10 Ways to Teach Your Children to Be Problem Solvers

Problem-solving is vital in navigating the complexities of life and is best nurtured from a young age. Let’s explore a variety of approaches, each contributing to the development of a child’s ability to think critically and resolve challenges effectively.

Key Takeaway

  1. Modeling Problem-Solving Behavior
  2. Encouraging Creative Play
  3. Systematic Problem-Solving Approach
  4. Reading and Discussing Problem-Solving Stories
  5. Promoting Autonomy and Learning from Failure
  6. Utilizing Open-Ended Questions
  7. Fostering Open-Mindedness
  8. Incorporating Problem-Solving into Family Culture
  9. Engaging in Role-Playing Activities
  10. Encouraging Reflective Thinking

Strategy 1: Modeling Problem-Solving Behavior

Parents are the first role models children observe and learn from. Demonstrating problem-solving skills in everyday life plays a crucial role in teaching children how to handle challenges.

Impact of Demonstrating Problem-Solving

  • Observational Learning: Children learn by observing their parents. When a parent faces a challenge and vocalizes their thought process, it provides a practical, real-world example of problem-solving.
  • Developing Cognitive Skills: As parents articulate their problem-solving steps, children learn to think critically and analytically. This process helps in developing their cognitive skills.

How to Model Problem-Solving

  • Think Out Loud: Parents should verbalize their thoughts when encountering a problem. For instance, if deciding between buying different products, explain the pros and cons of each option out loud.
  • Show Emotion Management: It’s beneficial to express how certain problems make you feel and how you manage these emotions. This teaches emotional regulation alongside problem-solving.
  • Involve Children in Solutions: For age-appropriate problems, involve children in the decision-making process. Ask for their opinions and discuss the potential outcomes.


  • Boosts Confidence: When children see their parents tackling problems effectively, it boosts their confidence in handling their issues.
  • Enhances Critical Thinking: This method promotes critical thinking and decision-making skills in children.
  • Prepares for Real-life Situations: Children get better prepared for real-life situations, understanding that problems are a normal part of life and can be approached logically and calmly.

Strategy 2: Encouraging Creative Play

Creative play and DIY projects are not just forms of entertainment for children; they are essential tools for developing problem-solving skills.

How Creative Play Fosters Problem-Solving

  • Stimulates Imagination: Engaging in activities like building forts, crafting, or imaginative play scenarios encourages children to think outside the box, an essential aspect of problem-solving.
  • Encourages Experimentation: Creative play often involves trial and error, teaching children that it’s okay to fail and try again, a key component of solving problems.
  • Develops Cognitive Flexibility: When children create and explore in an unstructured environment, they learn to adapt and change their approaches, which is vital in problem-solving.

DIY Projects as Learning Tools

  • Hands-On Experience: DIY projects provide hands-on opportunities for children to encounter and solve real-world problems. They learn to follow steps, use tools, and understand the process of creating something from start to finish.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Working on projects with others, including parents or siblings, enhances their ability to work as a team and solve problems together.
  • Boosts Self-Efficacy: Completing a project successfully instills a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their problem-solving abilities.


  • Enhances Critical Thinking: Children learn to think critically about how to use materials and what steps to take to achieve their desired outcome.
  • Promotes Persistence: Creative play teaches persistence as children learn that not every attempt leads to immediate success.
  • Encourages Independent Thinking: These activities allow children to make decisions, fostering independent thought and decision-making skills.

Strategy 3: Systematic Problem-Solving Approach

A systematic method for problem-solving helps children approach challenges in a more organized and effective manner.

Step-by-Step Problem-Solving Method

  • Identify Emotions:

Begin by helping children recognize and name their emotions related to the problem (e.g., frustration, confusion). This step is crucial for emotional regulation and clear thinking.

  • Define the Problem:

Guide children to articulate the problem clearly. Encourage them to state the issue in their own words, which helps in understanding the challenge more deeply.

  • Brainstorm Solutions:

Encourage children to think of as many solutions as possible, without initially judging the ideas. This brainstorming phase fosters creativity and open-mindedness.

  • Evaluate Solutions:

Guide children to consider the pros and cons of each solution. Ask questions like, “What could happen if you try this?” to help them think through the outcomes.

  • Choose a Solution:

Encourage children to select a solution based on their evaluation. This step empowers them to make decisions and take ownership of the problem-solving process.

  • Implement the Solution:

Guide them in putting their chosen solution into action. This step translates their theoretical understanding into practical application.

  • Reflect on the Outcome:

After the solution has been implemented, discuss with children what worked well and what could be improved. This reflection helps in learning from the experience.


  • Develops Critical Thinking: This approach enhances critical thinking skills by requiring children to analyze problems and consider various solutions.
  • Encourages Independence: By following these steps, children learn to rely on their own abilities to solve problems.
  • Builds Resilience: Children learn that not every problem is solved on the first try, which builds resilience and persistence.

