Preschool Problem-Solving: Critical-Thinking Activity Ideas

As you child plays their way through the preschool day, they're not just "having fun." While a busy afternoon of activities at daycare certainly entertains your child, they're also learning and developing new skills. Along with learning how to write their first few letters, count to 10, and identify colors and shapes, your child is also building valuable problem-solving skills.

Keep the learning going when your child comes home, and take a look at these easy problem-solving activity ideas that will get your preschooler thinking critically and creatively.

Think Outside the Box

Fill a box with a variety of objects that don't seem to have a specific purpose. Skip the toy cars and dolls, and instead go for pom poms, straws, Popsicle sticks, masking tape, plastic spoons, or other items that aren't exactly traditional 'playthings'.

Ask your child to figure out what they can make from the odds and ends that are inside of the box. Give them a time limit (such as 15 minutes) to see what they can do. They'll need to problem solve in order to figure out what to make. Don't worry if the finished product doesn't look like 'something'. They key here is for your child to think critically about the materials and create their own plan for creation — and not to make an exact replica of the cat or a carbon copy of their toy truck.

Missing Pieces

Figuring out what is missing in a picture or a photo pushes your preschooler to think critically about what they're seeing. Instead of just accepting an image as complete, they need to analyze, decode and problem-solve. The activity below will reinforce problem solving skills they will learn at a preschool like Jumpin Jax Kids.

Cut out child-friendly pictures from magazines (or print photos from online sources). Remove one part of the photo by cutting it away. This might mean that you cut one shoe off of a picture of a person or remove the steering wheel from a photo of a car's interior. Your child must look at the picture and figure out what isn't right about it.

You can add to this activity by asking them to draw what's missing on another piece of paper. They can cut out their drawing and glue or tape it to the original picture.

Whole From Parts

Give your child an array of paper or craft foam shapes in different sizes and colors. Ask your child to look at the shapes, identify them, and then use them to build something else to create a whole picture.

Your child could create anything from a house (using a square and a triangle) to a boat (using a semi-circle and a triangle) to something that they've created in their own mind.

After the preschool day is done, take the learning home with you. Turn your living room, kitchen, or play room into a daycare extension with a few fun-filled critical thinking activities. These will help your child to build problem-solving skills and much, much more.