44 Powerful Problem Solving Activities for Kids

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Inside: Tons of activities that will help boost kids’ problem-solving skills and make them super critical thinkers!

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Who doesn’t love a little challenge now and then? Especially if it’s for our kiddos! 

You see, problem-solving isn’t just for the puzzles and math sheets. It’s the magic stuff that shapes our little ones into big thinkers and doers. 

Yep, it’s pretty important!

With the right activities, we aren’t just sharpening kids’ brain muscles; we’re also enhancing their creativity, boosting their confidence and critical thinking skills, and (just maybe) buying ourselves five minutes to sip that coffee while it’s still hot. 

Stick around, and let’s dive into 44 simple activities to boost your child’s problem-solving skills while having a blast! 🚀💡

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Why is it Important to Learn Problem-Solving Strategies?

Importance of problem-solving abilities:

Navigating the maze of life requires many skills; it requires the ability to face challenges, find solutions, and adapt. 

This is where problem-solving enters the picture, and here’s why it’s so crucial for our kiddos:


Life is Full of Puzzles:
 From tying shoes to understanding a new math concept, life constantly presents us with puzzles. Equipping our children with problem-solving skills ensures they can tackle each one confidently.

Boosts Independence: As parents or educators, we won’t always be there to hand-hold. When kids can solve problems on their own, they gain a sense of independence, which is essential for their personal growth.

Develops Resilience: Not every attempt to solve a problem will be successful. But with each try, children learn resilience, understanding that it’s okay to fail and important to try again.

Prepares for Real-World Challenges: The real world isn’t a scripted playground. It’s unpredictable. By honing their problem-solving abilities, we’re preparing kids to face the unforeseen challenges of the world outside.

Enhances Cognitive Growth: Otherwise known as cognitive development. Problem-solving isn’t just about finding solutions. It’s about thinking critically, analyzing situations, and making decisions. This cognitive workout helps in the overall brain development of our children.

problem solving activities for kids

Fosters Creativity: There’s often more than one way to solve a problem. Encouraging kids to think outside the box helps them see things from different perspectives and nurtures their creative spirit, letting them see possibilities where others might see roadblocks.

Encourages Adaptability: In the face of challenges, it’s important not just to find solutions but to be adaptable. As the world changes, kids with strong problem-solving skills can change with it, learning and growing along the way.

Builds Confidence: Every problem solved is a victory, a testament to their capabilities. This builds a child’s self-esteem, making them believe in their ability to face and overcome obstacles.

So, while it may seem like just another skill on the list, problem-solving is a cornerstone for a well-rounded, resilient, and successful individual.

4 Simple Problem-Solving Steps We Should Know at a Young Age

Problem-solving steps can be thought of as the building blocks for tackling challenges. 

They’re like a set of instructions that guide us on our journey to finding different solutions. These steps provide a roadmap for kids, helping them break down big problems into smaller, more manageable pieces. 

By following these steps, children can learn how to think critically, make smart decisions, and even discover their own creative problem-solving superpowers. 

  • First, we need to understand the problem, just like examining the pieces before we start building. 
  • Next, we brainstorm – this is where we think of different solutions, like trying out various block combinations. Then comes the important part – evaluating the options. We must determine the best solution, just like choosing the right blocks for our structure. 
  • After that, it’s time to put the plan into action, just like assembling the blocks to create something amazing. 
  • Finally, we review and see if our solution works, making adjustments if needed. 
problem solving skills for kids
Get this and more in our HeartSmart Program for Kids

These problem-solving steps are like our trusty toolkit, helping us build our way to success with creativity and ingenuity.

Whether it’s figuring out a math puzzle, resolving a conflict with a friend, or coming up with a new game, these problem-solving steps will be a guide to helping kids take their next steps.

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HeartSmart Social Emotional Curriculum

If you want a program that guides you on how to teach problem-solving along with other essential skills like self-regulation, respect, teamwork, conflict resolution, and more, check this out!


Best Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

In this guide, we have a cool mix of fun problem-solving activities. There are activities for inside, outside, playing in groups, and even on the computer! So take deep breaths, and let’s get to it!

44 Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Problem-Solving Games for Kids:

Card Games:

These are more than just fun; they are brain boosters. In Go Fish, the hunt for matching cards sharpens memory. While in the classic game Uno, it’s all about plotting the right move to take the lead.

