Helping Kids Learn Problem-Solving Skills

Learning to solve problems is a skill with life-long benefits.  Helping kids learn problem-solving skills builds their self-confidence, resilience, and independence.

Like us, our children confront problems regularly.  Problems can be small and easy to solve, or overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable.  (And sometimes a small problem can feel overwhelming to a small child.)

Learning how to solve problems gives children (and adults) more control over their environment, contributing to improved self-confidence, increased resilience, and academic success.

When we strengthen problem-solving skills we are also working on improving other key skills, like active listening and communication, analysis, and decision making.  

One easy-to-remember strategy for helping children build build problem-solving skills is the ‘ABCDE’ method.  With this method, children can work collaboratively or independently to identify the issue and find ways to resolve the problem. 

ABCDE provides a framework for thinking about the problem and possible solutions. Here are the steps for working through both large and small problems using ABCDE (ASK, BRAINSTORM, CHOOSE, DO, EVALUATE)

  • A stands for Ask.  The first step is to Ask in order to define the problem.  If you are working with a group, ask “What is the problem we are trying to solve?”  Then give everyone an opportunity to describe the issue as they see it. This gives everyone a chance to hear different perspectives.
  • B is for Brainstorm.  Now that we know what the problem is, identify some possible solutions.  How can we take care of this problem? During the brainstorming, do not judge or dismiss any ideas.  This part of the process is meant to encourage ideas and identify a number of possible solutions.
  • C is for Choose.  Once you have a variety of possible solutions to the problem, discuss the suggested solutions.  Do some of the solutions seem like they would be better at solving the problem than others? Ask the group about the possible consequences of each. Do some seem better able to solve the problem than others? 
  • D is for Do.  Now choose a solution and take action.  Be sure to set a time limit for trying the solution – one that is long enough to give it a chance to work, but short enough to limit any damage if it doesn’t work.
  • E is for Evaluate.  When your time limit is up, talk about how well the idea worked to solve the problem. If the problem wasn’t solved, use the ABCDE method again to identify and try another possible solution.

That’s it!  Solving problems is as easy as ABCDE.  Ask – Brainstorm – Choose – Do – Evaluate.  

Learning to solve problems is a skill that supports academic and social success in school. Practicing together, even with our youngest children, helps strengthen problem solving skills – skills which help us navigate difficulties, support our friends and family members, and contribute to our own sense of well-being.


Problem: a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome

Problem-solving: the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues