I've been homeschooling my son in hopes of teaching him to read before he enters school, or at least has the tools to begin reading. He knows all of his letters and knows most of the sounds each letter makes. He's been sounding out words he sees. He also spells out the words he sees on packages and signs.
I've been using several methods to help him learn to read, including a set of flashcards with familiar words (like the names of family members and food items). I'm supposed to show him these cards (red lettering on 8.5 x 11 white cardstock) 3 times a day. That gets a little boring day after day. So I started having him stand across the room and then we'd count together and he'd run over to me, say the word, take the card, and then set it on the table. That worked for a while.
He decided he'd turn the tables and have me run to him, he'd say the word on the card, I'd say the word, then he'd hand it to me, and I'd set it on the table. After each card he'd say, "Good job."
Now he's invented a couple of new ways. He counts backwards before he tells me to come get the card and he also uses his Nerf gun to shoot at the word cards. Pretty inventive, I'd say.
Last night, he initiated a game of Duck, Duck, Goose while the family was sitting in the living room. We played several rounds and he understood exactly how to play, who he wanted to be the "goose," and where he needed to sit so he didn't get tagged.
Today, he wanted to play again. Unfortunately, he and I are the only two home. After tagging each other as the goose a few times, he invented a solution. He found some inflated balloons we had around the house (we had a birthday party last week) and he set those next to me as part of our game. And, when he tagged one of the balloons as the goose, he squealed with laughter as I took the balloon and chased him around the room.
This probably seems silly, but to me it showed me that he recognized a problem and came up with a solution. He was bored with the way we were doing the flashcards so he came up with a new, more interesting way for him to do it. He also saw that only two of us playing the Duck, Duck, Goose game didn't make sense so he solved it in the best way he could. He thought about it and came up with a solution.
He may not be talking in long sentences, but he's thinking and he's solving problems that exist for him. For me, that's progress and I'll take it.