How to Teach Your Kid Problem-Solving Skills Through Games and Activities

You've decided to teach your kids problem-solving skills, but you're not 100% sure where to start? What kind of problem-solving activities are best for kids? Are there any games that can be helpful to developing problem solving skills?

If you're asking yourself these questions, we've got just what you need - a complete guide on how to teach your kids to solve problems, improve their thinking skills, and raise little problem-solvers who are ready to take on the world of the future.

This includes problem-solving scenarios and games kids can play, as well as straightforward strategies you can easily implement.

Let's start first by taking a look at the importance of teaching problem-solving skills at a young age.

Guide on teaching your kids problem-solving skills

Why is problem-solving important for kids?

The chances are you already know that teaching problem-solving skills to your kids can hugely benefit them later in life. Learning these skills will help lay the foundation for all their future endeavours and help them gain new skills easier than ever before.

Now, how exactly does learning problem-solving skills impact kids?

  1. Their critical thinking is improved. Kids will be able to better analyze different situations and come up with clever solutions. This is crucial for kids to learn new decision-making skills.

  2. They develop a "can-do" attitude. If there's an obstacle in their way, they won't give up until they overcome it. Learning problem-solving skills will help them bounce back from any future setbacks and stay focused on their goals.

  3. They learn how to communicate. As the kids work with each other to solve problems, they'll pick up some invaluable social skills, including empathy and teamwork.

  4. Their confidence will skyrocket. When kids successfully take on difficult challenges, they build their self-confidence and are more self-assured when a new challenge appears.

  5. They approach complex subjects with a systematic and analytical mindset. This is huge for when your kids get a bit older and start attending high schools and universities.

To sum this up, teaching problem-solving skills to kids at a young age is exactly what helps them become little superheroes as they grow up. They'll be more resilient, they won't give up, they'll try to find as many solutions as possible, and they'll always look at the problem from a few different perspectives.

But what kind of games and activities can help kids pick up these skills?

Let's find out!

3 problem-solving practice scenarios for kids

Engaging your kids in problem-solving scenarios can have a hugely positive impact on their development. They'll be provided with a safe, risk-free environment where they can work on their critical thinking skills and come up with new creative solutions.

Here are a few problem-solving activities where kids can start strategizing solutions, analyzing different scenarios, and collaborating with other children.

Scenario #1: Team Cleanup

Here's an excellent team building activity for your kids - Team Cleanup! This is the perfect scenario for teaching your kids motor skills and making actions based on verbal instructions. Plus, it'll be extremely fun.

Now, the entire scenario revolves around transforming the mundane tasks of tidying up into fun and creative problem solving activities for kids. This helps them better work together with other kids and improves their critical thinking skills.

Problem solving scenario for kids - Team cleanup

How to play Team Cleanup?

Here is the step-by-step formula for a perfect Team Cleanup game.

  1. Set the time limit. Add a sense of urgency to this scenario by introducing a time limit. This guarantees a fun challenge where children begin problem-solving just to beat the time limit and get the reward waiting for them at the finish line.

  2. Assign tasks. A cleanup is more than just a chore for kids - especially when you introduce tasks, time limits, and rewards. Divide the responsibilities among the children and encourage them to be team players. They'll get different tasks based on what they can and like to do - pick up toys, fold blankets, put away their art supplies, and so on.

  3. Encourage communication. Make sure the kids interact with each other. One of the, undeniably, most important skills they can gain is to be easy to work with. Let kids know that they need to share ideas, ask for help when needed, and update you on their progress. For example, you could say that they need to report back to you every 10 minutes.

  4. Create obstacles. As kids dive into cleaning activities, they'll face various challenges. And to make things even more interesting, you can set up these obstacles and observe how your kids are solving problems. For example, this could be a cluttered corner with a ton of toys, supplies, and other stuff.

The Team Cleanup scenario helps nurture your kids' basic life skills and instills a positive attitude towards responsibilities. Even though this may seem as too easy for kids to gain real life skills - remember, nothing's easy when you're a 5-year-old.

P.S. Here's a great resource where you can find out how to include STEM toys in your kids' play scenarios!

Scenario #2: Lost & found

Lost & Found is a great imaginative game that will make kids put on their detective hats and start solving some mysteries. This simple game will help tap into your kids curiosity and sharpen their problem-solving abilities in a fun way.

This game is appropriate for all kids of different age groups, so regardless of how old your kid is, this activity is perfect to teach problem-solving skills.

Problem-solving scenario for kids - lost & found

How to play Lost & Found?

  1. Create clues. You'll need to create a series of interesting clues around your house (or backyard) that will be relatively challenging for your kids to solve. This can include puzzles, riddles, or just some wordplay that can lead them to the next clue.

  2. Hide the "lost" items. Find various spots to place the "lost" items. Ensure they are well-hidden, but not too difficult to find. Keep your kid's age and abilities in mind when choosing the hiding spots.

  3. Give the 1st clue. The entire game starts by giving out the first clue. Kids will need to decipher it if they want to continue with this game.

