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An elementary-aged girl smiles over her shoulder, proud of the problem solving skills she just demonstrated.
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How Children of All Ages Solve Problems

Here are ways that children of all ages solve problems, and ways that you can respond to help develop their ability to work through problems.

How Children Ages 1-2 Solve Problems

Children this age are very sensory-oriented. They solve problems by interacting with all of their senses simultaneously. They also learn by imitating. One-year-olds are highly curious and want to explore everything. Two-year-olds assert their independence. Children at this age have short attention spans.

Ways to Respond

Give children age-appropriate items to touch, smell, taste and listen to. Prepare the room so that children can move freely to learn and solve problems. Allow children to work through their own problems by giving them choices. Don’t say “no” all the time. Model problem-solving techniques for children to imitate. For example, if two children want the same toy, have them choose to take turns or play with similar toys. Maintain the same routine but vary the activities.

How Children Ages 3-5 Solve Problems

Preschool children are still highly multisensory. They learn and solve issues when they touch and do. For instance, three-year-olds may not be as assertive as 2-year-olds; they may whine and try to manipulate adults to fix problems for them. 4-year-olds may be aggressive as they try out new problem-solving skills. Five-year-olds are eager to please adults and will often solve problems to satisfy them.


Ways to Respond

  • Provide items for children to touch and do as they learn to solve problems.
  • Allow time and space for children.
  • Help children solve issues in age-appropriate ways. For example, when children whine, give them choices to solve the problem. For example, say, “You may use your regular voice or you may be quiet” instead of “Don’t whine!”
  • When 4-year-olds go out of bounds, define appropriate solutions.
  • Praise 5-year-olds’ problem-solving skills.

How Children Ages 6-8 Solve Problems

Children at this age are losing their ability to be multisensory. Somewhere between ages 6 and 8, kids begin to learn in specific ways. And their learning ability affects how they solve problems. For example: Auditory learners need to think aloud; visual learners need to see what to do next; and kinesthetic learners need to move to learn.

Ways to Respond

While discovering how children learn, continue to allow children to move and touch to work through problems. Teach visual skills such as matching or putting together puzzles. Allow for auditory processing by having children listen and discuss ways to solve issues. For kinesthetic children, provide times to move, touch and do to explore solutions to a problem. Vary approaches and how you say things. For example, say: “Let’s see what we should do. Let’s talk about…Let’s do something.”

How Children Ages 9-12 Solve Problems

Older children consider peers more important than family at this age. They’ll watch how their peers solve issues. At about 11 years old, most children become highly auditory-they talk about problems to work through them. Kids are becoming independent and want to solve their own problems. However, they’re also changing physically. They’re entering the transition between childhood and adulthood. And this can scare them. So one time they believe they can do anything; the next time they’re not sure if they can do anything.

Ways to Respond

Communicate to kids at this age that you recognize and trust their abilities to work through problems. Tell older children it’s okay to fail to solve problems because they’ll learn from their mistakes. Talk with kids about how they’re solving real-life issues, such as conflict with friends or peer pressure. Provide kids’ Christian fiction books that provide ways characters have solved issues. Then talk about the book.

Jody Capehart is an author and a Christian education consultant and speaker in Texas.

Looking for more teaching tips? Check out these ideas!


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How Children of All Ages Solve Problems

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