What is it?
Flexible Thinking is our ability to recognize our approach to solving a problem is not working - switch gears quickly - and find new approaches to solve the problem. In other words - can you let go of an old way of doing something in order to try a new way of doing it?
Why is it important to kids?
In order to learn well - kids need to be flexible thinkers.
- When learning the grammatical rules of English, kids need to know that rules apply - but sometimes they don't. Typically, we add an -ed to make a verb past tense, except when we say "went" instead of "goed."
- Idioms and other figurative language concepts are a significant part of our language and culture. Flexible thinking helps us understand the phrases, "It's raining cats and dogs outside" or "You're treading in deep water." The ability to shift between literal and figurative language is a critical skill for reading, writing and even social communication.
- Math problems can be solved in more than one way - and kids need to know how to use formulas in different ways.
- Even cleaning/organizing a bedroom can require flexible thinking. What happens when younger sister or brother moves in? Where do toys and books go? What changes happen in the morning and evening routine?
As with all our EF skills, flexible thinking can improve!
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Take a common object and find an uncommon use for it (e.g., What can your child do with an egg carton? A shoe box?).
2. Find a new route. Always go the same way to school, the park or church? Have your child map out a new way.
3. Read aloud (and together) silly jokes or books that play with words.
4. Encourage "thinking aloud" or self-talk when your child is trying to solve a problem - whether it's homework or tying a shoe or making a new friend.
5. Change the rules - play a game a different way, substitute a flavor/food in a favorite recipe or create a new holiday tradition...that can be changed again next year!
Encouraging flexible thinking may not only strengthen the mind, but just may be the key to strengthening important bonds with your child.
All the best,