13 Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers And Preschoolers

✔ Research-backed

Problem-solving preschool activities are an essential part of learning, leading to the development of the most crucial skills for your child. Your child’s journey between realizing a problem and finding a solution involves effort, thinking, and patience. What comes in between realization and solution is important to understand, as it is the key to a lightning-fast intellect. The process is the most beautiful part, which is also the beginning of making a new genius for the world to witness. These little minds could one day become billionaires, philanthropists, or someone far more successful.

Read on to know some of the problem-solving activities for toddlers and preschoolers and how it helps them.

In This Article

What Is Problem-Solving?

Toddler working on a project

Image: IStock

Problem-solving is the art of realizing a problem and finding an apt solution by a series of interconnected thoughts in the cognitive area of the mind (1). It requires identifying the problem and pondering over the causes and attempting to chalk out the reason. The next step would be to find a solution out of the many alternatives. Identifying the causes of a problem would involve some deep thinking, which can benefit a child’s growth and aid in their character development.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are what every child needs to survive in this world. A few problem-solving skills are analytical thinking, logical reasoning, lateral thinking, creativity, initiative, persistence, negotiation, listening skills, cognitive skills, math skills, and decision-making. Good communication skills are also important as they improve the self-esteem of your child.

Why Is Problem-Solving Important In Preschool?

As parents, you may not want to fill your child’s minds with every problem-solving ability. But you must trust the process, as it is the most important phase of life, and they are learning new things every day.

  • During preschool, they are constantly interacting with friends and surroundings. They come across various problems and learn from them. The best part is that it will be effortless for them to pick up these skills faster as they are in their learning stage.
  • Also, the earlier they learn, the better it is (2)
  • Children in preschool are introduced to the realm of creativity and imagination through storytelling and poems. It will be the perfect time to enhance their creative abilities.
  • Children usually try to ignore things beyond their understanding. But problem-solving skills might help them see things differently.
  • Developing problem-solving abilities can help them take new initiatives.
protip_icon Quick fact
Children deficient in problem-solving skills are at a higher risk of depression. Teaching children problem-solving skills at an early age can improve their mental health (2).

How To Teach Problem-Solving Skills To Preschoolers?

Teacher engaging kids in problem-solving activities

Image: IStock

Making them listen with patience and willingness is a skill that will help them comprehend what you teach them. Here are some steps that you can follow:

  • Teach them how to approach a problem in a practical way. Allow them to explore and find solutions by themselves. Problem-based learning will stick with them forever.
  • Make them do simple household chores in their own way. And, there is no right or wrong style to it. Kitchen experiments are a great way to learn.
  • Every kid is unique and has a different pace of learning. A teacher/ parent will have to be observing to analyze the best way to teach them.
  • Usually, the first step would be to identify the problem.
  • Once they find solutions, tell them to evaluate the pros and cons. And choose the best solution.
  • Teach them to take failure positively.
  • Encourage group activities as children tend to be active when their peers are along.

protip_icon Quick tip
Reward your children with positive verbal recognition, even at the slightest improvement. This will help them have faith in themselves and be confident about dealing with their problems as they grow (2).

13 Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers

You may try several problem-solving activities at home. We have listed some of the best activates here:

1. Simon Says

One of the children becomes Simon and gives commands. The rest have to follow the commands and enact only when they hear ’Simon says’ at the beginning of the command. If anyone acts when the words ‘Simon says’ is not told at the beginning, then that particular child is out. This game will improve listening skills and response time.

2. Tic–tac–toe

The game teaches decision-making and the cost of consequences. This game involves two players. One player has to mark X anywhere on the tic-tac-toe, followed by another player marking O. The idea is to make a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line with either three X’s or O’s. Both players have to stop each other from winning. Sounds fun, right?

3. Treasure hunt

Divide the children into groups and give them clues to find hidden objects. Activities such as treasure hunt evidently improve their problem-solving skills and induce the idea of competition.

4. Puzzles

Puzzles can make a child think out of the box. They can develop a child’s logical reasoning. Arranging the crumbled pieces will surely improve their level of patience.

5. Hide and seek

Toddler playing hide and seek

Image: IStock

Playing in a group can make them less shy and socialize with others. And, with hide and seek activity, children can learn devising strategies, escaping from a troublesome situation, and various other skills.

6. Sorting together

Give them various toys, pieces of clothing, or other random objects at home and some bins. Now ask your child to sort and place everything in the right bin. See how good they are at classifying the objects.

7. Spot the difference

Show them printouts of two similar pictures, with one picture having some differences. Ask them to spot the differences. This helps in actively improving their concentration and attention to detail.

