Beyond Games: 3 Strategies That Encourage Flexibility

Kenny Rogers sang, “Youve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em…
Whoops, am I showing my age? I’ll make up for it with a picture of Ben Affleck at the World Series of Poker.

Anyway, whether you know the song or not, Kenny’s right. These lyrics ring true for poker as well as for most decisions in life. Being flexible enough to adapt to different situations and find ways to cope with obstacles is the biggest key to success.

In order to be truly flexible, children need to be flexible about the strategies they use as well. It’s important to be aware of how situations and environments change, and recognize when methods no longer work in order to seek alternatives that might be more appropriate in the new setting. A child who was previously able to study simply by listening in class, for example, may find that this no longer works when he moves on to more difficult subjects in school. This LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games post provides you with strategies that encourage flexibility in your children.

Diner Dash is a game that can encourage flexiblity in your children

Games like Diner Dash make exercising flexibility fun and rewarding

Ask them for help. Many online video games, like Diner Dash, require changing strategies as one progresses in the game. If you yourself play video games, you know that they can be relatively simple to start with, but present more challenges as they progress. Engage your child in helping you when you get stuck in your own game. This works even better if he is playing through an entirely different game, as he will have to change his thinking sets. Help him recognize this shift and encourage him to explain why and how he changed his mode of thought from focusing on his game to helping you with yours. This strategy has the added benefit of increasing self-awareness and empathy.

Mold malleability. Help a child to recognize when a problem-solving strategy he is using is not working. With younger children this might occur when trying to read an unfamiliar word, while with older children when trying to balance a chemistry equation. Discuss the strategies he thinks might be able to help him solve the problem and encourage him to shift gears and try a different strategy. Because an inflexible child tends to get stuck often, you may have to approach these situations carefully by asking questions and listening to frustrations before trying to identify other ways to solve the problem. You could use an app like Great Decisions 7 to engage your child in weighing the pros and cons of certain strategies.

Encourage stubbornness. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes there are benefits to being inflexible. Just like in some platformer video games (think Mario or Sonic), there is sometimes truly only one path to the goal, and having the stubborn persistence to stick to it until you can get it right is admirable. While it is always possible to examine one’s approach and think about things differently, sometimes it’s merely an attitude adjustment, some distance, and some objectivity that is called for. Whether it’s music practice or a skateboarding trick, help your child see the difference between sustained focus—that drive get it done no matter how long it takes—and banging one’s head against the wall.

It’s important to encourage flexibility in your children, and you may find it easier to reach them through video games. Check out our Playbooks to find games that exercise the flexibility thinking skill and tips and strategies to help your kids translate that exercise into a real-world skill.


Featured image: Flickr user Mark Richardson

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