10 Fun Cognitive Flexibility Games and Activities For Little Aspirants

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Usually, we all are thinking about hundred things at a time; sometimes consciously and at others, non-consciously. Also, every work requires using multiple thought processes and flexible thinking. The flexible thinking and cognitive approach is needed to complete daily chores in all spheres of life.

Often, parents complain that the kids don’t keep track of time, or are simply too absorbed in a single activity. It leads to poor time management and an inability to keep up with the schedule. Such an issue may be managed if the brain is trained to think flexibly with the help of games and activities that demand paying attention to different types of inputs simultaneously.

Game-based training to build cognitive flexibility – what researchers say

Games offer a handy solution for building cognitive flexibility. Quite a handful of online and offline games are in circulation because of the effective ways in which these contribute to developing cognitive thinking flexibility.

In one study[1], the effects of game-based computerized cognitive training (GCCT) were analyzed. It was found that this method of training helped in building abilities like task-switching, enhanced attention on any work, and promoted active control. The games to improve cognitive flexibility comprise the main challenge and several distractors. This arrangement helps teach the brain to concentrate on the task in hand while being aware of the need to handle and process other inputs.

In another study[2], the researchers analyzed the role of digital games in improving cognitive flexibility and attention-paying ability. The results revealed that the digital games significantly improved cognitive flexibility and also enhanced executive functioning.

The use of gamified activities is not restricted to the school environment only. Even in employee training, the focus is laid on building cognition and improving attention span. Game training and its impact on cognitive flexibility showed a positive correlation in the analysis[3] of workers’ performance done in 2013.

These results bolster the notion that cognitive flexibility can be improved by playing digital as well as offline games where the inputs are of varied nature and require switching from one activity to another. Let’s take a look at some of the promising activities and games that can help build and improve cognitive flexibility and can offer requisite mental training as well.

Activities and games to build and boost cognitive flexibility

1. Color Rubik’s Cube in Alternate Shades

 Color Rubik's Cube in Alternate Shades

You can pick a cube and divide its sides into a 9×9 matrix. Select a color scheme where the cells of the matrix are to be filled with different shades in a chosen sequence. For example, R-B-G in the first row, B-G-R in the second row, and likewise. This is how you color all sides of the cube. The challenge of sticking to the color plan and applying it correctly allows participants to work on their cognition, attention, and memory span.

This simple activity can be done in a timed manner or thrown as a challenge during the activity hour. It is an effective activity that keeps the mind focused and calms it down and improves cognitive flexibility without participating realizing the drill.

2. Play pattern games and create new patterns

Play pattern games and create new patterns

Patterns games are interesting activities where the mind is to identify the pattern and tell the upcoming elements that will maintain it. Quite useful for developing logical reasoning ability, the pattern games may be based on several themes. The patterns can be number-based, pictorial patterns, or words-based.

When the students provide the answer, always make it a point to ask the logic behind their choice. It helps them rewind the thought process in their mind.

Cognitive flexibility can be further enhanced by asking them to create patterns of their own. There are interesting books and digital resources available that can be used to perform this activity in case you run short of options.

3. Solving riddles

Solving riddles

Riddles are an effective brain-teaser. We all have grown up solving riddles that revolved around the things of common occurrence. While training the beginners on cognitive flexibility, you can ask them riddles where the hints are provided.

For example, make a list of characteristics of objects we see around, such as fruits, trains, sea, rivers, food items, etc. You can weave them in a rhyming manner and ask learners to guess.

Riddles of this type may require the brain to concentrate on several features simultaneously, thereby helping bring flexibility and quickness in thinking.

4. Sing in a group with every member singing lines one after the other

 Sing in a group with every member singing lines one after the other

Choose the song that usually all know. Assign the line number to the group members as they are seated in the sequence. They will sing the line that corresponds to their number in the seating arrangement.

This group activity requires participants to remember the sequence of the lines of the song and to stay aware of their turn too. Thus, the activity requires participants to stay attentive to multifarious directions leading them to refine cognitive awareness and flexibility in thinking.

5. Cooking competition

Cooking competition

Cooking is anyway an attention-demanding activity. A variety of activities like mixing, rolling, baking, sautéing, etc. are involved. You can add to the challenge by asking participants to cook the fastest possible. Thus, a variety of decisions are to be taken in this process.

The participants will pick the recipe that is easy to put together. They also have to make a list of ingredients needed, select a cooking method and decide on presentation style too. All these activities of various nature help bring flexibility in thinking, boost sequential memory, and also, bring seamlessness in the decision-making process.

6. Dance Jam

Dance Jam

Achieving synchronization requires enhanced cognition and flexibility in the thinking approach. When you organize a dance jam, the participants need to sync their steps. Sometimes, they may create or recreate the signature steps of various songs. It requires them to remember songs, steps, and also their sequence.

Thus, in this activity, they are made to think about multiple aspects such as tune, dancing, syncing with the group, etc. Also, dance improves mood and blood flow to the brain and helps destress. This mental state is also quite helpful in boosting cognitive flexibility in thinking.

