Does your child's preschool focus on problem-solving? It definately should!
Ellen Galinsky has identified problem-solving as one of the seven critical habits of mind that prepare children for success in kindergarten and throughout life. The National Association for the Education of Young Children agrees: "Preschoolers who can solve their own problems feel confident and enjoy learning. They are willing to make mistakes and learn from them and keep trying until they succeed." (See NAEYC for Families: Helping Your Child Become a Great Problem Solver)
Many families think about alphabet knowledge and counting when they think about school readiness, but rote skills in isolation don't prepare children to be successful in kindergarten. In fact, the most successful children in elementary school are the kids who are willing to tackle tough problems, who keep trying even when a problem seems too difficult, and who equate effort and hard-work with success.
At First Discoveries, we understand the importance of nurturing problem-solving. We give our preschoolers and VPK students many opportunities to tackle challenges, and our play-based curriculum is build on the understanding that children need to explore real objects and solve real problems. Through playful experiences, children are motivated to explore, to create, to think.
Developmental Psychologist Jean Piaget explains it in simple terms: "Children have real understanding only of that which they invent for themselves."
We can not simply give children the answers to tricky questions; they must explore and figure it out themselves. Piaget actually studied children's development and documented the difference between rote knowledge (facts that we teach children to recite) and knowledge that children constructed for themselves. He discovered that when children solve their own problems, they have a deeper, more meaningful understanding. They are also more willing to tackle tougher problems in the future.
There are no more squares!
Early one morning, a PreK child was building a house from magnetic blocks when he suddenly encountered a problem: he had used all the magnetic squares and could not complete his construction.
The teacher prompted him, "How can you fix that problem?" His frustration was evident, but her calm reaction helped him calm down and focus on his problem. Over the next few minutes, she remained beside him and coached him as he combined triangles to make squares and then placed each square on the house.
His initial frustration melted away, and her quiet presence and occasional encouragement was the support that he needed to perservere. His confidence grew stronger and stronger each time he built a another square.
Yes, problem-solving is critical in early childhood, and play-based classrooms provide the perfect opportunity to support its develoment!