Constraints Help Us All Become Better Problem Solvers

Constraints Help Us Become More Creative Problem Solvers




With children we tend to make sure there are plenty of constraints around them, what time they go to bed, what they eat, what they read.

We know from a number of different sources that they are more likely to thrive given these positive constraints. I would liken it to the comfort that new borns have being swaddled in a blanket in those first few months of life.  Being able to feel the edges nearby allows them to relax and grow, it’s no different for older students and us all. Our ability to become more confident creative problem solvers, requires some constraints to blossom.

As students get older we begin to let go, a necessity for them to build experience and paths, but sometimes we also let go of helping to put positive constraints in place which would allow them to build creativity and better problem solving muscles that will follow them into work/life paths. I’m not talking about controlling them or keeping them close, but getting them to practice creating solutions without every possible option open.

For instance you might ask them to find a way to clean the garage.  You give them time parameters, expectations and possible tools but you don’t tell/show them exactly how to get it done, that’s up to them.  For some this will be easy they’ll use past experience and look at what else is available to them, for others it will seem daunting. I have one who is easily distracted. By the way this theory is the same if you’re managing others on the work front.

The fact is that the learning or even failure which might come from the experience is more valuable than we could imagine and chances are even if it doesn’t work out exactly how you predicted, I’ll pay my brother to collaborate with me, they will have learned something new about their capabilities under set circumstances or their ability to find their way back when things don’t work out as planned.

I recently saw a great example of this at a Maker Fair our school hosted, where a student in grade one unsure as to what her talents were decided to make an instrument out of papertowel rolls (available resources) at the last minute ( time constraints). It was magnificent and her explanation even better (community facing).  The cherry on top, she won a random prize for taking part.

Sometimes we need positive constraints in place to make progress and to create a reason to flex muscles we’ll require in order to succeed as we progress in life and work.


  1. Deon says:

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