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Why is Flexible Thinking Important for Children?

By 22 June 2020June 25th, 2020No Comments

What is Flexible Thinking?


Flexible thinking is a one of the main executive functions, and a very important social skill. One who is able to think ‘flexibly’ is able to quickly shift gears and think about a single situation from a variety of perspectives. Instead of recognizing one way to do something, flexible thinkers identify various ways to achieve a goal. Considering a wide range of possible outcomes to your actions is a valuable skill to have. This executive skill is important in working with others, and solving problems. Not everyone is born with this skill set – in fact, many children with learning disabilities and thinking differences struggle with flexible thinking. Being able to see things in different ways allows us to visualize different strategies for accomplishing a goal or solving a problem. Flexible thinking plays a big part in our learning process and development, as well as in challenges we face in our daily lives.


Why is Flexible Thinking Important for Children?


Flexible thinking is an important skill to have in our daily lives, but is especially important to children who are learning to socialize and developing social skills. It is common for children to only identify one solution to a problem or situation; children who cannot quickly find new solutions to the same problem lack flexible thinking. For example, a child may insist they need a new piece of paper when they make a drawing or coloring mistake on the original paper. Instead of erasing the mistake, or incorporating the mistake into their picture, children often will insist a new piece of paper is the only solution to their problem. Stubborn, rigid thinkers typically are not flexible thinkers. This mindset may negatively affect their behavior later in life when larger problems arise.


Children who are able to practice flexible thinking styles are more likely to cope well with life changes and new information. People who react negatively to environmental or situational changes and developments typically struggle to take on new tasks and find solutions to their problems. For young children who are learning in a classroom environment, flexible thinking skills are especially important. Weak flexible thinking skills can negatively impact a child’s academic performance. Children with more rigid thinking skills often have trouble understanding reading materials, struggle with pronunciation of words, and interpreting information. Succeeding in reading and writing is especially challenging for weak flexible thinkers because they are skills that require the ability to shift and adapt to situations.


Math is yet another subject that flexible thinkers are more likely to succeed at than rigid thinkers. When students realize that there are many ways to solve a problem than the method taught by the teacher, they can look for different ways to solve problems. This skill may be especially useful in mathematics, because students typically get stuck trying to implement the strategies they have been taught – if they are able to find multiple strategies for solving problems, math can become much easier and more fun too!


In order to help children develop flexible thinking skills, there are many things they can practice when they are young that may greatly benefit them later in life. To become a more flexible thinker, children should learn to adapt to different situations. In order to accomplish this, try switching up their routine. Routines are good to practice skills such as time management and organization, but may make them too rigid and afraid of change. Instead, once a week try tweaking the daily routine a bit to expose your child to a situation where they feel frustration and have to cope with an unexpected change. In the real world, things do not always go the way we plan – this is an important lesson to learn early on. Young children need to understand that unexpected things happen, and we must learn to work through them. The sooner a child develops flexible thinking skills, they will have more positive social interactions and they will thrive in the classroom.