Have you ever wondered what gives us the ability to adjust to ever-changing features in the environment and to see things from a different perspective? Research shows that cognitive flexibility is related to everything from social skills to early arithmetic, and there is a consistent developmental progression as children get older.
You can help your child develop the flexibility they need to be creative, thoughtful, innovative learners simply by posing problems that challenge them to think outside the box:
1. Invite your child to draw a picture of an object.
Encourage your child to make the drawing as realistic as they can. Four-year-olds might start with a simple flower, while five-year-olds might try more complex subjects like people or animals.
2. Challenge your child to draw a version of the object that doesn’t exist.
If your child drew a flower, for example, you might ask them to draw “a flower you invent,” “a strange flower,” or “a flower with something funny, weird, or pretend about it.”
3. Feel free to offer suggestions if your child needs a hand.
If necessary, you can offer prompts like, “What if you changed the shape of the flower?” or “What if you made the flower look more like an animal?” Kids tend to make simple changes at first, like getting rid of the the flower’s petals. As their thinking gets more complex, they might change its spatial dimensions or combine it with another concept.
4. Ask your child what it is that makes the flower unrealistic.
Once your child is finished drawing, have them point out and explain what makes the drawing funny or weird!
This activity will challenge your child’s preconceived notion of a concept and engage them in flexible thinking about a concrete object. Plus, you and your learner will experience how creativity and art can be connected to complex intellectual skills. And the better they get at this kind of flexibility, the more creative they’ll be!
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