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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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How to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills
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- Steps to Follow
- Allow Consequences
Whether your child can't find their math homework or has forgotten their lunch, good problem-solving skills are the key to helping them manage their life.
A 2010 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that kids who lack problem-solving skills may be at a higher risk of depression and suicidality. Additionally, the researchers found that teaching a child problem-solving skills can improve mental health .
You can begin teaching basic problem-solving skills during preschool and help your child sharpen their skills into high school and beyond.
Why Problem-Solving Skills Matter
Kids face a variety of problems every day, ranging from academic difficulties to problems on the sports field. Yet few of them have a formula for solving those problems.
Kids who lack problem-solving skills may avoid taking action when faced with a problem.
Rather than put their energy into solving the problem, they may invest their time in avoiding the issue. That's why many kids fall behind in school or struggle to maintain friendships .
Other kids who lack problem-solving skills spring into action without recognizing their choices. A child may hit a peer who cuts in front of them in line because they are not sure what else to do.
Or, they may walk out of class when they are being teased because they can't think of any other ways to make it stop. Those impulsive choices may create even bigger problems in the long run.
The 5 Steps of Problem-Solving
Kids who feel overwhelmed or hopeless often won't attempt to address a problem. But when you give them a clear formula for solving problems, they'll feel more confident in their ability to try. Here are the steps to problem-solving:
- Identify the problem . Just stating the problem out loud can make a big difference for kids who are feeling stuck. Help your child state the problem, such as, "You don't have anyone to play with at recess," or "You aren't sure if you should take the advanced math class."
- Develop at least five possible solutions . Brainstorm possible ways to solve the problem. Emphasize that all the solutions don't necessarily need to be good ideas (at least not at this point). Help your child develop solutions if they are struggling to come up with ideas. Even a silly answer or far-fetched idea is a possible solution. The key is to help them see that with a little creativity, they can find many different potential solutions.
- Identify the pros and cons of each solution . Help your child identify potential positive and negative consequences for each potential solution they identified.
- Pick a solution. Once your child has evaluated the possible positive and negative outcomes, encourage them to pick a solution.
- Test it out . Tell them to try a solution and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, they can always try another solution from the list that they developed in step two.
Practice Solving Problems
When problems arise, don’t rush to solve your child’s problems for them. Instead, help them walk through the problem-solving steps. Offer guidance when they need assistance, but encourage them to solve problems on their own. If they are unable to come up with a solution, step in and help them think of some. But don't automatically tell them what to do.
When you encounter behavioral issues, use a problem-solving approach. Sit down together and say, "You've been having difficulty getting your homework done lately. Let's problem-solve this together." You might still need to offer a consequence for misbehavior, but make it clear that you're invested in looking for a solution so they can do better next time.
Use a problem-solving approach to help your child become more independent.
If they forgot to pack their soccer cleats for practice, ask, "What can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?" Let them try to develop some solutions on their own.
Kids often develop creative solutions. So they might say, "I'll write a note and stick it on my door so I'll remember to pack them before I leave," or "I'll pack my bag the night before and I'll keep a checklist to remind me what needs to go in my bag."
Provide plenty of praise when your child practices their problem-solving skills.
Allow for Natural Consequences
Natural consequences may also teach problem-solving skills. So when it's appropriate, allow your child to face the natural consequences of their action. Just make sure it's safe to do so.
For example, let your teenager spend all of their money during the first 10 minutes you're at an amusement park if that's what they want. Then, let them go for the rest of the day without any spending money.
This can lead to a discussion about problem-solving to help them make a better choice next time. Consider these natural consequences as a teachable moment to help work together on problem-solving.
Becker-Weidman EG, Jacobs RH, Reinecke MA, Silva SG, March JS. Social problem-solving among adolescents treated for depression . Behav Res Ther . 2010;48(1):11-18. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.08.006
Pakarinen E, Kiuru N, Lerkkanen M-K, Poikkeus A-M, Ahonen T, Nurmi J-E. Instructional support predicts childrens task avoidance in kindergarten . Early Child Res Q . 2011;26(3):376-386. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.11.003
Schell A, Albers L, von Kries R, Hillenbrand C, Hennemann T. Preventing behavioral disorders via supporting social and emotional competence at preschool age . Dtsch Arztebl Int . 2015;112(39):647–654. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2015.0647
Cheng SC, She HC, Huang LY. The impact of problem-solving instruction on middle school students’ physical science learning: Interplays of knowledge, reasoning, and problem solving . EJMSTE . 2018;14(3):731-743.
Vlachou A, Stavroussi P. Promoting social inclusion: A structured intervention for enhancing interpersonal problem‐solving skills in children with mild intellectual disabilities . Support Learn . 2016;31(1):27-45. doi:10.1111/1467-9604.12112
Öğülmüş S, Kargı E. The interpersonal cognitive problem solving approach for preschoolers . Turkish J Educ . 2015;4(17347):19-28. doi:10.19128/turje.181093
American Academy of Pediatrics. What's the best way to discipline my child? .
Kashani-Vahid L, Afrooz G, Shokoohi-Yekta M, Kharrazi K, Ghobari B. Can a creative interpersonal problem solving program improve creative thinking in gifted elementary students? . Think Skills Creat . 2017;24:175-185. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2017.02.011
Shokoohi-Yekta M, Malayeri SA. Effects of advanced parenting training on children's behavioral problems and family problem solving . Procedia Soc Behav Sci . 2015;205:676-680. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.09.106
By Amy Morin, LCSW Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.
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15 Best Problem Solving Activities for Kids to Encourage Critical Thinking
1. Rolling Dice
2. build a tower, 3. tic tac toe, 4. scavenger hunt, 6. activity books, 7. board games, 9. human knot, 10. open-ended questions.
Problem solving activities for kids are a great way to teach them how to think critically and creatively, and how to develop a growth mindset . We’re sure you must have also played many educational games as a kid that helped you develop critical thinking or problem-solving- skills you’re using even today. These activities can be tailored to be fun and engaging, and they help kids understand that challenges and difficulties are opportunities to learn and grow instead of things to be feared.
By providing kids with problem-solving activities, we can give them the tools to develop their problem-solving skills and build the confidence to tackle difficult challenges, which will be valuable to them throughout their life. It will also help them understand that their abilities can be developed with practice and hard work, encouraging them to persevere through difficult tasks and not give up easily when faced with obstacles. If you’re looking for some fun and engaging problem solving activities for children to develop a growth mindset, we have curated a list of activities for you.
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15 Best Problem Solving Activities for Kids
Things you’ll need: A die or dice, some flashcards and a pen
How to do: You can play tons of different games with dice. Playing with two dice encourages kids to quickly add up numbers and learn math in a fun way . One fun game you can play with a single die involves flashcards. For this game, you can assign a category to each number on the die and when the kid rolls the die, they have to name any 3 examples from the category assigned to the number rolled. For example, if number 4 is assigned to animals and it is rolled, they will have to name any 3 animals.
