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Wally Books Promote Social and Emotional skills, Strengthen Resilience

The Wally problem-solving books are a fun and interactive way for parents and teachers to introduce children to problem-solving! Children can pretend to be a “detective” who is trying to solve a problem.

Wally’s Detective Book for Solving Problems at School features 28 different problem solving cases Wally encounters at school. Problem scenarios include: being left out by peers, being teased and bullied by other kids, being poked, feeling unpopular, losing at a game, forgetting to do homework, having trouble with writing, stealing, and not feeling liked by a teacher.

Wally’s Detective Book for Solving Problems at Home has 22 different problem-solving cases Wally encounters at home. Examples include: being scared to stay overnight at a friend’s house, sibling difficulties with sharing, parents fighting, losing a belonging, a pet dying, lying about a mistake, not feeling liked, being left  out of play and feeling discouraged that learning something new is too difficult.

When reading these books, the child picks a problem-solving case to try to solve. Start by helping the child understand the feelings of the characters involved in the problem scenario.  Then, ask your child to think about possible solutions to the problem. You might give the child a detective hat and magnifying glass to add to the fun of playing detective.

For young children, or children new to thinking about problem-solving, you may need to suggest or model some possible ideas for solutions. For example, you could suggest doing something that makes you feel good, or, getting help, or apologizing, asking to help someone, or, getting help, or, sharing, or, going to a quiet place to calm down.  Make the problem-solving game fun, and praise the child’s ideas for solutions: “Wow! You are a great detective! You are thinking of so many ideas!” After doing this you can go to the back of the books to see what Wally’s ideas are for solving this particular problem-solving case. 

Children also like to act out or role-play their solutions. Have fun asking the child to show you or act out how they would solve the problem. The parent, teacher, or another child can play the part of the child who has the problem in the problem-solving case. Children can use puppets to help act out their solutions. This acting is not only fun, but it helps children better imagine and understand the possible consequences of their solutions. When you are ready to act out or role-play the solutions, make sure to select a friendly solution for the practice! Start your role-play practice after the problem has occurred so that you are not modeling the negative behavior: “Okay, I’ll be Molly and you can be Wally. Let’s pretend that Molly just teased your puppet and you can try the solution of saying ‘please stop.’”

As children become comfortable generating solutions, you can ask them some of the following questions to help them learn to evaluate solutions:

  • Do you think that solution is fair?
  • Does that solution lead to good feelings? How would you feel if someone did that?
  • Is that solution safe?
  • What do you think would happen next if you tried that solution?
  • Is there another solution that might work?
  • What solution do you think is the best one to try first?
  • If that solution didn’t work, what would you do next?
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As you read each problem-solving case, the parent or teacher can ask the child to explore how the characters in the story might feel in that situation. Help the child name the feelings. Labeling feelings is key to children learning better regulation of their own emotions. Only when children can put a word to a feeling and express it to someone else can they begin to feel some self-control over the situation. Parents and teachers can encourage the child to emotionally connect to the scenario – “Have you ever had a problem like that or felt that way about something? How did you solve it?”

Parents and teachers can also use the problem-solving case scenarios in the Wally books to help normalize problem situations that can produce uncomfortable feelings. For children who are feeling anxious, fearful, guilty, sad, or alone, talking about those uncomfortable feelings through Wally’s problems can help scaffold children learning how to manage and cope with those feelings. Talking about feelings and practicing solutions help Wally solve those problems can help children believe in their own ability to handle uncomfortable emotions in challenging situations, and to build their confidence and resilience.

For teachers, Wally’s Detective Book for Solving Problems at School is available in a large size board book that makes it possible to read and discuss the problem-solving cases during large group circle time with children.

The Wally Detective Books (set of 4) are available in English, Spanish, and Norwegian. Visit our website for purchasing information.

See Carolyn Webster-Stratton’s article How Parents Can Build Emotional Resilience in Young Children (3-8 years) Who are Anxious – The Do’s and Don’ts for tips for how parents and teachers can help children who are anxious build their emotional resilience.