of as many different solutions to the problem as possible. Not every solution will work. A solution might work one time but not another time. The more problems you solve, the easier it is to think of solutions.

Step Four: What would happen? – Think about what would happen if you chose each of the solutions you came up with. Is the solution safe? A safe solution means no one will be hurt or upset. Is the solution fair? How will everyone feel?

Step Five: Try the Solution – Choose a solution. Try your solution. Did it solve the problem? If the solution does not solve the problem, you can try one of the other solutions you came up with.

Lesson Plan: Solving Problems Peacefully

Background & learning outcomes:.

This activity  [ 2 ] is written for children ages 4-6 for a child care setting, preschool, kindergarten or in the home. It can be adapted, however for other ages. By teaching children basic problem solving steps and providing opportunities for them to practice this skill, children can become competent problem solvers.

  • Large paper and marker for writing solution ideas

Teaching and Learning Activities:

Introduce the topic of "problems." Ask children to share problems they have had recently. You can add your own examples of problems you have had or problems you have observed in the classroom.

Explain to the children that they can become expert problem solvers by using five problem solving steps.

Introduce and briefly explain each of the problem-solving steps.

Pick an example of a problem the children shared. Work through the problem with the children using the five problem solving steps.

Step 1: How do you feel? Calm down.  Ask the children to identify how they felt or how they might feel if this problem happened to them. Ask them for suggestions to calm down. Practice ways to calm down, like taking three deep breaths.

Step 2: What is the Problem?  Ask children to describe what the problem is. Help children to reframe the problem so it is defined as their problem, not someone else’s problem. For example: “I want to use the red crayon,” instead of, “they won’t share the red crayon.”

Step 3: Come up with Solutions.  Encourage children think of as many solutions as possible. In the beginning, you may need to help them with solutions. Write down the possible solutions. The focus at this step is just to generate as many solutions as possible, not to evaluate solutions.

Step 4: What would happen?  Ask children to think what would happen next if they chose a solution. Is the solution safe? A safe solution means no one will get hurt. Is the solution fair? How will everyone feel? Have the children go through the solutions they generated and think about what would happen next. Role playing the solutions can help children understand the possible consequences.

Step 5: Try the Solution.  Have the children pick a solution to the problem. Will the problem be resolved? The chosen solution can also be role played.


  • Accompanying each step with a visual cue is helpful, particularly for children with limited verbal skills.
  • Depending on the age and attention span of the children, practicing the problem-solving steps using an example problem can be split into different lessons. Start by introducing the five steps in the first lesson, then in each subsequent lesson, practice one step.
  • Role play different solutions to problems with children to help them understand the consequences of solutions.

Follow-Up Activities:

Once children have been taught these five steps to problem solving, they need opportunities to practice using them. These follow-up activities reinforce the problem-solving steps and provide practice opportunities:

Post visuals of the problem-solving steps in the room where they are visible for children to refer to on an ongoing basis.

Return to the problem solving steps regularly. Have the children provide other examples of problems they have encountered or create hypothetical problems that are relevant to their lives. Work through these problems as a class, using the problem solving steps.

When problems arise in the classroom, remind children to use their problem solving steps and guide them through the process. As they become more competent problem solvers, they will require less assistance to work through the steps.

Role model effective problem solving for your child.

Select children’s books where the characters encounter a problem. Ask the children how the character in the story could solve their problem. Encourage a variety of solutions. Have the children act out the problem and possible solutions. Book examples include:

A Good Day  (2007) by Kevin Henkes.  Bird, Fox, Dog, and Squirrel are not starting their day off very well. However, with a little patience, they find that they are able to overcome minor setbacks in order to have a very good day after all. Ages 0-6.

Bobby vs. Girls (accidentally)  (2009) by Lisa Yee.  Bobby and Holly have been best friends for years, until a disagreement threatens to break them up for good. However, when their argument accidentally sparks a full-out war between the boys and girls in their fourth-grade class, they must come up with a way to return things to normal. Ages 6-12.  

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Self-Regulation
  • Early Years
  • Middle Years

Learn more about "milkshake breathing" and ways to teach children this and other important calming skills.

Adapted from: Joseph, G.E. & Strain, P.S. (2010). Teaching Young Children Interpersonal Problem-Solving Skills. Young Exceptional Children, 13, 28-40.

Kathy B SLP

Problem Solving Scenarios for Kids

social problem solving - boys fighting over toy

What is Social Problem Solving?

Social problem solving is a process of recognizing difficulties and adapting or changing to resolve problems that we encounter in everyday living.  Social problem solving is an essential life skill.  Strong problem-solving skills are important in social interactions throughout life.  Young children learn social problem-solving skills like learning to share and asking for preferred items.  They learn to use the right words, tone of voice, and body language.  They also learn to read the body language and tone of voice of others.  They learn to make social inferences and understand the perspectives of others.  As children grow and develop social problem-solving skills become more complex.  Children with strong social problem-solving skills respond better to stress.  They are also more likely to be successful in personal and professional interactions as they get older.