  4. Celebrate discoveries. Whenever kids discover a "lost" item, a celebration is due! Think about introducing small rewards or treats for successfully deciphering clues.

This problem-solving scenario is incredibly simple, but it has a ton of benefits for kids. It requires that they analyze clues, engage in critical thinking, and connect all the pieces to find solutions to the presented challenges.

And if they play this game with other kids, they can brainstorm solutions together, learn how to work in a team, and resolve problems simply by playing.

Scenario #3: The unreachable toy

The Unreachable Toy scenario will put your kids' minds to the test and spark their creativity. In this challenge, kids will need to navigate the obstacle course and identify the best way to reach the toy. There will be some wrong answers - but it's exactly what they need.

Every action has its natural consequences, so try to encourage them to creatively solve problems by looking at their surroundings, identifying all problem-solving steps, and questioning their methods.

Problem-solving scenario for kids - the unreachable toy

How to play The Unreachable Toy?

  1. Choose a toy. This is one of the pretend play scenarios where the toy doesn't actually have to be out of reach. But, to better engage their imagination, you can place it on a high shelf, trap it behind an obstacle, or hide it in a certain location.

  2. Create the challenge. You'll need to start by setting the scene. Explain why a toy seems unreachable, what kind of obstacles kids could face, and give them a few hints. This is perfect to engage your kids' problem-solving skills and test your child's ability to navigate through challenges.

  3. Brainstorm solutions. This is the fun part. You'll get a direct look into your kids' problem-solving process and find out how they're approaching this challenge.

  4. Experiment with different solutions. As your kids try out different approaches, they'll find out that their solutions may not work at all times. It's a perfect opportunity for kids to learn how to solve a problem independently. This will help them come up with different strategies and be a bit more creative whenever they need to solve their own problems.

The Unreachable Toy is a great challenge where kids can put their own problem-solving strategies to test and set the foundation for other skills that will hugely benefit them in life - decision-making, resilience, and critical thinking.

5 problem-solving games for kids

Kids love playing games. And what better way to teach problem-solving skills than through games?

We've handpicked 5 most fun problem-solving activities for kids that will help them gain a new important skill - while playing with their friends! Here's the list.

Game #1: Puzzles

Puzzles have for long been praised as one of the best brain-teasers for kids (and adults). They encourage logic, patience, and creativity - making them a perfect medium to teach problem-solving for kids.

When choosing the puzzle, select one that matches your child's age and interests. Usually, every puzzle box contains age recommendations, so pay attention to that when choosing one.

And once you open the puzzle and start assembling the pieces, your kids will have the perfect opportunity to observe different patterns, think about how various colors and shapes can work together, and hone their visual perception skills.

Guide them to start first with the borders or to first sort pieces by color or edge shapes. This will help them plan the puzzle before they take a deep dive.

Finishing a puzzle requires patience and perseverance. Encourage your kids not to give up when facing a difficulty and to finish what they start. Even though it's a simple game, it can teach your kids a lot about staying focused, always keeping in mind the big picture, and never giving up.

Problem-solving game for kids - puzzles

Game #2: Maze

Just like puzzles, maze games are praised as one of the best problem-solving activities for kids. They'll help kids strategize, gain spatial awareness, and come up with creative solutions to their unique problems.

There are many mazes you can build, but be sure to select one that matches your child's ability and age, since it can easily become too complex. And if you're wondering where to find different mazes, here are a few ideas on how to create your own maze.

As kids try to navigate through your newly-created maze, they'll need to embrace the trial and error process. They'll hit a dead-end many times, so planning wisely should be their top priority.

Even though mazes are one of the simplest problem-solving activities for kids, they are a treasure trove of developmental benefits. They help kids master spatial awareness, improve their problem-solving skills, and instill patience and hand-eye coordination. Extremely beneficial for toddlers and preschoolers!

Problem-solving games for kids - a tape maze

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Game #3: Rubik’s Cube

Let's be honest - not everyone can successfully solve a Rubik's Cube. It doesn't happen on accident and there are several key skills and patterns you need to master before you can succeed. This is exactly why using Rubik's Cube to teach problem-solving for kids is a perfect way to ensure your kids can thrive whenever faced with a new challenge.

Before they even start, your kids will need to get familiar with the Rubik's Cube - its structure, colors, and basic movements. Introduce your kids to the notation used to describe the cube movements (R, L, U, D, F, B - right, left, upper, lower, front, backface)

Start with solving just one layer at a time. And all that's left is to practice until it's finished. And if your kids seem to have a great time playing with the Rubik's Cube, teach them some advanced methods like the Fridrich or Roux method.

It's incredible how a small cube toy can have such a huge impact on kids' cognitive development. It helps kids hone their analytical skills and come up with their own problem-solving framework. Give it some time and in a few weeks - they'll have their own way of solving a Rubik's Cube.

And solving it simply takes time when you're a beginner. There are many speedcubers who can do it in less than 10 seconds, but let's not set the bar that high for the start.

