4 Ways to Help Your First Grader With Problem Solving Skills

Get tips for helping your child develop problem-solving skills.

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The Problem with Problem Solving

The next time you’re confounded by a novel issue, stop and think about how often your first grader feels the same way! For young children, many (or most) of the problems that they encounter are ones they’ve never seen before. This keeps their lives interesting, but it also means they deal with confusion and frustration on a constant basis.

While it can be difficult to see our children struggle with an issue, it’s important to let them work through it on their own. Many times, when our child doesn’t know what to do, we just go ahead and tell him the answer. While our intentions are good – we’re trying to relieve our child’s frustration (and, often, save ourselves some time) – we are actually doing our child a great disservice. By simply giving him the answer, we’ve taken away an opportunity for him to use his problem-solving skills to figure it out on his own.

The Solution

Luckily, it’s easy to reverse this pattern. Here’s a problem-solving model, compliments of Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom, that you can use whenever your first grader gets stuck:

  1. Instead of directing your child to do something, sit her down and ask her to brainstorm different solutions. This encourages her to be creative and flexible in her thinking. For example, if your son and daughter are fighting over who gets to pick what TV show to watch, have them come up with as many TV-sharing ideas as they can. Write them all down, no matter how silly or outlandish they seem. (Sometimes the silly ideas are the ones that eventually inspire the best solutions down the road!)
  2. Talk over all the ideas, and choose two that seem fair to all parties.
  3. Put each idea on its own piece of paper and evaluate the pros and cons of each.
  4. After looking at all sides of the issue, ask each child his/her opinion on which option is best – and why. If your children don’t agree – it’s bound to happen! – don’t panic. Instead, ask nuanced questions to get them thinking. This will help them make a decision that everyone can be satisfied with.

Test Question: 1

Here are some sample practice questions that you can use to help your child solve a problem that may be challenging for him or her!

Do you see the empty box? Which of the 4 pictures on the side goes with the picture in the bottom box the same way the 2 pictures in the top row go together? 

Test Question: 2

Water and juice are both _________.

Sample Test Questions: 3

Look at the numbers below. They go in a special order. Can you figure out what that special order is and tell me what number goes in the blank space? 0 1 2 _____

Sample Test Questions: 4

Count the cake in the first box. Which box has two more pieces of cake than the first box?

Which One Doesn't Belong?

Take a look at the pictures. One pictures doesn't belong in the set like the others. Which one doesn't belong?



1. 3 (3rd image over the bubble)

2. Drinks/liquid

3. 3

4. 3 (3rd box over the bubble)

5. 3 (arrow not pointing to rectangle.)

These materials were provided to Education.com by TestingMom.com. For 100 more FREE Practice Questions that you can use to help your child prepare for testing and more, visit TestingMom.com!

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