Tag: child development

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills

When it comes to the main things I want my girls to learn in their childhoods, problem solving skills would definitely be at the top of the list (along with kindness, respect, perseverance, and integrity).

In the past year, our family has gotten bolder with our outdoor adventures, but we still have plenty of room to grow. Today, I am excited to share this helpful guest post and freebie from Isaac and Stephanie Ashby at Tyee Outdoor Experience.  As Isaac explains on their blog, “As a child, adventure was my passion, and wilderness was my medium.” Read on to learn how we can present our children with opportunities for learning problem solving skills!

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill


Me: Siri, why is my VCR not working?

Siri: Did you try throwing it away and going digital?

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Maybe I’ll try Google.

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Me: Google, why won’t my VCR work?

Google: Because you are stuck in the 80’s.  Try Netflix or Amazon.

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Fine, I’ll ask Mom and Dad.

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Me: Mom, I can’t get my VCR to work.  

Mom: Oh sweetheart, you’re using a VCR?  Why didn’t you tell us the world was crumbling around you?

Me: But Mom…

Mom: Don’t “but mom” me, I’m you mother.  I know you’re 40 years old but that doesn’t mean I can’t baby you.  Now are you hungry?  As soon as your father finishes outside, I will have him fix your VCR.


While this sequence of events is hilarious, it is becoming much more common.  Why?  Because kids growing up in this age have smartphones and easy internet access with a built-in answering service.  We rarely solve problems on their own anymore!  And there are a lot of problems electronic devices just cannot solve.

Not-so-little-known-fact: Problem solving is an essential skill that employers look for when hiring new employees.  It’s a disappearing art form these days!  

So how do parents teach their kids problem solving skills without merely looking it up on your favorite search engine?

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You: Siri, how do I teach my kids problem solving skills?

Siri:  Keep reading this article.  Tyee Outdoor Experience is the best!

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If you’ve made it this far, I assume you are interested in teaching your children how to solve problems…

Well, here… we… go…

The best way to learn problem solving skills is to practice.  

Practice, practice, practice!  If your kids encounter a problem, make them solve it without electronics.  And let them struggle with it.  Don’t swoop in like the helicopter parent and solve everything.  Make them work for it.

Because I run a perfect household and there are never problems for my kids to practice on (I’m sure you are all the same), here is a strategy to choose a problem and practice these skills.

Step 1: Choose a task or problem for the kids to solve. 

We recommend they do this outside to get them active, out in the fresh air and sunlight.  As well as a billion other reasons for going outside.

Open ended problems with a variety of solutions and make them fun!  Problem solving skills sounds very formal and dull but coming up with fun problems will go over much better.

Here are just a few open-ended, outdoor problems to get you started.  We have even 20 ideas in the Problem Solving Practice Guide printable.

  • Building a bridge that will hold your weight
  • Collecting rain water
  • Build an igloo with snow
  • Dig a hole without a shovel

Step 2: Print the problem solving skills worksheet found here.  

The worksheet is optional but I recommend using it the first couple of times to teach the kids an organized way to solve problems.  It also includes more outdoor example problems and tips.

Step 3: Introduce the task.  

Tell the kids the problem, the boundaries or limits (space, time, necessary conditions) and what they have to work with.  Like Iron Chef but not cooking.  Today’s ingredient is mud!

Step 4: Let them get to work!  

Try not to hover but provide supervision for safety.

As the kids work, resist the urge to give tips, hints, or help.  If they can’t figure it out for themselves, the problem is too hard.  They must learn to do it on their own.

If the task is too hard for them, don’t tell them the solution.  Put the task on hold and give them an easier task.

Step 5: When the kids find a solution, have them talk you through their thinking process.  

It’s important to understand what parts of the process they are good at and what parts they need work on.

Ok now you may be saying this is too easy or obvious but give it a try.  Sometimes we overlook the obvious so think of it as a good skills assessment.

