Simply Theatre Blog

Focus on Problem Solving (Life skills series)

IMG_0655 2Life will always throw problems in our paths, approaching them with creativity and tenacity is key to solving them.

In the third blog of our Life Skills series, we discuss why we should develop our children’s problem-solving skills and explore the invaluable role this key life skill has to play.   

Life will always throw problems in our paths; a crawling baby may want to retrieve an out of reach toy, a teen may be faced with an impossible exam question, or as an accomplished adult you may find yourself in a difficult position in at work. However different these problems may appear, approaching each with creativity and tenacity is key to solving them.

We must also remember that the more problems we face, the more we develop our ability to problem solve, and the more useful we are not only to ourselves but to others. 

As young children, we are not afraid of problem-solving. My own 5-year-old starts many an interesting conversation by excitedly stating “Daddy, we have a problem”. All parents have their own anecdotes of how ingeniously such problems have been solved. 

Interestingly, when faced with a problem, children usually focus on the result - - perhaps, reaching and eating the toy or treat - and not on the obstacle - the distance and steps between them and the object they want.  As we get older, when we see a problem inhibition can set in – a fear of being unable to solve it or in being wrong.  Often, this stems from conditioning, from first-hand experiences of being told we are wrong, or that we cannot do things, and so we stop using the creative muscles that help us to problem-solve.

As children, we use play as a way of solving problems. When children are at play, they are at their most creative and able to solve problems. Problems are challenges that stimulate creativity.  To keep nurturing problem-solving skills in our children does not mean setting them intentional roadblocks, but we should allow our children the joy of solving challenges.  One simple way to do this is through nurturing play as much as possible. Embrace free play time and aim to avoid feeling a need to fill all time with structured activity.  Opening up play ideas away from the traditional methodology can spark creative thinking and problem-solving.  Lego is great for developing motor skills and being able to follow instructions, however setting a challenge without instructions allows the same materials to be used in a different way and nurture problem solving. 

Another simple change we can all make is to try to involve our children in some decision making. It’s important that children are encouraged to make age-appropriate decisions on their own. Children often require guidance from trusted adults to make good choice, however there will come a time when they need to rely on themselves to make the right decision and any practice in the wings will empower them to do this..

In the drama studio, we are trained to be excited by constraints or obstacles. It is, for example, far more fun, interesting and often easier, to improvise a piece of theatre with a set brief (think act out the four seasons) and minimal props (such as a cane and a sports shoe), than it is to be given a brief to “create whatever you want”. 

In theatre, our problem is generally how to communicate an emotion, an idea, or a character.  As a singer – how to we convey real emotion while singing. As a dancer, how do we articulate our message through our bodies. Without realising it, we are constantly being challenged to solve problems in creative ways. 

Inspiring creativity, decision making and problem solving may not be immediate things that come to the fore when you think of the skills children learn at theatre school however at Simply Theatre we value the development of life sills in our students very highly.  We aim for Simply Theatre students to be good problem solvers, decision makers, creative thinkers, communicators, being self aware, empathetic, coping with emotions and dealing with stress.  All of which are skills that as adults, are likely to determine our potential far more than academic prowess.

 

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