Flexible Thinking: What is it and Why Is It Important For Our Child?

Have you thought about what are the skills or what our child needs to optimise their potential fully? How do we help them learn, or rather, how do we best guide and nurture them to be the best self that they can be? 

Regardless of race, income level, nationalities, number of children, and educational background,  parents face similar concerns and questions; and often focus on the external for ready answers. 

How do we decide or help our child decide what’s best for them? The answers lie within the child — to nurture in them learned skills.

And one of the critical skills we can help them to cultivate is flexible thinking. 

What is Flexible Thinking? 

Being flexible means you’re able to adjust your thoughts, actions and feelings to the circumstances or situations you find yourself in.

Situations change, and so it’s essential that we adapt to them. That’s where cognitive flexibility comes to play. And that it’s a necessary skill for our child to pick up and nurture.

Flexible thinking is one of the two skills under cognitive flexibility: 

  1. The ability to think in a different way (Flexible Thinking)
  2. Going with the flow when our expectation change (Set Shifting) 

For example, that can be seen when our little ones respond to new schedules or routines at school or solve a math equation. It may also arise when their plans to play with their friends didn’t fall through. 

Flexible thinking will help them address the situation well and solve the problem at hand. While feeling disappointed that they can’t play with their friends, they know they can reschedule it for another time. 

Building A Growth Mindset 

The good news is that our brain can be trained, and this is something our child can work on. When we’re born, our brain is under construction and ready to be wired accordingly. 

So, if we exposed our child to varying situations and experiences, especially from a young age, we’re wiring their brains to adapt and be flexible. That way, they can continuously learn new things and be open to learning new things.

The focus here is to transfer concepts and not merely to impart the correct answers to our child. It’s encouraging them to develop their curious minds, break away from mind-numbing repetition, and develop a rigid mindset. 

Adds to Child’s Intelligence and Sharpens Ability to Problem-Solve

The inability or lower ability to learn leads to a decrease in our child’s intelligence. Flexibility aids our child’s learning experience and helps them gain the ability to solve the problem. 

When they begin asking questions as they learn a new concept or material, this enhances their problem-solving skill. Their brain is relearning the idea by making new concepts through their questioning, which deepens their understanding of what’s being taught.

Try the “scaffolding” method when you’re guiding your child to learn something new — which leads them to do something without actually showing them how to do it, to nurture their flexibility in thinking. 

Model to them that there are more ways than one to approach the problem at hand. You can do this by asking flexible or open-ended questions to help them come up with different answers and methods to arrive at that answer. 

Adapt to New Situations and Environment 

By helping our child nurture their flexible thinking skill, we’re also imparting a deeper lesson of how they have control over their environment. 

While they may not be able to change their class schedules or the fact that their friends had to cancel playdate because of the pandemic lockdown, they have a choice on how to respond in those situations. 

These unexpected twists are great learning opportunities for our little ones to know that it’s okay that things don’t always go according to plan. And that we can always do something different or in different ways. 

Helping our child to spend time cultivating all these different experiences and foraging for new information is a great way to help them maintain that flexible brain. 

These skills not only help to ground them in the present moment when things go awry. But, they are all opportunities for our little ones to learn and predict so that they can solve problems more flexibly in the future. 

Shifting Perspectives

It may take some time, and they may struggle with it at first. Nurturing from the start can help.

Help them explore by gently exposing them to some low-risk activities or changes to encourage them to shift their perspectives. You can tweak their schedule or meals a bit or even explore bending the rules while playing a game with them.

Walk with them, and ask questions to help them connect the dots as they build up this flexibility in their brain. When you’re assisting them with school work or even troubles with their peers at school, help them know that these feelings don’t last, and they will gain confidence after more experiences with the topic or situation at hand. 

Most importantly, be patient with them as they develop this growth mindset. But, know that this will help your child thrive for the years to come. 

Gifted Kids Asia Research is passionate about nurturing gifted kids through invested parenting. If you’re keen to learn more about how to optimise your child’s intelligence and potential, you can check out the carefully crafted programs and courses we have in store.


Ng, D., 2020. Right From The Mind: Priming Your Child's Mind Today for Tomorrow's World.

Cognitive Flexibility: Teaching Children to Shift Perspective & Go with the Flow – BabySparks

The benefits of flexible thinking | BBC Ideas - YouTube

Become a More Flexible Thinker | Psychology Today

Flexible Thinking Problems: Why Kids Struggle With Change | Understood - For learning and thinking differences

How to Develop Flexible Thinking | PBS KIDS for Parents

Flexible Thinking | Sesame Street in Communities - Sesame Street in Communities

Thinking Skills: Flexibility - LearningWorks for Kids

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