As summer winds down and parents think about preparing for the school year, it’s easy to get caught up.
At the Children’s Museum, we’ve been thinking about problem solving a lot lately. We’ve looked at
the obvious connections between the playful learning experiences we try to foster and some of the formal educational standards. Problem solving is a foundational skill that appears in the RI Early Learning Development Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards and is something that we have a lot of fun with.
How do you know when your child is exercising problem-solving skills? There are times that seem obvious – she completes a complicated puzzle or negotiates taking turns with a friend. But sometimes it can be easy to miss moments where a child is building his problem-solving toolkit.
Here are some of the things we look for and celebrate:
- Asking questions can indicate thinking process. Questions and wondering signify curiosity and interest. A “What happens if…?” shows planning for investigation.
- When a child uses descriptive language she is using observation skills and trying to connect meaning between vocabulary and her observations. This is true of a toddler discovering that a ball is “round” and “big” or a 9-year-old describing the same ball as “a sphere” and “the size of my hand.”
- Seeking peer support is evidence of a child trying to figure something out; she is looking for assistance and negotiating a social relationship.
- Stick-to-itiveness. It takes persistence to find solutions through trial and error. Each time he tries he is gaining new information about what works and what doesn’t.
- Ask open-ended questions – you know, those questions that don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer and that need to be answered with descriptive language.
- Offer just enough support – give a hint or stabilize a wobbly piece.
- Invite children to problem solve with you. Ask them for their ideas and solutions when puzzling something out.
- Problem solve out loud. How are children going to know how much problem solving we do on a minute-by-minute basis unless we clue them in? They need to hear us reason things out and think things through.