In early childhood education, most parents are aware of the importance of teaching key academic skills such as early literacy and mathematics skills. Recent research also suggests that problem-solving is an equally important skillset to teach young children. While the design thinking model is implemented in K-12 education, it is relatively new in early childhood education but highly effective.
What is design thinking? Design thinking is an iterative process used to solve real-world problems. At its core, design thinking has several steps: Identify a problem, design potential solutions, test the solutions, redesign as needed and share the solutions with a wider audience. Design thinking is used regularly in many fields (engineering, business, IT, health care, etc.) and has recently gained wide popularity due to the effectiveness of this problem-solving approach.
Why is design thinking important? As pediatrician Laura Jana notes in her book, The Toddler Brain, 65 percent of today’s children will face unknown careers and problems when they are adults. Children will always need to solve problems throughout their lives and the difficulties they face will grow in complexity as they mature. Design thinking is a lifelong skill that children may use to tackle complex problems throughout their lives, so it is a valuable skill to learn early in life, particularly within the first five years. According to Dr. Jana, there is a direct connection between early skills and workforce development. The 21st century competencies valued by today’s business world are one and the same with the core social, emotional, language and executive function skills that can be fostered in early childhood. Forbes explains that design thinking is a way for businesses to increase productivity, foster innovation and eliminate wasted time and money on guesswork-based development by empowering front-line workers to collaborate on diverse teams and explore new ideas. Design thinking helps children build a resilience-focused mindset and teaches many of the 21st century skills, such as the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, compassion and confidence. These are skills children can use to address increasingly complex problems throughout their lives.