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.


Parent Toolkit Nights: Expanding Our Toolkit

By Renee and Russell Schoenbeck; Parents of TLC toddler Riley, age 2

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

We love TLC. Let’s just throw that right out there. We love the mission. We love the philosophy. We love that we KNOW our daughter’s life is being enriched by her time spent at TLC. So, when opportunities at TLC present themselves, like Parent Toolkit Nights, we are eager to participate. 

Let us explain: Parent Toolkit Nights occur 4-6 times per academic year and are available to parents of students at TLC (prospective parents: this is a wonderful benefit). The Toolkit nights are 60 minutes and are lead by a teacher and a therapist who discuss helpful strategies that are taught in school, then offer ways to incorporate those strategies at home. 

Yes, really. The experts in early childhood education are not only willing to teach your child all day long, but they are also willing to teach YOU how to work with your kid (while providing you with snacks, laughs, and childcare). We feel like we could end this right here and invite you to join us, but let’s press on. 

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Toolkit nights are spent reviewing things like visual schedules, calm down strategies, problem-solving strategies and more, in a way that bridges the gap from school to home, and helps us help our kids with life-long strategies. The strategies help us communicate with our children better, and, heck, even our significant others (because suddenly people become a lot less annoying when they say “Geeze, my engine is running so slowly!”)

The teachers and therapists put a lot of time into these nights, and not only do they have a giveaway (we won timers at the last Toolkit night!), but they always have some kind of project or handout that you can make and take home to begin introducing the strategies at home immediately. This past ToolKit night, we received starter Calm Down Kits, complete with a squishy, chew, and lavender-infused weighted pad.  Not to mention, the evening is filled with other parents who are just as grateful for the information as you are. 

At the last Toolkit night, Miss Jen talked about how the trickle-down effect works with our children within the community. If our kids can learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, communicate effectively, and make good choices, then when they interact with other kids, they model that behavior, and it spreads. How can we set our kids up to be part of this wonderful trickle-down effect? By learning. By being involved. By bridging the gap. By extending the lessons that our children are learning at school, to our home.

We are raising the future, and TLC is setting us up to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times the words “If we had access to these skills when our kids were younger…” have been uttered. We are lucky to have access to this information, and we are lucky to have teachers and therapists willing to dedicate the time to teach us.

We hope you’ll join us for the next Toolkit night on Thursday, April 26, 2018, for some snacks, laughs, and learning. 

P.S. Don’t forget, there is free childcare!