5 Questions to Boost Problem Solving Skills in Your Child

Your child is doing the school homework and says, “I don’t understand this.” How do you respond to this? Your response has far reaching effects on the problem solving skills and learning attitude of your child.

What do you do when your child says “I don’t understand this”? Do you immediately help your child? Do you feel it is your responsibility to teach your child with all the details? It may help your child’s curiosity short-term or save your time short-term. However, you are wasting a golden opportunity to enrich your child with critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Next time when your child says “I don’t understand this”, resist your urge to give the details and guide your child to solve the problem. Asking the right questions will help your child to build their curiosity and critical thinking skills. When they solve the problem by themselves following your careful guidance, they feel more confident. They will be more open to trying out more challenging problems in the future. These are some questions you can ask your child for a guided problem solving process:

Question #1: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

Problem solving skills in children

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May be your child has not understood the question well. It is the questions that lead to more questions, answers and knowledge. Help your child to understand the question. Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”


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Question #2: “What have you done so far to solve this?”


Problem solving skills in children

This is a great question to help your child evaluate what they have done so far about it. Taking stock of the situation helps in charting the next step. May be your child was not approaching the question the right way. Your question will help them to take the next small step in solving the problem.

Question #3: “Where exactly are you facing the problem?”

Problem solving skills in children

May be your child does not need the answer for the entire question. In reality, they might be stuck at a tiny portion of the big problem. This question will help your child to divide the problem into sub-problems and think through these sub-problems one at a time.

Question #4: “Have you taken any class notes on it?”

Problem solving skills in children

Recollection is a great technique that helps us to remember something we have learned before. This question will help your child to go through their notes and recollect the discussion in the class.


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Question #5: “Did you talk to your friends about it?”

Problem solving skills in children

Your child’s classmates would be able to remind them of how the topic was tackled in the class. This is a great way for your child to understand the significance of collaboration and brainstorming in learning.

Is your child still struggling to solve the problem? Tell them not to panic. Give them the assurance that you are with them in their effort to solve the problem. Ask them more questions with hidden clues to lead them to think in the right direction.

Do not forget to congratulate your child for the efforts they made. Let them know the specific problem solving skills they used well so that they will feel empowered to use those skills to solve other issues as well. “Your perseverance helped you reach this far”, “It is your ability to divide the problems into sub-problems that helped to solve the problem”, “It is your ability to collaborate with others that helped you here”, “You are developing your problem solving skills well”, are some of the congratulatory phrases you can use to encourage and empower your child. After all, learning is all about acquiring new skills to solve problems.

Please visit Thinkers Unlimited Workshop and Creative Problem Solving Workshop for our workshops on thinking skills and design thinking.

Share this article with your friends and colleagues, so that they too are aware of this amidst their busy schedules. 

Do you have any insights or tips that you use? Would you like to share that? Please use the comments section below and let us know!

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About Sindu Sreebhavan

Sindu Sreebhavan is the founder of As Many Minds Minds Pte Ltd and the chief editor of The Kidz Parade Edutainment magazine, Asia's premium publication for cultivating creativity and creative writing in children. Sindu is also the founder of International Youth Leadership and Innovation Forum (IYLIF). With a passion to infuse innovation in education and inject innovative mindset in people, Sindu writes, speaks and consults on innovation and creativity in business and education. She says innovation does not start with invention, it starts with a mindset. “The best gift you can give a child is the power of Confidence, Creativity and Communication” is her tagline. She is passionate about educating educators, parents and children about youth development, youth leadership, education innovation and 21st century education. She supports children, parents, schools and several organisations in these areas.