Things you’ll need: Building blocks, lego, toilet rolls or anything that can be stacked
How to do: If you’re looking for problem solving activities for 5 year olds, this is for you. To play this game, just give the kids anything that can be stacked on top of the other. This can be building blocks, lego, Jenga blocks, toilet rolls, etc. The challenge is to stack one on top of the other and see how high a tower they can build. This game can be played in teams or individually as well.
Things you’ll need: A tic tac tow board or pen and paper
How to do: This is one of the most exciting problem solving fun activities for students. You can either play this game on a tic tac toe board or on paper. If you’re playing it on paper, draw a table so that you have 9 boxes. Now each player must choose X or O and try to make a continuous row of their chosen symbol. Whoever succeeds wins.
Things you’ll need: Small toys, stationery items, or anything you want to include in a scavenger hunt
How to do: Assign the teams or individual players specific items they have to find in a defined area. This can be an indoor or outdoor activity for kids . Give them a list of the things they need to find, and you can also give them hints on where to find these things. Whoever or whichever team finds all the things first wins.
Things you’ll need: A puzzle game
How to do: Get a puzzle set. This can be a regular cardboard puzzle or a wooden puzzle and ask the players or teams to arrange it. You can make this a timed challenge or just let the kids solve the puzzle in their own time and have fun.
Things you’ll need: Activity books and pencils
How to do: This is one of the best problem solving activities for kids. Activity books are great for children’s problem-solving skills to develop. Buy them activity books containing games like find the element, what’s wrong with the pictures, or hidden picture books.
Things you’ll need: Board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, and Go Fish
How to do: Give them board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, Go Fish, etc. These board games help kids to develop logic, think deeper, plan ahead and solve problems.
Things you’ll need: A chalk
How to do: Build a maze with chalk on the sidewalk. Make sure you add a few dead-end ways to make it more challenging for the kids. Once the kid is able to walk through and come out of the maze, take the game to the next level by adding even more dead-end ways and see how they overcome the challenge.
Things you’ll need: Just a playground or garden
How to do: This is a great group activity for kids that’ll also teach them lots of skills. Ask the kids to form a circle and raise their right arm up. Now ask them to reach out to someone standing opposite to them in the circle and hold their left hand with their left hand. Now ask them to raise their left hands up and repeat the process with their right hands. The objective is to entangle them completely and then ask them to detangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hands.
Things you’ll need: Pen and paper
How to do: Once you’re done with an activity, ask kids open-ended questions. These are questions that have no right or wrong answers. Some examples of such questions are- “Did you find this activity easy?”, “What did you enjoy the most about this activity?”, “How would you make this activity more fun?”, etc.
11. Wool Web
Things you’ll need: Balls of yarn
How to do: This is one of the most exciting group problem solving classroom activities for kids . Divide the players into equal teams and ask them to form a circle. Hand them over one ball of yarn each and ask them to make a web of it amongst the teams. Set a time limit for this step, and once it is done, switch the webs so that none of the teams has their own webs. Now the teams will decide on one player from each team to be blindfolded. This blindfolded player will have to untangle to web assigned to their team with the help of verbal instructions from their teams. The team that untangles the web first wins.
12. Fingertip Hula Hoop
Things you’ll need: Hula hoops
How to do: Divide the kids into teams of 6-8 for this game. Each team will stand in a circle and then be asked to raise their hands up. Now, place a hula hoop on top of their fingertips and ask them to bring it down slowly and make it touch the ground without it falling down or leaving the fingertips. The team to finish the task first wins.
13. Obstacle Course
Things you’ll need: Pillows, blankets, mattresses, cones, balls, chairs, etc.
How to do: Build an obstacle course indoors or outdoors with whatever you can find. This makes for one of the most engaging problem solving games for kids. Ask your kids to cross the obstacle course as fast as they can. To make it a bit more challenging, you can also ask them to race against each other to cross the obstacle course.
14. Memory Games
Things you’ll need: Playing cards
How to do: For this fun cards game, place all the cards face down and take turns to turn 2-4 cards. If you are able to open two similar cards (in number), you get to keep the pair. The player with the highest number of cards with them in the end wins.
15. Impromptu Plays
Things you’ll need: A stage
How to do: This is one of the best problem-solving exercises for kids to play in groups. If you have a large group, divide the kids into teams of 6-8. If the group is smaller, just make the kids stand individually. Now make a few chits on a theme that has questions that form a difficult situation or a challenge. For example, you can put in chits with questions like “You just found your friend cheating in an exam. What do you tell them?” or “Your younger sibling just broke your favorite toy. How do you react?”. Each team must enact a scene that includes the situation their chit has. If the group isn’t that big, each kid must speak about the same chit but have different perspectives.
Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important for Kids?
Developing problem solving skills is extremely important for kids as it helps them to navigate easily around difficulties later on in life. As adults, we’re faced with challenging situations every day, and without our basic problem-solving skills, we wouldn’t be able to survive.
Problem solving skills also help kids to make effective decisions. It helps them resolve problems all at once without reducing them to smaller problems. Once kids develop problem solving skills, it is easier for them to develop other skills as well like critical thinking, cooperation and collaboration with others.
Having problem solving skills helps kids to become more creative and think differently than others and enables them to become independent. These skills also help kids develop decision-making skills and build their confidence along the way as they take the right decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the 5 problem solving skills.
The five problem solving skills are identifying the problem, producing possible results that might work, picking one solution from these, applying the chosen solution and evaluating the results.
What are some examples of problem-solving skills in kids?
Some of the problem solving skills in kids are research, creativity, team-building, communication, active listening, decision-making, and analysis. If you find some of these skills in a kid, chances are they’re great at problem solving.
What is problem solving learning?
According to cornell.edu, Problem solving learning is an approach wherein students are asked open-ended questions about a certain topic, and they must resolve and answer the same in groups.
At what age do children begin problem-solving?
According to a study by Shaffer , kids can start developing basic problem solving skills from the age of three. This further continues to develop as they grow.
What are three problem-solving techniques
According to deakin.edu , the three most basic problem solving techniques are defining the problem, listing out all the possible solutions, and evaluating the options.
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Free Year 5 Maths Worksheets And Homework – Download, Print, Or View Online
Here you’ll find all our Year 5 maths worksheets, and Year 5 maths tests that are suitable for use during classroom lessons and as homework.
- What to expect from our Year 5 Maths worksheets
These KS2 maths worksheets cover every part of the Year 5 primary maths curriculum, to help your children practise and gain confidence in their understanding ahead of Year 6 and the KS2 SATs . Their focus is on retrieval practice – going over topics that children should already have covered and helping them strengthen their knowledge and understanding.
Most of our worksheets come in pdf format, and all of them are printable. But if you’re running out of printer ink, they can be viewed online too.
Every Year 5 maths test or worksheet comes with its own answer sheet, and guidance from the National Curriculum is included wherever it might be needed (for example, if there might be more than one correct answer for a question). Some worksheets also include model answers to help children break down the best way to solve a problem.
