One of the best parts of my job is watching the infamous “lightbulb” come on for a student in a subject or concept they have been struggling to truly understand. I love that moment more than just about any other part of my work, but in a close second place is the moments following that amazing “lightbulb” moment. Those moments after they have made the connection and are so relieved and excited for their success are a great moment for me to share the realization that creative problem solving and understanding requires more than just knowledge and thinking. I get to share with them how amazing their brain is and how what they just accomplished they developed in their brain in their own unique way. Their process of independently creating a solution that got the universal answer to the question may not be accomplished in the same way as others’ process to find the solution.

Numerous studies, including ones from the US Department of Education, World Economic Forum, and Bloomberg indicate that the vast majority of tomorrow’s jobs will demand creative problem solving skills. Imagination is UNLIMITED power!! Someone who has a good imagination can create what does not yet exist. We are all living in unprecedented times, and more often than not we have to use trial and error to determine how to best accomplish a goal. The ability to evaluate a problem and to come up with a workable solution is one of the greatest accomplishments we, as humans, can achieve. The biggest part of this goal for me is verbal discussions with the student, but sometimes their strength is more in solving via a written process or even by sketching out their ideas. Regardless, my job is to help them achieve this goal, and continually develop problem solving skills that will benefit them in their school work tomorrow and in their career paths later in life.

As a parent, if you are wondering about how your child’s problem solving skills are developing here are a few fun ideas to start the conversation. Whenever you find yourself wondering how your child figured something out, whether it’s regarding a school assignment, or how they loaded the dishwasher, these questions can be a great opportunity to learn how their brain is developing critical thinking skills.

  • How did you figure that out? This is oftentimes answered with “I don’t know, I just did it” but pressing forward with a couple of the next questions as follow-up will help you and your child begin a more in depth discussion.
  • What did you already know that helped you figure this out? Again, this is often met with “I don’t know”, but if you lead them into it they can generally answer more clearly: using my dishwasher example: “Ok, what about the silverware, when you were younger you wouldn’t have known to put the silverware into the basket of the dishwasher right? So that’s something you already knew that helped you load the dishwasher.”
  • How is your method different from someone else’s method? This can be pressed into things like the order of things being loaded into the dishwasher, or even the placement of the dishes, or rinsing off the plates etc. Just to help them become more and more aware of how much they already know.

Give these three questions a try this week – and feel free to comment on here about your results or send me a private note, I love to help people develop these skills, and will give some more ideas next week as we continue to explore critical thinking and problem solving skills.