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Some Inspiration Please?


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As one of my weekly tasks I have to set up an activity that will encourage children's problem-solving and investigative skills.


I am required to set it up and then observe without any further involvement.


Over the past few weeks I have had to observe mostly child-initiated but also adult-directed activities and have gained some great information.


My issue now is that I have now exhausted all my ideas and my brain has finally given up!


Can anyone come up with something a little more unusual that might work with 4 to 5 and a half year olds?

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sorry not able to help,


but others may be able to if you give a few more details on what you have already done.....


it is hard to give ideas for new/unusual things not knowing what has already been done..



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I have observed lots of general problem solving with construction, puzzles, games and general activities using school play equipment.


I have used water play and Modelling.


I recently used the fab idea of penguins in frozen ice and I suppose I am looking for something similarly unusual.


I was thinking along the lines of something which maybe I could put in the tuffspot which children are immediately drawn to.


My confusion is to what I could put in there that will offer problem solving options rather than exploration alone.


sorry if I am being a bit vague - not 100% sure I got my head completely around it myself. :o

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Could you maybe do something with magnets? I was thinking along the lines of "How can you move this train without touching it?"-type problem solving. Attach magnets (which size do we need?) to the train/carriage/car or whatever, and use another magnet (how big?) to get the vehicle to move across a particular pathway. Is themagnet strong enough to pull the train up the hill? That sort of thing :o

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Thanks Helen - a great activity to do and a lovely one where I can support the children.

The only problem is that I have to provide the activity and then have no further input.


I keep coming back to the fact that without support, the children may be exploring but not problem solving. (not a bad thing obviously - but it doesn't fit with my task requirements)


I have to say I am really struggling with my studying this term - think i am suffering a little of the winter blues :o

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This really is a tricky one, isn't it? :o


I can't see how you could set up a problem solving activity without having any input......how will they know there is anything to solve? :( I think my brain can't cope with this...... xD


I'm going to keep thinking about this one....hate to be beaten!

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I agree this is a very tricky one, especially as you can't go back and support once you've set it up.... The only thing I can think off from the top of my head is:

Incy Wincy Spider!


Spiders of different sizes

Drain pipe attached to a fence, wall, table or something - you would need to work out if its got to go at an angle etc based on the size of the drainpipe - we propped ours in the fork of a tree and the children explored tipping it in both directions and where to put the middle of the pipe for best effect...

Buckets of water (so much better if there's a tap too....)

Jugs and containers of different sizes plus funnels

Washing up bowl/s to collect water and spiders from other end

Maybe music of nursery rhyme playing close by to stimulate play?

We also added mobiles of key elements of rhyme to the tree - a sun, a cloud with drops, etc (think I downloaded them from the web (unintentional pun...)


Hopefully the children could explore which spider fits best down the drainpipe

what to do if the spider gets stuck

Where the water goes

what container pours best, one with spout, funnel...

Transferring the water from the end back to the beginning

Where has the water gone?

Where do we get some more from?


Hows that for starters? Probably completely useless :oxD

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I'm thinking that the resources are the key here, resources that promote / encourage children to 'do something with them' rather than to explore with senses. ie: a jigsaw would be this type of resource. But you're looking for something that's a bit different, How about some quite large planks, ( that need more than one person to move it) just laid out in say vertical lines next to each other. The trick again is not to have a 'problem for them to solve' but to observe 'what' problems they recognise (for want of a better word), observe how they react to the resource (that doesn't stimulate senses :o ), then you may see problems that the children have identified themselves through their desire to interact with the resource and their initiative on what they want to use the resource for, ie:


1/I want to stack these planks, or

2/I want to move these planks over to the climbing frame' or

3/I want to make rubbings on these planks'


1/ How, who will help me, how do I stop them falling??etc

2/ How, who will help me, where do we need to hold the plank to manouvre it? etc

3/ What do I need, where do I get it from, what works best crayon or pencil or biro? etc


for 1 & 2 problem solving how to work in pairs / teams.


So, a resource that gets their attention, a resource that they can do something with, make changes through manipulation, and an adult observer skilled in recognising the problems realised and how the children solve them.


The only other thing I can think of with an adult intended problem to solve are things like puzzles, programmable toys that the children need to work out how to use, ooh, just thought Montessori type resources that are self ( oh what's the term), self correcting, ooh, on a roll here now (thinking out loud) nesting dolls, boxes to fit into other boxes, can be done on a small or large scale.


Does that help xD



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Hi there everyone,


I agree with you that it is tricky without an adult being there and the activity has to be self explanatory really- but what about using a timer to make the problem more of a challenge. I find that our reception children love timers!!

A couple of ideas would be


How many pegs can you fix around a biscuit tin edge or a circular plate within a certain time using either a 2 or 3 minute timer. Recording their scores can be used to extend the activity then they could see who had the most/ least or who was first/second etc.


A table top activity could be having a selection of objects- shoes, shapes toys, natural objects etc and asking the children to match the objects to the outlined 'shadows'. Again a timer could be used to extend the activity.


Building their own obstacle course in the outdoor area or making slides for the teddies or dinosaurs. Ramps for cars works really well and bridges too gets all the boys involved. I've used really big cars -like Barbie and Jeeps with soft toys as passengers to make it more exciting- I'm on a roll here too and hope that this helps.


Good luck with the task!!


I like spider and the drainpipe idea- will try that one myself! :o


Betty Boo xD

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Brilliant, Peggy :o What would we do without you?


Your phrase "The trick again is not to have a 'problem for them to solve' but to observe 'what' problems they recognise" is spot on. Thanks for making that clear. xD

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we used medium sized tray with some water in bottom on one side we placed some pebbles and dupllo people on one side and a pile of pebbles on the other side ( like islands) the children are given yogurt pots, planks of wood, small boxes,pebbles etc and asked to think of how they can help the people getr to the other island - brings out lots of discussion abiout how they can do this - make a bridge - how? make a boat - how many can they fit in? use pebbles as stepping stones to get across -they then use resources to make their means of getting across and see whether it works - why/why not

hope thats not too confusing

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Wow - you clever folks xD


Some really excellent ideas - thanks all!


Peggy - you definitely hit the nail on the head - now I have more of a focus!


Right....... best get scribbling down all these ideas - thanks all :o

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