Reasoning & Problem-Solving

Reasoning is the process of forming a conclusion, judgment, or interpretation of something.  It is a developmental skill that most children do not begin to obtain until after the age of two.  Young children will slowly develop their reasoning powers over the next 8-10 years.  Because young children are not yet logically minded, what makes sense to them is only that which they can see.  Educators can begin to teach the children the vocabulary that they will need to explain their conclusions, judgments, and interpretations.  Children must be able to compare and contrast objects or ideas in order to reason.  One way is to include the children in some of your planning.  (When talking about the beach, ask the children to help think of things that should be included in beach play.  What do we need?  Where will we set it up?  How should we set it up?).

Problem Solving involves recognizing that there is a problem and that thinking up a variety of ways that might solve the problem.  This also includes the willingness to try some new idea and/or collaborating with others.  Problem solving play is that which has a cause and effect.  This type of play can be seen clearly in toddlers as they try to put objects into a shaped lid.  Problem solving play becomes more sophisticated as children learn to stack blocks into tall towers or dress themselves for outdoors.  Problem solving is about the process of learning and not so much the product.  Children will draw conclusions based on their experiences.  Help the children with the vocabulary that they need to describe their observation or conclusion.  (The water went away-The water evaporated by the heat of the sun).  And Kindergarten teachers have asked that we teach the children how to problem solve what materials they will need to do a project (pencil, folder, library book, lunch number), and where to seek help if they need it. 

Children, and adults, learn from their mistakes.  This is how problem-solving works.  When children are allowed to problem-solve their mistakes, they become more resilient, competent, and capable in their abilities.  Our role as educators is to allow the children to try to solve their own problems.  We do this by stepping back yet being observant so as not to allow the child to become overly frustrated.  Acknowledge them for their efforts with encouraging words or a smile.  If a child becomes overly frustrated then step in and help them think through how they can fix the problem.  Teach them how to stop, think, and then take an action.

Ideas to reinforce Reasoning and Problem-Solving Skills

  • Help children compare and contrast collections or pictures.  (2 books, leaves, rock collection, city-country life/structures, etc.).
  • Plan activities where children must work together.
  • Scissor skills are a problem-solving skill.  Children must figure out how to hold the scissors in a way that they get the result of cutting the paper.
  • Give the children the opportunity to solve their own problems but with enough support that they do not grow totally frustrated in their attempts.
  • Sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Problem, problem, problem.  Oh what can you do?  Stop and think of something new, I’ll try it out with you.
  • Read books where the characters must solve a problem.  Ask the children how they might solve a similar problem.
  • Allow children to help each other solve problems.  (Kerry has a problem because there are no more blue markers, can anyone think of a way to help him?).
  • Play what/if during transitions, lunch, or any time the children are waiting.  (What would you do if… a friend fell down and scraped their knee?  You wanted to play with the truck but someone else has it?  Your tall tower kept falling down?
  • Ask lots of who, what, where, when, and why questions.  Also use statements such as I noticed… and I’m wondering… to help children to think in reasoning and problem-solving ways.
  • Put out manipulatives that the child can sort by first one attribute and then 2.
  • Play One of These Things is Not Like the Others by putting out 3 objects, 2 being similar. (2 red vehicles and 1 blue, 2 scissors with blunt ends and 1 with pointy end).    Or use the Sesame Street song with sounds.
  • Teach children vocabulary that describes quantity to they can form conclusions.  (a few, a little, a lot, all, any, several, some, too many, too few, too much, none, more, lots of, less than, the same, equal amounts).
  • Play Categories.  I like to do this as children come down the slide.  Pick a category and have the children name items that belong (things with wheels, things we see or wear in winter, things that are red, kinds of fruits).
  • Supply your shelves with many open-ended pieces of equipment for the children to use and experiment with.
  • Pictures of things that go together.  Ask the children, “What are these for”?  (a fork and a plate, scissors and glue, a scarf and mittens).
  • Talk out problems throughout the day.  Ask the children to help solve problems for you.  (I want to play with play dough too but it’s all being used, what can I do?).