Creative Problem Solving Activities for Kids

Two school boys raising their hands in class.
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Creative thinking is a true sign of intelligence, educational research shows. Developing your students' abilities to solve problems creatively will help them advance in life and solve problems by encouraging them to think outside the box. Giving them problem solving activities helps them exercise their thinking muscles and creates a fun and challenging learning environment for your classroom.

1 The Penny Problem

Many Americans are in favor of banning the penny -- even congressmen. In 2006, Rep. Jim Kolbe entered a bill into Congress for eradicating the penny because they are expensive to make and too many wind up in jars at home. Have your students make up a chart that discusses the pros and cons of using the penny and creative ways to get pennies back into circulation. You can discuss using coin counting machines, how to use them as change, the value of wrapping pennies and if it is worthwhile to keep pennies in the United States exchange system. Have your students come up with creative ways they can use pennies in the community, such as collecting them for charity and school fundraising efforts.

2 Deductive Reasoning

For a quiet, solitary activity that will develop their creative thinking skills, consider introducing logic problems that will help your students come up with answers through deductive reasoning. Teaching children deductive reasoning allows them to think about the answers based not on what they are told, but what they can reason on their own and allows them to develop their own creative thinking skills. Logic problems force students to think outside of the box. There are many logic problems available online for gifted and exceptional students whose minds you will want to challenge in creative ways.

3 Toxic Waste

With today's students more environmentally conscious than ever, using an environmentally themed project that calls for creative thinking skills is ideal for your classroom. Toxic Waste is a group activity in which students move imaginary toxic waste to a neutralization container. Create a circle on the floor at least 8 feet in diameter and label this the "radiation" zone. Place a bucket full of water or balls in the center. Give your kids a selection of tools -- some useful, some not -- to help them transfer the water from the bucket to the neutralization container that is at least 30 feet away. Suggestions for tools include cane poles (or fishing poles) and bungee cords, along with smaller buckets, cups and other items that can empty the bucket. There should be a time limit of 20 minutes as students inside the "radiation zone" will be docked minutes for participation. This is a great team activity that will cause a great deal of debate and cooperation with a lot of creative thinking to solve the problem as a group.

4 The Great Egg Drop

A great cooperative activity that coincides with both Easter and the better weather that comes with spring is the Great Egg Drop. This is a cooperative activity that will get your students outdoors and working in groups with a fun theme based on physics, marketing skills and inventiveness. Challenge your kids to build a single egg package that will sustain a fall from the top of a supermarket shelf, which on average is 8 feet. Give your students as much time as you think necessary and have them work in groups of four or five. Assemble a sheet of items needed and allow them to bring to school whatever else they think will work, such as bubble wrap or peanut packaging. Students also will need to make a 30-second advertisement to sell their idea to potential investors.

Lawrence Koenig has been a technical writer since 1988. His expertise includes the U.S. military, hospitality and transportation industries. Koenig holds a Bachelor of Science in literature from Oral Roberts University and he is pursuing a Master of in Education.