Tag: family activities

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!

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

When the calendar switches to September, I immediately begin planning our fall family outings: apple-picking, visiting the pumpkin patch, hiking local nature trails, driving to see the changing leaves, and more!

One of my intentions here at Rolling Prairie Readers is making learning fun for all families. The easiest way to do that is to include more family field trips in your calendar. While it can be tricky to fit one more thing on your to-do list, my suggestion is one family adventure each quarter. If that goes well, you can always add more trips as your schedule allows.

Now that we have moved to the Midwest, we are able to experience more “seasonal” activities.  When I mentioned I’d like to go apple-picking, a quick Internet search brought up several orchards within an hour of our house.


(If you don’t have an apple orchard near your town, keep reading to the end! I have lots of fun family ideas, including re-creating an apple-picking experience at home.)


Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Last year, we visited Center Grove Orchard, close to Ankeny, Iowa.

The orchard offers a large variety of fun, fall, farm activities. On this trip, we decided to focus on picking apples. We took a tractor-pulled hayride out to the orchard, where we purchased our bag and got a list of the varieties available for picking.

We enjoyed seeing all the different types of apple trees in various stages of growth. Some of the trees were quite mature, while others were really young. We picked 15 apples from five trees: McIntosh, Gala, Blondee, Crimson Crisp, and Jonathan.

Before we left Center Grove Orchard, we made a stop at the restaurant to get a small treat (pie for me, turnover for my husband, and apple cider donuts for the girls) and purchase some apple butter for the fall!

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

If you are you are planning on taking your family apple-picking this fall, here are some tips and learning activity ideas.

Before Apple-Picking:

  • Check out apple-themed books from your library. (Here’s our book list, Best Apple Books for Kids.)
  • Visit pickyourown.org for a list of apple orchards nearby.
  • Look at a map with your child and choose a route to get there.
  • Discuss the measurement terms “bushel” and “peck.”

During Apple-Picking:

  • Discuss different parts of an apple and its tree.
  • Compare and contrast types of apples available.
  • Count apples as you pick them.
  • Talk about what an apple tree needs to produce fruit.
  • Meet orchard employees and learn more about the work they do.
  • Make a list of products that come from apples.
  • Watch an apple cider demonstration (or watch this video when you get home).

After Apple-Picking:

  • Set up a taste test of the different apple varieties.
  • Make a chart of attributes about each of the apples tried.
  • Cook a tasty treat together.
  • Plant apple seeds and watch them grow.

If you don’t live near an apple orchard, you can still do many of these activities! Go to the grocery store, choose several different varieties of apples, and set up a “tasting” on a picnic blanket in your yard or at the park.


40 fun family activities: apples | simple learning ideas for toddlers and preschoolers, learning at home

Looking for even more apple-themed learning ideas for your toddler or preschooler?

Get the first week of our Ultimate Family Activity Guide absolutely FREE!

5 FREE Apple-Themed Invitations to Play

5 FREE Apple-Themed Invitations to Play

Fall is my FAVORITE season! The weather is cooling down, the leaves on the trees are changing colors, and pumpkin-spice is about to take over the world for the next few months. I have been SO happy pinning fall-themed activities and dreaming about Halloween costumes for the girls.

But first, I want to share five FUN, free, EASY apple-themed kids activities.


Scroll down for our freebie!

More apple fun:

Grab our “Best Apple Books for Kids” list.
Learn more about apple-picking with your family.
Download our Ultimate Family Activity Guide with 4 weeks of apple-themed literacy, arts & crafts, fine motor, and STEM ideas for toddlers & preschoolers!


In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), let me give you a brief introduction to how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

  • Maybe you are a homeschooling family looking for some play-based learning ideas for your toddler or preschooler.
  • Or you are spending the lots of time inside with your children due weather.
  • It could be you are a WAHM searching for a quick activity that will engage your little one while you send an e-mail or film a FB live video. 

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity that uses just a few materials found around the house. Keeping these learning activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a download with FIVE simple invitations to play, including a materials list!


Here’s a sneak peek at some of the skills found in our apple-themed kids activities:

  • Color sorting
  • Object transferring
  • Bead stringing
  • LOTS and LOTS of learning through open-ended play

Be sure to download the freebie for lots of modifications and extension ideas!


Five FREE Apple-Themed Kids Activities (Toddlers and Preschoolers) | tot school, preschool at home, learning at home, tactile activities, wahm kids

Just fill out this quick form to let me know you want the freebie!

Melissa @ Rolling Prairie Readers

Don’t forget to share this freebie with your friends. Hit the Facebook button below or pin this image:

Five FREE Apple-Themed Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers | tot school, preschool at home, learning at home, tactile activities, wahm kids