Approaches to Play and Learning Foundation: 2 - Flexible Thinking

Topic: APL2.1 - Demonstrate development of flexible thinking skills during play

Flexible thinking plays a critical role in learning across a number of domains, such as Mathematics and English Language Arts. It allows children to adapt from one learning context to the next with ease and shift their focus and attention to new tasks when asked.

The development of flexible thinking skills leads to the ability to:
*Use of effective problem solving skills
*Understand abstract concepts
*Take on new tasks and responsibilities
*Take others perspectives

Looking Ahead to Kindergarten Family Engagement Special Populations
Flexible thinking is a key component of developing a growth mindset. The development of flexible thinking skills during play will support kindergarten students in:

*Applying conflict management skills (SEL Competency 4C)
*Analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the thinking process (SEL Competency 6C)
*Accepting constructive feedback (SEL Competency 7C)

Encourage families to:

*Support children in using materials in ways other than designed (e.g. using pots and pans as drums).
*Model flexible language (e.g. bat is an animal and a tool used in a baseball game).
*Model flexible thinking in everyday opportunities (e.g using substitute ingredients in a recipe while cooking or making new rules for a game).

Educators can:

*Provide a flexible learning environment where things are presented and learned in a variety of ways and for many purposes (i.e. differentiated instruction).
*For DLL, help children take others perspectives by labeling the emotions of others in their native language when possible.

Powerful Practices
Across all developmental stages, educators can:

*Give children the time to resolve difficulties and solve problems independently (e.g. educator pauses and observes before assisting a child with a puzzle by asking questions like, “This has a side that looks like a straight line. Where do you think that fits?”).
*Encourage flexible use of open-ended materials in child directed activities.
*Discuss how children’s actions affect other children.
Model flexible thinking skills (e.g. play a sorting game and change the rule mid way through - first sort by color then by shape).

Infant

Provide environments that allow for safe exploration of objects

Model verbal and nonverbal communication (e.g. waving, shaking head yes or no)

Model play by stacking blocks, shaking a rattle, or putting together a puzzle and watch as infant attempts to mimic or imitate your play

Younger Toddler
Provide open ended materials and encourage children to explore those materials how they choose; model a variety of uses (e.g. block represents phone)

Model a variety of approaches to problem solving, depending on the child's individual needs

Older Toddler
Encourage the use of open ended materials (e.g. chairs represent a train)

Model a variety of approaches to problem solving depending on the child's individual needs

Follow the child’s lead in how and what they choose to play with (e.g. including taking materials from one center to another, pretending with common objects, etc.)

Younger Preschool
Support the use of open ended materials to promote problem solving (e.g. child cannot see out of the window, uses sturdy materials to create a platform to stand on in order to solve the problem)

Provide children with multiple options to solve a problem using visual and verbal cues

Help the child to develop coping skills when in a group setting (e.g. negotiate to develop a plan, compromise, and follow through on plan)

Older Preschool
Encourage the use of open ended materials to promote problem solving (e.g. cardboard box represents computer)

Encourage children to attempt a variety of approaches to solve a problem

Help children to develop coping skills when in a group setting (e.g. negotiate to develop a plan, compromise, and follow through on plan)

Encourage children to use available materials across learning centers (e.g. bringing dramatic play items to the building center)