Developing problem solving skills in children

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 forwards.

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; therefore it is important we begin teaching children problem solving skills from an early age.

Rather than being looked on negatively, problems help build character, resilience and perseverance. They afford us opportunities to see things differently and do things in a different way and evoke lateral thinking. A child who lacks problem solving skills may avoid trying new things, may 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.

When a child begins school they 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 be able 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 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 sums and comprehension answers out independently. Rather than teaching in the conventional sense, our 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 a 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.
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