Crows are Problem-Solvers But So are We!

El-Whino has struck again! It could due to un-schooling ourselves for a week or the longest winter spell taking its toll on us. The frequency of whinging and whining has exponentially increased in our house. And of course I’m offering as much connection as I can, but something hands-on and fun had to be done to shake off all the negative energy!!


So I decided to tell them all about crows!


The story we grew up listening to, from our parents and grandmas – The Thirsty Crow story – has actually some substantial recent findings (2014!) to show that crows are one of the few birds with big brains and are unique in being able to use mental-representation to solve problems (a little like humans and apes) by:

a) thinking about the problem and
b)thinking about a solution – and some very creative ones as the videos below will prove: ) Kids will love watching these clips and a great way to get them watching more documentaries than made-up TV junk.

In fact, crows’ ability to problem-solve and create tools  have only been recently studied, but of course as always the Almighty (the Creator of all creatures – Ya Khaliqu and Rabbal Aalameen) has mentioned the crow’s ability to problem-solve and guide Qabil to bury his brother Habil, 1400 years ago!!!

فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ غُرَابًا يَبْحَثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيُرِيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِي سَوْءَةَ أَخِيهِ ۚ قَالَ يَا وَيْلَتَا أَعَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَٰذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِيَ سَوْءَةَ أَخِي ۖ فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّادِمِينَ


Then Allah sent a raven who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he: “Was I not even able to be as this raven and to hide the shame of my brother?” Then he became full of regrets. (S.Maida : 31)


* raven is a heavily-built crow


I’ve only very briefly told them the story of Habil and Qabil – I get palpitations just thinking about them getting any ideas in their head! So for us, these activities have been a great way to steer away from the main focus of the story.


And before El Whino causes more destruction, I was on a mission to show them what great problem-solvers they were. And of course as always learn a thing or two, have fun doing and experimenting and most importantly link it back to the Holy Qur’an


We started up with some warm-ups


Warm-up: Matching Patterns Using Objects

Instead of supplying them with the correct objects, they had to problem-solve and come up with creative solutions to make the patterns as close to the guide as possible (The constant: Has to be the same colour; shape could vary)

I printed the patterns from here
Pattern-matching materials



The creative thinking juices were flowing, so I took took it up a notch and brought it into a practical level

Practical Challenges

They were asked to think independently of how they could problem-solve. Some of these challenges included

Challenge 1: Using a long detachable broom to collect (not sweep) trash into the dustpan
One solution: Detach the brush from the stick and use it as a brush

challenge 1

Challenge 2: Make a rectangle out of four triangles (pieces of paper)
One solution: Make two squares and join together

PS - Challenge 2

Challenge 3: Squeezing a ziplock bag full of lentils and air into a narrow container without taking any lentils out or spilling them
One solution: Open a tiny bit and squeeze air out

Challenge 4: Carry about 15-20 different shaped-wooden blocks upstairs without dropping them
One solution: Use a plastic bag or container

And so on and so forth! At first I struggled with thinking of practical challenges but once I started to think of how they did things around the house, I was inundated with ideas that turned into fun and active challenges which they thoroughly enjoyed and occupied our entire morning!!

Here are a few clips about crows and problem-solving which they absolutely loved! 




This one is a brilliant clip showing so many different ways crows can problem-solve. I haven’t shown it to the kids yet as I want to test them with these concepts – density, volume, displacement etc, inshA! Much  intrigued to see what and how they think!



And finally, they learned a very important lesson – In order to problem-solve they had to find out what the problem was and think how to solve it.

But most importantly they realised that they too awesome problem-solvers!

Bam! I gently reminded that we need to problem-solve more and more instead of just (repeatedly) whinging and feeling sorry for ourselves. The icing on the cake: they couldn’t agree more : )

This was engraved in stone (I wish! – but I was happy with just paper) and included learning an Arabic word from the ayat of the Holy Qur’an

crow craft



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