Problem solving through play

Children learn key problem solving skills through play. It’s so important that youngsters are able to make quick decisions and consider risk for themselves. These are invaluable for later life and for helping them be risk aware, not risk adverse.

There are lots of ways they you can encourage problem solving through play. Whether on the playground or at home, you can encourage your child to make decisions and develop their critical and analytical skills through play.

children problem solving through play on a traverse wall

Tower building

This is a great way to encourage problem solving. Give your children a material and ask them to build the tallest possible tower. What you choose can be matched to their age and ability, ranging from Duplo blocks for young children, through to marshmallows for older kids.

Matching lids

The matching lids game is great for developing problem solving and gross motor skills. Gather your Tupperware and any empty bottles that still have their lids. Place the bottles and boxes on one half of your table and the lids on the other and set your child to matching them up.

Build an obstacle course

It’s super fun to create an obstacle course at home or in your local park. Set up challenges with cushions, chairs and throwing targets in your home, or make use of natural obstacles and pieces of play equipment in your local park.

Completing obstacles is a great way to help children problem solve through play. We’ve come up with some fun ideas to inspire your home obstacle course in another blog that you can read here.

girl in a play tunnel

Drawing challenge

The drawing challenge can be really good fun. Set your children up with a blank sheet of paper and some colouring pencils and let them know they’re the ‘drawer’ for the game. You, as the ‘talker’ must describe the picture you want them to draw, but don’t let them see it.

This works best if you can print off a picture to describe so you can compare the original and their drawing once the game is done.

Treasure hunting

This can be done inside or outside, but does require a little preparation. Decide on a treasure – a new toy or chocolate coins are good motivators – and get your child excited about finding it.

Create clues that lead from one spot to another that children must solve to be able to find the next one. Solving all these clues will ultimately end up with the child discovering the secret location of the treasure.

Move the object

Asking youngsters to move object X without touching it is really simple and gets those problem solving muscles working. Crumple up a piece of paper, grab a ball or a can – any object will do!

Create a zone that it needs to move out of, whether that be a different tile on the kitchen floor or a box marked out with masking tape on the table. Your child must then come up with a way to move the object without touching it with their hands.

mother walking with child and talking

Guessing game

You don’t need to prepare anything for the guessing game, so it can be played anytime and anywhere. Think of an object and ask your child to guess it by asking one question at a time. Give them a bit of a clue at the start to help guide their line of questioning and offer hints along the way if they’re starting to get frustrated.

Playground equipment

Image Playgrounds offer lots of wonderful pieces of playground equipment that encourage problem solving through play. As well as fun, educational puzzle and activity boards installed in play areas, many of our larger pieces of equipment also encourage problem solving.

Climbing frames and traverse walls encourage children to create their own routes up and across. They also require them to think about managing risk and understanding their limitations.

Adventure tails offer an exciting challenge as children must work out the best way to complete a variety of different obstacles. These can be designed to suit children of any age and ability.

Mud kitchens, sand and water play engage the senses and allow children to get creative. They must figure out how to make the best mud pie, build the tallest sand tower and transport the most water from one container to another.

Get in touch if you’d like to talk about bringing problem solving equipment into your school or community playground.

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