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LifeSkills Handbook Activity 25

This is a single activity session plan from The Lifeskills Handbook. There are 61 activity sessions altogether. The handbook is available from our resources section where you’ll also find downloadable storybooks, books and posters to help you in your work.

LifeSkills Handbook Activity 25
Identifying Our Problems

Purpose of activity:

To help children learn how to identify their problems, think of solutions and think who can help.

Life Skills: Problem-solving, Creative Thinking

Important points

Help the children identify problems in their lives for themselves. This is the best start to finding a solution. Listen to how children look at their problems. It is often different from how adults see them.


  • Large piece of paper with the following chart:
  • Marker pens or crayons. You can also draw this chart on the ground with chalk or sand. Use pebbles, seeds, or other objects to score. (In one programme the educators built up the chart with the children).
  • Large pieces of paper for each group.
  • Puppets, if used.


  1. Explain that the children will think about a problem in their life, and find ways to solve or cope with the problem. Puppets can be used to introduce the activity.
  2. Explain the chart to the children. Five points is the highest score and one point is the lowest score.
  3. In groups, ask the children to think of five or six problems they are facing. They can write these, draw symbols for them or ask the educator to write them in the left-hand column under the ‘problems’ heading. If possible, children should think of their own problems. If they find this very difficult, you could use picture cards to give an example, but try not to lead the children’s ideas. It is very helpful to find out what the children think of as their most important problems.
  1. Using a marker pen or crayon (or chalk or pebbles), children discuss each problem. How common it is, how serious it is and what they think other children can do to solve it. They give them a mark out of five. When the chart is completed, the children (or the educator) add up the scores for each problem and identify the top problems.

You can have a break here.

  1. Each group shows their chart and explains the scores. The whole group discusses each chart.
  2. If you have time, make a whole group chart, combining all the top problems identified by the smaller groups.

Final discussion

What were the top problems that you chose? Why? Were there disagreements? How did you resolve these? How can we use the charts to plan future life skills sessions?


The problem chart is also used to think more deeply about one problem. Here is a sample chart made by street children in India.

The ‘But Why?’ Game

Other ways to find underlying problems or causes is to use the phrase, ‘but why’, for example:

  • People shout at me in the street. But why?
  • Because they think I will steal from them. But why?
  • Because they can see I am poor. But why?
  • Because I do not have good clean clothes. But why?
  • Because I do not spend money for clothes. But why?
  • Because I spend my money on food and smoking. But why?
  • To stay alive and to feel less hungry.

This game can help children break down a problem into smaller causes. Some of the smaller causes may be easier to tackle than the big cause. In the example above a first step might be to try to stop smoking in order to have some more money for food.

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