Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Using Dolls to Teach Problem Solving

Teaching children problem solving skills can be a great way to reduce challenging behaviors in your home or classroom.  Adults often swoop in and tell children how to solve problems (How often do you say, "Tell him you're sorry."  "Now nobody gets to play with the truck."  or "Go sit in time out."?) because it's quicker and easier in the moment.  But in the long run, taking the time to teach children how to solve their own problems will make your life easier, and teach kids a valuable life skill.

One way to introduce problem solving is to role play situations that often happen when groups of children are together.  During circle time, or another time children are calm and quiet, you can simply ask something like, "What would you do if someone had a toy you wanted to play with?"  Then discuss the ideas children share, and provide some suggestions of your own if necessary.

Using dolls to set up and act out situations can also be helpful.  Persona dolls are designed to be culturally diverse, and they come with pre-written "life stories" that can be helpful when role playing with children.  However, you could easily use dolls, puppets, or stuffed animals you already own and create your own stories.

Then be aware and involved when children are playing, and when a similar situation arises, you can take the time to discuss how children might solve the problem.  For instance, if you've shared a role playing scenario in which children discuss what to do when someone takes a toy, next time you see a toy taken, go to the children and say something like this:

"Oh my, I see that Johnny took the truck from you.  You seem very upset.  What are some ways you could solve this problem?  What did our doll do when that happened to him?  Right, you could take the toy back from Johnny.  Or you could ask nicely if he would give you the toy back.  Or you could tell an adult.  What would happen if you did....  Which solution would you like to try?"

This approach takes some time, but it's valuable for children, and over time, it will enable kids to solve their own problems, which will make your life easier!

For more ideas on how to use Persona Dolls, or other dolls in your classroom, check out Kids Like Us: Using Persona Dolls in the Classroom.

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