Kids have to solve social problems throughout their days in school.  These issues range from requesting help in the classroom to joining in with a basketball game on the playground.  Kids learn many of these problem-solving skills through maturity, experience, and adult direction.  Other times more direct teaching is necessary.

How Can we help students learn Social Problem Solving Skills?

  •  Teach kids to communicate their feelings in a calm way.  As adults, we know that misunderstanding causes many problems in social interactions.  Difficulty understanding the perspective of someone else also causes problems.
  • Help students learn to identify problems.  Sometimes kids don’t recognize nonverbal clues that there is a social problem.
  • Model social problem skills for students.  Talk about social problems that occur throughout the day.  Model social problem solving and talk about your thinking.
  • Use problem-solving scenarios for kids to practice social problem-solving.  By using hypothetical problems kids can gain important social skills.

What are problem solving scenarios?

Jill’s class is on a field trip to a museum.  Jill wasn’t paying attention and lost her group.  Now she is by herself.  What is the problem?  How can Jill solve her problem? 

Your classmate is passing out cupcakes and she did not give one to you.  How do you feel?  What can you do?

Y ou are doing a math paper in class but you are confused about how to do some of it.  What can you do?

It is your birthday and your grandmother just gave you a present.  It’s a really boring sweater.  What should you do?

Your friend at school is sitting by himself at recess and looking really sad.  What can you do?  

Jack and Yasine want to play a game but they want to play different games.  They are arguing.  What can they do?

You are at a friend’s house for dinner and they are going to eat lobster.  You are allergic to lobster and shellfish.  What should you do?  What would you say?  

These are some examples of  problem solving scenario for kids.  In using scenarios, students can identify problems, talk about perspectives and come up with solutions.  There is usually not just one solution.  It is great for students to brainstorm and come up with different ways to solve problems.

Here are more problem solving scenarios for kids:

problem solving scenarios

Try this fun set of problem solving scenarios with a superhero twist!

problem solving scenarios

Social Skills All Year is a comprehensive set of social skills questions for the whole year.

social problem solvimg for back to school

Get ready for back-to-school with this set of back-to-school problem-solving scenarios.  

Try some of these other social problem-solving scenarios that I like:

Social and safety skill question cards

Social Skills for Teenagers

Social Skills Bundle 

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Home • Kid • Development

15 Fun Activities To Teach Problem Solving To Kids

Problem-solving skills help children efficiently manage difficult moments in their lives.

Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri MD

Specialty: Psychiatrist, motivational speaker, writer

Experience: 15 years

Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, popularly referred to as ‘The Celebrity Shrink,’ is an award-winning neuro-psychiatrist and mental health advocate with over 15 years experience.She is the medical director and psychiatrist-in-chief at Pin... more

advaitaa ravi BBA

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Experience: 7 years

Advaitaa is a digital marketing and content writing specialist with around seven years of experience. She’s worked on a variety of genres including travel, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and health and w... more

harshita makvana B.Com, PG Dip

Specialty: Child Education, Storytelling, Activities and Learning

Harshita is a graduate in commerce and holds a PG Diploma in Patent and Copyrights Law from NALSAR University. She has also pursued CA and has more than three years of internship experience in auditin... more

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Image: Shutterstock

Children receive numerous opportunities to learn about the world as they get older. However, they also regularly encounter problems, whether it is peer pressure, difficult arithmetic calculations, or disagreements with their peers. The benefits of problem-solving skills for kids are numerous and can help them effectively deal with such situations.

They will learn to find practical solutions independently without relying on an adult. Further, when they encounter difficulties, they will be more confident in their ability to employ their problem-solving skills and develop innovative solutions on their own.

Read this post to know the importance of problem-solving abilities for children, how to inculcate this skill in them, and for some exercises to help them develop this essential skill.

Importance Of Problem-Solving Skills For Kids

Problem-solving benefits children in numerous ways. It helps them

  • Cope with challenges in everyday life.
  • Make effective decisions.
  • Pick up other skills, such as cooperation , critical thinking, and collaboration along the way.
  • Resolve problems without breaking them down.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Become more independent.

How To Inculcate Problem-Solving Skills In Children

Here are a few ways to encourage your child to utilize their problem-solving skills.

1. Test it out

Whenever your child encounters a problem, ask them to acknowledge it and embrace the challenge. It will help hone their analytical and reasoning skills. If the outcome is ineffective, they can try different brainstorming approaches to find a practical and effective solution. It will nudge your child’s creativity and encourage them to look at problems from different angles.

