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As a child, I would spend hours putting together puzzles… whether it was 3-D puzzles or figuring out a crossword. I also loved it when teachers would give the class an open-ended question and we had to work in groups to figure out the answer in our own way.
Even something as simple as playing checkers with my brothers gave me the chance to use strategy as a way to win the game. I honestly believe that it’s so important for kids to solve problems at a young age, as it helps them think critically and outside the box.
So, Why Is It Important To Teach Kids Problem Solving?
I think these kinds of activities are so important for kids to do because it helps them learn how to think analytically and solve problems on their own. It's a great way to get kids to use their imaginations and be creative.
Rote memorization simply does not have the same effect. This type of learning is great for learning facts like historical dates, but it’s not going to help kids figure out how events in history happened and the results.
We take these problem-solving skills into college, the workforce, and travel. My ability to problem solve since childhood has certainly got me through many sticky situations while in a new city or country.
Additionally, problem-solving helps children learn how to find creative solutions to challenges they may face both in and out of the classroom. These activities can also be fun and used in cohesion with school or playtime.
17 Fun Problem-Solving Activities for Kids
1. Marble Mazes
This activity was selected because it requires them to think spatially. Spatial learning will benefit kids when they start driving, riding a bike, playing sports,etc.
To do this activity in its simplest form, you will need a piece of paper, a pencil, and some marbles. First, draw a maze on a piece of paper using a pencil.
Make sure to create a start and finish point. Then, place the marbles at the start of the maze. The goal is to get the marbles from the start to the finish by tilting the paper and using gravity to guide the marbles through the maze.
Another example of a marble maze can involve using toilet paper rolls taped together to create a three-dimensional maze. The larger the maze, the harder you can make it.
If you are not into the DIY method, you can always buy a toy maze on Amazon. A good 48 piece puzzle is the Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor puzzle.
2. The Tower Challenge
Building a tower gives kids the chance to think about gravity, structure, and balance.
To do this activity, you will need some building materials like legos, blocks, or even toilet paper rolls. The challenge is to see how high they can stack the materials without the tower toppling over.
This can be done individually or in teams. An activity like this is good for younger kids and is the building block to learning about harder topics like engineering.
3. The Egg Drop Challenge
The egg drop challenge helps kids learn how to engineer a solution that prevents something from breaking. It requires them to think critically about which materials will best protect something fragile like an egg when dropped from a height.
To do this activity, you will need some eggs and various materials such as straws, cotton balls, bubble wrap, etc. The goal is to construct a device that will protect an egg from breaking upon impact.
This can be done individually or in teams. Teams can even have a competition for the best egg drop device.
As children begin handling, shopping for, and cooking their own food, activities like this will help them understand how to handle breakable items like bottles, eggs, delicate fruit,.etc. Ideally, this is best for age groups 8 and up.
4. The Penny Drop Challenge
This activity was selected because it requires kids to think about physics and how different materials affect sound.
To do this activity, you will need a penny ( or another coin), a cup, and various materials such as paper towels, cotton balls, etc.
The goal is to drop the penny into the cup without making any noise. Begin by placing different materials into the cup and then drop the penny into it. The children should also drop the penny from different heights into the same material to see if/how the impact from a higher drop affects sound.
Group kids into teams or let them try it on their own.
Kids should make note of what type of sounds are made when the penny hits different materials. This is a great activity for kids who are interested in science and physics.
5. The Balloon Race Challenge
This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about aerodynamics and Bernoulli’s principle. It also requires them to think creatively about how to design a balloon-powered vehicle.
To do this activity, you will need balloons, straws, masking tape, and markers. The goal is to design a balloon-powered vehicle that can travel a distance of at least 10 feet. Kids can begin this activity by sketching out their designs on paper.
After they have a basic design, they can begin building their vehicle from various materials. Then kids can explain why they think the balloon traveled or did not travel as far as it did.
6. The Marshmallow Challenge
Marshmallows are not only delicious, but they are also soft and malleable. So kids can have fun using it for some construction projects.
This activity was selected because it requires kids to think creatively about how to build a structure using limited materials. It also helps them learn about engineering and work as a team.
To do this activity, you will need marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. The goal is to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. If you don't have spaghetti noodles, use something similar like pretzel sticks.
You may even want to establish certain rules like each team can only use a certain number of marshmallows or noodles. A time limit can also make it more fun and challenging.
For more fun activities, check out our post on problem solving exercises for team building.
7. The Balloon Pop Challenge
If you remember your childhood, you probably remember popping balloons for fun at times. But this activity is different because it requires kids to use strategy and critical thinking.
This activity was selected because it helps kids learn about patterns and problem-solving. It is also a lot of fun for kids who like popping balloons. The goal is to create a device that will allow them to pop a balloon without using their hands.
To do this activity, you will need balloons and various materials such as straws, string, paper clips, etc.
8. Picture Pieces Puzzle Game
As mentioned earlier, puzzles are a great pastime – especially in childhood. Kids must think critically about how to put the pieces together to create a certain picture. It also helps them learn about shapes, colors, and other concepts.
