Problem-Solving with Tasks

With hints and guidance, preschoolers can learn to solve challenging problems on their own

Boy trying to piece blocks together

At A Glance

There are many skills involved in being an effective problem-solver. Children must analyze a problem, come up with creative solutions, and try them out until they are successful. For example, a child may be building a bridge with blocks. They will stack and re-stack blocks each time they fall until they figure out how to balance them just right!

While it’s important that children see adults as a resource during challenging tasks, it’s also important that we do not solve the problem for children. We can help preschoolers develop problem-solving skills by encouraging them to think deeply and creatively and by providing intentional, but minimal, support so they can solve problems as independently as possible.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can support preschoolers' problem-solving skills

Acknowledge Effort

Applaud and highlight children’s problem-solving skills, like this educator does when a child figures out she can use two triangles to make a square. Comments like this encourage children to be persistent and creative thinkers.

Encourage Brainstorming

Make comments and ask questions that prompt children to brainstorm new ideas and solutions. Notice how this educator invites children to think by saying, “I wonder what we could do.”

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Encourage children to think flexibly as they encounter problems. Note how this educator’s comments and open-ended questions get children to think about different ways to make the water move.


Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua, this story features a girl’s persistence as she attempts to make her favorite food, Bao.
Amy Wu Book Page
Saturday book cover



Written and illustrated by Oge Mora, this story shows that when plans change suddenly, some creative thinking can make the day brighter.


Childhood Resilience

This article by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discusses ways to foster children’s resilience and problem-solving skills.


Problem-Solving at Home

This article by Rasmussen University discusses 9 ways adults can promote children’s problem-solving skills during everyday activities.


We Are Engineers!

This article from NAEYC promotes inclusive teaching and learning using the Engineering Design Process – a series of steps that engineers use to find a solution to a problem.

Activity Cards for Preschool Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to support children's problem-solving skills
Activity Card - Build It - THINK
Let's Build

Build It

Prompt children to complete building challenges, like building a long bridge or a home for animals of different shapes and sizes.

Activity Card - Follow the Code - THINK
Let's Pretend

Follow the Code

Encourage children to follow arrow cards to get from one place to another as they pretend to be a robot.

Activity card - Let's Solve It - THINK
Let's Solve It

Let's Solve It

Let children help you solve a problem like organizing a messy corner of the classroom or finding a missing item.

Activity Card - Make a Maze - THINK
Let's Explore

Make a Maze

Encourage children to go through a maze and try different paths to get from one side to another.


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