2. Ask for advice

Sometimes, you may struggle to make decisions in your everyday life. For instance, you might struggle to decide what to cook for dinner or what to wear to the movies. Ask your children to help you make these simple decisions . When you ask them for their advice, it teaches them that they’re not the only ones who face problems. When you value their ideas, it will give them the confidence to solve problems independently. Besides, it will churn their thinking and analyzing skills, which will eventually help them in decision making.

3. Take a deep breath

One of the first steps to effective problem solving is remaining calm. Even with youngsters, when their emotions go out of hand, it’s difficult to look at things rationally, and the tendency to make impulsive decisions becomes higher. It’s important to teach your child to take deep breaths every time they feel they’re losing control of their emotions . Once they’re calm, they can assess the situation better.

4. Verbalize the problem

It would help your child if they verbally express how they feel and what they’re struggling with after calming down. It helps them gain perspective and makes it easier for them to come up with potential solutions.

5. Don’t provide “the answer”

While it’s difficult to watch your children struggle with an issue, do not give them the answer outright. Instead, give them hints to help them solve the problem independently. This way, they can learn to come up with creative solutions independently, using their logic and creativity.

6. Lead by example

Children are like sponges and pick up things very quickly. So, when you confront a problem and come up with an effective solution, they’ll notice how you address issues and try to emulate you.

7. Allow natural consequences to unfold

Sometimes, letting the problem run its course is the best way to deal with it. So, when your child is faced with a problem, let them be. Let’s suppose your child spent all their weekly allowance in a day or two; let them go the entire week without allowance. This will set them up to make better choices in the future.

15 Problem-Solving Activities For Kids

There’s no better way to learn than through play. The following activities are quite fun and require children to display their problem-solving skills.

One of the best problem-solving activities for children is puzzles. They come in various difficulty levels. Based on your child’s age, you can pick the appropriate one. Give them a puzzle, and they will learn to analyze the problem/question, find different ways of solving it, and arrive at the solution .

Additionally, the activity will help improve their critical-thinking skills, gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.

2. Scavenger hunt

One of the educational activities that every parent should introduce to their children is scavenger hunt. It is an inexpensive, easy, fun activity that can be done both indoors and outdoors and requires nothing more than the items you already have at home. The activity allows children to think outside the box. Without being aware, they’re learning problem-solving in a fun way, using their exploration skills.

Korbalagae, a former preschool through grade one teacher, shares an exciting idea for a problem-solving scavenger hunt. She narrates, “One of my favorite low prep lessons was the gingerbread man. I mostly needed buy-in from my colleagues and some cookie dough. Once we had read the book, I would have my students make gingerbread cookies, but as in the stories, ours would go missing.

“Our head cook, Mr Patrice, came to give us some terrible news that our cookies had disappeared when he went to look in the oven. This started our problem-solving. We had to figure out where our cookies had gone and how to get them back… We then had to come up with a plan of how to find them and where to look… My students had a chance to solve a problem. We had different theories of how our cookies went missing and where they could be, and for each idea, we examined it as a group. What was always wonderful to see was how one student’s idea would be picked up by another student and expanded upon ( i ).”

3. Storybooks

Reading offers a plethora of benefits. One of them is problem-solving. When children read stories , they come across various characters and the roles they play. Most often, children get attached to these characters. So, when they come across a problem, ask them how their favorite character would have solved it. Encourage them to come up with a variety of solutions and discuss the possible outcomes of each.

Engaging them in arts and crafts is another excellent way to teach children problem-solving skills. Give your child a variety of materials lying around the house and let them unleash their imagination. Let them come up with all sorts of exciting creations or repair broken toys or gadgets. Allow them to work independently, and guide them only when they are out of ideas.

5. Open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions is an excellent way to improve your child’s ability to think creatively and critically and improve their problem-solving skills . With these questions, there’s no right or wrong answer, and the answer goes beyond a simple ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ They have to put some thought into their answers. Here are a few questions you can ask after each session.

  • What was difficult? What was easy?
  • What did you learn?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • How did you arrive at the solution?
  • What would you do differently the next time?

Mazes are fun and safe for all age groups. When they work on mazes, it makes them think. The activity also improves their motor skills, observational skills, sense of direction, and problem-solving skills. Think beyond book mazes – you can find many maze games on the web. With practice, they’ll get better at finding their way out. Eventually, you can give them more complex mazes to solve, which help enhance their problem resolution skills.

7. Mini treasure hunt

Treasure hunt is one game that can get the entire family involved. You can keep their minds at work, especially if they know they’re going to win something in the end. Give them clues that encourage them to think outside the box and use their problem analysis skills to find the treasure in the end. Here are a few hints you could use to let them find the treasure:

  • My job is to put an end to your sleep. I do so with a beep, buzz, or music. (Ans: alarm clock)
  • I don’t have a face or arms, but I have hands that move at a steady pace. (Ans: Clock)
  • I’m filled with soft feathers, and it’s quite impossible for you to sleep without me. (Ans: Pillow/blanket)
  • Use me to clean your car in a jiffy or to give plants a drink. (Ans: Water hose)

8. Building with toys

Give your children LEGO blocks, wooden blocks, engineering blocks, etc., and make them build whatever they wish. Building with toys provides ample experimentation opportunities that require children to think and develop creative solutions to ensure a functional design. You can once, in a way, ask them to build something challenging, such as a creature with three arms or two towers with a joining bridge. Watch them rack their brains as they try to come up with a structure.