8. Matching animals with sounds

Play sounds of various animals and let the children guess their names. You can also take them to an animal farm where they can observe their behavior. This activity may improve their sound recognition ability over time.

9. Drawing

Preschooler drawing on a white paper

Image: IStock

Give your child a blank canvas and some paints or coloring pencils. Let them get creative and produce a masterpiece.

10. Memory games

Memory games can improve a child’s retaining capacity. One such game is to sit in a circle and play “Chinese Whisper.” In this game, kids sit in a circle. Each of them has to whisper a word in their peer’s ear. The same word, along with a new one, is whispered into the next child’s ear. This should be continued till the last child in the circle announces it for all to hear.

11. Fort building

Child building a fort using pillows

Image: IStock

Building forts using toy material, Lego, pillows, or blankets can be fun. During the process of building a fort, children may have to face minor or major difficulties. Overcoming such issues and completing the target successfully helps in the improvement of logical and analytical abilities.

12. Maze

Solving mazes can also help a kid improve their approach towards dealing with problems and dead ends. It will enable lateral thinking and thinking out of the box.

13. Stacking rings

Stacking rings is an effective problem-solving activity for children as it enhances their cognitive skills, spatial awareness, and fine motor abilities. The task requires careful consideration of size, shape, and balance, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Children must strategize the order and orientation of the rings to successfully build a stable tower. This activity encourages creativity as they experiment with different stacking techniques. Give children a set of rings in varying sizes and materials for this activity. Ask the children to construct the tower and be watchful to prevent it from collapsing, as it offers them valuable insights into cause-and-effect relationships. Challenge them to create the tallest tower possible to promote teamwork and perseverance as they refine their approach through trial and error.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the stages of problem-solving?

Problem-solving is a cognitive skill that works through six stages – searching and determining the problem, generating alternative ideas or solutions, evaluating alternatives, selecting the best suitable solution, implementing the solution, and follow-up (3).

2. At what age do toddlers begin problem-solving?

According to research, children begin problem-solving right after birth. Children learn problem-solving through exploration between zero to two years, whereas, by three years of age, they learn problem-solving through experimenting and trial and error. Four-year-olds learn problem-solving through cooperative activities with peers and friends. By five and six years, kids get enough experience to deal with problems that would need abstract thinking skills (4).

3. How do toddlers develop critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking skills don’t develop in a day or week. Rather, it takes constant exposure to environments that hone a child’s critical thinking abilities. Indulging toddlers in critical thinking activities by asking open-ended questions or engaging in activities such as block constructing and puzzles and motivating them to think out of the box are simple ways to bolster your child’s critical thinking.

Problem-solving activities for toddlers enhance their thinking abilities and promote early brain development. You may introduce problem-solving activities such as tic-tac-toe, Simon says, hide and seek, treasure hunt, puzzles, etc., to enhance cognitive skills in toddlers. The problem-solving skills in preschoolers help them cope with various situations and mingle with other children. Problem-solving skills help children think differently and take the initiative in making decisions and solving problems. These activities help build the skills without any force or pressure.

Infographic: Hone Your Toddler’s Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are developed with practice and time; teaching this skill early on can help children tackle simple troubles and master them as they grow older. So, scour through this infographic, which can help you design activities to enhance your toddler’s decision-making and problem-solving skills.

problem-solving activities for preschoolers (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Honing your child’s problem-solving skills during preschool can help them see things differently and enhance their creative abilities.
  • Teach them to find the problem and use their analytical abilities to find a solution.
  • Simon Says, treasure hunt, puzzles, and spot the difference are a few problem-solving activities a toddler can try.
Problem-Solving Activities For Toddlers_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team


Unlock your creative problem-solving skills with some of the activities lined up in this video! Learn how to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. You Can Do It: Teaching Toddlers Problem-Solving Skills.
    https://va-itsnetwork.org/you-can-do-it-teaching-toddlers-problem-solving-skills/
  2. Developing Problem-Solving Skills At Early Age.
    https://kennedyglobalschool.edu.in/developing-problem-solving-skills-at-early-age-takes-kids-long-way-as-they-grow/#respond
  3. Problem solving.
    https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/N_R/Problem-solving
  4. Development: Ages & Stages–How Children Learn to Problem-Solve.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ738434
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Elisabeth Daly is a state-certified high school English teacher. Over her two decade career, she has taught students in grades 9-12 at both public and private high schools, and worked as an adjunct professor at her local community college. She is passionate about teaching reading and writing, and loves finding engaging books for reluctant readers. She possesses degrees in English...read full bio