Our kids are not confronted with too many hurdles at a young age. And there are websites that outline the importance of allowing a child to be frustrated when difficulties arise. However, we believe that play is necessary to inspire creative problem-solving in your little one.
But, learning can get boring at times unless you change it up. So, I believe in incorporating creative problem-solving elements into standard games and toys around the house.
This can be a fun way to stimulate a child’s imagination and promote problem-solving without a child even realizing it.
Here are some play-based activities that are tweaks on traditional toys or games.
Here’s a twist on traditional building with blocks that inspires creative problem-solving.
Try this: use blocks to build two forts or other standing structures 6-8 feet apart. You build one and your child builds one.
Then, take turns shooting at each other’s fort with a nerf gun. The last fort standing wins. Or try these Awesome Popper Guns (they are a favorite at our house) to take down a block tower!
You’ll be surprised at how quickly your child will begin to take notice of your building’s construction if they hold up better than his or hers.
For those anti-nerf gun parents, my father and I used to build Lincoln log forts and set up little army men on them. Then, we would shoot at the army men with rubber-bands. Admittedly, I would smoke my 5-year old at this version of the game so I incorporated the nerf gun element!
Have your children build a fort
Another play-based activity that inspires creative problem-solving is fort building. This was classic fun as a kid for sleepovers and my 5-year old is really starting to enjoy hanging out in them when his friends come over.
But, I can’t emphasize enough. Make your child build the fort!
Every time I see a parent doing something as basic as throwing 2 couch cushions over some chairs for their child I think “Why are you doing this for them!”
Your kid benefits far more from thinking through his crappy lean-to than he or she does sitting under your architectural masterpiece! And have you seen those fort building kits? They are awesome and kids love them. We have a fort-building kit like this one and our son loves building with it.
You can give them materials, like blankets, pillows, and chairs, but take a step back and let them do the creating and building.
When kids build a fort that keeps falling over, they will have to use their creative problem-solving skills to re-design their structures.
All of us parents love them and think our kids are geniuses when they build exactly what the Lego overlords tell them to in the handy instruction booklet. That’s why we shell out piles of money for over-priced Lego sets based on every recent movie in the theaters.
Well, guess what?
To really inspire creative problem-solving you need to make them not just follow the directions, but figure something out. How about telling your youngster to use Legos to build his or her name? Or create a cat? Encourage him to try building a planet. Or anything that isn’t carefully outlined in a book for them. Try that and let me know how it goes!
Our son built this Hatchimal House for his little plastic critters. He even made a movie about it. He rambles on a bit, but you can hear a lot of his thinking that went into the design of the house.
If your kid is anything approaching a genius, they’ll figure it out. But, don’t be surprised if your child looks at you like you have a baby arm growing out of your forehead! That’s because no one has asked them to build something using only their imagination.
I loved treasure hunts as a kid. Running around trying to find the next clue brings back such good memories. My love of treasure hunts inspired me to create the Blimey Box and Learning LockBox games, but that’s another story.
Anyway, treasure hunts are one of our favorite play-based activities that inspire creative problem-solving. I couldn’t wait to create these for my son since I loved this activity growing up.
Goonies anyone? Badass! National Treasure? That’s right, I said it!
Who doesn’t like the idea of looking for treasure? Well, the concept is pretty simple for your kids.
I’ve done a few treasure hunts for my son and he loves them. I’ve drawn up “maps” of the various rooms in our house with X’s and sent my son hunting around to find the candy at the end of the quest. Once your child catches on, you have to change it up obviously. I’ve used hidden ink UV Light clues, mixed up word clues with cut-up letters (ie: to point him to the bath), noise clues (for any of you that have a key finder beeping thingy), simple messages (ie: where the dog sleeps), etc.
This one is definitely a little more work at the outset, but if you spend the time, you’ll likely get some time back while your child is having a blast!
Blimey Box Games
Finally, there is an awesome learning game called Blimey Box (shameless plug). It not only teaches kids foundational math and reading skills but it also
This is a twist on treasure hunts, escape rooms, and even boring workbooks. Kids must solve brain-challenging tasks, to crack codes to unlock locks. Once they solve all five tasks, the final lock unlocks a treasure chest with a prize (your choice) inside.
Kids LOVE it! They don’t even realize they are learning and it builds intrinsic motivation as well.
Want to get your hands on this screen-free learning game? Try it out by downloading our free game here. Print it out, cut apart, and play.
Don’t have the locks to set up the game? Not a problem! You can make your child give you the correct code in order to get the next task to solve. Better yet, make it a treasure hunt type experience. Make them solve the puzzle and give you the code before you tell them where to find the next task.
This is the ultimate #parentwin as parents get to enjoy some free time while knowing their kids are building creative problem-solving skills!
The most important thing to remember is that children learn better with play so if you can keep things exciting, their little synapses will keep connecting while they’re having fun. What tweaks can you use to liven up the pile of toys sitting around your house?
When we find things we like, we are happy to pass along the information. Here are some games we found interesting:
In our house, our son likes memory games because he can already beat his old man regularly, but I’ve got my eye on this Gravity Maze game for when he gets a little older.
There’s also this National Geographics Brain Games Kids geared toward kids 8 years and up that says it’s “perfect for a family game night” for those of us trying to avoid another movie.
Inevitably, parents get pushed toward online resources. If you want to incorporate screen-time try this PBS website because it has problem-solving games for younger kids to try.
Check out Blimey Box Brain Games!
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