9. Wool web

Give the children a multi-colored yarn and ask them to stand in a circle. One person loops the ball of yarn across a finger and passes it to another person. Once every person gets a chance to hold the ball and loop the yarn across their finger, a web would be created.

Now, blindfold one member and ask them to follow the verbal instructions of the others to unwind the web. This group activity involves teamwork, focus, patience, coordination, concentration, and problem-solving skills to figure a way out.

10. The human knot

It is a simple game that’s extremely fun. In this game, you need a group of children. Make the children form a circle and raise their hands. Start with one player, who has to use their right hand to hold onto a player’s hand from across the circle and their left hand onto someone else’s hand. Check if everyone has held both hands with different players. Now, without breaking the circle, they must untangle themselves. The challenge is complete once everyone’s hands are free and they are back in the circle.

11. Impromptu skits

Divide the players into teams. Write down different scenarios, such as dealing with bullying in school or resolving a fight between siblings, on pieces of paper, fold them, and place them in a bowl. Each team/player picks a chit and acts out the scenario. You can give them a time limit to prepare. Such impromptu activities help children identify a problem, formulate a solution, and execute it.

12. Group drawing

Another excellent team-building activity for sharpening children’s problem-solving and communication skills is group drawing. Divide children into teams of three. Each of the three players in the team has a role to play .

One person is the drawer, who takes directions from the instructor to attempt to create a design. They should stand with their back to the instructor and viewer and must not talk.

Next is the instructor. The instructor is the one who gives out verbal instructions as to how the drawer must draw a particular design.

The viewer looks at the design. But, they’re not allowed to talk and can only communicate with the instructor via gestures.

You have a winner when the viewer is satisfied with the drawer’s picture. You can let the children take turns playing different roles.

13. Clue me in

Clue me in is a fun detective game that encourages cognitive development, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Start by selecting five to six target answers, such as a public figure, animal, historical event, social trend, or profession. Now, collect five to ten items associated with each target answer. They can be pictures from the Internet too. Place them in different bags.

Now decide how many clues a child can pick before making a guess. If it’s two, let the child pick up two clues from a bag and make their first guess. See who’s able to answer the quickest.

14. Survivor scenarios

Here’s another game that doesn’t require any items. In this game, you have to create pretend-play scenarios for children, who have to analyze and think out of the box to solve. For instance, give them this scenario, “You’re stuck on an island, and you know help will not come for two days. So how will you create a shelter for yourself with items around you?” Thinking about solutions to such situations will take a child’s innovation and imagination skills to the next level.

15. Moral dilemma

Children often find themselves in a dilemma. This simple game, without their knowledge, will help them cope with such scenarios. On pieces of paper, write down different dilemmas, such as ‘The cashier gave me $1 extra in change; what should I do?’ or ‘I saw my friend bullying someone at school. Should I stop them or let them be?’ Then fold it up and place it in a bowl. Get each child to pick one piece of paper, read it aloud, and come up with creative solutions on the spot to handle the situation. This fun activity will help children in problem identification and resolution, using contemplation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. At what age do children begin problem-solving?

Children are believed to acquire the basics of problem-solving by age three. But it is not refined since it is intervened by short attention span and difficulty in understanding the problems on their own. Their problem-solving skills develop as they grow up (1) .

2. What are three problem-solving strategies?

The three common problem-solving strategies are (2) :

  • Trial and error: Trying different ways to solve a problem until it is resolved
  • Algorithm: Following a step-by-step formula to solve the problem
  • Heuristic: Following a problem-solving framework such as breaking it into steps

3. What are the most common mistakes children make when solving problems?

One common mistake is children rushing to solve the problem out of excitement without understanding the problem. They may not try to comprehend the wording of a problem, which prevents them from identifying the facts. The urge to complete one question quickly and move to the next also makes them give the wrong answers.

4. What are the potential challenges of teaching problem-solving to kids?

Some of the challenges that educators face when teaching problem-solving is the developing cognitive skills in children that may prevent them from understanding specific concepts. The absence of background knowledge to solve a particular problem also hinders the process. In addition, children tend to have limited attention affecting their focus on solving a complex problem. Finally, a lack of appropriate materials and resources can also challenge teaching problem-solving.