You can take a medium to large picture and cut it into pieces. If you have younger kids, you may want to make the pieces larger. However, if you have kids closer to the 8-11 age range, you should be able to provide a challenge and make the pieces smaller.
9. Copy the Block Model
For this challenge, you can build a model out of blocks for the kids to copy. Put kids into groups and make sure each group has the same number of blocks you used for your model.
Make your model block as simple or complex as needed for your child's age group.
Set a time limit and make sure each group starts at the same time.
10. Team Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is great for kids because they have to search for items and use investigative skills. It is also a lot of fun and can be done both indoors and outdoors.
To do this activity, you will need to create a list of items for the kids to find. The items can be anything from common household items to things you would find outside.
These types of activities can also revolve around a theme like a holiday, movie, or book. For example, if the kids are fans of “Harry Potter” you can make a list of items to find that are related to the movie.
11. Obstacle Course
This activity requires kids to think creatively about how to get from one point to another while maneuvering around obstacles. If you have outdoor space, this can be done with common objects such as hula hoops, cones, etc.
If you don't have access to an outdoor space, you can use common household items to create an indoor obstacle course. For example, you can use chairs, blankets, pillows, etc.
Begin by setting up the course and then timing each child as they complete it. You can also have them race against each other to make it more fun.
Obstacle courses are also great because kids get to be physically active while they are thinking critically.
12. Reading Storybooks
There are many great benefits for kids that read storybooks. One of the excellent benefits is the ability to problem-solve. When they read the stories in the books, they see scenarios that cause them to be attached to the various characters they read about.
So, when they encounter a real-life problem, it is often productive to ask a child how their favorite character would solve that problem. Your kids can also be encouraged to come up with various options and possible outcomes for some of the situations they may encounter.
This not only helps kids solve various problems but become more independent as well.
13. Ask Them Open-Ended Questions
A good way to improve a child's ability to think critically and creatively and improve their ability to solve problems is by asking open-ended questions. It also helps them to develop healthy personalities.
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. In addition, the solution requires more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Furthermore, it allows kids to put some extra thought into their responses.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions you may want to ask.
14. Build Various Structures with Toys
Whether wooden blocks, LEGO blocks, or engineering blocks… giving your kid blocks to build whatever their minds can dream up is fun. In addition, it requires them to think about how they will make a structure, put the pieces together, and creatively ensure the building's function and design.
You may also want to challenge them to build something more complicated and watch them use their brain power to make it happen.
15. Acting Out Skits
Impromptu activities like acting out skits help kids identify problems, develop solutions, and execute them. This process works with multiple kids being divided into teams.
First, you will want to write down different situations, such as resolving a disagreement between siblings or dealing with bullying on the playground on a piece of paper. Second, you will fold the paper and place it in a hat or bowl.
Third, each team will pick a scenario out of the hat. Finally, you can give the kids a few minutes to discuss their solution and act out.
16. Solving Moral Dilemmas
In this simple game, you will help your kids solve simple dilemmas they may find themselves in. You could write down a situation your child may find themselves in and help them learn the moral way to solve the problem.
For instance, “The cashier gave them an additional $5 change back on my purchase. What should they do?” Another scenario could be, “I saw my friend cheating on a test. Should I tell on them or let it go?” A third one could be, “I caught my friends stealing some gum from the store. What should I do?”
After writing down the dilemmas and placing them in a bowl, get each child to select one and read it aloud. Finally, you will help them devise morally correct solutions to the moral dilemma.
17. Animal Pairing Game
This is a fun and creative game to help your kids with focus, critical thinking, and team building skills. In addition, this activity requires an even number of players to participate (4, 6, 8, etc.)
Before starting the game, you will want to write the names of different animals twice, each on a separate slip of paper. Then pass out the slips of paper to each individual or team member, instructing them not to share with anyone the name of the animal they received.
Then the children will perform activities the animals might do without talking or making sounds. Some of these activities might include:
The goal is for each child to successfully pair up with the other child who has selected the same animal.
How Problem Solving in Childhood Helps in Adulthood
Children are not born with problem-solving skills. It is something that needs to be learned and developed over time.
From babies who learn how to communicate their needs to toddlers who figure out how to get what they want, to children who are starting to understand the consequences of their actions – problem-solving is a process that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.
Some of the benefits of teaching problem-solving skills to children include:
There are many ways to teach problem-solving skills to children. The activities mentioned above are just a few examples. It is important to find activities that are appropriate for the age and abilities of the child.
With practice, children will develop these skills and be better prepared to face challenges in both childhood and adulthood.
Final Thoughts About Fun Problem Solving Activities For Kids
These are just a few ideas to get you started on teaching your child crucial problem solving skills. Perhaps they’ve inspired to come with some of your own, or seek out others? The important thing is to make sure the activity is age-appropriate and challenging enough to engage the kids.
Problem-solving skills are important for kids to learn because they can be applied to various situations in life. These skills also promote critical thinking, which is an important life skill.
There are many other problem-solving activities for kids out there. In time, you’ll find the ones that work best for your child. And be sure not to forget about your own needs and self-improvement, both of which will make you a better parent and mentor. Here are some useful activities for adults to get your started.
Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control.