Preschool Problem Solving Activities

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“These types of prompts help the child develop problem-solving strategies and a sense of competence, which is key to mastery motivation.”When asking open-ended questions does not re-engage the child, it is okay to give just enough information—and some gentle guidance—to get past the point of frustration.

A well-timed, “I wonder what would happen if you turned this…” or even just holding the puzzle board steady so they can add their piece may be enough. Children who exhibit mastery motivation are able to stick with a task when it gets difficult.

And she encourages teachers and parents to resist the urge to intervene too quickly if things get difficult.“If you jump in, you are taking the challenge away from the child, and they don’t develop that sense that they can solve something hard,” says Young.

Young recalls one time when her son was struggling to solve a puzzle.

Learning that you can still solve a problem even when you feel frustrated is a big part of developing mastery motivation.”When children are offered opportunities to learn that have more than one solution, such as puzzles or math games, they will play that game repeatedly.

Think of a child who does the same puzzle over and over.At the same time, we must listen to their suggestions and encourage them. And don't force them to solve things in our ways, or even to solve their problems ourselves.We must stimulate their thoughts by asking questions like: "What can we do with this ...? By this way of dealing with our children, their whole life will turn into problem solving activities for preschoolers, and this is the first step of how to build problem solving skills in them and how to develop problem solving skills in children in general.Here, Young and Goldenberg present five things that all parents and teachers can do to foster this essential skill.”Young recommends teachers and parents start with puzzles and games, including math games.Fun, simple games like Jumping on the Lily Pads and Two Numbers help students build basic ideas about number and order along with mathematical habits of mind, such as problem solving, puzzling, and perseverance.“The right game for a child is one that is easy enough to play yet just hard enough to be fun.”While it may be tempting to provide an answer to a child who is stuck, Young says it is more effective to ask them questions.The more open-ended, the better.“Ask, what can you do next? Or ask the child to show you how he did something,” says Young.When children do persist through difficulty to reach a solution, it is only natural to want to offer some praise. But it is better to comment on the child’s effort, rather than praising the child herself says Young. “And when they are no longer learning from it, that repetition is no longer interesting to them and they move on.”He notes that repetition is a valuable developmental strategy that young children use to learn new things. “That becomes really important as children grow, and they are faced with more and more difficult problems.But there is a difference between choosing to repeat a game or puzzle because it is enjoyable, and forced repetition—for example, repetition of math facts to build fluency.“The former leads to mastery motivation; the latter just leads to mastery of facts,” says Goldenberg.


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