Problem Solving

Problem Solving

This month’s theme is focused on solving problems. The following are various resources from family activities, individual activities and book recommendations you can participate in with your child.


Family Activity: Solving Problems with STEP

Read Together

This activity reviews the first four steps for problem-solving. 1. Say the problem. 2. Think of solutions for that problem. Come up with same and respectful ideas to solve the problem. 3. Explore consequences. Think about what could happen if you make a certain choice. 4. Pick the best solution.

Ask your child: What should you do if you are having strong feelings before you try to solve a problem? (What we encourage: Calm down.)

Ask your child: How can you calm down?

(What we encourage: Put my hands on my tummy. Say “stop.” Name my feelings. Take belly breaths, count, use positive self-talk.)

Ask your child: What are the four steps for solving a problem?

(What we encourage: S: Say the problem. T: Think of solutions. E: Explore consequences. P: Pick the best solution.)

Practice Together

When problems come up at home, such as missing toys, or conflicts with siblings, help your child use words to describe the problem. Then together, think of some solutions.


Your child can’t find a favorite toy. Say: You seem very upset. Let’s calm down and solve this problem together. Belly breathe with your child or use another calming strategy. What is the problem? Help your child describe the problem. Then repeat it. You can’t find your toy. Now let’s think of some solutions. Help your child think of solutions, such as to search each room or play with another toy. Which solution do you want to try? Have your child pick a solution and try it.

Your child is having trouble tying their shoes. Say: You seem very upset. Let’s calm down and solve this problem together. Belly breathe with your child. What is the problem? Help your child choose words that state the problem. You are having trouble tying your shoes. Let’s think about what you can do to solve that. Help your child think of ideas, such as try again, ask for help, or find a different pair of shoes that don’t have laces. For each idea, ask: What could happen if you do that? Then try one of the solutions!

Why is it important?

Children who can solve problems get along better with other children, are less aggressive, and have fewer conflicts.

Family Activity: Solving Problems without Blame

Read Together

Everyone has problems – at home, school, or work – that need solving. Using the Problem-Solving Steps helps you come up with a lot of safe and respectful solutions to choose from.

But wait! Before you come up with solutions, you’ve got to say the problem respectfully. That means saying the problem without blame. Saying the problem in a way that blames the other person can cause hurt and angry feelings, and no one wants to feel hurt or angry. When people are hurt or angry, it’s even harder to solve the problem.

Practice Together

Saying the problem without blame is not easy. The first step is to be able to recognize blaming words. Do this activity together to practice finding blaming words. Some blaming words and phrases to listen for are: always, never, you made me…, because of you…, it’s your fault….

  1. Stand face-to-face, then take two steps back.
  2. Adult: Read a Problem Statement below.
  3. Child: Listen for an example or examples of blaming words.
  4. Child: Say the blaming words out loud, then take one step toward your adult.
  5. Continue reading problems and finding blaming words until you step together again.
  6. Give each other a high five! Switch roles and play again.

Problem Statements

  • He is always hogging the remote control, so I never get to watch what I want.
  • You never hurry up when we need to get somewhere quickly!
  • This dress is ruined because of her making me spill milk all over it.
  • You made me forget to bring the book by distracting me with all your talking.
  • You never let me eat what I want for breakfast.

Why is it important?

When children’s feelings are very strong, it is hard for them to think clearly and pay attention. When children are calm, they are able to learn and get along better with others.

Family Activity: Don’t Play the Blame Game!

Read Together

In the Solving Problems without Blame activity, we learned about blaming words and how we need to be able to say our problem without blame before we can solve it using the Problem-Solving Steps.

Practice Together

Saying the problem without blame is not easy. When you are both blaming each other, it’s even harder to solve the problem. The first step is to be able to recognize blaming words. Some blaming words and phrases to listen for are: always, never, you made me…, because of you…, it’s your fault…. Then you can try to say the problem without blame. In this activity, practice saying the problem without blame.

  1. Read the scenario.
  2. Read the blaming statements.
  3. Find the blaming language.
  4. Create a new problem statement that does not use blaming words.
Scenario Blaming Statements Say it Without Blame
A mother and son are arguing over what TV program to watch.

Mother: “You always get to watch what you want! It’s my turn for once.”

Son: “You never let me watch what I want on TV. Your TV shows are boring.”

We can’t seem to agree on what TV show to watch.

Two sisters are arguing over the rules to a game.

Sister 1: “You made me lose because you always cheat and make up rules!”

Sister 2: “It’s your fault because you never let me have a fair chance.”


Jaime and Michael are cousins visiting their grandma. They have broker her teapot.

Jaime: “You were chasing me, so I ran into the table because of you.”

Michael: “It’s your fault because you called me a name and made me mad.”


Why is it important?

With Problem-Solving Steps to follow, children are more likely to come up with prosocial solutions to problems.

Family Activity: Understanding Different Perspectives

Read Together

What do kids really know about what adults think? And what do adults really know about what kids think? You and an adult family member are going to try putting yourselves in each other’s shoes. The saying “put yourself in their shoes” means to take that person’s perspective – to imaging what it’s like being them.

Practice Together

On separate pieces of paper, both student and adult answer the questions below for their own perspective, and then from the other person’s perspective.

