Problem Solving in the Preschool Classroom

By Kathy Porter- Peden, TLC Preschool Teacher

Learning to work together, play together, and solve problems together are positive outcomes of utilizing solution kits in classrooms.

Learning to work together, play together, and solve problems together are positive outcomes of utilizing solution kits in classrooms.

In Early Childhood Education we are working to build a foundation that children can use for the rest of their lives. The most important aspects of that foundation are not the academic skills of counting and phonics but the relational skills needed to be a part of a healthy community.

Teaching children calm, kind ways to resolve interpersonal differences can have far reaching impacts. When these children grow up, they may be far better equipped to solve life’s big problems because they have learned and practiced solving problems that look small to an adult but are gigantic to a child.

One way we help children learn to solve problems is the use of a solution kit. The solution kit is a basket of cards with possible approaches to problem solving. The suggestions include ideas like sharing, taking turns, asking nicely, asking an adult to help, using a timer, etc. Children are introduced to the solutions at a time when they aren’t in the midst of a crisis. It can be as simple as sitting with an adult in the cozy corner, helping a couple of teddy bears work out a pretend problem. They can consider each of the cards and discuss how that might help the bears. Should the bears play together or get a timer and take turns?

When a real conflict arises, and it certainly will in a preschool classroom, the children will already be familiar with the concepts. They might need to be reminded that there are possible solutions besides tears and tantrums but they will know there are tools they can use.

In the years we have been teaching children to use the solution kit it’s been very gratifying to see children progress from needing adult facilitation to independently applying the solutions. It usually starts with a third-party child bringing the kit to friends who are having a conflict. As they get more skilled at independent problem solving we begin to hear more negotiations and fewer squabbles.

“Can I have that toy?”

“No, but you can have it in two minutes.”

“I’ll get the timer.”

It many cases, the first child hands over the desired toy before the two minutes is up.

That ability to negotiate differences and treat others with respect is a vital life skill. Our world could use more people who know how to solve problems and get needs met without getting angry or feeling threatened. I am hopeful that these children will teach others by their example and be leaders when they get older.

Solution kits are a topic at TLC Parent Toolkit Nights. If you’re a TLC parent, be sure to check the school newsletter for the next Parent Toolkit Night to learn more tools for your belt in helping your child navigate the preschool years.