A young child flexes their muscles with thought bubbles labeled "problem" and "solution" above their head, against a gray background. Text reads "teaching problem & solution picture books.

Teaching Problem and Solution with Picture Books

Teaching problem and solution gets a little easier with these picture books. Each book has problem and solution scenarios built into the plot, some more obvious than others. With their rich narratives and engaging illustrations, picture books offer a way to introduce and explore this concept. This blog post delves into the significance of teaching problem and solution through picture books and shares effective strategies.

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Why Use Picture Books for Teaching Problem and Solution?

Understanding problem and solution helps your students develop problem-solving and creative thinking skills. Exploring picture books with problem and solution plots helps them see a problem being introduced, how the character(s) try to solve it and how they finally resolve the issue.

In picture books with problem and solution scenarios, your students will see characters who:

  • use knowledge to solve problems independently
  • predict outcomes
  • think things through
  • make good decisions
  • try new ways to solve problems
  • make mistakes and try again
  • recognize breakthroughs
  • use trial and error to find a solution
Group of children engaging with teaching problem and solution materials on a table in a classroom setting.

Discussion Questions For Teaching Problem and Solution

  • Describe the different ways the characters were effective problem-solvers.
  • How did [character] solve the problem? What strategies did they use?
  • Why do you think [character] was an effective problem solver?
  • Why did [character’s] idea work in the end? Did they think about how their decisions would affect the outcome and other characters?
  • Did [character] make good decisions? Is there anything they could have done differently?
  • Think of possible solutions for [character’s] problem.
  • Did [character] work independently to solve the problem or did they work collaboratively? Was this the best strategy?
  • Does a thinker have to be brave, a risk-taker….?
  • Did their decision making surprise you? Why or why not?
  • Was [character] creative in their thinking? Explain your answer.
  • How did [character’s] way of thinking impact the outcome of the story?

Picture Books for Teaching Problem and Solution

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist scientific curiosity propels her to question, hypothesize, experiment, and unravel the world’s mysteries, including one close to home.

Ada Twist, Scientist fuels discussions around curiosity, inquiry, the pursuit of knowledge, and creative thinking and is a great choice for teaching problem and solution.

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood

Ada Río dreams of playing the violin, but her financial circumstances prevent her from pursuing this aspiration. This changes with the arrival of an innovative music teacher who creates instruments from discarded rubbish. 

Paraguay’s inspiring world-renowned Recycled Orchestra highlights the power of music, ingenuity, and the human spirit.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

A fresh retelling of the classic Humpty Dumpty story told from the egg’s perspective. Humpty Dumpty bravely faces his fear of heights, teaching us about courage, overcoming adversity, and the importance of self-esteem.

After the Fall promotes discussions around character traits, perspectives, and a growth mindset. It encourages students to understand and embrace their fears, foster adaptability, and celebrate resilience.

A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

Camilla Cream loves lima beans but won’t eat them because her friends hate them. A mysterious illness causes her to become what others think she should be. Only when she embraces her true self does she recover.

A Bad Case of the Stripes serves as a reminder that individuality should be celebrated and that personal growth stems from self-acceptance and the courage to resist societal pressures.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

Black Dog takes us to a family home where a large black dog grows in size and menace, causing fear among the family members. Yet, the smallest one shows immense courage and open-mindedness to discover the truth about the dog.

Engage your students in discussions about overcoming fears, taking risks, and not letting fear control our perception. Encourage them to conquer their fears and take on challenges bravely.

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

A Chair for My Mother illuminates the power of love, family, and community even in the most challenging times. Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother lose their home to a devastating fire.

The book gives us a glimpse into poverty, the importance of saving money, the impact of community kindness and generosity, and the power of perseverance, even in the face of adversity.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Three friends find a bag of magical chalk at the park on a rainy day – whatever they draw becomes real. A sun clears clouds, butterflies fly, and dinosaurs leap from the 2D realm. When a child’s drawn dinosaur chases them, they must creatively resolve the problem.

Chalk promotes creativity, problem-solving, the power of imagination and consequences, teaching children that every action can have effects they must deal with.

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

When Farmer Brown’s cows stumble upon a typewriter, they start typing letters demanding electric blankets. Things escalate quickly as the cows strike, and Duck is the mediator. But the peace doesn’t last long when the ducks have their own demands!

Click, Clack, Moo story promotes dialogue about fair negotiations’ importance, communication’s power, and the essence of compromise.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Dragons may love tacos but hate spicy salsa. A boy discovers this peculiarity and hosts a taco party for his dragon friends. The party takes an unexpected turn when the salsa, much to the dragons’ dismay, turns out to be spicy, leading to a chaotic and fiery mess.

Dragons Love Tacos offers opportunities to discuss the concepts of problem-solving, cause and effect, and the importance of careful planning and reading labels!

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

When Jeremy Ross moves to town, a boy’s life changes for the worse. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad advises making an enemy pie, but it will only work if he spends the whole day with his enemy. They end up having so much fun the boy doesn’t need the pie. Use to discuss kindness, conflict resolution, bullying, and problem-solving.

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit by Catherine Rayner

Ernest the moose is so LARGE he can’t fit inside the book. Determined, he shimmies, shifts, and shuffles his body but he just won’t fit. With a bit of thought his friend, chipmunk, comes up with a solution. Reinforces themes of determination, problem-solving and creative thinking.

Fossil by Bill Thomson

This is the second of two picture books with a problem and solution by Bill Thomson. A young boy and his dog stumble upon a fossil which springs to life when touched! The boy excitedly cracks open more rocks, revealing more living fossils. But the excitement quickly turns into terror when he discovers a pterodactyl, which swoops down and flies off with his dog.

Fossil encourages discussions on curiosity, discovery, the unexpected consequences of our actions and problem and solution. 

How the Ladies Stopped the Wind by Bruce McMillan

The wind in Iceland is so strong a group of women decide to fix the problem. They plant trees to limit its effects and overcome problems through problem-solving, cooperation and persistence.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari resolves to jump off the diving board for the first time. Despite his determination, fear and uncertainty hold him back. But with his father’s gentle encouragement, Jabari finds the courage to make the leap.

Jabari Jumps explores a growth mindset, courage, risk-taking, determination, and overcoming fears. It is also great for your students to make connections to Jabari’s fear of trying something new.

Journey by Aaron Becker

A lonely girl discovers a magic red marker and creates a door that transports her into an enchanting world filled with wondrous landscapes and adventure. She witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. She outsmarts the emperor’s army to free the bird. 

The girl’s journey inspires courage in facing challenges, persistence in pursuing goals, and thinking outside the box to overcome obstacles.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood

This is the first of two picture books with a problem and solution by Audrey Wood. King Bidgood enjoys having a bath so much he won’t get out. His page calls upon the court for help. Nothing works, so while everyone is despairing of what to do the page plugs the plug! Use to teach sequencing, creative thinking, problem & solution and prediction.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Lilly adores her school, teacher, and purple plastic purse. Her enthusiasm for her purse leads her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery, teaching her important lessons about self-management, forgiveness, integrity, and self-reflection.

Through Lilly’s experiences, readers learn the value of controlling their impulses and honesty. Lilly’s experiences teach the importance of second chances, making amends, and learning from our actions.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood

This is the second of two picture books with a problem and solution by Audrey Wood. The narrator attempts to convince a little mouse to share a recently picked succulent strawberry. Worried about a big, hungry bear, the mouse employs various strategies, including disguising and locking away the fruit, to keep it safe.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear promotes discussions on sharing, problem-solving, creative thinking and cause and effect.

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie

Jim chops down trees in the forest without considering the repercussions. His actions make many animals homeless, so Jim allows them to reside in his huge beard. He replants the trees and waits for them to grow so the animals can return to their natural habitats.

The Lumberjack’s Beard encourages discussions about environmental conservation, cause and effect, and problem-solving and highlights how people can rectify mistakes.

The Marvellous Moon Map by Teresa Heapy

Mouse wants to find the moon with his own moon map. His friend, Bear thinks it would be better to plan and organise the trip. Mouse heads off alone but ends up lost with his map that can’t help him. Luckily, Bear helps him out him and they discover something better than the moon. Reinforces themes of friendship, organisation, creative thinking and problem-solving.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Mufaro’s two daughters react differently to the King’s search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be the queen. This African folktale promotes themes of jealousy, vanity and kindness.

Our Little Inventor by Sher Rill Ng

Nell has an ingenious invention to solve the pollution problem in the Big City. She sets off on a journey to the city, far from where she lives. She finds the pollution is much worse than she expected. Nell is dismayed when city leaders mock her. With unexpected help and Nell’s determination, she shows her machine to the city. Promotes girls in STEM, pollution, determination, perseverance, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Outfoxed by Claudia Boldt

Harold, a fox, is challenged by his father to catch a chicken. He decides to follow his heart and helps the chicken escape. Reinforces themes of empathy, independence, problem-solving and creative thinking.