7. Sit down – stand up game with a twist

-sit  stand up game with a twist

Our brains are conditioned to do as instructed. Sit down command means we need to sit. Bring a twist and ask the participants to do the opposite of the command. It is sure to pull lots of laughs during this tricky activity.

The participants will require to stand up or jump, as per their state, when they are commanded to sit down. You can change the condition to the usual one after certain rounds to give ample workouts to the brain.

This gamified activity is a great party game, too, and can be played anywhere with nil preparations. The need to rewire the brain to do the opposite serves the purpose of developing and boosting cognitive flexibility.

8. Musical chairs game

Musical chairs game

The most popular party game has a lot to teach too! Musical chairs game is played in groups and chairs are kept one less than total players. The players will have to keep moving around the row of chairs, which are placed in contrasting orientations side by side, as soon as the music starts. They have to continue moving till the music plays and grab the chair as soon as it stops. No one is allowed to turn back to grab the chair.

This game requires paying attention to music, walking strategically so that a chair is always within reach, and also sitting on time. Missing the chair means the player is out of the game.

It is quite an interesting game that demands the brain to think, strategize, focus and also be cognitively aware of the fellow participants’ moves. That is why the game deserves to be on this list.

9. Simon Says

The cue provider utters ‘Simon Says’ before any action. Players are required to do that action only when the command is preceded by the phrase ‘Simon Says’.

In a volley of commands, the game jockey may include the alternatives where he may be asking to do actions without saying ‘Simon Says’. The players have to train their minds to focus on the starting cue and do the action. In a few initial rounds, the players are quite likely to break the rule and create funny moments. The one who stays most attentive usually wins the game.

It is an interesting game to trick the mind and coax it to think flexibly. Quite a popular game, it is an effective cognitive flexibility builder and is fit for people of all ages.

10. Play outdoor games

Play outdoor games

Outdoor games like Tennis, Soccer, etc. come with a set of rules. These games are quite effective in improving spatial reasoning among other abilities. The players have to keep an eye on the score, choose the best shot and also devise strategies to beat the opponent. The adrenaline rush created by the want to win the game can help further in giving the brain the due exercise.

Outdoor games help a lot in developing and improving cognitive flexibility in thinking and serve the right solution to train minds.

How to assess the need to develop cognitive flexibility

Diminished cognitive flexibility becomes a matter of concern if it interferes with normal life. Hence, before deciding on the IEPs to build cognition, a few tests can be given to students. These tests are:

1. Stroop test

The Stroop test is a neuropsychological test that determines how effective a person is in inhibiting cognitive interference. This interference arises when the two simultaneous stimuli have different response requirements.

For example, it is easy to pick ‘Red’ when it is written in ‘Red-colored’ ink. But, the brain will take a while to process the command if the requirement is to pick the word that has ink color as red though the text may read blue.

It is also known as the color-word test and is quite useful for checking cognitive flexibility.

2. Trail-making test:

The trail-making test is a neuropsychological test that checks competence in visual scanning and the quality of working memory. It is divided into – Part A and Part B. In Part A, 25 circles with numbers 1- 25 written on them are drawn on a paper in a distributed manner. The test taker has to keep making the trail by connecting circles in ascending order of numbers without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper.

In Part B, the challenge is increased. Letters from A-L and numbers from 1-12 are distributed on the paper. The person has to make the trail by alternating letters with numbers, such as A-1, B-2, C-3, and so on.

Time taken in doing so is noted. If the person fails to do it in the maximum permissible time of 5 minutes, he needs help in building cognitive flexibility.

3. Shape trail test

In this test, the numbers are written inside both the circles and the squares. The test taker has to draw a trail by connecting squares and circles alternately without considering the number written. The numbers provide the distraction needed to delay the process. It is an effective determiner of cognitive flexibility ability in a person.

4. Wisconsin card sorting test

The cards containing different figures in numbers from 1 to 4 are distributed on the tabletop. A deck of 64 response cards is given to the assessee. He sorts the cards and matches them with the cards carrying the same number, color, or shape. Rules may be changed for testing the brain’s working memory and executive functions in addition to its cognitive flexibility.

This test is quite popular among neuropsychologists and helps check the brain’s agility and reasoning abilities as well.

Summing up,

Cognitive flexibility is the total sum of mental agility, awareness, working memory, and executive functioning ability. In the early education stage itself, when the brain of children is developing, the activities to boost these abilities are included in classroom sessions to provide all-around development to children. For adults, too, who are struggling with issues like dementia, diminishing cognition, etc., these games and activities serve therapeutic purposes. Include these stimulants in the daily or weekly schedule and give the brain the much-needed workout.

References:

  1. Olfers, K., & Band, G. (2018). Game-based training of flexibility and attention improves task-switch performance: near and far transfer of cognitive training in an EEG study. Psychological research82(1), 186–202. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0933-z
  2. Ramos, Daniela & Segundo, Fabio. (2018). Digital Games in the School: improving attention and cognitive flexibility. Educação & Realidade. 43. 531-550. 10.1590/2175-623665738.
  3. Glass BD, Maddox WT, Love BC (2013) Real-Time Strategy Game Training: Emergence of a Cognitive Flexibility Trait. PLoS ONE 8(8): e70350. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0070350


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