Note: The National Curriculum does not specify any place value teaching for Year 5. However this is often a good time to begin revising the topic (among others) in preparation for the KS2 SATs. Have a look at these place value worksheets as part of your revision.
Similarly, addition and subtraction work is largely an extension of what was covered in previous years. Take a look at our collection of addition and subtraction worksheets for practice materials for these topics.
If you’re a parent looking for more advice, try our home learning hub full of home learning packs , tips and teaching ideas for Year 5 Maths at Home and maths homework .
If you’re a teacher or school leader who is interested in improving maths attainment in your school or classroom, then this whole website is for you. Third Space Learning is dedicated to improving outcomes in maths with our online tutoring programme of maths interventions , together with maths resources and CPD.
Free Year 5 Maths Worksheets and Tests
A collection of worksheets and activities suitable for home learning from the Third Space Maths Hub. Register (for free) to download. Use Google Chrome
Year 5 Place Value Worksheets
Year 5 addition and subtraction worksheets, year 5 multiplication and division worksheets, year 5 fractions worksheets, year 5 decimals and percentages worksheets, year 5 statistics worksheets, year 5 measurement worksheets, year 5 maths tests, year 5 mental maths and arithmetic worksheets: fluent in five.
One of our most popular resources with parents and teachers and a great way to start or end the day, Fluent in Five worksheets include 5-10 minutes worth of quick arithmetic questions designed to help children become quicker at making mental or written calculations.
Children are given around 5 questions per maths worksheet – more than in previous years – to get them used to completing more questions in a short space of time ahead of Year 6 and the KS2 maths arithmetic paper.
Download the free Year 5 mental maths worksheets
Year 5 Maths reasoning and problem solving worksheets: Rapid Reasoning
Reasoning is one of the key maths skills pupils are expected to show by the time they take the Key Stage 2 SATs, and our Rapid Reasoning worksheets give them plenty of extra practice! This pack comes with six weeks of questions, with around three to four word problems to solve per day.
Download the free Year 5 maths reasoning worksheets
Year 5 Maths worksheets place value: Code Crackers
Place value is one of the most important topics in the mathematics curriculum. This fun worksheet covers key elements of the Year 5 place value curriculum including Roman numerals, negative numbers and rounding.
Use this free resource to recap Year 5 place value learning whilst finding the punchline to a pirate themed joke.
Download the Year 5 Code Crackers Place Value worksheets
Year 5 Maths worksheets place value: All kind of word problems
Place value is the basis of all mathematical knowledge. This workbook encourages children to deepen their understanding of place value through a range of different problems. Children will focus on understanding and rounding decimal numbers in context (money) creating numbers with different values and understanding Roman numerals in context (years written in Roman numerals).
Download Year 5 place value worksheets: All kind of word problems
Year 5 Maths worksheets place value: Worked Examples
As larger numbers are introduced, children can find the topic of place value more challenging. This worksheet focuses on common misconceptions and encouraging children to identify and explain errors, therefore developing their reasoning skills.
Download Year 5 place value worksheet: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths worksheets addition and subtraction: Let’s practise using the bar model
Year 5 children will not only need to know how to add and subtract numbers with more than 4-decimal places, they will also need to add and subtract decimal numbers. This worksheet focuses on solving worded problems that include these elements, while also introducing the very useful visual element of a bar model.
Download Year 5 addition and subtraction worksheets: Let’s practise using the bar model
Year 5 Maths worksheets addition and subtraction: Worked Examples
Children can often make errors when using formal written methods of addition and subtraction, estimating or mental arithmetic methods. This worksheet encourages children to consider and discuss common errors that could be encountered.
Download Year 5 addition and subtraction worksheets: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths worksheets addition and subtraction: All kinds of word problems
This resource encourages children to think about maths in a more open ended way. In this workbook, children are presented with a range of problems to solve and not all of them will have one answer only. From checking the addition and subtraction answers to writing a range of ways to create a number, pupils will be challenged with this resource.
Download Year 5 addition and subtraction worksheets: All kinds of word problems
Year 5 Maths worksheets addition and subtraction: Code Crackers
Sometimes, some simple retrieval questions to round up a topic is all that is needed. This resource focuses on adding and subtracting numbers with 4 or more digits to find the answer to a space themed joke.
Download Year 5 worksheets addition and subtraction: Code Crackers
Year 5 Maths worksheets on Times Tables: Tarsia Puzzles
By the time children start in Year 5, they are expected to know all their times tables in any order and the related division facts. These worksheets are a fun way to practise times tables facts independently and develop mental arithmetic skills for any children who are less confident.
Download Year 5 Tarsia Puzzles Mixed Times Tables Pack
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for long multiplication
By the end of Year 5, children are expected to be able to multipy up to 4-digit numbers by 1- and 2-digit numbers, and multiply decimal and whole numbers by multiples of 10 up to 1000, according to the National Curriculum.
These worksheets help pupils improve their skills with the former, with 45 questions ranging from multiplying 2-digit numbers by other 2-digit numbers all the way to multiplying 4-digit numbers. Each worksheet also comes with an answer scheme and modelled answers to show children how to correctly lay out their long multiplication calculations.
Download the free Year 5 Long Multiplication Worksheets
Year 5 Maths worksheets multiplication: All kinds of word problems
This workbook focuses on a range of different multiplication problems that require multiple steps to find an answer. The questions include comparison statements, complete the multiplication grid and multiplication questions involving money.
Download Year 5 multiplication worksheets: All kinds of word problems
Year 5 Maths worksheets multiplication: Let’s practise using the bar model
Children can find worded problems challenging to answer. This worksheet focuses on recapping multiplication facts up to 12 x 12 then progressing to up to 3-digit numbers multiplied by teen numbers. While this may seem challenging, the addition of the bar models helps pupils to visualise and answer the more complex problems.
Download Year 5 multiplication worksheets: Let’s practise using the bar model
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for long division
Long division is one of the most difficult parts of the primary maths curriculum. This set of 3 worksheets helps children practice it in stages, including several short division questions to begin with to help them get warmed up before tackling the harder questions.
Download the free Year 5 Long Division Worksheets
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for multiplication & division: Code Crackers
Our Code Crackers worksheets give children a fun way to revise their knowledge of a topic. Each Code Crackers worksheet includes a series of questions – in this case multiplication and division problems – based on what they have learned that year, and the answers can be put together to make the punchline of a joke!
In Year 5 children will mostly be practising long multiplication and division, but some short division/short multiplication questions are also included, to help them keep their knowledge of the basics sharp.
Download the free Year 5 Multiplication and Division Worksheets
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for multiplication & division: Worked Examples
There is a lot of content to cover for multiplication and division in Year 5, which is why we made two different worked examples worksheets. The first worksheet covers common misconceptions found when learning about prime numbers, square numbers, multiplying or dividing by a power of ten and factors. The second worksheet covers multiply 4-digit numbers by 1-digit numbers (and two 2-digit numbers) and dividing a 4-digit number by a 1-digit number.