Strategy 4: Reading and Discussing Problem-Solving Stories

Stories and books are powerful tools for teaching problem-solving. They offer relatable scenarios where characters face and overcome challenges, providing real-life lessons in a fictional setting.

Using Stories to Teach Problem-Solving

  • Selecting Appropriate Books:

Choose stories that focus on characters solving problems. Books like “Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy” by Jacky Davis and “The Curious George Series” by Margaret and H.E. Rey are great examples where characters face and resolve dilemmas.

  • Discussion During Reading:

Engage children in discussions about the story. Ask questions like, “What problem is the character facing?” and “How did they solve it?” This helps children understand the problem-solving process.

  • Relating to Personal Experiences:

Encourage children to connect the story’s events to their own lives. Discuss how they might handle similar situations, fostering empathy and personal connection.

  • Encouraging Active Participation:

Have children predict outcomes or suggest alternative solutions for the characters. This engages their critical thinking and imagination.

  • Role-Playing:

Involve children in role-playing exercises based on the stories. Acting out different scenarios helps solidify the problem-solving methods demonstrated by the characters.


  • Enhances Comprehension: Discussing the story’s problems and solutions improves children’s comprehension and analytical skills.
  • Builds Empathy: Identifying with characters and their challenges helps develop empathy and emotional intelligence.
  • Encourages Creative Thinking: By exploring different solutions within a safe, fictional context, children can expand their creative problem-solving abilities.

Strategy 5: Promoting Autonomy and Learning from Failure

Fostering autonomy in children is a critical aspect of their development. It involves allowing them to make decisions, take risks, and, most importantly, learn from their mistakes.

Allowing Mistakes and Failures

  • Avoiding Helicopter Parenting: Overprotective or “helicopter” parenting can hinder a child’s ability to develop problem-solving skills. Allowing children to face challenges and sometimes fail teaches them resilience and self-reliance.
  • Learning Opportunities: Mistakes and failures are valuable learning opportunities. They teach children that not every attempt will be successful and that persistence is key.
  • Encouraging Risk-Taking: Encourage children to take calculated risks. This helps them learn to weigh options and make decisions based on their judgments.

Guiding Through Failures

  • Supportive Environment: Create a supportive environment where children feel safe to fail. Encourage them to try again and guide them through the process of analyzing what went wrong.
  • Constructive Feedback: Provide constructive feedback that focuses on the effort and strategy rather than the outcome. This approach helps children understand that failure is a part of the learning process.


  • Builds Problem-Solving Skills: Experiencing failure and learning to overcome it is an integral part of developing problem-solving skills.
  • Promotes Growth Mindset: It encourages a growth mindset where children understand that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
  • Enhances Emotional Intelligence: Learning from failures helps children manage their emotions and cope with setbacks in a healthy manner.

Strategy 6: Utilizing Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are a powerful tool in encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving in children. These questions do not have a predetermined answer, allowing children to explore their thoughts and ideas freely.

Implementing Open-Ended Questions:

  • Types of Questions: Ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Examples include, “How could we solve this problem together?” or “What do you think would happen if…?”
  • Encouraging Explanation: Prompt children to explain their reasoning with questions like, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or “Can you tell me more about your thought process?”
  • Fostering Imagination: Use questions that encourage children to use their imagination, such as “What would you do if you were in this situation?” or “How would you handle this differently?”

Benefits of Open-Ended Questions:

  • Develops Problem-Solving Skills: These questions make children contemplate different aspects of a problem and potential solutions, enhancing their problem-solving abilities.
  • Enhances Communication Skills: Open-ended questions require children to articulate their thoughts clearly, improving their communication skills.
  • Builds Confidence: As children express their ideas and are heard, it boosts their self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.

Creating a Supportive Environment:

  • Active Listening: Actively listen to the child’s responses without interrupting. This shows that their thoughts and opinions are valued.
  • Non-Judgmental Responses: Respond to their answers in a non-judgmental way, encouraging them to share more freely.
  • Encourage Exploration: Encourage children to explore different answers and viewpoints, reinforcing that there are often multiple ways to approach a problem.

Strategy 7: Fostering Open-Mindedness

Teaching children to be open-minded is crucial for developing effective problem-solving skills. It involves considering various perspectives and integrating different views into solutions.

Encouraging Multiple Perspectives:

  • Understanding Different Viewpoints: Encourage children to think about how others might view a situation. Ask questions like, “What do you think someone else would do in this case?” or “Can you think of a different way to look at this problem?”
  • Empathy in Problem-Solving: Teach children to consider the feelings and perspectives of others involved in a problem. This not only helps in finding more compassionate solutions but also in building strong interpersonal skills.

Integrating Diverse Solutions:

  • Combining Ideas: Encourage children to combine different ideas to find a novel solution. This could involve brainstorming sessions where multiple solutions are discussed and combined.
  • Learning from Different Cultures: Expose children to problem-solving methods from different cultures and backgrounds. This broadens their understanding and appreciation of diverse approaches.


