Puzzles are wonderful. We all know the benefits of them in regards to cognitive skills and fine motor dexterity. We know we can encourage reluctant learners with puzzles aimed at their interests or introduce new concepts or views through divergent art styles. However, when I was sitting and watching two children do puzzles the other day, it got me thinking about how we approach problem solving. Some people never want to look at the ‘big picture’, instead choosing to work with the constants. Matching things they know together so that it all fits. It’s so logical and precise that you can see how, once finished, their pride is based on being able to compartmentalise and make the world ‘fit’ to their way of thinking.
Others know that they need space to think, they don’t want your help as they look at what is laid before them, assessing their options and coming to a solution in a more abstract way. By connecting pieces that match their memories of how things should be, they are recreating the picture.
Both are valid options. Both get the same results. It’s the process that differs. And it’s the process of problem solving that gets me thinking about learning, resolving ideas, creating opportunities and seeing things around us. I love what is happening around the world as “Occupy Wall Street” becomes an international concept, one that gets us thinking about what we see, how we reconcile what we live with what we know. What we accept as we see and what we feel we can achieve.
Living in this world is an ever-changing puzzle. As people and events slide around our boards, we keep trying to make it all fit so that we feel safe and stable. I know it’s not easy, sometimes it feels exciting and other times it feels exhausting. But either way it’s happening and we need to ensure that our role as educators, family members and a complex society, encompasses teaching out young people to think. To understand the decisions they can make and the repercussions of their actions. To take responsibility for the little things, so that they can step up when they need to and say ‘I am owning my actions and mistakes.’
From social interactions to caring for our environment we all have choices to make and that’s why it’s so important for me to see that our children exercise their thinking skills, have opportunities to develop and discuss their ideas. After all these kids are the ones who will be looking after my world when I am old and vulnerable and I’d like to instill in them the skills and ideals of people I’d want to trust.