Download Year 5 multiplication & division worksheet 1: Worked Examples
Download Year 5 multiplication & division worksheet 2: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on fractions: Code Crackers
By Year 5, children have learned about both equivalent fractions and improper fractions, and even begun combining the two. Our Code Crackers fractions worksheet helps them get even more practice in solving these complicated questions.
Download the free Year 5 Fractions Worksheets
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on fractions: Independent Recap
Our newest style of maths worksheets, independent recap sheets are meant to be completed by children with little extra support, making them perfect home learning or homework activities.
This Year 5 maths worksheet focuses on finding fractions of amounts, and includes an arithmetic warm up involving adding and subtracting fractions, before moving onto reasoning questions that test how well children have learned how to calculate fractions of amounts.
Download the free Year 5 Fractions of Amounts Worksheet
Year 5 Maths worksheet on fractions: worked examples
There are certain aspects of fractions that will be familiar to Year 5 students but may still carry misconceptions. This worksheet focuses on showing these misconceptions to children to allow them to discuss them openly. While the worksheet covers some familiar aspects (adding and subtracting fractions, ordering fractions) a new element of different denominators has been introduced.
Download Year 5 fractions worked examples
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on decimals and percentages: Code Crackers
A worksheet of problems covering percentages and numbers up to two decimal places, with the answers coming together to form the punchline to the joke given at the start – great for retrieval practice!
Download the free Year 5: Decimals and Percentages Worksheets
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on decimals and percentages: Independent Recap
While decimals were introduced in Year 4, percentages are new for Year 5. These simple to follow worksheets introduce what percentages are before moving on to writing percentages as fractions and decimals.
Download Year 5 decimals and percentages worksheets: Independent Recap
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on decimals and percentages: All kinds of word problems
This workbook has a range of activities to do with decimals and percentages including converting between the two and finding percentages of amounts.
Download Year 5 Worksheets on decimals and percentages: All kinds of word problems
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on decimals and percentages: Let’s practise using the bar model
It is often important for children to understand when they will use the maths topics they are learning. This worksheet brings percentages and decimals into a real world context (shopping, for example) to help children to understand why, for example, knowing how to find a percentage of an amount is useful.
Download Year 5 decimals and percentages worksheets: Let’s practise using the bar model
Year 5 Maths Worksheets on decimals and percentages: Worked Examples
This worksheet covers what percentage is, converting between decimals, percentages and fractions as well as understanding the value of decimals. There are a range of common errors that are made within this unit that have been addressed to encourage children to fully understand the topic.
Download Year 5 decimals and percentages worksheets: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for statistics: Code Crackers
In Year 5 statistics, the focus is on line graphs and more complex tables. This worksheet encourages children to read and interpret line graphs and tables in order to answer retrieval, comparison and sum calculations with the ultimate reward of finding the answer to a Halloween themed joke.
Download Year 5 Statistics Worksheets: Code Crackers
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for statistics: Worked Examples
Although children will be familiar with line graphs and tables, they are still likely to make errors, especially when reading line graphs with more than one set of data. This worksheet addresses these common errors while allowing the children to ‘be the teacher’.
Download Year 5 Statistics Worksheets: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for converting units: Worked Examples
In previous years, children will have looked at converting units (for example centimetres to metres), however in Year 5, this is a unit of its own. This worked examples worksheet on converting units covers converting between metric units of measures, metric and imperial units of measures, converting between units of time and reading a timetable.
Download Year 5 Measurement Worksheets: Worked Examples
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for converting units: Code Crackers
There are a lot of facts to remember when learning about converting units. This fun worksheet recaps the key facts of converting between metric units of measure (including converting between units of time).
Download Year 5 Measurement Worksheets: Code Crackers
Year 5 Maths Worksheets for converting units: Independent Recap
These easy to follow independent recap worksheets cover a range of converting units content to help secure children’s understanding of the topic. The worksheets include converting between units of metric measures, converting between metric and imperial units, converting between units of time and reading timetables.
Download Year 5 Measurement Worksheets: Independent Recap
Year 5 Maths Test: All topics
As a child gets closer to Year 6 and the Key Stage 2 SATs, it’s important they get used to the timings and styles of questions they might face. Our Year 5 maths tests includes two assessments – one arithmetic paper and one reasoning paper – with SATS style questions created by our curriculum experts, answers and a mark scheme with detailed explanations of how to solve each question.
Both papers should take about one hour to complete, and cover every part of the curriculum, from place value to geometry and 3d shapes. This makes them useful for checking children’s overall understanding of the maths they’ve learned in Year 5, as well as providing them with exam practice.
Download free Year 5 Maths Test
Year 5 Maths Test: Times Tables
While Year 5 children are past the newly introduced multiplication tables check, knowing your times tables is a key part of many other maths topics they will learn. So it’s always worth keeping up with practice, and these quick worksheets help a child see exactly which ones they know by heart, and which they struggle with.
Download the free Year 3 Times Tables Tests
Also in this series…
- Year 2 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 6 & 7 Year Olds
- Year 2 Maths Worksheets
- Year 3 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 7 & 8 Year Olds
- Year 3 Maths Worksheets
- Year 4 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 8 & 9 Year Olds
- Year 4 Maths Worksheets
- Year 6 Maths Curriculum Toolkit for 10 & 11 Year Olds
- Year 6 Maths Worksheets
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Problem Solving Year 5
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10 Simple Activities to Teach Your Preschooler Problem Solving
By: Author Tanja McIlroy
Posted on Last updated: 24 April 2023
Categories Cognitive Development
During the first years of a child’s life, an important set of cognitive skills known as problem-solving abilities are developed. These skills are used throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Find out what problem solving is, why it’s important and how you can develop these skills with 10 problem-solving games and activities.
What is Problem Solving in Early Childhood?
So, what exactly is problem solving? Quite simply, it refers to the process of finding a solution to a problem .
A person uses their own knowledge and experience, as well as the information at hand to try and reach a solution. Problem solving is therefore about the thought processes involved in finding a solution.
This could be as complex as an adult working out how to get out of a financial crisis or as simple as a child working out how two blocks fit together.
Problem Solving Skills for Kids
Problem-solving skills refer to the specific thinking skills a person uses when faced with a challenge. Some problems require the use of many skills, while others are simple and may only require one or two skills.
These are some examples of problem-solving skills for preschoolers , as listed by kent.ac.uk .
- Lateral thinking
- Analytical thinking
- Decision-making skills
- Logical reasoning
- Communication skills
- Negotiation skills
The Importance of Developing Problem-Solving Skills in Early Childhood
Problem solving is a skill that would be difficult to suddenly develop as an adult. While you can still improve a skill at any age, the majority of learning occurs during the early years.
Preschool is the best time for a child to learn to problem solve in a fun way. The benefits of learning early will last a lifetime and the beauty of learning anything at a young age is that it is effortless .