  • Enhances Creativity: Open-mindedness in problem-solving fosters creativity, as children learn to think outside their usual boundaries.
  • Builds Critical Thinking: Considering multiple perspectives requires children to critically evaluate each viewpoint, enhancing their critical thinking skills.
  • Promotes Tolerance and Understanding: Fostering open-mindedness helps children develop tolerance and understanding towards different ideas and cultures.

Strategy 8: Incorporating Problem-Solving into Family Culture

Integrating problem-solving into family culture involves turning everyday challenges into learning opportunities and making this practice an enjoyable part of family life.

Practical Ways to Integrate Problem-Solving:

  • Family Meetings: Regular family meetings can be an effective way to discuss and solve family issues together. It encourages collaboration and collective decision-making.
  • Shared Challenges: Involve the entire family in solving practical problems, such as planning a family vacation or budgeting for a big purchase. This teaches children the value of planning and compromise.
  • Fun Problem-Solving Activities: Incorporate games and activities that involve problem-solving skills, like puzzles, strategy games, or scavenger hunts. This makes the process fun and engaging.

Encouraging a Positive Attitude Towards Challenges:

  • Modeling Positivity: Show a positive attitude when facing challenges, demonstrating that problems are opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Celebrating Solutions: Whenever a problem is solved, whether it’s big or small, celebrate the achievement. This reinforces problem-solving as a positive and rewarding experience.


  • Fosters Teamwork: Engaging in family problem-solving activities helps in building teamwork and cooperation skills.
  • Develops Practical Life Skills: Children learn practical life skills that are essential for their future, like financial planning, time management, and organization.
  • Strengthens Family Bonds: Working together on problems strengthens family relationships and fosters a sense of unity and support.

Strategy 9: Engaging in Role-Playing Activities

Role-playing is an effective educational tool that allows children to simulate real-life situations. It provides a safe environment to practice problem-solving skills by acting out various scenarios.

Implementing Role-Playing in Problem-Solving:

  • Creating Scenarios: Develop scenarios that children are likely to encounter, such as resolving a disagreement with a friend or handling a difficult situation at school. These should be age-appropriate and relevant to their experiences.
  • Encouraging Different Perspectives: In role-playing, children can take on different roles, allowing them to see a problem from various viewpoints. This helps them understand the importance of empathy and considering multiple perspectives in problem-solving.
  • Guided Discussion: After the role-play, have a discussion about the experience. Ask questions like, “How did you feel in that role?” or “What could have been done differently to solve the problem?”


  • Enhances Communication Skills: Role-playing requires children to articulate their thoughts and feelings, improving their communication skills.
  • Builds Emotional Intelligence: By putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, children develop empathy and emotional understanding.
  • Practical Application of Skills: It allows children to apply problem-solving strategies in a controlled, low-stakes environment, helping them internalize these skills.

Variations of Role-Playing:

  • Use of Props and Costumes: Incorporating props and costumes can make the activity more engaging and realistic.
  • Incorporating Real-life Situations: Use real-life events as a basis for role-playing scenarios. This makes the exercise more relevant and practical.

Strategy 10: Encouraging Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking is a critical component of the learning process. It involves looking back at the steps taken during problem-solving, analyzing the effectiveness of different strategies, and considering what could be improved.

Process of Reflective Thinking:

  • After-Action Review: After a problem has been addressed, encourage children to reflect on the process. Ask questions like, “What part of our solution worked well?” or “What challenges did we face, and how did we overcome them?”
  • Encouraging Honesty and Openness: Create an environment where children feel comfortable discussing both successes and failures openly. This honesty is crucial for genuine reflection and growth.
  • Focus on Learning, Not Just Outcome: Emphasize the importance of the learning process over the outcome. This approach helps children understand that the value lies not only in solving the problem but also in the lessons learned along the way.


  • Improves Problem-Solving Skills: Reflective thinking helps children understand what strategies are effective and which are not, refining their problem-solving skills over time.
  • Fosters a Growth Mindset: It promotes the idea that skills and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.
  • Builds Self-Awareness: Reflecting on one’s own thought processes and decisions enhances self-awareness and personal development.

Guiding Children in Reflective Thinking:

  • Modeling Reflection: Demonstrate reflective thinking yourself. After solving a problem, talk about what you learned from the experience and what you might do differently next time.
  • Writing Journals: Encourage children to keep a journal where they can write down their thoughts about different problems they encounter and how they solved them. This can be a powerful tool for reflection.

Empowering the Next Generation: Fostering Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving at Las Vegas Day School

As we navigate a world that is increasingly complex and interconnected, equipping our children with the ability to think critically and solve problems is more important than ever. By implementing these strategies, parents and educators can provide children with the tools they need to face challenges confidently and effectively.

For families looking to further support their children’s educational journey, Las Vegas Day School (LVDS) offers an encouraging environment where these skills can be honed and developed. LVDS emphasizes a well-rounded approach to learning, where problem-solving is integrated into the curriculum, preparing students not just for academic success but for life-long resilience and adaptability. Visit LVDS to learn more about their programs and how they can support your child’s growth into a confident problem-solver and independent thinker.

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