Developing problem-solving skills in children
I love watching my daughter pack puzzles. Not only have I been able to share in the excitement and sense of achievement of completing one successfully, I have also seen the storm clouds roll in and the frustration of not being able to get the pieces to fit, not to mention the trauma that the poor puzzle piece may be experiencing after repeatedly being jammed into the wrong space – ouch! It made me think about my own day-to-day situations and how I deal with problems on a daily basis. How do I handle the frustrations? How can I help her to learn to see problems as a challenge to overcome, rather than an inconvenience or worse still, a complete block in her path to success?
Thinking about this, I turned to the internet for some guidance and came across the following article from Kumon Education:
We encounter problems on a daily basis at work or at home; some of these problems are obviously more complex than others, but it is second nature to us to resolve these issues and move forward.
However, for a child this is an important life skill they will need to develop if they are to go on to have a bright future where they are able to make healthy decisions for themselves.
If a child is able to solve problems on their own, they will be happier, more confident and more independent; they will not feel frustrated or disheartened in their inefficiency. That is why it is important to begin teaching children problem-solving skills from an early age.
… problems help build character, resilience and perseverance
Rather than being perceived negatively, problems help build character, resilience and perseverance. They afford us opportunities to see things differently and do things in a different way, evoking lateral thinking. A child who lacks problem-solving skills may avoid trying new things, ignore certain situations altogether or act rashly when presented with a problem.
Like adults, children face problems every single day. However, rather than running to the rescue, give your child the chance to attempt a resolution on their own. Watch to see how they examine and approach the problem; talk through the problem and try to come up with a solution together. Your child will then draw upon and use these strategies when faced with a similar problem later on, and will feel confident in their ability to overcome the obstacle, knowing they have mastered it before.
By the time the child goes to school, they will be able to use these problem-solving skills in new social situations as well as apply them to their academic learning. A child with good problem-solving skills will be able to use their initiative and to weigh up actions and consequences to guide their decisions throughout the school day. They will not be daunted by new work or new tasks, but instead will have the self-belief and 'can-do' attitude to give it a go.
The Kumon programmes nurture a child's problem-solving skills by encouraging them to work out sums and comprehension answers independently. Rather than learning in the conventional sense, Kumon students develop the skills and attitude to become independent self-learners who do not rely on - or are limited - by the skills and knowledge of others.
The Kumon worksheets have been designed in such a way that they encourage self-learning and draw upon students' problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Students are guided by examples and are encouraged to rely on techniques and strategies they've learned from studying the lower levels of the programme to help them solve more advanced work on their own.
Students do not only have to rely on their memory skills, but also need to identify the different techniques available to answer the question and decide which technique will be the most efficient to utilise, using their initiative, logic and reason.
Problem-solving skills encompass all areas of a child's development: social, emotional, creative, cognitive and physical, so the sooner you can encourage and build up these skills in your child, the better.
As I looked up after reading the article, I spied my daughter trying one more time to fit that puzzle piece into place. I was reassured; she has a bright future ahead of her and with the right guidance, can tackle anything that life throws her way.
Kumon Education SA has over 220 study centres country-wide. For more information about how Kumon can help to develop your child’s problem-solving skills and more, please visit the Kumon website at www.kumon.co.za.
Written by Tracy Rist, Branch Manager: Cape Town, Kumon Education SA
Information and story from our Proudly South African Magazine