Engage children in problem solving and encourage them to take measured risks and persist with difficult tasks

To successfully self-regulate, children must control their thoughts, behaviours and emotions so that they can effectively manage social interactions and achieve desired goals. Central to this is the ability to engage in effective problem solving, take measured risks and persist when faced with difficult tasks. Encouraging measured risks may be done by supporting children to engage with tasks where they may not necessarily experience success (e.g., attempting a difficult puzzle, making a prediction or attempting to write their name). Learning to persist in the face of challenge is one of the most important outcomes of self-regulation. Without the ability to persist, children would rarely achieve desired goals.

Scenario: While supporting children to engage with a ‘float and sink’ experiment, educators encouraged children to select a classroom object and predict whether it would float or sink. Once each child had made their prediction they were asked to put it to the test. After watching several children place their object in the water Jacob realised that his prediction may have been incorrect. When it was time for him to test his prediction Jacob told the educator he didn’t want to do this activity anymore.


Support problem solving and persistence through the use of open-ended questioning and engaging children in the scientific process. This process involves:

  1. Observation: The ability to observe accurately is an essential part of children’s development. Young children pay attention with all their senses. Children’s observational skills increase over time as their awareness of details progresses from few to many, simple to complex, and isolated to connected. The ability to ‘read’ our environment is important for children’s emerging understanding of emotions, as well as understanding the needs and wants of others.
  2. Experimentation: Children experiment for two reasons: (1) out of curiosity, in order to see how something works; and (2) to solve problems they encounter in play. Experimentation supports children’s emerging understanding of cause-and-effect relationships. Use this to encourage persistence in instances where children make mistakes or are faced with challenge. Experimentation also teaches children that it is okay to make mistakes; this is how we learn!
  3. Prediction: Encouraging children to make predictions supports them to think in new ways and is an important component of problem solving. You can help children make connections across experiences by drawing on prior knowledge and asking them to consider what will happen. Begin each new experience by reviewing what the children already know and conclude by reviewing what they have learned.
  4. Recording: This is an important final stage in the scientific process. It gives children the chance to revisit their ideas, to reflect on what they have discovered and to evaluate their conclusions. Revisiting ideas and discoveries helps to build children’s awareness of their own thinking and reasoning process. Encourage children to explain their ideas through the use of reflective and open-ended questions: ‘Can you remember what you were thinking when…?
Download support visuals for this problem solving process (PDF)

Where possible, encourage children to collaborate in the scientific process.
In doing so, children are encouraged to cooperate, negotiate and engage in effective communication with peers.

While it is important to present challenges to children, engage children in experiences that are developmentally appropriate to increase the likelihood that they will experience success. Children who experience constant failure are much less likely to engage deeply with tasks and are less likely to persist in novel or challenging situations.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

This principle and associated practices are referenced in the following sources of evidence in the EYLF:

  • High expectations and equity (Principle 3)
  • Intentional teaching (Practice 4)
  • Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating (Outcome 4.2)