Problems are a part of life, and the sooner children learn to tackle them, the better. Problem-solving for kids is an important skill because it helps them cope with everyday difficulties, challenges them to think differently, and learn more critical thinking skills. You may teach problem-solving skills to your children by encouraging them to share their problems, driving them to find their answers, or setting a good example. You can also involve them in problem-solving activities, such as puzzles, scavenger hunts, and mazes. Your focused efforts will help your children grow independent and confident in their problem structuring skills.

Infographic: “IDEALS” – A Method Of Problem Solving

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Key Pointers

  • Problem-solving skills teach kids to think out of the box and independently cope with life’s challenges.
  • Guiding them to acknowledge the problem and letting them solve the problem themselves could teach problem-solving skills in children.
  • Puzzles, scavenger hunts, mazes, and many more fun and engaging activities to hone your child’s problem-solving skills as you scroll down.

Personal Experience: Source

i. Simple problem solving activities | how to teach problem solving skills in kindergarten; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Auo-bxKk3gc


  • ACADEMIC AND FUNCTIONAL LITERACY Outcome Component 2: Demonstrates Competence in Problem Solving; https://cales.arizona.edu/sfcs/cyfernet/nowg/academic_component2.html
  • Problem Solving; https://opentext.wsu.edu/psych105/chapter/7-4-problem-solving/
  • Fact-checker

Advaitaa Ravi BBA

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Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Problem solving is challenging for young students (and many adults too)! To support my little friends, I teach them problem solving strategies that they can use when they encounter a problem. We want our students to become independent thinkers who can solve problems, control their emotions, express empathy, and help others.

I introduce the problem solving techniques a few at a time during a class meeting. Each week, I introduce three new problem solving techniques.  We then end up with nine to twelve techniques total based on what my students need that year.  I explain the technique to the students in concrete terms so they will understand what the technique is and what it can look/sound like.

We usually start with these four skills:  “please stop”, ask, get help, and say how you feel.  Many problems can be solved with those solutions, which is why I always start with those. Then, the following week, I introduce take turns, play together, trade, and share. Then, the last four solutions the next week.

Problem Solving Techniques

Teach your students problem solving skills using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Singing with puppets is a fun and active way to practice the problem-solving techniques .  Preschoolers LOVE puppets!  This technique also allows students to role play.  Some students will be more verbal if they can pretend to be someone else.  At the end of each verse, students act out the problem-solving technique with a buddy using the puppets!As a transition activity to lunch, students took turns sharing a way they have solved a problem. You can also play, “What would you do if….”. State a real problem that could happen and have students pick a problem-solving solution to solve the problem. Some examples would be, “What would you do if your friend took your book?”, “What would you do if you got sticky glue on your hands?”, or “What would you do if you needed the red marker and your friend was coloring with it?” Once they have learned the strategies, stand back and let students try solving their own problems independently. Just a warning: this can take some time with lots of practice and support. As long as the student isn’t frustrated, let them try before you jump in to help. You will be amazed at the problems your child can solve given the opportunity to.

At first, you will be giving students lots of support and giving them the words to use to solve a problem.

  • Always approach students at their level, in a calm supporting way.
  • Ask, “what’s the problem?” If they don’t respond, comment on what you see such as “I see you have glue all over your hands and it looks sticky.”
  • Restate the problem. “So the problem is ….”
  • Brainstorm solutions and choose one together. This is the perfect time to use problem solving card visuals! “How can we solve this problem?” Flip through the solution cards and ask “Could we ….?”
  • Praise and observe! Cheer on the students for solving the problem and stay close just in case they need more support.

Throughout the day, try to make EVERYTHING a problem to solve.  Then model, talk through your thinking out loud, and use visuals to support students as they try to solve a problem. For example, I may put out a big ball of playdough in the center of the table as a small group activity. Students have to problem solve so each student has play dough to play with. It only takes few extra minutes to sneak in problem-solving situations throughout the day. Each time students help solve a problem or observe a friend solve a problem, they learn to self-regulate, express emotions appropriately, develop empathy, and develop problem-solving skills.

State problems for students who look stuck. If a student is just standing there, they need support, but don’t solve the problem for them! It’s so easy to do. Simply state their problem or what you see and ask a probing question. For example, if a student is standing with an empty bowl in their hand, you could say “Your snack spilled on the floor. How can you solve the problem?”

Problem-Solving Necklace or Mini Book!

I hole punched the small cards, put them on a book ring and keep them on a lanyard I wear every day.  This way I can support students’ solving problems without having to go to the safe place where they are posted.  I can just show the picture cards as a visual on my necklace.  The mini book in the safe place works the same way.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Safe Place!

I keep my techniques posted in my circle area at the beginning of the year AND in my safe place. My safe place is a small spot in my classroom where students can go when they are upset, need to calm down, want to be alone, or have a problem.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Once I see students using the problem-solving techniques independently, I remove them from my circle area.  They are posted in my safe place ALL YEAR LONG for students to use when they are struggling to solve a problem.  In my safe place, you will find a mirror, feeling chart, bean bag, sensory bottles, calm down choices, a stuffed animal, problem solving mini book and problem-solving techniques chart. You can read all about how to set up a safe place in your classroom HERE . Children’s Books!

