Building Cognitive Flexibility in Young Learners

Building Cognitive Flexibility in Young Learners

By Elena Stout

With the holiday season just around the corner, your child’s wish list may already be a mile long. Have you ever thought about how the toys, games, and activities we provide to, or play, with our children help them develop their skills? A very important skill that children are unknowingly developing while they play is cognitive flexibility. This skill helps children respond to their environment and think about multiple solutions to a problem. You could say that cognitive flexibility is their “engineering mindset”.

Excellent toys and activities for building cognitive flexibility in elementary students include:

  • Legos: Not only do Legos or other building blocks provide opportunities for creativity, but this toy can help your child develop cognitive flexibility through making changes to a structure or using the structure they build to solve a problem.
  • Sporting equipment: By participating in sports such as tennis, soccer, football, etc., children can improve their cognitive flexibility because playing sports requires them to shift their focus and develop strategies to make a successful shot.
  • Puzzles: Whether it’s jigsaw puzzles or word puzzles, both activities build cognitive flexibility skills by supporting problem solving and finding solutions. 
  • Art supplies: Opportunities for creativity can spark cognitive flexibility development by encouraging children to brainstorm ideas and create something tangible such as a model or picture from their ideas.

While the ideas could go on and on, this is a great list to start with as you search for skill building toys and activities for your young learner. Can you think of how your child’s favorite toys are helping them build important lifelong skills?

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