Children solve problems naturally, pretty much from birth. From communicating their basic needs through crying, to working out how to move an object with their hands, they have an inherent ability to find solutions to challenges.

As children develop, they typically solve problems through trial and error. They try one way and if it doesn’t work, they try another way and so on, until the problem is solved. It’s this process of exploring and ‘not giving up’ that helps them achieve their goal.

Alistair Bryce-Clegg is an Early Years educational consultant and owner of ABC Does, he says: ‘‘Children are natural problem solvers, they are born curious and that that is how they learn. Often children will create their own problems to solve, questioning the world around them and enjoying the concept of 'why?'  (Sometimes a little too much!).

The Early Years Foundation Stage is underpinned by the 'Characteristics of Effective Learning'. Three statements that outline our aspirations for children as they move through this very important stage of development. One of these statements is that children develop 'Creative and Critical thinking', an essential skill for life.

When children are presented with rich and varied opportunities to find creative ways to think they in turn become expert problem solvers.’’

In this guide, we look at some EYFS activities that can help enhance your child’s problem-solving skills.

Sorting Activities

Sorting activities are a great way to encourage your child to use their problem-solving skills. Children love playing with shape sorters – those toys with different shaped holes for each shape. Not only do they help develop a child’s fine motor skills, but they can enhance their problem-solving ability too.

As your child works out which shape fits in which hole, and learns how to turn the shapes to make them fit, they’ll begin to learn the process involved in finding the solution.

You can also use everyday objects to create your own sorting activities. Toy cars, teddy bears, balls etc. can all be used to develop your child’s problem-solving. Encourage your child to notice the similarities and differences in the objects and ask them to arrange them in a specific way.

For example, you could ask them to put all the big cars in one group and all the small cars in another. And whatever they decide to do with the medium-sized cars is up to them – wherever they place them, they’ll still have solved the problem in their own way.

You can develop these activities further by sorting objects by shape, texture and colour. If you have several colourful objects, you could ask your child to put them in order of the colours of the rainbow.


Photo of jigsaw peices

Coordinating jigsaw pieces is a classic problem-solving activity that can be enjoyed by children of any age. Young children can benefit from playing with solid wooden jigsaws with handles, placing the shapes in the correct moulds.

And older children can benefit from playing with larger jigsaws up to 100 pieces (or more if they’re feeling adventurous).

Not only can jigsaws enhance problem-solving skills, but they can help develop a child’s visual analysis and spatial awareness skills.

What’s in the Feely Bag?

A feely bag is a cloth bag that can be used to place various different objects in. Choose a small common household object and place it in the bag, pulling the drawstring so the bag is closed.

Ask your child to first of all describe the object in the bag. Encourage them to describe its shape, texture and size. They can then start to guess what the object might be. If they need help, you can give them additional clues as they feel around the object.

You can make the activity more challenging by choosing more unusual objects, or by placing several objects in the bag at once.

Not Enough to Go Around

Photo of colourful jelly beans

This activity is particularly good for younger children as it’s based on everyday situations. The idea of the game is to create a situation where there isn’t enough of something to go around. Your child then has to come up with their own solution to the problem.

For example, when setting the table at dinner time, you could leave out a fork and ask your child what you should do. In response, your child might move one of the other forks, in which case you can continue the activity by highlighting that there’s now a fork missing at the other end of the table. Or, your child might go to the cutlery drawer to find an additional fork.

You could also divide sweets between you and your child, ensuring there’s an odd number. Ask your child what you should do. They may offer to give the last sweet to you, or they may take it for themselves. Similarly, they might choose to put the odd sweet back in the tub, or simply eat it there and then so the problem doesn’t exist anymore!

The good thing about this activity is that there isn’t one clear solution. Whatever your child comes up with is correct. Whether they add, subtract, move, create or eat, they’ve used their problem-solving skills to find an answer.

At Edu Prints Plus, we have a whole range of times table posters that are perfect for helping children develop the maths skills they require for problem-solving. All of our prints are made from high-quality 350 gsm art card with a lovely velvet finish. Each one also has added surface protection to combat sticky hands and spillages.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your child’s problem-solving skills, you’ll find our posters a great addition to their learning. All of our prints use bright, bold colours and easy-to-read fonts.

Here are two of our favourite times table prints below:    


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