It is like learning to play an instrument or picking up a new language – it’s just much easier and more natural at an early age.
Of all the many things preschoolers need to learn , what makes problem solving so important?
There aren’t many situations in life, at work or at school that don’t require some level of problem resolution.
Child’s play itself is filled with opportunity upon opportunity to solve all kinds of tricky situations and come up with solutions to challenges.
Problem Solving in Preschool
During the foundational years, children are constantly solving problems as they play .
Here are just a few examples of problem solving in early childhood :
- Resolving a fight over the same toy
- Reaching a ball that’s stuck in the tree
- Forming a circle while holding hands
- Making a bridge to connect two block towers
- Tying or untying a shoe
- Making up rules for a new game
- Trying to get the consistency of a mud cake right so it stops falling over
The more creative play opportunities and challenges children are given, the more they get to exercise their problem-solving muscles.
During free play , there are non-stop experiences for this, and parents and teachers can also encourage specific problem-solving skills through guided activities .
Problem Solving for Older Children
During the grades, children experience problems in many forms, some of which may be related to their academic, social and emotional well-being at school. Problems may come in the form of dealing with life issues, such as:
- Problems with friendships
- Struggling to understand something during a lesson
- Learning to balance the demands of sport and homework
- Finding the best way to study for a test
- Asking a teacher for help when needed
Problems will also form a large part of academic life as teachers will be actively developing this skill through various activities, for example:
- Solving a riddle or understanding a work of literature
- Working on projects with a friend
- Finding solutions during science experiments
- Solving mathematical problems
- Solving hypothetical problems during lessons
- Answering questions and completing exam papers
Children who have had practice during preschool will be a lot more capable when facing these challenges.
Solving Problems in Mathematics
Mathematics needs to be mentioned separately as although it is part of schooling, it is such a huge part and it depends heavily on a child’s ability to solve problems.
The entire subject of mathematics is based on solving problems. Whether you are adding 2 and 3, working out how many eggs will fit into each basket, or solving an algebraic expression, there is a problem in every question.
Mathematics is just a series of problems that need to be solved.
What we refer to as problem solving in Maths is usually answering word problems .
The reason many children find these so difficult to answer is that the question is presented as a problem through a story, rather than just numbers with symbols telling you what operation to use (addition, division, etc.)
This means a child is forced to think carefully, understand the problem and determine the best way to solve it.
These problems can involve various units (e.g. mass, capacity or currency) as well as fractions, decimals, equations and angles, to name a few. Problems tend to become more and more complex over the years.
My experience in the classroom has shown that many, many children struggle with solving word problems, from the early grades right into the senior years.
They struggle to analyze the question, understand it, determine what information they’ve been given, and what exactly they are required to solve.
The good news is that exposing a child to regular problem-solving activities and games in preschool can greatly help him to solve word problems later on in school.
If you need one good reason to do these kinds of activities, let it be for a smoother experience in mathematics – a subject so many children unnecessarily fear.
Problem Solving in the Workplace
Adults in the workplace seldom thrive without problem-solving skills. They are required to regularly solve problems .
As adults, employees are expected to independently deal with the frequent challenges, setbacks and problems that are a big part of every working environment.
Those who can face and solve their own problems will go further and cope better than those who seek constant help from others or cannot show initiative.
Some career websites even refer to problem solving as a universal job skill. They also mention that many employees are not good at it.
Again, although it may seem far removed, learning this skill at a young age will help a child cope right into adulthood and in the working world.
How to Teach Children Problem-Solving Skills
If early childhood is the best time to grow these skills in your young children, then how does one go about teaching them to toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners?
Problem solving can be taught in such a way that you expose your child to various opportunities where they will be faced with challenges.
You would not necessarily sit your 3-year-old down and tell or “teach” him all about fixing problems. Instead, you want to create opportunities for your child to grow this skill .
Using the brain to think and find solutions is a bit like working a muscle over time. Eventually, your muscle gets stronger and can handle more “ weight. ” Your child will learn to problem solve in two ways:
- Incidentally – through free play
- Through guided opportunities provided by a parent or teacher
If you make a point of encouraging thinking through games and activities, your child will develop stronger skills than if you let it all happen incidentally.
Problem-Solving Strategies and Steps
If we take a look at the steps involved in solving a problem, we can see that there are many layers involved and different types of skills. Here are the problem-solving steps according to the University of Ken.
Step 1: Identify the problem
Step 2: Define the problem
Step 3: Examine the options
Step 4: Act on a plan
Step 5: Look at the consequences
Therefore, activities at a preschool level need not present complicated high-level problems.
- A simple activity such as identifying differences in a picture can work on the first skill needed – identifying a problem.
- Playing with construction toys can develop a child’s ability to try various solutions and examine the options when faced with a problem such as trying to find the best way to build something.
- Playing Tic-Tac-Toe would make a child predict the consequences of placing their mark in a particular square.
The most basic of activities can work on all these skills and make children competent solution finders.
How to Teach Problem Solving with Questions
The language you use around your child and your questioning technique will also greatly affect their understanding of a problem or challenge as merely something waiting for a solution to be found .
While your child is playing or when she comes to you with a problem, ask open-ended questions that will guide her in finding a potential answer independently. Use the steps listed above to formulate your questions.
Here are some examples of questions:
- What do you think made the tower of blocks fall down?
- If we build it again, how can we change the structure so that it won’t fall down next time?
- Is there a better way we can do it? If you think of a different way, we can both try it and see which works better.
- Did that work? The tower fell again so let’s try another solution.
Resist the temptation to fix every one of your child’s problems, including conflict with friends or siblings. These are important opportunities for children to learn how to resolve things by negotiating, thinking and reasoning.
With time, your child will get used to seeing a problem, understanding it, weighing up the options, taking action and evaluating the consequences.
Problems will be seen as challenges to be faced logically and not “problems.”
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10 Problem-Solving Activities for Preschoolers
Here are 10 simple, easy games and problem solving activities for kids at home or at school. Many of them are the kinds of activities children should have daily exposure to.
Puzzles are one of the best thinking activities out there. Each puzzle is basically one big set of muddled-up things to be sorted out and put back together again. Find out why puzzles are important for development .
Children should have regular exposure to puzzles. They are great for developing thinking skills.
2. Memory games
Memory games will develop your child’s memory and attention to detail.
Get your own memory game cards by downloading the FREE set of printables at the end of the post.
Use pairs of matching pictures and turn them all face down, shuffled, on a table. Take turns choosing any two cards and turning them face up on the table. If you turn over a matching pair you keep the cards and if the pair doesn’t match, turn the cards back over until it is your turn to try again.
Encourage your child to concentrate and pay attention to where the pictures are and try to find a matching pair on each turn.
3. Building with Construction Toys
Construction toys such as engineering blocks , a proper set of wooden blocks or Legos should be a daily staple in your home.
