Activities for Young Children That Teach Problem Solving

Updated on January 5, 2019
JoannaBlackburn profile image

Joanna Blackburn has 15 years of hands-on teaching experience. She enjoys researching and writing about ways to help children learn.


Cognitive Development

You may not realize it, but you probably already use activities to teach cognitive development skills. Using all the senses to explore people, toys, and activities will inspire curiosity and an interest in learning.

I thought I would give some fresh ideas for you to try in your classroom. I have used these activities in my classroom almost on a daily basis, and the children never tire of them. I do switch them up a little each week, but usually, the children find new creative ways of using them.

1. Storytelling Bag Activity

Storytelling Bag
Storytelling Bag | Source

Pick one from each column

A bag with handle
Small stuffed animal
Baby Doll
little blanket

Storytelling bags came about as a way to entertain children during tornado season. The list above is just a small sample of things to use. As long as every bag has a book and other things that children can use, then you got it. The best way is to have them help you put things together.

Although it started out as a tornado-season activity, the children loved it so much, I started using it to teach them other things. I would put a book, some shapes that might be in the book, and other classroom items into the bag. After they got used to the items and learned how to handle the books, I added pencil and paper.

At two years old, they can learn to respect books if you sit on the floor with them and help them learn the right way to handle the book. It took about a month of sitting on the floor with a pile of books in front of me, working with the children, but they now respect books.

Sample of Storytelling Bag
Sample of Storytelling Bag | Source

2. Toy Match Activity

Supplies Needed:

  • Construction paper (2 red, 2 blue, 2 green, and 2 yellow)
  • A red toy, a blue toy, a green toy, and a yellow toy

What to do:

  1. Take the 8 pieces of construction paper on the floor.
  2. Place matching toys on 4 of the papers. Name the color while pointing to each paper.
  3. Then ask the children to go find a toy that matches one of the colors. Do this several times. You can laminate the paper so that the children can use them by themselves. Sounds simple, but you will have to give encouragement to keep the children on track for what they are looking for.


Ask: "Has anyone found the red toy yet?" Then hold up the red paper.

3. Building Block Sorting Activity

Supplies Needed:

  • Colored buckets to match the color of your building blocks. 4 colors is the best.
  • Enough building blocks or Legos to keep the children occupied.

What to do:

  1. Put the buckets on the shelf in the Block Center. Dump the blocks on the floor in a pile. Then you sit down next to them, pick up one and say, "Hey, this is a red block. I wonder which bucket it goes in? Can someone help me figure it out?"
  2. Wait for a child to join you. Once they sit down, ask: "Do you know what color this is? Which bucket is the same color?" Wait. Be patient. It might take them a minute or two. They have to get over the teacher asking for their help first.
  3. Then say, "Is this bucket the same color as this block?" Wait for an answer. If they say yes, and they are correct, put the block in the bucket.
  4. Do one of each color this way. Make sure you have some that don't belong to any buckets, so they get a chance to ask you where it goes.

4. What Was That Sound?

What to do:

  1. Randomly, throughout the day, make weird sounds.
  2. After doing it two or three times say, "What was that sound?" Then wait for one of the children to answer.
  3. Then say, "Who made that noise? Was it you?" This works with any kind of noise you can make. Children really like to join in on this game. The key is to be random.

What age level?

You can adjust each of the activities to be challenging enough for the age of your classroom. Items can be substituted and the activity will still work. Use your imagination to make these your own.

He is signing the word eat.
He is signing the word eat. | Source

5. Using Sign Language While Singing

Supplies needed:

  • A song the children know well.
  • The signs for at least 3 different words in the song

What to do:

  1. Pick a song that the children love to act out. Example: "Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed."
  2. Learn the signs for jump, mom, and no.
  3. You have to do all the motions to the song and when each of those words is said, use the hand sign for them.

This activity can and does settle down any room. If you need to get the children back on track, just start doing this song. They will all, or almost all, join you.

The book ABC Sign and Color by Dover Coloring Books is great to use. Not only will it give you the simple ways of signing while singing, but it gives you storytelling props as well.

The children love looking through this book with the teacher and learning how to make the signs. If you take the book apart and laminate the pages, then the children can use it when they want to.

This is your chance to interact with the child's imagination.
This is your chance to interact with the child's imagination. | Source

6. Interacting With Their Imagination

Supplies needed:

The children, your classroom, you, and imagination.

I know this sound silly, but this is a great way to help them develop their cognitive skills.

The key to making this into a teaching strategy is that you act silly, and you be silly. Children can tell the difference. Enjoy pretending to be whatever they want you to be.

Look at this picture. What could you do to join her?

Me: I dressed up as a reporter and took lots of photos of her like she was famous. Then when she was done singing, I asked her questions about what she was doing?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Joanna Blackburn

What activities do you enjoy?

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