Problem-Solving with Tasks

Encourage infants and toddlers to use trial-and-error as they encounter new objects in their world

toddler figuring out how to stack blocks

At A Glance

Learning to problem-solve requires lots of trial and error for young children. They may turn a puzzle piece or shape multiple ways to make it fit, or reach and scooch before rolling over to get an object nearby. This repeated practice builds their understanding of how things work, supporting their ability to solve problems in the future!

We can support children’s problem-solving skills by providing lots of opportunities and space for them to explore and try things on their own. While it’s important that we are there to provide help when needed, we also want to encourage them to solve problems with as much independence as possible.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can support infants' and toddlers' problem-solving skills

Support Independence

Young children can do a lot when given the chance! Watch how this educator provides hints and clues that help a child practice opening a jar of apple sauce on their own.

Acknowledge Effort

Recognize children’s work when they try to solve problems and complete tasks on their own. Notice how this educator highlights each child’s contribution to the clean-up process.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

When children present you with a problem, respond with open-ended questions instead of answers. Notice how this educator encourages a child to consider different solutions and offers suggestions along the way.


Solutions for Cold Feet and Other Little Problems

Written and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff, this story shows that there are many solutions to the little problems we face in everyday life.
Cold Feet Book Page
Stop Bot Page


Stop Bot

Written and illustrated by James Yang, this story follows a community effort of thinking creatively to retrieve a lost toy.


Build Resilience Through Play

This podcast from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child explores how play can build resilience and offer support to children who have experienced trauma.


Encourage Problem-Solving

This video from All About Young Children offers effective strategies to facilitate children’s problem-solving skills at home and within the learning environment.


Empower Learning Through Scaffolding

This article by NAEYC explores how careful observation can help educators individualize their support for infants and toddlers as they explore their world.

Activity Cards for Infant and Toddler Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to help children develop their problem-solving skills
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Fill It Up

Fill the Empty Space 

Challenge children to fill empty spaces using different objects.

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Scoop it Up

Scoop and Rescue

Challenge children to rescue objects from water by only using tools and not their hands.

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Step it Up

Stepping Stones

Encourage children to problem-solve and find ways to move across the room, stepping only on specific materials.

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Build it Up

Tall as Tape

Prompt children to build a block tower that is as tall as different heights of tape.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills