There isn’t a moment of the day when young children aren’t thinking about how to solve one problem or another. How to make a paper plane fly really well, how to get 5 more minutes of play before bed-time, how to communicate a frustration or, how to attach bits-and-pieces together to make a box-construction robot?
As adults, there are many ways that we can assist children to develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills. Probably the most important is to resist the urge to jump in and rescue the child from the problem! It is engaging in the process of problem-solving that is where the learning takes place.
Here are a few suggestions for helping your preschoolers develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills:
1. Make thinking and problem-solving FUN!
Children have to believe that thinking is fun, that they are capable of tackling problems, and they must want to be good at it. Playing Lipa Train is one way to develop logical thinking skills in a fun and interactive way. Aimed at children 5 years and under, it involves the skills of observation, prediction, planning, investigation, reasoning and spatial navigation.
The goal is to collect cargo in the train’s carriages, and the child must predict where the train will go based on the arrows that are on the tracks. They then change the tracks to guide the train in the right direction so it will collect the cargo in the right order. The levels gradually become more challenging, with more cargo to collect, additional tracks to choose from, more visual distractions (trees and buildings) and items obscuring the tracks.
We adults have had a good deal of practice with this business of logical thinking and problem-solving! We’ve generally internalised these processes too. When you’re faced with a problem, why not talk it through ‘out loud’ so that your child can see the strategies you use to solve the problem. Phrases such as ‘I wonder if…’, or ‘If I do this…then this…’ can give your child insight into how to approach problems and systematically and logically.
And of course, don’t forget the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. It’s ok to ask for help, and collaborative problem-solving can be more effective and more fun.
3. Encourage your child to describe the problem
If you’ve been modeling your thinking processes, this step should come naturally as your child will have been exposed to the ‘language’ of problem-solving. When children describe the problems they experience, they are developing their observation and analytical skills. They can then begin to predict, form a plan, test it, and alter it if necessary.
4. Talk with your child about what is and isn’t working
When your child solves a problem, celebrate with them and talk about what worked. Tell them what you noticed – for example:
I noticed you getting frustrated because your block tower kept falling over. But when you made the base wider, it was more much stable! Did you notice that too?
This sort of comment has much more meaning and helpful information for the child, rather than:
You made a really tall tower – great job!
When something isn’t working, make comments and ask open-ended questions to help your child consider alternatives. What are some favourite problem-solving and logical thinking activities for your child?
This article was written by Wenone Hope (Blue Mountains, Australia).
Wenone was born and raised in the farming region of Wagga Wagga, Australia. She now finds herself teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Czech Republic. A teacher for 12 years, she has a background in Early Childhood Education and has also done postgraduate studies in Special Education and Early Intervention. Wenone is an Early Childhood Consultant at Lipa Learning, and has also been a Preschool Educational Leader in the Blue Mountains and a Primary School Educational Director in Canberra, Australia. She’s an advocate for inclusive education, where diversity in the classroom (and life!) is celebrated. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out in nature, playing roller-derby, traveling, or enjoying a good book.