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill

Strategies for tough problems and brain farts

In solving problems, we all hit those walls of “I don’t know how”, “I can’t do it”, [insert whining excuse of choice here].  Therefore, TA DA, we give you strategies to break out of those tough problems and brain fog.

1 – Work backwards.  This can seriously open up the mind to new ideas.

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Me: Siri, how do I work backwards if I don’t have a solution to work backwards from?

Siri: Ask Google.  That question just fried my circuits.

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To work backwards without a solution, clearly identify the conditions you want your eventual solution to fulfill.   Then think of how you can make these conditions happen.

2 – Brainstorm the WORST possible solutions to the problem, go through them, and see if any might be a good place to start or at least spark a new (and hopefully better) idea.

Example: Task is getting Frisbee off the roof without getting on the roof.

Worst solutions: Throw a piece of meat up and a vulture will come to knock it off, pay the Air Force to retrieve it, build a go-go gadget arm to grab it, convince it to come down with loving words, etc.  

See why we call them the worst solutions?  But maybe the gadget arm idea sparks another idea for some kind of reaching device.  You never know when inspiration will hit.

3 – Just start messing around and playing with available tools and supplies.  Touching and playing with stuff is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

And there you have it!  Do you feel the little grey brain cells moving yet?  Problem solving skills are probably not at the top of your to-do list but they are a hidden gem and worth the time to help our kids develop.  Plus, it’s fun get out there and solve some problems together!

See you outside!

Teaching Kids Problem-Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill

Hey there! This is Isaac and Stephanie Ashby from Tyee Outdoor Experience and we get families OUTSIDE. Lessons, games, resources, and activities that pull you outside every day because you enjoy it, not because it is a box to check off on a list of things you “should be doing”. Throw out inconvenient, boring, or expensive. We know you’ve got this!

Learning at Home Tips and Resources + FREE Ultimate Guide!

Learning at Home Tips and Resources + FREE Ultimate Guide!

For the last few weeks, I have been sharing my favorite learning at home resources and tips.  (You can read all of those posts by clicking here or scrolling down for the full list.)

As a former elementary school teacher, I NEVER imagined I’d be a homeschooling mama to my own two girls. But looking back on my years in the classroom, I’ve always been a big believer in individualized education.

When it came time to enroll my sweet five-year-old in Kindergarten, it was clear that she was more than ready academically, but not anywhere close to being prepared emotionally or physically. As I mentioned previously:

Homeschooling for Kindergarten meant we could give our girls more time to mature emotionally and physically while still giving them what they needed academically.

Five years later, we still love homeschooling our girls. But I believe that learning at home happens in ALL families, whenever we read a good book, play a game, go an adventure, write a letter to a family member, etc.

Many parents have come to me and said, “My child is going to preschool x days a week, but we still want to do some learning activities together. What do you recommend?”

And so I have created this FREE guide (scroll down to get yours) to help you get started on your learning at home journey–to create personalized learning plans for YOUR family this year.

Learning at Home Tips & Resources | How does my child learn best? What should my young child be learning? | tot school, preschool at home, homeschooling, learning at home, learning through play


What should my young child be learning?

In another recent post, I shared my thoughts on curriculum for young children:

Curriculum is simply meant to be a jumping off point for teachers (and homeschooling parents). All too often, we become more focused on teaching the next lesson in the book rather than what our child needs to learn next.

So the question becomes, “What does my child need to learn next?”

There are many developmental checklists available for parents, and I also offer a quarterly Age-Appropriate Learning Workshop online. Children rarely develop on a timeline, so my number one piece of advice for parents is to work backwards. What do you want your child to know this time next year? What are the skills he/she needs to develop to get there?


Learning at Home Tips & Resources | How does my child learn best? What should my young child be learning? | tot school, preschool at home, homeschooling, learning at home, learning through play


How does my child learn best?

