Developing Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility is being able to adjust one’s own thinking to meet the demands of the environment

children jumping together in the classroom

At a Glance

Cognitive flexibility means adjusting our thinking to meet the demands of the environment. Preschoolers can experience great growth in their ability to think about and solve problems in new ways. Educators can support children’s cognitive flexibility by providing a stable environment, consistent routines, and opportunities to see and try to do things in new ways.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at how you can help children develop their cognitive flexibility

Play Games to Support Thinking

To build children’s ability to think flexibly, play games that encourage them to pay attention, listen/follow directions, wait, and switch their focus from one task to another.

Support Role Playing

Prompt children to think about different play scenarios and different roles within those. Suggestions like these may get children thinking about things in new ways.

Encourage Flexible Thinking

When educators shift “rules” during an activity (e.g., change tempo or opposite directions), it encourages children to be more flexible in their thinking. Opportunities like this let children flex their mental muscles.


Not A Box

Written and illustrated by Antoinette Porter, this book is about a bunny whose imagination and creativity turns a box into everything but a box!

Not A Box Cover
Max and Tag-Along Moon Book Page


Max and The Tag-Along Moon

Written by and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, this story follows a young boy as he says, “goodbye” to his grandfather and makes the trip home.

Activity Cards

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, activity cards provide simple and fun ways you build children's cognitive flexibility, while also fostering other critical skills, such as language, movement, and impulse control.
We're A Zoo Icon Card
Act It Out

We're A Zoo

Children can get creative as they act out different zoo animals with their bodies.

Steady Beat Pattern Card Icon
tap it out

Steady Beat Patterns

Children listen and tap to the music as they explore different patterns and beats.

Bubbles Card Icon
Pop It


Children must think quickly and flexibly to pop bubbles before they hit the ground.

Breathing Fast Noses Card Icon
breathe it out

Breathing: Fast Noses

Children explore how to breathe quickly through their nose as a calm-down exercise


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills