Cognitive flexibility activities are an essential part of children’s development and education.
Different studies have identified that the ages 3 and 4 are ideal to promote cognitive flexibility in childhood since that is when this skill begins to emerge.
For example, an experimental study at the University of Toronto –cited in the Early Childhood Development encyclopedia– showed that most 4-year-olds are capable of applying mental processes associated with cognitive flexibility, such as taking in new information about a given situation.
Cognitive flexibility can be defined as the ability to assess and analyze circumstances or situations from different perspectives; that is, to change one’s point of view. From this, alternatives or solutions can be sought in the face of complexities or difficulties and a greater number of options can be considered to overcome them.
Another characteristic of this skill is that it goes hand in hand with executive functions, which are related to the control of emotions, decision-making, and information planning and control.
Cognitive flexibility activities will help your child develop properly during childhood and to be better prepared for adult life in the distant future. So, we suggest 6 valuable exercises. Don’t miss them!
Cognitive flexibility activities
1. Exercises and games with cards
Combining cards, findings number sequences, and combining by suits are some of the exercises that can be done with a few simple cards. In addition to promoting memory and cognitive flexibility, these games also improve attention span, inhibition, and rapid response.
2. Guessing games and riddles
Working memory and flexible thinking are two fundamental elements in riddles. Thanks to these, your child can take into account previous answers, discard potential theories, and, in general, reason a possible answer. Additionally, guessing games are very entertaining dynamics that create expectation and curiosity.
3. Games associated with songs and music
Here we find games like clapping with a certain rhythm and singing by turns. These are very good exercises to stimulate memory and concentration, which —at the same time— strengthen cognitive flexibility.
4. Silent and strategy activities
When we talk about cognitive flexibility activities we shouldn’t forget silent activities that focus on strategy and structuring. Through these, children learn to solve problems and develop this ability, which requires the use of memory and cognitive flexibility.
Among the various games and dynamics that can be used, we find:
- Riddle books
- Matching games
- Rubik’s Cube
Even popular fantasy games can be taken into account.
5. Memory games
The more they exercise their memory, the more likely children are to develop executive functions. Card games, object-finding challenges, repeating strings of words or things —among other playful activities— help increase this valuable brain function.
6. Physical activities
In addition to promoting health, muscle and bone development, and good physical condition, physical activities play a key role in the development of cognitive flexibility.
Some of the physical games and sports that are great for this are:
This is a classic game for family gatherings and celebrations, and children are familiar with it from an early age. It consists of always placing fewer chairs than the number of participants, who have to dance, walk, or move around them until the music stops. The loser is the one who has failed to find an empty chair and sit down.
This dynamic not only improves and speeds up response and attention capacities but also encourages socialization, which helps children lose mental rigidity and be more open to new ideas and to express themselves and give opinions.
This game is widely practiced in PE classes because it helps to improve stamina, coordination, and speed. It is also a game that helps children to think fast, control themselves, follow rules, and always be attentive and focused.
The rules of this game are simple. Two teams are formed and the players must throw a ball towards their opponents. When the opponent to whom the ball is thrown manages to catch it, the ball becomes theirs, but if they don’t succeed in catching it, they have to go to the other side of the field as a “prisoner”.
Organized and team sports
Basketball, soccer, and baseball are some of the sports with these characteristics. Apart from demanding aerobic exercise and coordination, these sports foster decision-making. While playing, children cannot always do what they want or what is easiest for them, but rather what’s best for the circumstance of the game and according to the rules of it.
On the other hand, team sports promote social relationships, inhibition, and teamwork; other key aspects for the development of your child.
Now you know what are the best cognitive flexibility activities for children. As you can see, although many of these games and activities are constantly used in schools and kindergardens, they can also be done at home or on a free afternoon in the nearest park. This way, you will have fun with your little one, share quality time, and help them strengthen essential life skills.
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