When you are both done, compare your answers to find our how well you know each other’s perspectives.

  1. The best time to do homework/asynchronous school work is (my perspective):
    1. What I think the other person will say (the other perspective):
  2. When we go to a special family or community even, the clothing that is best to wear is (my perspective):
    1. What I think the other person will say (the other perspective):
  3. The best style of music to listen to at home or in the car is (my perspective):
    1. What I think the other person will say (the other perspective):
  4. The amount of screen time (TV, computer, phone, tablet) per day allowed in our house should be (my perspective):
    1. What I think the other person will say (the other perspective):

Why is it important?

Perspective taking helps students work in groups and successfully solve conflicts with others. Students who can take other perspectives into consideration are more likely to show empathy toward others. Students who cannot, may act more aggressively toward others.

Family Activity: Disagreeing Respectfully

Read Together

Disagreeing is okay, as long as you disagree respectfully! When two people disagree respectfully, they are assertive, they really listen to each other, and they try to understand each other’s perspective.

Practice Together

With an adult at home, read the following disrespectful disagreement script between an adult and child. Then, go back and change each line to make it a respectful disagreement. As you rewrite the script, remember that when you are being respectful, you are considering how others want to be treated and then treating them that way.

Adult: Guess what I made? Anchovy-artichoke casserole! It’s your favorite!

Child: What are you talking about? It is not my favorite, it’s yours! Who likes anchovies anyway?

Adult: How do you know you hate it? You have never tried it! You hate everything!

Child: You just said it was my favorite! How could it be if I have never tried it! I don’t hate everything. Just anchovies!

Adult: How do you know you hate anchovies! How could it be if I’ve never tried them? You always say that about new foods!

Child: I just know I won’t like them! I won’t eat a casserole if it has something in it I don’t like!

Adult: You will too!

Child: I will not!

Why is it important?

Students who develop empathy and perspective-taking skills are less likely to act aggressively and more likely to help others. Aggression and violence in schools often stems from minor disagreements between students. Teaching children to communicate different perspectives respectfully and assertively, rather than either passively or aggressively, can prevent small issues from escalating into serious situations. Children who are able to communicate respectfully and sensitively are more likely to achieve positive relationships and academic success.

Book Recommendations

Each Kindness | Jacqueline Woodson

Chloe and her friends tease Maya, the new girl, for her old clothes and toys. One day, Maya’s seat in class is empty, and Chloe learns a harsh lesson in missed opportunity.


Those Shoes | Maribeth Boelts

All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. His shoes fall apart and the counselor gives him a pair which fit him, but he is self-conscious that they don’t fit in. Listen to hear how Jeremy solves his problem, and also helps another student in his class.


Old Turtle and the Broken Truth | Douglas Wood

In a place where people have only part of the truth, life becomes very difficult. A little girl goes on a journey to see her friend, Old Turtle, who helps her replace the missing piece, and bring peace back to the community.



The Day the Crayons Quit | Drew Daywalt

When Duncan opens his crayon box, he finds letters—and nothing to color with. Each color has a different complaint! What can Duncan do to smooth things over to get them working again?


Noni Speaks Up | Heather Hartt-Sussman

Noni tries to be thoughtful, but she loses her nerve when she sees another kid being bullied in front of her. But things change, quickly, when she decides to use her words.


Aani and the Tree Huggers | Jeannine Atkins

Aani lives in a village that is protected and sustained by a forest. When loggers show up to cut down the tress, she throws her arms around her favorite tree, and the women of the village follow her lead, saving the forest. This book is based on a true story.


Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras | Duncan Tonatiuh

Lupe Posada drew political cartoons in Mexico in a time when the country was not known for free speech. Along the way he created the skeleton (calaveras) drawings that have become so strongly associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations.


Talk and Work It Out | Cheri J. Meiners

Kids share their strategies for working out problems with other people. They use empathy, imagination, and calming strategies—and they play!


Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down | Andrea Davis Pinkney

This book tells the story of the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in in 1960: Four students who took Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for nonviolent protest to heart calmly and bravely made history.


How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up | Trevor Romain

Homework is a serious subject, but this is a funny book. And the best part is that while it acknowledges that no kid likes the stress and strain, there are practical solutions to the problem.


Twenty-Two Cents | Paula Yoo

When an economics professor in Bangladesh meets a young craftswoman whose life has been derailed over a tiny sum of money, he has an idea. The bank he founds helps millions of people change their lives with tiny loans that make a big difference.


Some Kind of Courage | Dan Gemeinhart

Joseph Johnson lost his father in an accident, and he lost his mother and sister to illness. Then someone takes away the only thing he has left that he loves, his pony, Sarah. Joseph has to summon the courage to go after her.


The One and Only Ivan | Katherine Applegate

Ivan, a gorilla, was captured in a jungle he barely remembers, and has been plodding through his lonely life in a glass cage in a shopping mall for 27 years. When he finds himself charged with caring for a baby elephant, he’s finally inspired to make a change.


My Secret Bully | Trudy Ludwig

Monica’s friend Katie is wonderful when she’s nice. But sometimes Katie calls her names and leaves her out of activities. Monica begins to blame herself, but finds a solution with some help from her mom.