Importance of teaching problem-solving skills to kids

Importance of teaching problem-solving skills to kids

Whether it's a sibling fight, a homework issue or a friendship problem, all kids face problems every day. This is why teaching your kids how to problem solve is one of the essential life skills to pass on. Not only will it help them to cope, but it will also give them the confidence to believe in themselves. Here's what you need to know.


Some of our favorite problem-solving activities for kids:

  • Puzzles

  • Board games 

  • Minecraft

  • Soccer

  • Books

  • Children's TV shows 

  • Projects 

  • LEGO

  • Card games 

  • Encourage your kids to earn money

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving is a skill we use in every area of our life. It’s the process of finding and implementing a solution to a problem or issue. It involves identifying the problem, researching and analyzing it, and then developing a plan to solve the problem. Problem-solving can be applied to a wide range of situations, from personal issues to complex business problems. It also requires critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to work collaboratively with others. 





Why is problem-solving an important life skill?

If kids understand they can solve problems, they are more likely to feel:

  • Capable, confident and in control of their lives, as they understand how to work through challenges that they face from friendship problems to homework.

  • A stronger sense of self-belief. When kids know they can deal with whatever comes their way, they have a greater belief in their ability to succeed.

  • Resilient. When faced with a difficult situation, it's easy to get overwhelmed and give up, but if your child has strong problem-solving skills, they know they can bounce back and try again.


When do kids start problem-solving?

Children start to learn problem-solving skills as early as infancy. For example, when a baby is trying to reach for a toy that is out of reach, they will often try different strategies, such as reaching further, crying for help or crawling over to the toy. One psychological study found that babies can solve problems as early as ten months of age.


As children get older, problem-solving continues, and they learn to use trial and error, ask for help, and to think more creatively about solutions. In child development this is known as the concrete operational stage proposed by psychologist Jean Piaget. It typically occurs between ages 7 and 11 years and is characterized by the ability to think logically and understand complex concepts. Children in this stage also begin to develop the ability to solve problems in a systematic and logical way, as they start to realize that one thing can have multiple causes and solutions. 


To help them boost this skill try to:


  • Provide opportunities to solve problems even at a young age. This could involve giving kids simple tasks around the house, such as setting the table, putting away their toys, or finding something for you. 

  • Don't rush in to help or take over when they are struggling with a problem. As hard as this is to do, stepping in to fix things stops them from building problem-solving and resilience skills.

  • Encourage kids to think about different solutions to a problem they tell you about. Ask them open-ended questions, such as "What do you think you could do to fix this?" or "What would happen if you did this?"

  • Praise your child's problem-solving efforts. When your child tries to solve a problem, praise their efforts. This will help them feel good about themselves and encourage them to continue trying.


How to teach kids how to problem-solve

Though kids start problem-solving early, it pays to break down the process so that they understand that the best problem-solving strategy will depend on the nature of the problem, the people involved, and the resources available. What will help in every scenario is to get your child to::


  • Identify the problem. The first step is to define the problem. What is the specific issue that needs to be addressed? 

  • Find the root cause by using the five whys. This method is simple: when a problem occurs, you ask "Why?" five times. For example:

    • Why were the three bears angry with Goldilocks? Because she ate their porridge and broke their chairs.

    • Why did she break their things? Because she was too big?

    • Why was she too big? Because the chairs and bed were made for baby bear.

    • Why was it made for baby bear? Because it's his house, not hers.

    • Why was Goldilocks there? Because she was curious and took advantage of an empty house.

  • Brainstorm solutions. Once your child knows what the problem is, they need to come up with as many possible solutions as they can, no matter how crazy they may seem. The more solutions they have, the better their chances of finding a good one.

  • Evaluate solutions. Consider the pros and cons of each solution and choose the one they think is the best.

  • Implement the solution. This may involve taking some action or mean putting a plan into place.

  • Assess the result to see if it was successful. If it wasn't successful, they might need to return to the drawing board and develop a new solution.





Activities to boost problem-solving skills

The above can be incorporated into the following activities to help teach and boost problem-solving skills.


  • Puzzles are a brilliant way to boost problem-solving skills, as kids must find different ways to solve various puzzles. Try giving them jigsaw puzzles, a Rubiks Cube, logic, building, and word puzzles.

  • Board games need your child to incorporate problem-solving skills to win. Consider Monopoly, Chess, and Battleships.

  • Minecraft, by its very nature, relies on players' problem-solving skills. It requires kids to use their imaginations to determine how to make things happen. The game's abstract nature means the need to problem solve is there from the start.

  • Suggest they play soccer or baseball  as it provides countless problems to solve, and kids often have to brainstorm multiple solutions, weigh options, and commit to a final decision to succeed.

  • Books are fantastic for teaching problem-solving skills, especially if you choose adventure-style tales. When you are reading, stop when you get to a problem, and ask your child how they think the main character can handle what's happening.

  • Children's TV shows have multiple problem-solving scenarios designed to get kids thinking about how problems are faced and solved. Watch them together and discuss what's happening and why.

  • Projects are a great way to teach children how to plan, organize, work through problems, and execute tasks. Consider a garden project, arts and crafts, or den building idea.

  • LEGO. You need a range of problem-solving skills to build something. Encourage your child to play with LEGO to see how they fare.

  • Card games like GoFish, Crazy Eights or Happy Families - all of these incorporate the problem-solving process

  • Encourage your kids to earn money as this is a brilliant way to teach teens how to problem solve, as they need to come up with ideas, plan how to put them into action and deal with obstacles along the way.

How can GoHenry help?

At GoHenry, we know that good money skills (like all life skills) come from empowering and trusting kids, which is why our prepaid kids debit card and the app are designed to let kids learn by doing. With GoHenry, you can teach your child various problem-solving skills by encouraging them with savings and budgeting challenges. Show your child how to budget their money by setting spending limits and tracking their spending and set savings goals to help them delay gratification. Finally, encourage them to try Money Missions on the GoHenry app to find out more about how money works so they can evaluate the pros and cons of all their spending and saving decisions.






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Written by Anita Naik Published Sep 12, 2023 ● 5 min. read