Teaching our Toddlers to be Problem Solvers

Dec 16, 2019 | Blog, Parenting Tips

As parents we’re often stuck in the middle of doing something for our children or guiding individual growth and learning. There are just simply some things that our littles don’t know how to do yet. They don’t have the maturity, life experience or age to accomplish certain tasks. There are many opportunities though, where we as parents can encourage children to explore learning in a new way. A guided learning interaction. Problem solving is one of these skills that we can help our children strengthen on their own.  

It’s our mission at Gymboree Play & Music to encourage children to explore their world, push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. We encourage mistakes, teach children how to learn from those mistakes, and focus on building a growth mindset in our little ones, because we know that with mistakes comes success!

Here’s how we can teach our toddlers to be problem solvers:

  1. Listen to and identify the problem. Sometimes identifying the problem can be the hardest par, even as adults! Simply stating the problem out loud can make a big difference for kids who are feeling stuck. “You want to where your blue sweater to school today, but it’s in the laundry.”
  2. Develop several possible solutions. Brainstorming possible ways to solve the problem will get your children to start thinking in a way that has them imagining several scenarios to solve the problem. It will teach them that if we stay calm and focus on fixing then there may be a solution that works for the problem. “What are some options for solutions here? We could see if there’s another blue sweater you like. We could check in your drawers to see if there’s something you may like even better. Perhaps we can wash the blue sweater today and you can wear it first thing tomorrow.”
  3. Identify the pros and cons of each solution. Problem solving with toddlers isn’t just about avoiding tantrums. There will be disappointment. Solutions to problems are often accompanied with compromise and that’s another important lesson for toddlers to learn. “If you can’t wear your blue sweater today you might be sad, but if you wait to wash it and wear it tomorrow you get to wear it to the party!”
  4. Pick a solution. Ultimately, you can’t be stuck in limbo. Teaching kids to make a decision is an important skill. There will be pros and cons and that is okay.
  5. Remind children that there’s never a problem too big that you can’t solve. Little problems seem big to little people, likewise though big problems can seem impossible to even us as grown ups. Giving children confidence in their problem solving skills gives them confidence that they can make it through life’s challenges. They will feel more prepared with the tools they’ve been given.
  6. Praise. Problem solving can be tough work and like we mentioned before – it often involves compromise! “I’m so proud of the way you figured out a solution to your sweater problem. I know it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, but you came up with a terrific plan.”

In what ways are you teaching your toddlers to be problem solvers? In the age of tantrums and meltdowns, are you able to sift through and find teaching moments? Comment with your experiences below!


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