Everything your child builds is a challenge because it requires thinking about what to build and how to put the pieces together to get a design that works and is functional.
Leave your child to construct freely and occasionally set a challenge and ask him to build a specific structure, with conditions. For example:
- Make two towers with a bridge joining them together
- Build a creature that stands on its own and has 3 arms.
Then watch your child wracking his brain until he finds a way to make his structure work.
4. Activity Books
These activity books are really fun and develop a child’s ability to identify problems and search for information.
5. Following Patterns
This simple activity can be played with a set of coloured blocks , shapes or counters.
Simply make a pattern with the blocks and ask your child to continue it. Vary the pattern by changing the colours, shapes or sizes.
This activity will train your child to analyse the given information, make sense of it, recognise the pattern and re-create it.
6. Story Time Questions
Get into the habit of asking questions during your daily story time that develop higher-order thinking skills . Instead of just reading and your child passively listening, ask questions throughout, concentrating on solving problems.
Here are some examples:
- Why do you think the bear did that?
- Do you think his friend will be happy? Why?
- What would you do if you were the monkey?
- How do you think Peter can make things better with his friend?
- If the crocodile had decided not to eat the rabbit, how could the story have ended?
7. Board Games
Board games are an excellent way to develop problem-solving skills.
Start off with simple games like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to teach the skill of following rules and moving in a logical sequence.
Card games like Go Fish are also great for teaching young children to think ahead and solve problems.
This is a perfect game to teach decision-making skills , thinking before acting and weighing up the possible consequences.
Use a Tic Tac Toe Board or d raw a simple table like the one above on paper or a chalkboard. Take turns to add a nought or a cross to the table and see who can make a row of three first.
Your child will probably catch on in no time and start thinking carefully before placing their symbol. This game can also be played with coloured counters or different objects.
9. Classifying and Grouping Activities
This activity can be done with a tin of buttons or beads or even by unpacking the dishwasher. The idea is to teach the skill of classifying and categorizing information by learning with physical objects. Here are some other ideas for categorizing:
- Separate the washing – mom’s clothes, dad’s clothes, etc; or socks, tops, shorts, etc.
- Empty out the cutlery drawer for cleaning, mix all the utensils up and then sort into knives, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.
- Classify and sort out the toys in your child’s bedroom together – all books, construction toys, soft toys, etc.
- Play category games .
Here are more button activities for kids .
10. Building a Maze
This activity is lots of fun and suitable for any age. It is also going to be way more fun than doing a maze in an activity book, especially for younger children.
Draw a big maze on the paving with sidewalk chalk . Make passages, including one or two that end in a dead-end. Teach your child to find her way out .
As your child gets better at figuring out a route and finding the way out, make the maze more complex and add more dead-end passages.
Get FREE access to Printable Puzzles, Stories, Activity Packs and more!
Sign up and you’ll receive a downloadable set of printable puzzles, games and short stories , as well as the Learning Through Play Activity Pack which includes an entire year of activities for 3 to 6-year-olds. Access is free forever.
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Friday 3rd of June 2022
hi maam , This Is Uma from India,Can i get this in pdf format or a book. Thank You
Monday 6th of June 2022
Hi Uma, thanks for your message. These articles are not available in PDF, but you are welcome to copy and paste them from the website, as long as you add the reference: https://empoweredparents.co/problem-solving-activities-preschoolers/ Thanks for reading!
Wednesday 20th of May 2020
Very very useful content. Good work. Thank you.
Friday 22nd of May 2020
Tuesday 19th of May 2020
Would like to download the free activity pack please.
Hi Kelly, Please download the activity pack on this page: www.empoweredparents.co
- Our Mission
How Students Can Rethink Problem Solving
Finding, shaping, and solving problems puts high school students in charge of their learning and bolsters critical-thinking skills.
As an educator for over 20 years, I’ve heard a lot about critical thinking , problem-solving , and inquiry and how they foster student engagement. However, I’ve also seen students draw a blank when they’re given a problem to solve. This happens when the problem is too vast for them to develop a solution or they don’t think the situation is problematic.
As I’ve tried, failed, and tried again to engage my students in critical thinking, problem-solving, and inquiry, I’ve experienced greater engagement when I allow them to problem-find, problem-shape, and problem-solve. This shift in perspective has helped my students take direct ownership over their learning.
Encourage Students to Find the Problem
When students ask a question that prompts their curiosity, it motivates them to seek out an answer. This answer often highlights a problem.
For example, I gave my grade 11 students a list of topics to explore, and they signed up for a topic that they were interested in. From that, they had to develop a research question. This allowed them to narrow the topic down to what they were specifically curious about.
Developing a research question initiated the research process. Students launched into reading information from reliable sources including Britannica , Newsela , and EBSCOhost . Through the reading process, they were able to access information so that they could attempt to find an answer to their question.
The nature of a good question is that there isn’t an “answer.” Instead, there are a variety of answers. This allowed students to feel safe in sharing their answers because they couldn’t be “wrong.” If they had reliable, peer-reviewed academic research to support their answer, they were “right.”
Shaping a Problem Makes Overcoming It More Feasible
When students identify a problem, they’re compelled to do something about it; however, if the problem is too large, it can be overwhelming for them. When they’re overwhelmed, they might shut down and stop learning. For that reason, it’s important for them to shape the problem by taking on a piece they can handle.
To help guide students, provide a list of topics and allow them to choose one. In my experience, choosing their own topic prompts students’ curiosity—which drives them to persevere through a challenging task. Additionally, I have students maintain their scope at a school, regional, or national level. Keeping the focus away from an international scope allows them to filter down the number of results when they begin researching. Shaping the problem this way allowed students to address it in a manageable way.
Students Can Problem-Solve with Purpose
Once students identified a slice of a larger problem that they could manage, they started to read and think about it, collaborate together, and figure out how to solve it. To further support them in taking on a manageable piece of the problem, the parameters of the solution were that it had to be something they could implement immediately. For example, raising $3 million to build a shelter for those experiencing homelessness in the community isn’t something that students can do tomorrow. Focusing on a solution that could be implemented immediately made it easier for them to come up with viable options.
With the problem shaped down to a manageable piece, students were better able to come up with a solution that would have a big impact. This problem-solving process also invites ingenuity and innovation because it allows teens to critically look at their day-to-day lives and experiences to consider what actions they could take to make a difference in the world. It prompts them to look at their world through a different lens.
When the conditions for inquiry are created by allowing students to problem-find, problem-shape and problem-solve, it allows students to do the following:
- Critically examine their world to identify problems that exist
- Feel empowered because they realize that they can be part of a solution
- Innovate by developing new solutions to old problems
Put it All Together to Promote Change
Here are two examples of what my grade 11 students came up with when tasked with examining the national news to problem-find, problem-shape, and problem-solve.
Topic: Indigenous Issues in Canada
Question: How are Indigenous peoples impacted by racism?
