Developing Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility is being able to adjust one’s own thinking to meet the demands of the environment

children jumping together in the classroom

What You Need to Know

Cognitive flexibility involves thinking of a problem in a new way and being able to let go of old ways of doing or thinking about things. Cognitive flexibility is hard! However, there is great growth in cognitive flexibility in the preschool years. We all do better when we don’t have to exercise cognitive flexibility constantly—you can support children’s by providing a stable environment and consistent routines, You can also encourage children to approach tasks in new ways.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at how you can help children develop their cognitive flexibility

Play Games to Support Thinking

To build children’s ability to think flexibly, play games that encourage them to pay attention, listen/follow directions, wait, and switch their focus from one task to another.

Support Role Playing

Prompt children to think about different play scenarios and different roles within those. Suggestions like these may get children thinking about things in new ways.

Encourage Flexible Thinking

When teachers shift “rules” during an activity (e.g., change tempo or opposite directions), it encourages children to be more flexible in their thinking. Opportunities like this let children flex their mental muscles.