These are some of my FAVORITE children’s books to teach all about problem-solving.  As we read the book, we talk about how the character is or isn’t solving the problem, how it makes the character and others feel, any natural consequences that could occur, and which one of our problem-solving strategies the character could use to solve the problem.

Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

Do you want to use them in your classroom?  You can!  I did the work for you.  Grab them from my TPT store HERE .

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Teach your students how to solve problems using visual supports and techniques in your early childhood classroom. Teaching social skills (aka character education) is just as important as teaching letters.

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I’m Jackie, your go-to girl for early childhood inspiration and research-based curriculum. 

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Social Skills Activities that Teach Kids Problem-Solving

September 22 , 2021.

​​ Social skills activities are important for children of all abilities. With this in mind, We Rock the Spectrum’s Social Skills Blog Series aims to provide insight into activities and practical tips that help instill social skills in children. In this article, we focus on the importance of problem-solving skills in children and introduce five fun and educational activities that can enhance their problem-solving skill set. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability in which children find it difficult to socialize and interact with others. Although autism comes in a variety of forms, many 

kids have difficulty developing problem-solving skills. The combination of diminished communication, emotional, and self-regulation skills, all contribute to the child’s reduced skills. To be able to become well-rounded individuals, children of all abilities need to be given the opportunity and resources to learn proper problem-solving skills so that they can face challenges head-on later in life. With this in mind, we have put together a guide on the importance of problem-solving skills for both neurotypical children and children with autism.

Why is Problem-Solving Important?

Problem-solving deals with the ability to make decisions in tough or challenging situations. Children of all abilities need to learn how to properly handle each situation with problem-solving in order to become more independent and resilient. Having good problem-solving skills allow children to gain the patience and self-confidence they need to develop into capable individuals.

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

Problem-solving activities help children develop the skills they need to efficiently and effectively deal with complex issues and situations. In life, children will run into a variety of situations with differing contexts. Having the proper problem-solving skill set will allow children to learn how to handle every situation with ease. Once a child is able to effectively problem-solve, they will be able to better navigate their own personal problems and those of others as well. Additionally, a child will be able to identify a problem, develop different solutions, test different solutions, and analyze the results.

It is essential for parents or guardians to help boost problem-solving skills through a variety of sensory strategies. Here is a list of 5 fun activities that will teach children of all abilities how to build their problem-solving skills.

5 Activities that Teach Problem Solving

1. problems in a jar.

Problems in a Jar is a fun and creative way for children to explore different situations that can occur in the real world. This activity is designed to help kids generate solutions from one problem or circumstance. To begin, an adult will write one situation on a small sheet of paper, fold it, and place it in a jar. This continues until the jar is full. The child then picks a paper and reads off the problem. He/she must then come up with the best solution that solves the challenging scenario. This helps children think thoroughly about each possible solution independently.

2. Scavenger Hunt

Everyone loves a game of scavenger hunt! This group activity prompts children’s deduction skills based on clues and hints, which in turn, enhances their problem-solving skills. To start, divide children into groups of 2-3 and have them come up with a plan on which members look for which items. Children can also brainstorm together on where each item is located. This helps kids work together towards one goal while also nourishing their communication. Parents can also reward kids with small treats for every item they find on the scavenger hunt.

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

3. Impromptu Skits

Impromptu skits are a fun and engaging way for kids to think independently and with quick reactions. In this activity, children are given one situation wherein they have to reenact how the situation unfolds and how to solve the issue. This allows children to think about how to deal with each situation and see how it can be solved efficiently. After the skit, ask the children to explain their thought processes and correct them if there were any actions that were unnecessary. Children watching the skit will also be able to learn and understand how to best act in certain circumstances. 

Puzzles are one of the best ways a child can stimulate their mind. Puzzles have multiple pieces that are all jumbled together. To solve a puzzle, children need to sort the pieces out and place them in their proper areas to be able to put the puzzle back together. This helps children develop memory recall and thought organization. To start off easy, children can work on puzzles with fewer pieces. Once they get the hang of it, they can move on to more difficult and complex puzzles to build their skill set. 

5. Play With A Purpose TM

Having a space where your children will feel safe experimenting is vital to developing problem-solving skills quickly. We Rock the Spectrum’s Play With A Purpose™ stimulates and exercises a child’s sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, vestibular system, and proprioception through positive physical, emotional, and social development. At We Rock the Spectrum, kids are able to play and interact together through arts and crafts, classes, our sensory equipment , and more to strengthen their problem-solving skills in an inclusive, sensory-safe environment.