Problem-find: The continued racism against Indigenous peoples has led to the families of murdered women not attaining justice, Indigenous peoples not being able to gain employment, and Indigenous communities not being able to access basic necessities like healthcare and clean water.
Problem-shape: A lot of the issues that Indigenous peoples face require government intervention. What can high school teens do to combat these issues?
Problem-solve: Teens need to stop supporting professional sports teams that tokenize Indigenous peoples, and if they see a peer wearing something from such a sports team, we need to educate them about how the team’s logo perpetuates racism.
Topic: People With Disabilities in Canada
Question: What leads students with a hearing impairment to feel excluded?
Problem-find: Students with a hearing impairment struggle to engage with course texts like films and videos.
Problem-shape: A lot of the issues that students with a hearing impairment face in schools require teachers to take action. What can high school teens do to help their hearing-impaired peers feel included?
Problem-solve: When teens share a video on social media, they should turn the closed-captioning on, so that all students can consume the media being shared.
Once my students came up with solutions, they wanted to do something about it and use their voices to engage in global citizenship. This led them to create TikTok and Snapchat videos and Instagram posts that they shared and re-shared among their peer group.
The learning that students engaged in led to their wanting to teach others—which allowed a greater number of students to learn. This whole process engendered conversations about our world and helped them realize that they aren’t powerless; they can do things to initiate change in areas that they’re interested in and passionate about. It allowed them to use their voices to educate others and promote change.
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Article • 9 min read
How to Manage Workplace Conflict
Handling team conflict effectively.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Your people bring different perspectives and knowledge to your team, improving problem solving and performance. But difference can sometimes lead to conflict. And you'll need to deal with it!
In this article, we'll look at ways to identify and resolve conflict in your team, and to keep working relationships healthy and productive.
First, we'll highlight a few general skills and approaches that a manager can call on in conflict situations. Then we'll look at a five-step process for applying those skills in practice.
(If you want to understand why conflict arises and how to resolve it, read our introductory article, Conflict Resolution .)
Conflict Resolution Skills for Managers
By using the following approach, managers will likely be able to stop conflict before it gets out of hand.
Leaving someone out of an email chain, making an inappropriate remark, or speaking over people in a meeting... conflict often starts with small disagreements that escalate fast.
So, if you spot conflict, avoid leaving it to team members or HR to resolve – instead, act! This shows that you treat conflict seriously and won't condone potentially destructive behavior.
Signs of conflict can be subtle, but you can detect them by being aware of the interactions within your team. Conflict might be reflected in individuals' body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice.
The better you know your team members, the more easily you'll pick up on cues and spot tensions that may be lurking under the surface. As well as the details of the conflict, keep in mind that you may need to consider if competing values are contributing to the tension.
Develop your emotional intelligence to better identify and manage the emotions of your team members.
Be Fair and Impartial
Even if you agree with one or more individuals in a conflicting team, make sure that you remain objective. Your role is to address the issue cauding the conflict and to reach a solution that works for all parties.
Treat each person fairly. Give everyone the time and opportunity to present their own perspective and to respond to any criticism. It's vital that all parties can state their case and are listened to.
Step in When Needed
Don't allow individuals to hijack the conversation or to dominate more-reserved colleagues. If one person is constantly talking over others, keep your questions directed at the person being interrupted.
If people still attempt to interrupt, politely ask them to wait until their co-worker has finished before inviting their point of view.
When facilitating a conflict discussion, avoid stating as facts things that you only think you know or may have heard. For example, it's best to use phrases like, "As far as I'm aware," or, "As I understand it."
This also allows for the possibility that your understanding is wrong or incomplete. And it creates an opportunity for the conflicting parties to restate their cases and clarify misunderstandings.
It's important to be patient and to perservere. Read our article The Role of the Facilitator for more ways to move talks forward.
Managing Conflict in the Workplace in Five Steps
When a situation gets out of hand, you may need to step in as a direct facilitator, with a targeted approach to resolving team conflict.
You can follow these five steps, which we've adapted from a framework used by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). 
1. Speak to Team Members Individually
Start by having an informal one-on-one with each team member involved in the conflict. This way you can hear people's concerns in a safe, confidential setting. In these meetings:
- Avoid making assumptions and let people open up in their own time.
- Reassure them that the discussion is confidential.
- Ask each party the same questions, to remain impartial.
2. Bring People Together
Once you've got a better understanding of the conflict and everyone's perspectives, it's time to bring the relevant parties together and act as a moderator.
Set some ground rules before getting the conversation underway. Encourage team members to listen to one another, respect each other's points of view, and not interrupt or make personal comments. During the conversation:
- Keep the tone of the conversation calm and non-threatening.
- Encourage active listening , so people understand where the other person is coming from.
- Encourage individuals to share ideas. What do they want or need? What would they be prepared to commit to? Have them to brainstorm some solutions.
- Ask them about situations where they've worked well together in the past. See if they can build on those positive experiences.
If the discussion becomes heated, take a break and reconvene when everyone's had a chance to calm down. Be alert for any passive-aggressive behavior .
Read our article Managing Emotion in Your Team for more tips on handling heated conversations.
3. Ask the Wider Team for Ideas
When a conflict affects the whole team, provided it's not sensitive or confidential, you can ask for everyone's perspective.
Talking things out helps you and your team to consider different assumptions, beliefs, and decision-making approaches. This can also be a part of creating a " psychologically safe " environment, where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns, thus preventing future conflicts.
4. Draw up a Plan
Ask the parties to detail agreed-on actions for reconciliation. And get each to commit to this strategy. You can draw up a timetable for actions, ticking them off as and when they are achieved. Hold all relevant parties accountable.
5. Follow up
Ensure that issues have been resolved properly by following up on the situation. For example, people may still feel irritated but not want to drag things out. You can use one-on-ones to prevent old disagreements from resurfacing. And try an anonymous team survey to get feedback and uncover any lingering frustrations.
Discover more ways to manage disputes in our article, Resolving Workplace Conflict Through Mediation .
Seek Guidance and Support
When you're faced with a challenging conflict in your team and are unsure how to handle it, seek support from a trusted colleague, your line manager, or your HR department.
If your efforts at conflict resolution don't work, you'll need to be willing to pursue formal procedures if necessary. And some situations, such as harassment, discrimination or bullying , require a formal disciplinary process to be followed. In these instances, or if you are in any doubt, liaise with your HR team for advice.
Reflect on Your Conflict Management Skills
Consider what you did well and where you could improve after handling a conflict situation in your team. Solicit feedback from the team members involved to find out how effective they felt you were at helping resolve the situation.
Now think about structural or procedural improvements you can make to prevent future conflict. These could be:
- Setting clear goals for every team member – when people experience the right amount of pressure , they perform well.
- Make sure that people's responsibilities match their skills . Offer learning and development opportunities to plug skills gaps and help your people to realize their career aspirations .
- Using regular one-on-ones to sound out potential sources of future conflict.
As the CIPD concludes, the key to resolving conflict is to, "Build an environment in your team that is open, respectful, kind, fair and consistent, in which people feel 'psychologically safe.'"
