London Bridge Child Care Services, London, Ontario

This documentation was prepared by educators Andrea Dewhurst and Lindsay Sparkes alongside mentor Anne Marie Coughlin, London Bridge Child Care Services.

How Would You…?

This is a question that offers a world of possibilities.  It is a question in which there is no right or wrong answer but that can invite deep thinking and creative problem solving.  When we offered these types of questions to children, we found that their unique imaginations allowed them to think outside the box and come up with solutions that we as adults may not ever consider.

The Magic Treehouse novel series regularly presents lead characters Jack and Annie with obstacles to overcome.  While these obstacles are minor in comparison to the bigger story, we made the decision to think more about them and explore the possibilities that exist in each one.

Some of the questions that have come up…

  • How would you keep a horse quiet?
  • How would you stop a stampede?
  • How would you help a friend out of a hole?
  • How would you turn day into night?

These questions offer a starting point for study and reflection for both children and educators.

Although these problems may seem impractical, impossible or unrealistic, we have found that the children have approached them with a type of thinking that demonstrates innovation and allows us to learn a great deal about their individual thinking and what they know and care about in the world.  They offer safe and exciting opportunities for children to share ideas, work through theories together and impact each other’s learning.

In the novel, Lions at Lunchtime”, Jack and Annie travel to Africa where they witness a group of wild animals having difficulty trying to cross a river.  Feeling bad for the animals, Annie tries to find a way to help.  This provides an opportunity to invite the children to consider what they would do and so we asked them…

How would you help animals cross a river?

The children were invited to draw out (document) their theories.  This provided us with an opportunity to learn more about their thinking and revealed insights as to how the children see themselves.

Katie’s idea was to build a bridge.  Although this idea was offered a few times, some children explained that they could simply use the bridge (assuming that one was already there) while others declared that they could build a bridge.  Katie’s idea of building a bridge lead us to be curious about what she knows about bridges that could help her with this idea.


Abdulla’s idea was to bring the wind to blow the water away.  This idea seems very practical and yet abstract.  Although the wind would affect the properties of the water it is not something that we have control over.  How would he get the wind to come when he wanted it to?  Where would the water go when it was blown away?  Would the animals also get blown away?  Abdulla seems to have the understanding that wind can be strong enough to move the water. What else does he know about the wind?  Abdulla’s drawing provides us with many possible questions that can help him fill out his thinking and continue to explore creative solutions.


Hayden’s strategy was to tell the animals to jump over it.  This idea seems very simple and demonstrates Hayden’s quick thinking to a difficult problem.  It also provides some insight into Hayden’s understanding.  Animals will understand what I say. Rivers are narrow enough to jump over.  Rivers are different that oceans and lakes.  Hayden’s solution also leaves questions.  Can all the animals jump over it or just the larger ones?  What would happen if the river was too wide to jump over?


Lily solution was to put her arm around their necks and gently pull them across.  This idea shows Lily’s compassion for others as she places herself alongside the animals to help them in a very personal and thoughtful way.


Ivy suggests that the animals use water wings, showing both her desire to be safe and her understanding that you can do many things when you have the right tools.


Vittoria thought it would best if she were to lift the animals across placing herself directly into the situation.  She has depicted herself happily along side her mom and dad.  This prompts us to wonder about Vittoria’s understanding about the importance of working together, her thinking about own strength and what role the height of the water plays.


Each of the children offered up creative solutions that gave insight into their understanding, and provided opportunities for a continued exploration of ideas.

As the children shared their ideas with each other they ask questions, challenge each other and eventually settle on a theory that they think made the most sense.

In this case the children collectively decided on two theories;

Walk across logs and build steps

These are the ideas that fuel work teams, groups of children who work together to work through the process of trying out their theories, making discoveries, revising their theories and trying again.

London Bridge Child Care Services, London, Ontario