4 problem solving steps for kids

The Memory Game:

This game isn’t just about remembering; it’s about strategizing. Matching pairs means we’re not just recalling but also paying close attention. This boosts concentration, focus, and, of course, memory – essential skills for everyday challenges!

Try this animal matching memory game.

Classic Board Games:

Whether it’s Chess, where every move counts, or Monopoly, where every decision can make or break your game, these games teach foresight and strategy.

problem solving games for kids

Maze Games:

Navigating a maze isn’t just about reaching the end; it’s about strategizing the route. These games enhance our ability to plan and foresee, invaluable skills in real-life situations.

Brain-Teasing Sudoku:

Sudoku isn’t merely filling in numbers; it’s about using logic to deduce the correct sequence.

Tangram Puzzles: 

These aren’t your average puzzles. With Tangram, you shape a story, crafting images using geometric pieces.

Chess & Strategy-Based Games:

Think of these as mental workouts. Here, every step is a calculated decision, honing your ability to think multiple steps ahead.

Indoor Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Complete Simple Tasks:

Simple tasks are little jobs that you can do to practice problem-solving. 

  1. Matching Socks: Sort through a pile of laundry to pair up matching socks.
  2. Grocery List Planning: Help create a list for the week’s meals, considering everyone’s preferences.
  3. Toy Organization: Sort toys into designated bins by type, size, or color.
  4. Packing Their School Bag: Ensure they have all the necessary items for the next school day.
  5. Setting the Table: Consider where each plate, fork, and glass should go.

Ask Open-Ended Questions:

Open-ended questions are special questions that don’t have just one answer. They make you think! For instance, instead of asking, “What color is the sky?” you might ask, “Why do you think the sky changes colors?”

Puzzle Games:

Try simple puzzles with fewer pieces for younger kids and more complex puzzles with more pieces for older kids! You figure out how to fit the pieces together, which helps your brain get stronger!

Puzzle games are also great for hand-eye coordination!


Pattern Recognition:

This is all about finding the special patterns in things. Imagine a puzzle with colors or shapes. You have to figure out the pattern to solve it.

Dress-Up and Role-Play:

When you dress up and pretend to be someone else, it’s like stepping into their shoes. You have to think about how they would act and problem-solve what they would say if you were them.

Shape Sorters:

Shape sorters are super fun for young kids. You have to match each shape to the right hole. It’s like a puzzle for shapes! This helps you learn about different shapes and how they fit together.

Building Challenges:

Use Wooden blocks or legos and give kids a theme or structure to replicate. Great for all age groups!

indoor problem solving activities for kids


Cooking or Baking:

Cooking and baking are like yummy science experiments! You follow recipes, mix ingredients, and even get to taste your creations. You must figure out how to follow and “solve” the recipe so that your creation tastes delicious!


“What If?” Scenarios:

Present hypothetical situations (e.g., “What if you were invisible for a day?”) and discuss possible solutions or actions.


Homemade Science Experiments:

Homemade science experiments are like being a scientist in your own lab! You get to try out cool experiments and discover how things work. 

Quick Experiment example:

Make Dancing Raisins:

Materials:

  • Clear soda (like Sprite or 7-Up)
  • A clear glass
  • Raisins

Procedure:

  1. Fill the glass with the soda.
  2. Drop a few raisins into the glass.

Result: The raisins will initially sink, then start “dancing” up and down due to the carbon dioxide bubbles attaching and detaching from them.


Coding Activities: 

Coding is like giving a computer a set of clues to follow. Think of it as telling a story where the computer plays the main character, and your instructions guide its every move. It’s our way of communicating with machines to make them do amazing tasks!

Crossword Puzzles:

Crossword puzzles are fun little word challenges. You must fill in the blanks with the right words and use your smarts to solve tricky clues!

Complex Problems like Brain Teasers:

Brain teasers are like mental gymnastics, making you stretch and flex your thinking muscles. What’s fun about them? There’s often more than one way to reach an answer, so your imagination and logic both get a workout!

Goal Setting Activities:

Goal setting is like making a special plan for what you want to achieve. 

Think of goal setting as charting out your very own treasure map, with no wrong answers! 

