Check out these 3 flexible thinking exercises including social stories, books, and scenarios to help teach children.

3 Helpful Flexible Thinking Exercises for Children

Need ideas for flexible thinking exercises to practice the important social/emotional skills of thinking flexibly? Students need to be taught what flexible thinking is. But actually being able to generalize that known term is a whole other thing.

Teaching flexible thinking can be a great part of a behavior intervention plan. If you are not sure where to start with this process or tackling tricky student behavior, check out this FREE easy-to-follow 5 step process to writing an amazing functional behavioral assessment.

If you are looking to better understand just what flexible thinking is, check out this post by clicking here.

Here are 3 flexible thinking exercises for students to practice this necessary skill.


Use Social Stories for Flexible Thinking

Social stories are great because they really spell out the subject matter to a child. They are awesome flexible thinking activities for kindergarten or first grade students to be exposed to. Also so great to re-read when needing a reminder.

In this case, a great social story would tell the flexible thinking meaning. It would then compare flexible vs rigid thinking. And of course give some great strategies to use when stuck.

Social stories are especially great if you have a child who needs things laid out for them. They are also awesome to serve as a reference for times when a child shows stuck thinking.

If you are looking for a great flexible thinking social story, click here.

Pages of a flexible thinking social story with what is the definition of flexible thinking, how it looks, strategies to use.
This flexible thinking social story contains what flexible thinking is, how it looks, and ideas of what you can do when you get stuck.

Flexible Thinking Group Activities with Books

One of the best ways to teach thinking flexibly to a group is with a read aloud. There are so many great books to teach flexible thinking out there.

One of my favorites is My Day Is Ruined!: A Story Teaching Flexible Thinking by Bryan Smith. This book’s main character, Braden, has to deal with several situations that don’t go his way. He has to learn how to become a flexible thinker to help manage his emotions and learn to be okay with changes.

When I use this flexible and stuck thinking book with my students, I like to pause after the big situations come up. This allows time to discuss different ways he could handle the situation. We brainstorm many different solutions that would lead to both good and bad outcomes.

Next we brainstorm the different consequences. Again, both the good and bad ones for each solution and decide which one would be best and why.

Then we continue to read on and see what choice Braden makes and how that goes.

Running a book discussion in this format is great when thinking of how to practice flexible thinking. It allows students the ability to use the skills to come up with different solutions (developing their own flexible thinking). Plus it gives them opportunities to weigh the different options to see which is best. And it shows the benefits of flexible thinking, which is great for students to see and relate to. I highly recommend this flexible thinking children’s book.

When thinking of how to teach flexible thinking, reach for one of these great books.
One great idea of how to teach flexible thinking is to use books like “My Day is Ruined’ by Bryan Smith.

Flexible Thinking Activities For Elementary Students With Scenarios

Doing an activity with scenarios is the last of the 3 flexible thinking exercises here.

Giving students actual situations that could arise in their lives is so beneficial. It helps them process through each scenario. Which is a great strategy when considering how to improve flexible thinking.

When I do this, I usually compare flexible vs rigid thinking. When you compare these two opposites, it helps students to further understand. They have a better idea of what flexible thinking is/looks like. Additionally, they better know what it is not/doesn’t look like.

Using real-life scenarios helps them to process the situation before it even happens. This will lead to better generalization of the topic. Plus, if the same situations come up again in the future, it helps students be prepared. This will help lead to a better chance that flexible thinking will actually take place in the future.

Looking for some already made up situations? Check out this flexible thinking scenarios resource. This done-for-you tool is as easy as print, cut, and use. There are 30+ situations included. Students decide if the main character is thinking flexibly or rigidly. Also, there are a few different versions of response sheets and blank scenario cards so you can really personalize this. You can find this awesome flexible thinking scenarios resource by clicking here. 

Flexible thinking scenarios encourage students to look at a situation and decided if flexible or rigid thinking took place.
These flexible thinking scenarios have visual reminder cards in addition to the scenarios to help struggling students.

Need to go digital?

Or if you are looking for some great flexible thinking task cards, here are two sets of task cards on Boom Learning. They feature situations that could occur in many different categories. Some of these categories include home, recess, and within the classroom. Again, students decided if the character in the situation uses flexible thinking or rigid thinking.

These flexible thinking boom cards are great because they are self-correcting. This means students are given guidance as they go along. And as an added bonus, they self-shuffle so if a student needs additional practice, they can repeat the deck without it feeling like they are re-doing the same thing. Click here for these Boom Cards!

Use the boom cards with flexible thinking examples to teach.
Check out these fun boom cards that use flexible thinking examples for students to select if flexible or rigid thinking was happening.

Hopefully you can use a few of these flexible thinking exercises with your students.

And if you want even more on how to teach flexible thinking, check out this post.

Happy teaching! 


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Hi, I'm molly!

I help educators meet the diverse academic and social/emotional needs of struggling students so that they can focus on teaching during the day and enjoy life outside of the classroom after the 8 hour work day.

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