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“Developing Flexible Thinkers: Helping Kids Overcome Rock Brain”

May 31, 2024

Do you ever wish your child was more flexible in their thinking?  Able to handle shifts or changes in their schedules or be able to adapt when things don’t go the way they want?  As pediatric occupational therapists, we often encounter the concept of “rock brain” versus “flexible thinking” in our daily practice. But what exactly does that mean, and why is it important? Let’s dive in and explore how nurturing flexible thinking can benefit your child’s development and how you can support them on this journey.


Understanding Rock Brain vs. Flexible Thinking

Imagine a rock sitting in a stream, unmoved and rigid against the flowing water. That’s the essence of rock brain – inflexible, stuck in one way of thinking, and resistant to change. On the other hand, flexible thinking is like a bamboo swaying in the wind – adaptable, open to new ideas, and able to bend without breaking.


Why Flexible Thinking Matters

Encouraging flexible thinking in children is crucial for their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Here’s why:

  • Problem-Solving Skills: Flexible thinkers can approach problems from different angles, leading to more creative and effective solutions.
  • Resilience: When faced with setbacks or unexpected changes, flexible thinkers are better equipped to adapt and bounce back.
  • Social Interaction: Flexibility fosters empathy and understanding, making it easier for children to navigate social situations and build positive relationships.
  • Learning and Growth: A flexible mindset encourages curiosity and a willingness to learn, enhancing academic performance and lifelong learning.


Ways to Teach Flexible Thinking

Most children do not come equipped with flexible thinking skills so it’s important to teach them.  Here are some practical strategies for nurturing this valuable skill in your child:

  • Model Flexibility: Children learn by example, so demonstrate flexible thinking in your own actions and problem-solving processes.
  • Validate Feelings: Acknowledge your child’s emotions and help them explore different perspectives and coping strategies.
  • Encourage Exploration: Provide opportunities for your child to try new activities, meet new people, and learn about different cultures and ideas.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Teach your child mindfulness techniques to help them stay present, manage stress, and approach challenges with a clear and open mind.
  • Embrace Mistakes: Foster a positive attitude towards mistakes, emphasizing that they are opportunities for learning and growth.


Activities to Encourage Flexible Thinking

Here are some fun and engaging activities to help your child develop flexible thinking skills:

  • Role-Playing: Act out different scenarios and encourage your child to explore various responses and outcomes.
  • Puzzle Games: Solve puzzles, riddles, or brain teasers together, emphasizing the importance of trying different approaches.  
  • Storytelling: Create collaborative stories where each person adds a new twist or turn, encouraging flexible thinking and creativity.
  • Art Projects: Engage in open-ended art activities that allow your child to experiment with materials and express themselves freely.
  • Group Activities: Join clubs, teams, or community groups where your child can interact with peers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
  • Create Disruptions: Complete activities with a “disruption” to encourage your child to use their flexible thinking.  For instance, solve a puzzle upside down, try painting with a q-tip instead of a paintbrush, have your child use their non-dominant hand to complete an activity like throwing a ball or using utensils, or try eating dinner foods for breakfast.  



As parents, you play a vital role in shaping your child’s mindset and helping them become flexible thinkers. By fostering an environment that values curiosity, adaptability, and resilience, you can empower your child to navigate life’s challenges with confidence and creativity. So let’s embrace flexibility and encourage our little ones to keep their brains as flexible as a gymnast’s ribbon – ready to bend, twist, and stretch to new heights!


Connect can help!

Many of the children we work with at Connect Pediatric Therapy are working on becoming flexible thinkers.  This improves their ability to play, complete daily activities and eat without anxiety as they can be flexible in their thinking.  If you want to talk to one of our pediatric occupational therapists call 402-413-1356 to set up a FREE parent consultation.

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