There are five different modes of learning (often called “learning styles”):

  • visual (graphics)
  • auditory
  • read/write (text)
  • kinesthetic (movement)
  • tactile (touch)

When your child is young, he or she will learn best through hands-on learning. Toddlers and preschoolers love to dance, shake, climb, and move; learning might also happen through song and repetition (hence, the popularity of nursery rhymes!). 

As your child grows and learns to read independently, he/she will begin to demonstrate a preference for one or more of the different learning styles. Note: I believe knowing how your child learns best (and helping him/her to understand what that means) is crucial to success in higher education.

Taking learning styles into account is incredibly important for science and math courses, as I mention in this post about our favorite resources for math education. Good teachers will introduce new concepts in a variety of ways and work with your child in his/her preferred learning style, but it’s also an important consideration for independent practice and homework.

Keep in mind that most people are multi-modal and often show a distinct preference for two or more learning styles at the same time. It’s also important for all of us to strengthen our weaker areas for times when modifications cannot be made. For more information about learning styles, click here.


Learning at Home Tips & Resources | How does my child learn best? What should my young child be learning? | tot school, preschool at home, homeschooling, learning at home, learning through play


Other posts about learning at home that may interest you:


Grab your FREE Ultimate Guide to Learning at Home!

Tot School Must-Haves

Tot School Must-Haves

Five years ago, we decided to do preschool at home with our older daughter. As a former classroom teacher, I may have overdone “the school at home” a bit. (I totally did, and you can read about it here.) For some unknown reason, it seems we–as parents–are in a continual rush to push our children ahead to the next stage.

Did you know the number one search result for both “tot school” and “preschool at home” is all about choosing curriculum? Which program will prepare my child for Kindergarten?

The truth is, NO curriculum or program can give your child exactly what he or she needs to get ready for Kindergarten.

While I am not anti-curriculum, I don’t think it’s necessary for MOST families who choose to do tot school or preschool at home. Curriculum is simply meant to be a jumping off point for teachers (and homeschooling parents). All too often, we become more focused on teaching the next lesson in the book rather than what our child needs to learn next.

"Play is the work of the child." --Maria Montessori | play-based learning, learning through play, developmentally-appropriate practice, preschool curriculum

More important than curriculum–in my opinion–is the learning environment we create for our children.

It starts with curating our toys (and books) for maximum impact. We want to choose items that can be used for open-ended play, in a multitude of ways, throughout the year. What objects can be mixed and matched to teach our child new concepts?

Recommended items for your tot school or preschool at home from an experienced homeschooling mom! | learning through play, homeschool curriculum recommendations, personalized learning

Here are some of our favorite “must-haves” for every family considering tot school or preschool at home:

 (Note: affiliate links included at no cost to you!)

Manipulatives

  • pom poms
  • clothespins
  • colored straws
  • pony beads
  • pipe cleaners

Accessories

  • muffin tin
  • glass jar
  • empty Parmesan cheese container
  • funnel
  • “chip and dip” container
  • trays
  • tongs and other fine motor tools

Extras

Don’t forget

  • regular trips to the library
  • reading aloud
  • lots (and lots!) of time outside

 


Are you an auditory learner? Listen to this post on Anchor.fm!

Listen to The Parent Resource Room on Anchor.FM


We are five years into our homeschooling journey, and I feel like I am a better teacher now than right after college. I see my children’s unique strengths and weaknesses, understand the way they each learn best, and supplement our curriculum with hands-on learning experiences custom-designed to their needs.

The benefit of a personalized learning plan is this:
education becomes a lifestyle rather than a year’s worth of curriculum.

If you would like help creating a personalized learning plan for your child, leave me a comment! I’d love to chat. (And don’t forget to grab your freebie below.)


Grab your FREE Learning at Home Checklist! | child development, family relationships, homeschooling advice, homeschooling for beginners, tot school

Grab your FREE Learning at Home Checklist–10 questions to get you thinking about
tot school, preschool at home, or homeschooling for Kindergarten!