Key Takeaways

Equipping all children with the proper problem-solving tools and resources at an early age will ensure they develop the skills they need to become versatile individuals. Children who are able to hone their problem-solving skills at their most important phase of development will be able to become more independent and know how to acclimate best to a multitude of situations in the long run. We Rock the Spectrum is a kids gym franchise that offers a wide range of fun and inclusive problem-solving activities through its specialized sensory equipment and Play With A Purpose™ program. Discover more about our mission by getting in touch with us today !

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Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

  • by Colleen Beck
  • October 22, 2021

Amazon affiliate links may be included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

It can be frustrating when children act without thinking of the consequences. In this blog post, you’ll learn about the development of problem solving in specific parts of our brain, discover important aspects of executive functioning that impact problem solving abilities, how to teach problem solving to preschoolers, and problem solving activities for preschoolers and young children so they can use words instead of the preschooler’s behaviors  or tantrums.

Best of all, many of our favorite fine motor activities for preschoolers support problem solving skills in early childhood.

Problem solving skills in preschool

Problem Solving Activities for Preschoolers

Before we get into the problem solving activities for preschoolers, and specific strategies to use in early childhood, it’s important to understand the development of the problem-solving process in kids. Supporting small children by giving them the skills to be problem solvers takes time and practice. We’ll get to those specific strategies below.

But first, does this scenario sound familiar at all…

I just don’t understand why Johnny keeps throwing the ball in the house. Doesn’t he realized that he could break the window? Johnny is three and he loves to play with his tennis ball in the house. Even though I have told him over and over again that we don’t throw them in the house, I still catch him sneaking them indoors at least once a week. 

Before we can address problem solving by helping kids look at the big picture and coming up with creative solutions for problem solving issues, we need to understand what is happening developmentally. Self-reflection is a challenging cognitive skill, and for young learners! 

Let’s take a better look at the development of problem solving skills…

Development of problem solving skills in preschoolers

Development of Problem Solving Skills

It’s through play, observation of others, and practice that young learners are developing problem solving skills in early childhood .

Problem solving, rational thinking and reasoning are all skills that are controlled by a part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex. Our brains grow exponentially over the first five years of life, but not the part of our brain that helps us with critical thinking and problem solving skills. This part of our brain, called the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until we turn 25 years old! 

As babies, we are exposed every day to new experiences, but at this age we don’t comprehend how these experiences affect us and those around us. If only children could think through their problems. This resource on executive functioning skills offers more information.

Have you noticed that it can be a bit scary when teenagers get their drivers licenses? They don’t always think of “what might happen.” This is due to their prefrontal cortex not being fully developed. 

But what about our three and four year olds? We know they can count, ask questions and get the cookie off the counter in a very sneaky way when we aren’t looking. In the Early Years study of 2011 called Making decisions, Taking action , they describe the prefrontal cortex entering a rapid period of development, making critical interconnections with our limbic system. (link: )

This study states “The prefrontal cortex pathways that underlie these capacities are unique to human brains and take a long time to mature. Early connections begin in infancy. Between age 3 and 5 years, the prefrontal cortex circuits enter a rapid period of development and make critical interconnections with the limbic system. During adolescence and early adulthood, the neural pathways are refined and become more efficient.”

What is so great about this part of the brain anyway? 

As the prefrontal cortex (that is located behind out eyes) develops over the years, we are able to engage with situations differently, assessing our surroundings in a new way. As we develop these new executive functioning skills, we are able to keep ourselves safe, build friendships and become successful in our careers.

Related, these friendship activities for preschoolers offers ideas and strategies to support social emotional development.

This peer reviewed report competed by Merve Cikili Utyun, called Development Period of Prefrontal Cortex, discusses how amazing this part of our brain is, and how each of the three sections control different aspects of our functioning. It states that: 

“ PFC includes the following Broadman Areas (BA): 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 44, 45, 46, 47. “The dorsolateral frontal cortex (BA) 9/46 has been functioned in many cognitive process, including processing spatial information, monitoring and manipulation of working memory, the implementation of strategies to facilitate memory, response selection, the organization of material before encoding, and the verification and evaluation of representations that have been retrieved from long-term memory. 

The mid-ventrolateral frontal cortex (BA 47) has implicated cognitive functions, including the selection, comparison, and judgment of stimuli held in short-term and long-term memory, processing non-spatial information, task switching, reversal learning, stimulus selection, the specification of retrieval cues, and the ‘elaboration encoding’ of information into episodic memory.

BA 10, the most anterior aspect of the PFC, is a region of association cortex known to be involved in higher cognitive functions, such as planning future actions and decision-making. BAs 44 and 45, include part of the inferior frontal and these regions’ functions are language production, linguistic motor control, sequencing, planning, syntax, and phonological processing.

