From a very young age, children already use problem-solving skills on a daily basis, whether they are experimenting, investigation or just listening. Children are very inquisitive from a very young age and it is this attribute that makes problem-solving such an imperative part of growing up. We often divide children’s learning into creative, cognitive, emotional, social and physical areas. Watching children go about their day reveals that problem-solving encompasses all of these areas of development. Creative-thinking and critical-thinking skills are essential components of problem-solving.
Creative thinking is the ability to take a problem and look at it at in many different ways. This involves finding different ways to do something, generate new ideas and/or using materials in unique ways. A creative thinker shows the willingness to take risks, to experiment and even to make mistakes at times.
What parents can do to encourage creative thinking is by helping children become both fluent and flexible thinkers. A fluent thinker has the ability to manifest ideas whereas a flexible thinker is able to see many possibilities or view situations in new and exciting ways. Here are some activities to encourage your children.
- Idea brainstorming. For fluent thinkers, invite your children to respond to questions that have many answers. Keep the questions simple but focus on the interests your child is involved in. For example, if your child is having a conversation about the night time, ask them questions about people who work at night, everything that lights up in the night or what they would do if they stayed up all night.
- Reflect. Practice flexible thinking by asking your children to comment on specific objects or situations in their room. For example, Jimmy needs a cowboy hat for a school play and he cannot find a hat that fits the role. What are things that he could use as a hat or is it possible to make a hat? These are only some examples you can use to reflect of ideas to stimulate the critical thinking in a child.
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For more information on teaching your children problem solving skills, view Chapter 2