Teaching Problem Solving

Homemade Matching Games for Children 3 to 5 Years Old

Involving Your Child

Creating homemade matching games doesn't mean that you sit down and do all of the work by yourself while your child waits to play the new game. Involve your little one in the process with you. For example, if you are making a number matching flash card game, have your preschooler help you to cut out cards, draw pictures or trace numbers. Involving him in the process of hand-making the games will help to get him excited and interested in playing the game later on and give him a sense of pride in creation.


Different homemade matching games will require different materials. That said, the primary consideration to keep in mind when making games for your 3 to 5 year old is her safety. Only use non-toxic materials that feature the Art and Creative Materials Institute safety seal of approval and are age-graded for your child. Additionally, keep a watchful eye for possible choking hazards. For example, it may seem like a creative idea to have your child match different colors of marbles, but these small objects pose a safety risk for your preschooler.

Literacy Matching Games

The national early childhood development organization Zero to Three notes that children start building language and literacy skills early on. This occurs through a variety of means, including interactive processes. Create a literacy matching game with your preschooler to help with concepts such as early phonological -- or sound -- and alphabet awareness. Make a sound matching game that helps your child to connect sounds, letters and words. For example, make a deck of animal cards that feature pictures of different creatures, such as an ant, bird and cat, for A, B and C. Have your child draw the pictures or cut them from magazines and glue them to index cards. Hold up the cards one at a time and ask your child to name the animal. Then ask her to name the beginning sound and letter. Another option is to choose three or four letters and make half a dozen cards for each letter. Have your child sort and match them by first letter sound.

Number Matching

Chances are, according to the experts at PBS Parents, your preschooler can count up to 10. Help her to hone her counting skills with few number matching games that you make at home. An easy option is to make two decks of cards -- one with numerals on the front and the other with corresponding numbers of objects. For example, one triangle goes with the numeral 1, two circles goes with 2 and so on. For an alternative matching game, keep the numeral cards out and pair them with real objects. For example, place three toy cars on the numeral 3 card.

How to Teach Your Child Problem Solving Skills

Allow your child to problem solve on her own. As children mature, their ability to think through previous actions or identify cause and effect strengthens. While a 5-year-old may struggle with these concepts, children approaching the tween years often handle the process with ease. Give your child a chance to work through a problem before offering assistance.

Brainstorm possible solutions with your child. This gives him the opportunity to try out ideas on you before putting them in motion. Brainstorming strengthens your child’s ability to come up with new solutions, which is referred to as fluent thinking. Fluent thinkers attack problems with a solution in mind.

Encourage children to solve problems in non-traditional ways. For example, if the instructions for a craft project call for a hot glue gun, ask your child what he might use instead. This teaches your child to be a flexible thinker, another important component of problem solving.

Challenge your child to identify new uses for a common object. You might ask him to think of other ways to use something as simple as a golf ball, or to make lists of items grouped by a common trait, such as things that are round, fruits that are green or things you can’t see. Turning this into a game by joining your child and then sharing your answers often brings lots of laughs and surprise answers.

Give your child an assortment of small items found around the house, such as a penny, buttons and odds and ends of jewelry and ask her to sort them into groups based on a common trait. Challenge her to find as many ways as possible to sort the items by different traits. This develops your child’s critical thinking skills.

Ask your child what would have happened if events were changed. For example, “How would your day change if you missed the school bus?” Go a step further and ask how your day would change if he missed the bus. While 5- or 6-year-olds express a vague notion that their actions affect you, children 10- or 11-years-old typically exhibit a better understanding of how their actions affect others, another important skill in problem solving.

How to Help Kids Become Critical Thinkers and Problem-Solvers

Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that have a single correct answer, as suggested by the Duke Talent Identification Program. If your child is interested in cooking, ask him what ingredients he thinks should go into dinner for that evening. The nature of open-ended questions allows kids to respond without the fear of giving an incorrect answer.

Practice categorizing and classifying with your kid. These skills are necessary to critical thinking because they require identification and sorting to a set of rules, Scholastic reports. Kids can use these rules and apply them to other scenarios.

Allow your child to fix his own mistakes. If your kid spills his cup of milk, rather than picking it up and cleaning it for him, say “Uh oh, you spilled your milk. Now what do you do?” With little or no prompting from you, your child might pick up the glass and move it further from the edge of the table so he will be less likely to knock it down.

Ask questions that give your child opportunities to make choices. Say "Do you want to wear the blue or red shirt today?” instead of just laying out the clothes for your child.

Let your child make decisions you feel might be the wrong choice; later, you can evaluate your child’s decision by asking him how he feels about his choice and what he might do differently next time. Alternatively, give your child three solutions to a problem and ask him which solution he thinks is best and why or whether he can think of any other possibilities.

Encourage your child to play with toys or computer programs that encourage thinking or problem-solving skills. Building blocks, for example, encourage creativity while addressing problems like how to get the blocks to stand up without falling down or how to make patterns.

Activities to Keep a Kid From Thinking Negative Thoughts

Communication Activities

Parents might think that distracting a child from a problem will curb negative thinking, but children need more from their parents, according to Tamar Chansky, clinical child psychologist and founder of The Children's Center for OCD and Anxiety. Listen to your child's feelings about whatever is wrong and try to empathize with those emotions. Ask plenty of questions to get the full story of what happened. A child can also replace himself in these stories with a favorite athlete or family member. What does your child think that athlete or family member would do in the same situation? This activity can help children figure out problem-solving skills from those he admires.

Choices Activities

Children might absorb their negative thinking from parents, family members or friends, according to Chansky. Spend an afternoon with your child doing various household activities or running errands in town. If the laundry does not get done, a parent could say to his child, "I didn't finish the laundry. I can get upset that it's not done yet, or I can do it now." Showing your child that you can choose the upbeat response might help him remember the positive options more in the future. Parents can also ask a child about various scenarios. What are the child's options in those circumstances?

Keeping Busy

Sometimes, problems are out of everyone's control. Negative feelings might subside with time, and parental involvement can help children feel safer and more secure. Cut family photos into pieces to make your own jigsaw puzzles or draw your own coloring pages. Focusing on others might also make a child feel positively about himself. Bake cookies to give to a neighbor, help a neighbor with an errand or housework, or visit a charity to find out ways that you and your son can help. Emphasize the ways that your child's contribution helped someone else, and it could boost his self-esteem, according to Kids Health.

Writing it All Down Activities

Ask your child to write a list of his best qualities, along with the best qualities of others he knows. Parents can do the same, jotting down the qualities they like about their child. Your son can post this list in his room as a reminder of his best traits. Such activities can also boost a child's self-esteem, according to Kids Health. If someone is mean to your child, ask your child to write down a list of possible reasons why. Offer your encouragement -- maybe that person was upset about something else and took it out on him, for example. This activity can help children empathize with others.