By laying out what you aim to achieve, you’re setting the course toward your treasure: success!

Goals, be they immediate or down the road, act like our personal compasses. They keep you on track and motivated. And every time you hit a goal? That’s you cracking a code and unlocking a new achievement in your adventure!

setting smart goals through problem solving for kids

Featured resource

Setting SMART Goals

This engaging kit focuses on teaching essential skills for setting and achieving smart goals, just like breaking down that LEGO set into manageable sections. We help kids understand the importance of clear objectives, staying motivated, overcoming obstacles, embracing adaptability and more.

Math Challenges:

Think of math challenges as your brain’s personal gym session. These aren’t just any puzzles; they’re crafted to push those thinking caps to the limit. 

Debates (Best for older children):

Debates are friendly arguments where you defend your ideas with strong reasons. They’re excellent for problem-solving and for our social skills because they teach us how to think critically and consider different viewpoints. By defending our thoughts in a debate, we learn how to express ourselves clearly, listen to others, and find strong arguments to support our ideas!

Use Worksheets (Teach the Size of the Problem Concepts)

Teach concepts like the size of the problem to help kids determine if their reactions to problems are appropriate and what suitable solutions might be. Use fun visuals and problem-solving worksheets.

You can get this worksheet and more in our HeartSmart curriculum.

size of the problem worksheets

STEM Challenges: 

STEM challenges are games that use science, technology, engineering, and math to solve problems. They’re awesome for problem-solving because they let us be like inventors and builders. Kids can engage in creative play and design and create things, like bridges or machines, using our smarts and creativity. 

indoor problem solving stem activities

Outdoor Problem-Solving Activities for Kids

Nature Scavenger Hunt or Treasure Hunt: 

Create a list of natural items for kids to find. For added difficulty, give riddles as clues.

We have some awesome free Scavenger Hunt Bundles you can snag!

Scavenger Hunt Printables

Free Scavenger Hunt Bundle

Download this set now, which includes four unique scavenger hunt games

Outdoor Obstacle Course: 

Use items like ropes, cones, and hula hoops to design a course that requires navigation.

Garden Planning & Planting :

Design a garden patch, deciding what to plant based on sunlight and spacing needs.

Map & Compass Orienteering:

Teach kids to use a map and compass, then set waypoints for them to find.

Water Relay Challenges:

Carry water from one bucket to another using a sponge or cup, navigating hurdles.

outdoor problem solving activities for kids

Campsite Setup Simulation Challenge:

Set up a mock campsite considering factors like wind direction, incline, and resource proximity.


Nature Art & Patterns:

Using twigs, leaves, stones, and more, create mosaic patterns or depictions.

Group Problem-Solving Activities for Kids


Tower of Spaghetti:

Using only spaghetti and marshmallows, groups compete to build the tallest stable tower.

Egg Drop Challenge:


Groups are provided with a set of materials (e.g., straws, tape, cotton) to create a protective casing for an egg, which is then dropped from a height.

Silent Line-Up:

Without speaking, kids must line up according to their birthdays or another criterion.

Group Story Time:

One child starts a story with a sentence or two, and each subsequent child adds on, weaving in unexpected twists and turns.

group problem solving activities for kids

The Human Knot:

Kids stand in a circle, reach across, and grasp two different hands. The challenge is to untangle the knot without releasing hands.


Escape Room:

Everyone is ‘locked’ in a themed room and has to solve a series of clues and puzzles to ‘escape’ within a set time. It’s fantastic for problem-solving because it challenges critical thinking, teamwork, and creativity. Everyone must work together, think outside the box, and use their wits to solve the puzzles and complete the mission before time runs out!

Role-Playing Social Situations:

Role-playing helps you practice how to react and solve problems in different situations. Present the group with a fictional but realistic scenario (e.g., stranded on an island) and brainstorm and act out solutions.

By pretending to be in different roles, you can figure out the best ways to communicate, understand others, and find solutions to problems in a safe and fun way!

Blindfolded Obstacle Course:

In pairs, one blindfolded child is guided through an obstacle course by their partner using only verbal instructions.

Online and App-Based Problem Solving Activities

When tech meets intellect, the digital realm becomes a treasure trove of problem-solving wonder!