Team conflict is natural. But by practicing the conflict management skills we outline here, you'll be able to spot and deal with issues between team members before they escalate.
To avoid team conflict:
- Be proactive.
- Be impartial.
- Step in when needed.
- Avoid assumptions.
- Be patient.
If team conflict persists, address it by implementing these five steps:
- Speak to team members individually.
- Bring people together.
- Ask the wider team for ideas.
- Draw up a plan.
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College of Law
Law students act as attorneys, not interns, across six distinct practice groups in the Law Clinic
Students working in the Law Clinic gain essential practice skills across the legal spectrum. The most recent wins include tackling complex challenges in healthcare, representing clients in federal court, creating resources to drive social change, and helping individuals navigate the U.S. immigration system. These students are making a lasting impact in the community and nurturing a lifelong commitment to service.
( 1 ) Immigration Law Clinic
What they did:
Iowa Law students have helped a client and his family from halfway across the globe on an arduous journey through the United States immigration system, from winning a contested asylum claim in federal immigration court, to navigating with the immigration bureaucracy to obtain a green card, to working with the State Department to reunify the client’s family. Recent achievements include working with entities such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Senators’ constituent services offices, and a U.S. Embassy abroad to coordinate the client’s long-fought naturalization process with his family’s entry to the United States—culminating in the client naturalizing as a U.S. citizen following his family’s arrival after more than a decade apart.
What they learned:
“Being on Mr. Mazibo’s case taught me how difficult and broken the immigration system is. Mr. Mazibo is a wonderful man who has built his life in the U.S. for over a decade, but he still had to jump through endless bureaucratic hoops to get his American citizenship. Fortunately, tireless advocacy by my colleagues helped Mr. Mazibo overcome these barriers and achieve his immigration goals. I learned how emotionally trying immigration representation can be, but also how crucial it is to be patient, empathic, and communicative with clients and legal adversaries.” — 2L Victor Brown-Rodriguez
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to work alongside clients while working on substantive legal matters. Getting to the point where a person is naturalizing as a U.S. citizen is generally a very long, emotional, and taxing process with many barriers. Naturalization is the end of a long and arduous path through the U.S. immigration system, but it is also part of the process where there is a lot of hope. For years this client had shared with us their dreams of naturalizing, and it was incredibly moving to see them become a U.S. citizen.” — Emily Bushman (23JD)
( 2 ) Federal Defense Clinic
Iowa Law students developed advocacy skills by presenting an argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. The case entailed a collateral attack on a prior conviction and sentence, with the argument hinging on a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that altered the parameters for classifying “violent felonies” under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Third-year law student Paige Roff skillfully navigated this evolving legal landscape and exemplified her understanding of the law.
“Someone once told me appellate advocacy is the one opportunity an advocate has to speak about a case with others that care about it as much as they do. My experience arguing in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was an amazing experience for this reason. And I learned that to be an effective advocate, I had to immerse myself in the complex and novel legal issues and meticulously review the record.” — Paige Roff (23JD)
( 3 ) Federal Defense Clinic
During a supervised-release revocation hearing, Iowa Law students advocated for their client in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The students had the opportunity to conduct direct and cross examinations and navigate the complex terrain of both liability and disposition. The collaboration between third-year law students Sarah-Rose Ballard, Trevor Hurd, and A.J. Brantley culminated in a resounding victory, as their client’s release was not revoked and he returned home to his family and community.
What they learned:
“Having the chance to provide direct representation in law school was a truly unique opportunity. The three of us each had our own approaches to the work and the law, but that is what made our team so special and successful. We challenged each other to incorporate the statutes in creative ways and take risks for our client, which paid off. This experience taught me that in public defense, we might have to reframe our ‘wins’ to include just showing up for our client, but securing the best outcome for them should always be the goal.” — Sarah-Rose Ballard (23JD)
“In law school, one of the first things we learn is that being an attorney is as simple as solving a client’s problem. The invaluable experience of representing our client in his revocation hearing this past semester taught me that one of most important components of solving a client’s problem is having a thorough understanding of the client’s goals. Our true understanding of our client’s goals facilitated the way we strategized and is what ultimately helped us come up with our winning arguments.” — A.J. Brantley (23JD)
“Much of law school trains you how to think like an attorney and, while this is certainty a valuable skill, it pales in comparison to the opportunity to actually be one. By working with a team of unique law students on an active case, I was able to learn that advocacy is much more of an art than a science. And, in order to improve your capacity as an advocate, it is important to constantly work to understand your team members, yourself, and most importantly, your client.” — Trevor Hurd (23JD)
( 4 ) Estate Planning Clinic
Iowa Clinic Law students partnered with the University of Iowa’s Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program to explore how their disciplines address and resolve complex healthcare challenges. Together, they engaged in insightful discussions, delving into the laws and real-world practices surrounding the preparation, acceptance, and implementation of patient healthcare directives. Focal points of the workshop included empowering patients through powers of attorney, living wills, and essential healthcare and financial directives.
“The workshop proved to be mutually beneficial. For law students, it was an invaluable experience to witness the application of legal forms and procedures in real-world scenarios. Equally significant, nursing students gained insight into the development, placement, and proper utilization of these legal forms. I learned how to skillfully draft documents to better assist clients facing challenging medical circumstances.” — Leighton Berridge (23JD)
“The workshop was invaluable. Learning about the graduate nursing students’ personal and professional experiences with these forms helped me realize just how important they are to clients’ future medical and financial decisions. It was a learning experience for both groups, and as a clinic, we left feeling more comfortable discussing advance directive documents with clients now that we’ve seen how they’re used in a medical setting.” — Rachel Zingg (23JD)
( 5 ) Community Empowerment Law Project
As school shootings become more prevalent, numerous school districts have invited law enforcement into their buildings. However, police in schools have done little to decrease the severity of school shootings and their presence has negatively impacted students of color and those with disabilities. Iowa Law students collaborated with the Des Moines Black Liberation Project and the National Center for Youth Law to create an advocacy toolkit aimed at students, parents, and other organizers and activists working to remove police from Iowa schools.
“While working on the toolkit, I learned a lot about legal advocacy and the different forms it can take. As law students and lawyers, we often want to point to the specific law, rule, or principle that has been violated, but that’s not always possible. Here, we focused on creating a comprehensive resource that can be used by our clients and other activists to effectively initiate the change they want to see in the law—don’t underestimate the power of the people!” — Tia Smith (23JD)
“In creating the toolkit, I learned the value of a collaborative environment and how to use people’s strengths to produce a deliverable that is informative, useful for advocates, and easy to understand. Moreover, I think that creating this toolkit showed me the importance of being aware of the issues that affect people in their everyday lives. It’s easy to focus on what is immediately around you but such a narrow focus doesn’t allow you to see the challenges people face, allowing unaddressed issues to continue to affect people, in this case, students.” — Sandra Morales (23JD)