Problem-solving game for kids - The Rubik's Cube

Game #4: Chess

Chess is a beautiful game enjoyed by kids and adults of all ages and interests. Once used by the mighty Persian Empire to entertain generals and improve their strategic thinking - now it's one of the most popular board games enjoyed by millions across the globe.

And chess is much more than simply a game. It's a journey of strategic thinking and problem-solving where young minds can develop highly valuable skills they'll use later in life.

To start, introduce your kids to the board and familiarize them with the different chess pieces. They'll need to learn how each of them moves, when they can capture the opponent's pieces, and how to utlimately checkmate the opponent's king piece.

The best thing you can do for start is teach your kids about some simple openings and strategies and take time to explain the situation they're in after every move. They'll start to think about different approaches, test different strategies, and learn a few valuable lessons along the way.

And remember - the most important aspect of playing chess is playing it regularly. With every new game, they'll get better. Regardless if they win or lose the game, they'll have a new trick up their sleeve the next time they play.

Problem-solving games for kids - chess

Game #5: Build a tower

When you ask adults what was one of their favorite activities when they were kids, you'll often hear "building a fort" or "building a tower". And isn't that something?

Do you remember the joyous feeling when you would use every possible thing in your house to build a high tower? Chairs, tables, toys, everything was a valid building block.

Now, it's time for your kids to unleash their inner architect.

Gather all the "building blocks", LEGO bricks (if you have them), stackable materials, toys, and so on.

Give them a specific challenge. Whether it's a bridge, a tall tower, a fort, a specific building. Or let them simply engage in free play. This is the time where you need to let them be creative and have their imagination flowing. and when they do build a tower, don't forget to reward them!

To keep this even more interesting, you can test the stability of their tower. Either gently tap on the tower or start blowing on it to see if it stands tall. If it falls, this is yet another challenge for your young architects where they need to think about how to solve this problem and make it more stable.

Not only will this activity help your kids think about different possible outcomes and try to find a better solution, it will help their gross motor skills and foster concentration and focus. Kids love building because that's when their imagination can run wild and the end results are tangible - a new tower overlooking your living room.

And if your kids are already interested in building things, they'll get into robotics

Problem-solving games for kids - building a tower

Problem-solving teaching strategies for kids of all ages

By now, we've established that teaching kids about solving problems can have a hugely positive benefit on your kids' development. As parents and educators, our role is a crucial one. It's up to us to equip kids for success and teach them how to react when they face a new problem.

Here are some of our handpicked teaching strategies that can help your kids develop problem-solving abilities.

Go step-by-step through the entire scenario

Start by breaking down problems into smaller, more manageable steps. Whether it's a puzzle, an object they need to reach, or a conflict with other kids - we need to encourage them to approach this problem methodically.

Ideally, we want our kids to analyze the situation, brainstorm a few solutions, and implement the best approach one step at the time.

Remember, break it down into simpler, smaller steps they can easily recognize.

Write down what didn’t work

A failure is never just that - it's an opportunity for growth. When your kids hit a roadblock and don't know what to do - often, the best idea is to write down the process and note what didn't work. Once that's done, they can immediately move forward with another idea and build resilience through their mistakes.

Revisit past problem-solving scenarios

Your kids have hit a "brick wall" and seem to be unable to move forward with their challenge? Talk with them about their previous challenges, how they solved them, what was their logic previously, and if they can apply that strategy to the current task.

They'll immediately start recalling past challenges and methods they used to solve them. All they need sometimes is a small "push" to reinforce their techniques and build upon previous experiences.

Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are perfect for testing your kids' imagination. A simple open-ended question can supercharge their minds and help them analyze a situation from a few different perspectives. This simple action broadens their problem-solving horizons and helps them get the most out of their imagination.

Raise little problem-solvers with our help

Helping parents teach problem-solving skills to their kids is one of our greatest missions. Not only these simple activities can help foster a growth mindset, but you have the chance to make learning fun for your kids.

Kids often look for parents' approval when they're at a young age, and with our support, they can grow up to be resilient, curious, and creative problem-solvers.

To help your kids more easily adopt the skills of the future, we've created the best DIY play kits you can find on the internet. And if your kids are already avid video game players, this could be a great alternative for them!

For kids aged 9 and older, we've created Wacky Robots subscription as a perfect introduction to STEM sciences. In this affordable subscription, your kids will get new tools and equipment to build a new STEM toy every single month.

And for kids aged 11 and older (including you), there's something even more interesting - the STEM Box. Every 3 months, we'll send you a DIY box containing all the parts and instructions you need to build something extremely fun. 

CircuitMess DIY STEM box for teaching kids about problem-solving

Getting kids interested in STEM and problem-solving in their early childhood is crucial for the development of their cognitive abilities. Our goal as parents is to prepare our kids for the outside world - and we all know it's riddled with endless problems. So, get familiar with CircuitMess and find out exactly how we can help you raise little problem-solvers and prepare them for a successful life.

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