If your child gets frustrated when he makes a mistake or things don’t go according to plan, encourage him to use strategies to improve flexibility skills, starting with playing some strategy-based video games. A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE described how strategy-based video games such as Starcraft help children to develop greater speed and accuracy in cognitive-flexibility tasks that test the capacity to switch from one task to another.
Cognitive flexibility is a skill that helps children adapt to new situations, handle making mistakes, and improvise when things don’t go according to plan. Some children seem to be born easygoing and adaptable, whereas others often need to be taught the skill of flexibility. Fortunately, there are many effective strategies to improve flexibility skills that are engaging and fun for children.
Strategies to improve flexibility can be found in a variety of video games, apps, and digital media. For example, consider the difference between adults and kids when they get a new cell phone. Many adults can’t figure out what to do and are afraid to “mess up” the phone so they learn to use only a few features on their powerful machines. Conversely, many children just start playing with the phone, “messing” things up but learning how to use the phone in a flexible manner for a variety of purposes. The same type of “flexible play” that includes learning from mistakes and trial and error is engendered by other technologies such as video games, digital cameras, productivity apps, and programming languages. Children who struggle with cognitive flexibility may be able to use the same approaches to home and school-based problems, but more often parents will need to help them learn how to transfer these skills to the real world.
Five Strategies to improve Flexibility Skills Using Digital Media:
l.) Show your child how bad you are at video games. Ask him to watch as you meander your way through the game, making mistake after mistake while playing the game for the first time. Be flexible in your approach to problem solving and ask for help when you need it. Ask pointed questions about how he knew to change strategies at specific points in the game
2.) As your child to tell you about his favorite video game. In all likelihood you will find that his favorite game is not one that he easily “beat” but one in which the level of complexity required flexible problem solving. Have him describe how he had to change his problem solving in order to beat the game. Ask about the “boss” battle and the new and flexible strategies he needed to defeat a super hard foe.
3.) Encourage your child to play strategy games. Games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Napolean: Total War, and Starcraft II can be great for exercising flexible thinking. The recent study on Starcraft suggested that the constant planning and fast-shifting, strategic play was far more important than fast reflexes in improving flexibility skills. This study also suggested that playing strategy games might directly improve flexibility skills in other areas of life.
4.) Use apps and technologies that foster your child’s creative impulses. Digital Media such as Garage Band, Digital Photography, and iLuv Drawing provide opportunities to try and to improve your skills while using technology. Flexibility is nurtured through trial and error and can be bettered through some of the creative ways you can use some of the tools in these apps and games.
5.) Introduce active gaming to your child. Exergames such as Kinect Sports and Wii Sports Resort to increase physical flexibility and, in turn, cognitive flexibility. There are compelling data that show that doing yoga, stretching, and performing martial arts can not only improve physical flexibility but also help people to handle stress more effectively and improve their problem-solving skills. Using exergames to improve physical fitness is likely to improve cognitive flexibility and mental fitness, as well. If you have the time, play the exergame with your child for the fun and exercise.