Finally, the orbitofrontal cortex mostly (BA 47, 10, 11, 13) in the orbitofrontal cortex has been implicated in processes that involve the motivational or emotional value of incoming information, including the representation of primary (unlearned) reinforcers such as taste, smell, and touch, the representation of learnt relationships between arbitrary neutral stimuli and rewards or punishments, and the integration of this information to guide response selection, suppression, and decision making.” 

Wow! No wonder it takes so long for this part of our brain to fully develop. Problem solving skills in preschoolers take time to develop!

When Johnny is throwing the ball inside the house, he is thinking about what is happening now, in the present. Not what has happened in the past (when he broke the window at grandmas house a year ago) or that breaking a window might happen in the future. 

What are some problem solving techniques?

Solving problems is a skill that all preschoolers need support with. This critical skill doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice to become second nature.

It’s hard for us, as adults, to remember that children ages 3-5 (preschool-aged) don’t yet have the brain capacity to problem solve on their own, or remember what they learned from a situation a week ago. 

Just like when Andrew was painting at the easel and his paintbrush got stuck in the container. Instead of asking for help or trying to “unstick” the brush, he screamed.  Or when Sally and Samantha ran outside to grab the red bouncy ball, Samantha screamed when Sally grabs it first. She didn’t see the other red bouncy ball in the bucket next to the bikes. 

Try some of these problem solving activities for  kids :

Observation- Children need problem solving strategies that they can observe, and then practice in their everyday lives. Let kids see you talk through problems as you “figure out” a solution. This gives children a chance to see a problem-solving approach in real life situations. They get to see problem solving scenarios in action.

Repetition- Repetition supports brain growth in every area of development including problem solving, executive functioning, motor development, language skills and social development.

Multisensory Activities- Children learn best with multi-sensory cues, learning new skills through seeing, touching, hearing and experiencing the skills they are learning. In 2013, the US National Library of Medicine published an article titled  Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat.  stating “The prefrontal cortex acquires information from all of the senses and orchestrates thoughts and actions in order to achieve specific goals.” (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621648/)

Creative Activities- Solving problems is a skill that all preschoolers need support with. It’s hard for us, as adults, to remember they don’t yet have the brain capacity to problem solve on their own. The best way to teach children how to problem solve, it to create activities that support these new skills in a positive way, that their developing brain understands. This letter to future self is one activity to work on goal achievement even at a young age. Preschoolers can draw a picture of what they would like to do or be as an older child or as a teenager or adult.

Problem Solving Activities for Preschool

Here are 3 Simple Ways to Teach Preschoolers to Solve Problems

1.Teaching executive functioning and problem solving skills in everyday situations will support the growth of a child’s prefrontal cortex. For example, these activities that teach executive functioning at the beach show how much thought and preparation goes into building a simple sand castles.

  • Children have to think about how much sand to use, how to keep it standing, how to prevent sand from getting into their eyes and how to create another one if the one they are building falls down.
  • They must create, plan ahead, problem solve when things get tough and communicate to adults and peers for help.

What other activities does your child do on a regular basis that requires all areas of the prefrontal cortex to activate?

2.When children become upset, their emotions become so overwhelming that they can’t think. In order to calm down and problem solve, they need to access a multi sensory way to help them remember how to do that.

Soothing Sammy gives children tactile and visual cues that remind them how to calm down and problem solve in a developmentally appropriate way. They can be reminded of this positive reinforcement with two words “Sammy Time!”

By reading the book about the sweet golden retriever, who understands that everyone feels upset sometimes, children are encouraged to use all of the sensory strategies to calm down. They can talk to Sammy about what is happening and think through their problem to create a solution.

Ashlie’s four year old daughter did just this. She reports: “When Molly was having some big emotions about coloring a picture and needed to calm down, she visited Sammy and returned with a solution to the problem she came up with all on her own (well with Sammy’s help).”

Click here for more information on the Soothing Sammy resources .

3.Problem solving requires us to remember what just happened, what is happening now and what do we want to happen next. A preschoolers brain tends to blend all three of these situations together, not able to communicate any of them until prompted by an adult. And as an adult, we are left “guessing” what our children are thinking about. Visual cues are a wonderful sensory communication tool to support both children and adults in the realm of solving problems.

Using tools like “First/Then” cards to support routine and common situations like transitions and completing tasks. Using visuals clearly communicates what needs to be done, especially if using pictures of real children doing these tasks.

A Final note about problem solving skills in preschool

Solving problems are hard for young children, even teenagers, as their prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed yet. Using multisensory teaching tools to support brain development, practicing tasks that teach executive functioning skills and using developmentally appropriate tools to help children calm down, will help even the most frustrating moments become a bit less stressful for children and adults. 

As we learn to be more patient with children, understanding that the part of their brain needed to solve problems is just beginning to develop, repeating the same directions over and over again may not be so frustrating. Our children are doing the best they can. It’s up to us to provide them with experiences to help their brains grow and develop. 

problem solving scenarios kindergarten

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

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