Component 4: Cognitive Flexibility

Learning Goal 4.a: Children’s skills increase at adjusting to changes in demands, priorities, and perspectives.

By 9 months, most children:

  • Try new actions with a familiar object (e.g., dropping or throwing a rattle in addition to mouthing it)
  • Demonstrate an ability to self-soothe or calm (e.g., babbling or sucking on their thumb or fists)
  • Develop their own regular sleep-and-wake cycle
  • Begin to show an anticipation of familiar routines
  • Use their bodies as “tools” (i.e., as a means to an end: reaching out and grasping to get a rattle, for example)

By 18 months, most children:

  • Use basic items creatively (e.g., turning a pail over to use it as a drum)
  • Demonstrate comfort in familiar routines and activities
  • Engage in more complex play sequences based on an understanding of everyday events and routines (e.g., pretending to punch in numbers on a phone and then “talking” to grandpa after waiting for an answer)
  • Understand the use of people as “tools” for help (e.g., recognizing that an adult can reach an object for them on a high shelf)
  • View world from an egocentric perspective (e.g., crying when frustrated that things are not going their way)

By 24 months, most children:

  • Change their behavior in response to environmental cues (e.g., when an adult sits on the floor with a book, they put down their blocks and go over to the adult to listen to the adult read)
  • Change their behavior in response to their environment by using the “tools” around them (e.g., if a toy is on a towel, pulling the towel to bring the toy closer, rather than just going over to the toy)

By 36 months, most children:

  • Use objects in new ways to solve a problem or meet a goal (e.g., propping up a track with a piece of chalk so a toy train can pass underneath)
  • Transition from one activity to the next activity with adult support
  • Adjust when necessary to brief disruptions in routines (while still preferring consistent rules and routines)
  • Make use of their environment by adapting objects as “tools” (e.g., using a stick to reach something that is under a chair)

By 48 months, most children:

  • Require minimal adult support to transition from one activity to another (e.g., moving from computer to circle time)
  • Understand that different contexts may require different behaviors (e.g., taking off shoes when entering their house but leaving them on when entering the classroom)
  • Generate a new approach or change their plan of action if a better alternative is found or suggested (e.g., accepting a suggestion to secure a tower’s greater stability by building it on the floor rather than on a thick rug)
  • Continue to count when another item is added to a set
  • Understand that not all children want the same things

By 60 months, most children:

  • Quickly adjust and adhere to a new rule (e.g., lining up inside the building rather than outside when the weather gets colder or it rains)
  • Apply different rules in different contexts that require different behaviors (e.g., using indoor voices or feet versus outdoor voices or feet)
  • Reconstruct a pattern using different materials or modalities
  • Sort by more than one attribute (e.g., color and shape) into two or more groups
  • Correctly add an object to an existing series (e.g., of increasing lengths)