I remember as a kid I always loved building a tent and hiding out under it. Just like me, building a tent is always a hit with my kids! We even have a designated tent sheet! It was while we were building a tent one day that I realized what a good problem solving activity it is. While it might not be an activity that a toddler or even a preschooler could go totally solo, it will be a fun activity to do together and still get their little wheels turning.
I’ll talk about how we did it, and you can make changes based on your child and preferences.
I started by offering 3 places that we could start building the tent. I told them we could drape it over the living room chairs, we could move the kitchen chairs together, or we could use our stools. They chose the counter stools and ottomans.
From there I let them work together to try to straighten out the sheet, get rid of twists and tangles, and figure out how to make it fit. They did realize part way through that it was a short tent. And decided maybe it was just a tent for children!
If I had been doing this with just one child I would have helped a tiny bit more with the fluffing and stretching out of the tent. But either way I wanted the decisions to be their own.
If I had done this with a 1 or 2 year old I would have been way more hands on, but still asked a lot of questions, offered them opportunities to help build, and demonstrated and described what I was doing.
Ultimately, this activity gets children thinking. Even better if they get started and run into some snags. For instance, when my kids realized that the way they had chosen for their tent was really low. As adults, we already would know that. But for children they are learning those things as they play, and next time they might change their methods to make it a little taller.
As parents and caregivers we have to remember a perfect product is not what we are going for when we are learning with our children. We are looking for opportunities for our kids to try, mess up, try again, succeed, learn from that experience and do it better next time. That’s all these problem solving activities are, a chance to try, try, and try again!