All children are born with creative problem-solving skills. It's up to us, as parents and educators, to encourage them to think in new ways and develop these skills. When we ask questions like "What else could we try?" or encourage our children to create alternative options for puzzles and activities, we're helping them learn how to think critically. And that's a skill they will use for the rest of their lives!
With younger children, it is often best just to let them go. Because I have found that they will come up with something if they are free to play around. Praise them when they come up with a good solution.
"Good job! You found your own finish line!"
I let my youngest children complete my mazes by deciding where they want to start and end. I try to build the mazes interesting enough that there are many places you could go. Perhaps a child focuses on a bear or a house in the maze; they may want to trace their finish line back to what interests them the most. I don't get bogged down by a puzzle's goal or rules.
Older children might need a bit more guidance but still, need to be allowed to think for themselves. Try asking open-ended questions like, "What are all the possible solutions?" or "How could we do this differently?" Then, give them a little nudge in the right direction when they get stuck. If they become overwhelmed, take a break and return to it later.
Not every child is the same, so it helps to try different things to see what works best for them. For example, some kids might like to work on a problem by themselves, while others prefer to work in pairs or groups. As long as they think critically, it doesn't matter how they do it!