• nanarkwright

Solve it!

Kids of all ages face problems and challenges on a daily basis, but kids often lack effective problem-solving strategies.

Using science-based information to determine effective problem-solving approaches, it appears that for preschoolers, it is helpful to focus on naming, validating and processing emotions and after that, to focus on finding a solution they feel they can do. Books and pretend play can make this step easier.

Similarly, it appears that teaching early elementary-aged kids a step by step formula, will help them feel more confident, independent and successful. This can build skills in managing their emotions, thinking flexibly, and persisting until they find a solution.

Offer guidance to your child as you work through the following steps together:

  1. Tell what the problem is and what your child is feeling.

  2. List possible solutions.

  3. For each idea, discuss what would likely happen (pros and cons).

  4. Choose a solution that feels comfortable to both of you and try it out.

  5. Discuss what worked/didn’t work.

  6. Choose to keep doing what worked/choose a new strategy for what didn’t work.

  7. Keep trying until something works.

In Mission:CONTROL!, Joseph’s mom helped him identify the problem and his feelings. She asked him to try to come up with a solution, which triggered his big feelings adventure where he decided to solve the problem about the TV by using will power. The story doesn’t specifically spell out steps 3 and 4 because Joseph felt he could solve the problem independently; we do, however, see his mom helping him through steps 5 and 6 at the end of the story. His mom praised his process of getting from an upset to a feeling of accomplishment.


In order to gain confidence as a problem-solver, try asking open-ended questions with a curiosity, such as the ones below:

  • How can we work together to solve this?

  • What part is hard?

  • What was easy for you?

  • What will you do again?

  • What would you do differently next time?

  • What would you tell a friend to try in a situation like this?

  • Show me your idea.

  • How did you figure that out?

  • How did you make that happen?

  • Did your brain get stronger by solving that problem?

  • What do you think you should do?

  • What would you like to do next?

  • What would get in the way of what you want to do?

Note: You can also ask similar questions about a character in a book or on the TV.

Steps to take

Small step: Next time your child is struggling with a problem, choose an open-ended question that could help your child take a step toward solving it.

Advanced step: Read Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy and connect the characters, problems and solutions in the book to your child’s experiences at home or school.

Check it out

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