The challenges that preschoolers face, such as learning to take turns on the slide at recess, can sometimes seem miniscule to adults. However, soft skills like problem solving become increasingly important for children as they grow and face real-life challenges. How can we equip young children to solve complex problems in school, and later, in their careers?
As part of our Balanced Learning® approach, Primrose teachers help children address and solve challenges through a process called “design thinking.” Children are guided through a simplified version of the process as they practice solving problems. In doing so, they learn a strategy for overcoming obstacles that will benefit them for life.
So, how does this process work? At its essence, design thinking has three steps:
1. Understand the problem.
We help students think about the problem they are trying to solve from all angles. Children develop empathy by realizing that a problem not only affects them, but also impacts others around them (such as friends, family members and teachers).
For example, if there isn’t enough time for all students to take a turn on the slide during recess, we may encourage students to think, “How does this make me feel? How do the other children feel?” The ability to take the perspective of others is an important skill for solving problems.
2. Think through and test potential solutions and ideas.
Once children fully understand the problem, we encourage them to come up with creative solutions and ideas. Just like step one, it’s important they consider everyone affected by the problem. Does the potential solution positively or negatively affect others? Does it actually solve the problem, or is it just a short-term solution?
Going back to our recess example, the students would think of potential solutions that help everyone have a turn on the slide, and teachers would ask questions to prompt critical thinking. “If we have everyone line up and go down the slide as soon as it’s available, would that give everyone enough time?” “Should we give everyone the choice of taking a turn on the slide or the swings?”
3. Share solutions with others and listen to feedback.
We then encourage children to share their solutions with others – especially those involved with the problem – and get their feedback. This conversation helps students refine and improve their solutions.
At this point in the example, students would share their suggestions for helping everyone get a turn on the slide during recess. Teachers would help facilitate discussion. “How does everyone feel about this plan?” “Are all teachers on board?”
Encouraging design thinking in our classrooms gives children the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them and adapt in a safe, accepting environment. We remind them that it’s okay to “fail” as they search for solutions to the problems they’re facing, ultimately fostering motivated and resilient problem solvers.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Balanced Learning approach.