Problem solving is a higher level cognitive skill that requires children to think independently and flexibly to create solutions to the challenges of everyday tasks. Problem solving involves understanding the components of a task, breaking them down if necessary and creating a solution that is achievable and will accomplish the demands of a task. Problem solving also incorporates mental flexibility by requiring children to quickly accommodate and develop alternative solutions if the demands of the situation change. Difficulty in these underlying components can negatively affect a child’s ability to problem solve.
Problem solving is done daily even throughout early years of childhood when children begin to gain independence in self-care activities like dressing and feeding, and during social play with other children. Children who have difficulties with problem solving may demonstrate rigid play and become easily overwhelmed with change, even during familiar activities. Occupational therapy can provide a safe environment for challenging and supporting a child’s developing abilities to problem solve effectively.