Learning & Development

Encouraging child development through lateral thinking

Written by Archana Singh Nughaal
Published: July 5, 2022

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Currently working in Pinegrove School in Kasauli Hills, Archana Nughaal is an educationist with over 14 years of experience. Her certifications include Army Commander's Commendation, Management & Personality Development DSSC, Wellington and MBA from Utkal University.

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I denied my six-year-old daughter going to the playground today because of the rain. She said, “Let’s take umbrellas, mom, we won’t get wet.” I told her it was pointless because the ground would be mucky and slippery. Instantaneously, she came up with a new idea, that we could go to the indoor playground where we had gone last month (By the way, that’s two hours away!). 

Children have a bright sparkle in their eyes when they come up with new ideas, and they are always up for a new adventure. During the age below five, a majority of children score at genius level in lateral thinking. NASA’s longitudinal study says that they will gradually lose this ability unless they are from those two percent of the population who have it maintained as adults.

Under normal child development stages, most children below five are super-spontaneous and feel free to come up with new ideas to solve problems, irrespective of their feasibility or possibility. This skill can be further developed by introducing memory games for kids in their routine.

What Is Lateral Thinking?

Edward de Bono introduced lateral thinking principles in 1967 which have been widely employed in business and education for the last four decades.

Lateral thinking is a method that takes an indirect and innovative approach to problem-solving by employing non-obvious reasoning. It incorporates concepts that might not be possible to achieve by typical step-by-step logic. 

 “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein. Thinking above and beyond the conventional ways can help us get solutions at all those stages in life where we face questions or difficulties. Letting our kids grow up with this freedom of mind is a crucial part of child development and will empower them to lead a life of less stress as they will be able to find their own solutions. Lateral thinking is a must-have skill for any age group to be a creative thinker, problem-solver, or lifelong learner with a growth mindset.

Ways To Develop Lateral Thinking In Your Child


Lateral thinking is everywhere in our lives and so it is in all child development stages. We don’t need to enroll in classes for it. We simply have to keep looking out for different ways of working in our daily life. Brainstorming and applying such ways in our routine can help increase the skill.  

For example, if you happen to come across a roll of masking tape, ask your child what they can do with it. Some of the brilliant ideas that come up from their side will surprise you.

Ask Questions

Children have a tendency to ask lots of questions to feed their curiosity. Asking questions induce and speed up their minds to find the answers while polishing their skills in lateral thinking. Each question can have multiple answers, which means multiple solutions for your challenge!

We also have to make sure that we ask the right questions and not the dumb ones just to make it up somehow. Answering them positively is also equally important, which will keep them encouraged to ask the questions next time and develop this habit for themselves when they are thinking on their own. 

Think Of Alternative Solutions To A Given Problem 

 “Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.” — Edward de Bono 

  • Being ready to change the way they look at things is a confirmation that you will find the solution. 
  • Looking for things and scenarios that are different in nature is a quality that will help them think in an unusual way while they try to find a solution to a problem. 
  • Lateral thinkers will always take up non-traditional ways or techniques to find a way out.
  • Teach them to look at the unexpected side of the situation.

Solve Puzzles 

Puzzles can help tremendously in child development. They make children think unconventionally. It’s fun solving them, and in the end, even if it was not making any sense while working on it, the reaction after solving them will be, ”How could I not get that!” It can become a habit, and can be a family game too!

Use Of Memory Games For Kids

Encouraging kids to do something productive in their free time instead of just watching their favorite show on TV can be a task. Nevertheless, it’s important and will help improve your child’s personality. There are hordes of memory games for kids and activities to entertain them and bring out the best of their thinking ability. 

For instance, ‘memorise and match’ game. Place a bunch of daily objects on a table — anything you have at home or in the classroom, such as keys, magnets, pens or pencils, chocolates, balls, books, and so on. Ask your kid to observe these for thirty seconds and then cover it all. The child then has to list the items they saw. Uncover the things again and ask the kid what they missed from the list. 

Such activities will stretch your kid’s brains while making them feel thrilled until they know how many things they caught and how many they missed. 

Memory games for kids boost confidence, enhance brainstorming skills, improve learning and observational skills, and improve decision-making and spontaneity. Like, ‘one word story’ game. Come up with a topic and start with the first word. Kids start adding one word after another and the story begins. Kids have to be acutely attentive while playing this game so that they can add in the word to the story. 

It also aids in the development of children’s language, vocabulary, and self-esteem. Each tale asks them to make and express connections.

Tune In To Their Senses

One of the most important parts of learning to think critically and creatively in early childhood development stages is sensory information. However, we frequently overlook our senses and our children too, the same way. Qualities like mindfulness, perspective, and creativity can be enhanced by exercises that stimulate children to use their senses, which aids in the development of lateral thinking abilities.

Teaching them to look around and find, touch and sense, listen and respond, smell and know what it is, taste food and describe what they ate can help develop their senses and make them more attentive, which will empower lateral thinking practices. 

The Benefits Of Lateral Thinking

Boosts Thinking On A Higher Creative Level

Lateral thinking, which is a key part of child development, is linked directly to creativity. As a result, a youngster who thinks laterally is often significantly more creative and imaginative than other children. Memory games for kids also help in thinking at a higher creative level. It also improves brain functions like attention, concentration, and focus. 

Achieving Goals Become Easier

The benefit of lateral thinking in child development is achieving goals is easier than those who think in a straight way. 

  • It enables them to understand what the problem is 
  • Using creative tools to find the solution gives multiple options
  • Approaching the problem with an “out of the box’ view gives the hope and possibilities of getting the goal

Keeps A Check On Anger And Frustration

Lateral thinking allows children to use multiple ways to achieve their goals. This enables them to avoid getting blocked by a thought occurring from the conventional thought process. This results in having less anger and frustration in kids. When one knows how to find a way out, they remain calmer, clearer, and more confident.  

Better Performance In The Classroom

Children who use lateral thinking as their lifestyle are more likely to perform better in the classrooms as they have the ability to think creatively and look out for options. This makes them perform better in studies and projects. 

Enhance Intellectual Process

They learn to look at things from diverse viewpoints and examine a situation from various angles, which boosts their intellectual skills. 

Lateral thinking is one of the most effective strategies a kid can be taught to improve and increase their creative thinking. Children would not only sharpen their minds but also improve their academic performance and be self-reliant enough to come up with solutions for their own situations using this thinking pattern because, after all, life doesn’t come with a syllabus!

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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