One thing I have noticed since students have returned to school is that after so much time at home, likely with direct help from an adult, their problem solving skills seem to be a real challenge. In every classroom I go into, students are constantly asking the teacher (or any adult) what to do, how to do it, and what to do if it doesn’t go the way they planned for it to go. As a long-term life skill, problem-solving ranks right up in the top five so what can we do to teach our students this skill while still making it through everything else we have to do in a day?
First, let’s start with a few easy problem-solving strategies you can teach your students to get things started:
- Take a deep breath
- Verbalize the problem
- Brainstorm solutions
- Evaluate each option
- Re-evaluate the outcome
And now here are a few of my favorite problem-solving activities for all grade levels.
Preschool Problem Solving Activities
Make it Move
First, place 2 strips of masking tape on a table or the ground and make a masking tape ball. Then, place the ball within the lines and the student(s) need to get the ball outside the lines without touching it.
Escaping Lava Alligators
For this activity, the floor is transformed into a lava pit with alligators. Using anything in the classroom, the student(s) have to figure out how to get from point A to Point B without getting eaten by alligators.
For this activity, all you need is a variety of Tupperware lids and bottoms. Mix them all up, set them out, and let the students explore
Elementary Problem Solving Activities
The question and answer premise behind this game will also challenge your child’s critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills.
Fingertip Hula Hoop
If you’re looking for activities that help kids learn how to work collaboratively to solve problems, this is a fun one to try. First, create groups of about 6-8 kids, have them stand together in a circle with their arms raised above their heads, and then place a hula hoop on their fingertips. Using nothing but their fingertips, each team must work together to lower the hula hoop to the ground without dropping it.
Middle and High School Problem Solving Activities
First, give each person in the group one balloon. All balloons are to be blown up and tied off. Instruct the group that they are to get their balloons from a designated Point A (typically a line on one side of the room) to a designated Point B (a line on the other side of the room). Once they cross the Point A line they may not touch the balloons with their arms, legs, or mouths. If anyone balloon touches an off-limits body part, the floor, a wall, or any furniture, it must start over.
First, create a pretend scenario for students that requires them to think creatively to make it through. An example might be getting stranded on an island, knowing that help will not arrive for three days. The group has a limited amount of food and water and must create shelter from items around the island. Encourage working together as a group and hearing out every child that has an idea about how to make it through the three days as safely and comfortably as possible.
Remember, problem-solving is hard for children of all ages. Developmentally, their brains are not wired yet to be master problem solvers so be patient, use repetition, have fun with it, and remember, the more we practice something, the better we will be. Problem-solving is the same!