Educational Apps:

Best Apps by Age:

  • Younger Kids: Dive into the mathematical world with “Moose Math” or kick-start programming concepts playfully with “Bee-Bot.”
  • Older Kids: Amp up programming skills with “Cargo-Bot” or embark on a critical thinking journey with “Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure.”
Online and App-Based Problem Solving Activities

Online Escape Rooms:

Just like physical escape rooms, but from the comfort of your home! They’re digital adventures, demanding clues to be solved to advance to the next level.

Check out these 10 Family Friendly Online Escape rooms here! I’m especially looking forward to Hogwarts Harry Potter Escape Room.

Virtual Logic Puzzles:

Websites that present logic problems and puzzles, leveling up in complexity as kids solve them.

Top Picks: “Conceptis Puzzles,” “Math Playground Logic Games.”

Benefits: Perfect for sharpening deductive reasoning and pattern recognition.

Interactive E-Books:

These are not your everyday e-books. They demand interaction, choices, and decision-making to progress the story.

Suggestions: “This Book is Perfect” or I love this big list of the best interactive books for kids.

Benefits: Enhance comprehension, decision-making, and experience of how choices shape outcomes.


Online Strategy Games:

These games demand planning, strategic thinking, and foresight.

Check out: “Fish Sticks Strategy Game”

Benefits: Apart from being immensely fun, they teach patience, strategy formulation, and long-term planning.

10 Examples of Problem-Solving Skills Young Children Should Have

Each of these skills not only helps kids tackle problems effectively but also equips them with abilities they’ll use throughout their lives.

problem solving activities for 5 year olds
  1. Critical Thinking: Encourage young thinkers to examine situations, ask questions, and view things from different angles before reaching a conclusion.
  2. Decision-Making Skills: Help children practice making choices by offering them options and discussing the potential outcomes of each decision.
  3. Creative Thinking: Cultivate creativity by providing opportunities for imaginative play, artistic expression, and activities that encourage thinking outside the box.
  4. Communication Skills: Show children how to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly and effectively – a vital skill for problem-solving in social situations.
  5. Teamwork and Collaboration: Foster the spirit of cooperation by encouraging children to work together on group activities or projects, which helps develop problem-solving skills as a team.
  6. Resourcefulness: Challenge children to find alternative solutions using the available resources rather than relying solely on adult guidance.
  7. Flexibility and Adaptability: Teach children how to adapt to changes and unexpected situations, which is crucial for effective problem-solving in real-world scenarios.
  8. Persistence: Staying determined, even when faced with challenges, and continuing to try until a solution is found.
  9. Self-reflection: Recognizing one’s own mistakes or misunderstandings in a situation and learning from them for future problem-solving.
  10. Active Listening: Paying close attention to details when others speak, helping them understand problems more fully and respond effectively. 

Tips for Parents and Educators: Nurturing Problem-Solving in Kids

When it comes to fostering problem-solving skills in children, both parents and educators play pivotal roles. It’s less about giving the right answers and more about asking the right questions. 

Encourage Curiosity. Let kids explore questions like, “What do you think would happen if…?” or “How would you do it differently next time?”.

Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities can be a game-changer.

Set Up Scenarios. Create environments or situations where kids can think and act independently. Whether it’s setting up a puzzle station at home or a role-play corner in the classroom, these controlled scenarios can stimulate their problem-solving faculties. Remember, it’s okay for them to struggle a bit. It’s through overcoming challenges that real learning occurs.

Lastly, Be a Guide, Not a Director. Instead of directing them step-by-step, guide them by providing hints or asking probing questions. This helps them develop the ability to analyze situations and think critically. As they grow, they’ll be more equipped to approach challenges with confidence and creativity. 

So, whether you’re a parent or an educator, remember that each day presents countless opportunities to bolster these invaluable skills. Embrace them!

Final Thoughts: Problem Solving Activities for Kids

Being a pro at problem-solving helps us face all types of curveballs life throws at us.

From untangling math puzzles to making big decisions, this skill is our trusty sidekick. And when life changes? No sweat! We can adapt and shine.

In short, mastering problem-solving helps us face challenges, make wise choices, and truly succeed in whatever we tackle!

I hope you enjoyed these problem-solving activities for kids. Tell me, what one is your favorite?

simple problem solving activities for preschoolers

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