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Educational Toys - How to Develop Your Baby's Problem Solving Skills

What are problem solving skills?

Problem solving skills are the way your baby learns to explore, understand and survive in the world.

Your baby is born with problem solving reflexes that are automatic and help her survive. The rooting and sucking reflex means your baby will get fed and nourished by you. Crying is another reflex, and is essential for a baby’s survival. Your baby will cry for many reasons – hunger, dirty nappies, fatigue or even a need for snuggles. You will soon learn to distinguish baby’s cries and understand what your baby needs. This kind of communication develops trust and bonding between you and your baby. Within a few months, your baby will use her innate problem solving skills to work out not only how to have her basic needs met, but to start exploring her world in a whole new way.

How can you help your baby develop problem solving skills?

 Newborn

  • Childproof rooms so that a baby can explore and learn in her environment.
  • A baby needs to feel safe while exploring on her own. Allow her to move around a safe environment and simply observe without interfering in the process. If she wants a toy at the other side of the room, sit back and give her the chance to figure out how to get it.
  • Noise and color are stimulating to a baby. Provide rattles and toys that make noises in bright colours that are stimulating. Your baby will begin to learn cause and effect: she needs to shake the rattle to hear the sound.
  • The older she gets, your baby will learn basic problem solving skills such as how to move one toy out of the way in order to reach another.
  • Present a problem solving activity to your baby by giving her three toys. If she has a toy in each hand and she wants to pick up the third, she will have to put one down to pick it up. See if she can master this basic problem solving skill.

Problem Solving for Newborns

Manhattan Toy Company Skwish Classic Hess Spielzeug Baby Play Gym - Blue

6-12 Months

  • Show your baby problem solving in action. Put a toy inside a box and show your baby how to lift the lid off the box to retrieve the toy. Then, put the toy back in the box and encourage your baby to try it on her own.
  • Shapes, textures and sizes are interesting to your baby and she will love exploring and discovering them by putting them in her mouth, turning them over and over and fitting them together. Learning through active observation is essential for your baby to solve more complex problems later on.
  • Putting a simple puzzle together with your baby is a great problem solving activity.  Point and describe the picture and shapes out loud before taking pieces out, and talk about the process of completing a puzzle while you do it together. Verbally prompt your baby to “try another way” or “turn the piece”.

Problem Solving for 6-12 Months

Wonderworld Peek a Boo Ball Hess Spielzeug Pram Garland - Rose Everearth Shape Knob Puzzle

12-18 Months

  • Providing opportunities to create such as making a collage, painting, and molding play dough allows for your child to express her unique personality and builds her confidence – a critical problem solving skill.
  • Give your child the time and space to explore the materials and experiment with different ways to use them. Paint on her hands will quickly lead her to discover the delight of making hand prints on paper.
  • Practice pretend play with your child and provide a question with an opportunity for your child to find a solution. For example, when pretending to cook with pretend food, have your child pick out what you will need to make a sandwich.

Problem Solving for 12-18 Months

Im Toy Five in One Activity Stacker

2-3 years

  • Building a train track or constructing a tower are activities that engage a child’s problem solving skills and help them to learn new ones. Observe your child’s strategy and ask questions like, “If you put this large block on top of this smaller block, what do you think will happen?”
  • When an activity doesn’t work – a tower falls or a puzzle piece is in the wrong spot, ask your child questions as a way of engaging her problem solving skills. Questions can include: What happened? Why did it happen? What could be done next time to make it work?
  • Empower your child by asking her to look around your house for items that can be turned into something new and useful. Suggest discarded fabrics in good condition, old magazines, newspapers, and even old containers, then start creating! These household objects can provide hours on creating with your child, and will help her develop an appreciation for recycling. They’ll also help develop problem solving skills as your child will be learning to work out what you can do with all the different items. 

Problem Solving for 2-3 years

Melissa & Doug African Plains Puzzle Everearth My First Multi Play Activity Cube

3 years and older

  • Allow your child to problem solve independently. Give her time and space to explore different approaches to solving the problem and provide encouragement and feedback if necessary.
  • Challenge your child by re-visiting activities that were once frustrating for your child. Observe how she applies new skills to complete the task and encourage her to stick with it, then praise her when she works it out.
  • Point out the shapes of pieces and the colours; for example, a blue piece might be a piece of blue sky or this long thin piece might fit in this thin space.

Problem Solving for 3 years and older

Melissa & Doug See Inside Shapes Peg Puzzle Everearth Large Workbench with Tools Hape Creative Lacers

Copyright © Vanessa Layton 2013

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