An exploration of children's solution-thinking abilities

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Virginia Tech


Combining techniques from Solution-Oriented Therapy and Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development, this study examines young children's abilities to respond to certain solution-oriented techniques. Developmentally, young children (ages up to five years) may have difficulty responding to abstract questions,. such as questions designed to generate solutions. According to Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development, children can be aided to understand more developmentally complicated concepts through a process called "scaffolding" (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). Adults or peers can provide scaffolding in the form of questions, clues, prompts, or modeling. Supplementing complex ideas with concrete objects can also aid the scaffolding process. In this qualitative study, five five-year-olds were interviewed using solution-focused questions and scaling questions based upon solution-oriented techniques. These techniques aid the search for solutions and the person's awareness of resources. Concrete props and questions were the primary scaffolding techniques employed. Results of this study suggest that young children are able to respond to the solution-oriented techniques used in this study and are able to generate a variety of potential solutions. Common resources the children recognize include words, ways of sharing, adults, toys, and friends/siblings. An awareness of individual differences is naturally important when interacting with children, as they each have unique experiences and resources. Because of the individual differences and the small sample size, these results have limited generalizability. Suggestions for future research are included. In addition, recommendations for other developmentally appropriate methods of adapting solution-oriented techniques when working with young children, primarily through play and stories, are proposed.



Vygotsky, young children, Solution-Oriented Therapy, social cognition