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What is Fluid Reasoning and How Does it Impact My Child's Learning?

What is Fluid Reasoning and How Does it Impact My Child's Learning?

Picture this—you’re unexpectedly faced with a problem that needs solving.

It’s an issue you’ve never faced before. Still, you quickly find a way to use your skills and brainpower to figure out a solution. Then, you go about the rest of your day after giving yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for finding ways to handle whatever comes your way. 

Guess what? You just demonstrated fluid reasoning skills in action. 

So go ahead and give yourself another pat on the back.

If you’ve ever had to spring into action and think on the fly to solve a problem in real time—you’ve put your fluid reasoning skills to the test.  

Fluid reasoning is a major part of what it means to be human—scientists consider it a key component of our intelligence systems. 

And, if you think about it—it would be pretty hard to navigate the world we live in without it. 

Like many other important skills, our fluid reasoning begins to develop in childhood, and this development continues throughout adolescence and into young adulthood. 

But what is fluid reasoning really? And why is it so important when it comes to your child’s ability to learn and grow?

This article will take a deep dive into fluid reasoning and why it matters. In it, we’ll also offer you some tips and strategies to recognize and support your child if they struggle with their fluid reasoning skills. 

Let's start by getting clear on what fluid reasoning is and what it involves. 

What is fluid reasoning and why does it matter?

According to researchers from Frontiers in Neuroscience, fluid reasoning is “The capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations independent of acquired knowledge.” 

So, it’s how we use our intelligence to solve issues that we haven’t directly faced or learned about previously. 

Remember those analogy completion sections on the SATs? Yeah, they were testing your fluid reasoning skills. 

Fluid reasoning is believed to emerge as early as age two or three. But it really gets rolling in middle childhood and adolescence. 

A big component of fluid reasoning (and a primary way it’s measured through standardized testing) is relational reasoning

This means understanding the relationships between things and being able to compare and contrast them. It’s the ability to consider the connections between items, such as how they’re alike and different. 

You’ve probably already helped your child with many tasks and activities involving these concepts—from big vs. little to inside and out—relational concepts, and building our awareness of them, is a major focus of childhood learning. 

Fluid reasoning also closely interacts with other key cognitive skills, in particular working memory and executive functions. 

Fluid reasoning is linked to processing speed, and it also impacts and predicts academic knowledge and reading ability. 

Fluid reasoning is also part of our overall IQ. As such, it can be measured with specific types of IQ tests. 

Now that you have an overview of fluid reasoning and why it’s important, let’s explore how it comes into play with your child’s growth and development. 

How does fluid reasoning impact learning in children?

Fluid reasoning is a key ingredient of our overall cognitive (thinking skills) development in childhood, and it also provides the scaffolding for us to acquire other important learning skills.

Kids draw from their fluid reasoning capacity anytime they need to retrieve information for decision-making or problem-solving. Which, if you think about it, is kind of a LOT. 

Over time, our lived experiences and additional intelligence skills stack on top of our fluid reasoning skills—deepening them and helping them better serve our needs. 

Because kids are just starting out in the world, they’re still actively developing and integrating these tools into their proverbial toolbox. 

A child with well-developed fluid intelligence probably enjoys facing and solving problems. They are a creative, flexible thinker who finds ways to approach situations in different ways. 

In contrast, a child who struggles with fluid reasoning skills may—

  • Be rigid in their thinking and feel they can only solve problems in one way

  • Become frustrated when faced with real-world problems and challenges

  • Shut down when asked to engage in problem-solving on the fly

  • Prefer to stick to activities and games they’ve already mastered, rather than learn new ones

  • Decline your offers of help and support with finding new ways to approach and solve problems

Difficulties with fluid reasoning skills in school-aged children can also show up as—

  • Issues with recognizing and understanding cause and effect

  • Trouble recognizing the relationship between items and events

  • Poor pattern recognition 

  • Issues with making educated guesses or drawing conclusions 

  • Difficulties with drawing from existing knowledge to apply to new situations

Fluid reasoning is important because kids interact with and engage with their environments using this vital skill. This is a major way they grow and develop. 

Fluid reasoning skills involve pattern recognition, the ability to analyze information that’s encountered, and the capacity to effectively approach and solve problems. 

As you can imagine, it’s an important predictor of both academic and career success. 

Look, lots of kids struggle with these skills at some point in their development. But, some kids face greater challenges in acquiring these skills than others. And those kids may benefit from some extra guidance and support with building these skills. 

Let’s examine what that might look like. 

What can I do if my child struggles with their fluid reasoning skills? 

Some kids face challenges when it comes to naturally developing their fluid reasoning capabilities. 

Like many skills—some develop naturally, while others benefit from support to grow. 

Fluid reasoning issues can affect children both with and without additional diagnoses that impact learning skills development. 

Some conditions known to impact fluid reasoning skill development include—

If your child has one of the above diagnoses or if you’re just concerned they may be struggling with developing their fluid reasoning skills, there are ways to assess and measure fluid intelligence capabilities. 

One commonly used measure to assess fluid intelligence is the Fluid Reasoning Index (FRI). This is a subtest in a larger assessment that measures intelligence and thinking skills in children from ages 6 to 16. 

This test looks at how kids use their reasoning skills to solve problems and apply rules to novel situations. It also assesses their awareness of the connections between objects presented visually. 

Standardized assessments can help educators and learning professionals gain a clear picture of your child’s fluid reasoning strengths and weaknesses. In addition to information provided by you, this can help them create a personalized treatment plan to address your child’s needs and support them in addressing them. 

The good news is—if your child needs extra support with developing their fluid reasoning skills, there’s help available! 

At The Loop, our team of expert therapists and learning support specialists can assess and treat your child’s educational needs. We’re passionate about ensuring every child can reach their fullest potential—both in school and on their path through life. 

If your child needs our customized support with their fluid reasoning skills, we’ll take care to craft a treatment plan that’s designed just for them. 

If you’re curious what treatment for fluid reasoning skills may entail, some of the skills and competencies we often target include—

  • Directly teaching your child multiple ways to approach and solve problems

  • Creating and using analogies your child can understand and relate to

  • Supporting your child in making connections between ideas 

  • Assisting your child with organization strategies 

  • Giving your child many chances to practice their target skills in different ways 

Of course, when your child works with us—we always try to keep things fun! Because we want your child to participate fully during their time with us. That’s why we take care to fold in their preferences, so we can keep them motivated and enjoying their time in therapy. 

In action, we may target the building of fluid reasoning skills through activities like—

  • Games

  • Puzzles

  • Showing your child a new environment

  • Math or science tasks 

  • Storytelling 

  • Music 

See? There’s no shortage of ways we can find to keep your child engaged while teaching them important new skills. 

We’ll also keep you and your child’s teacher in the loop of our treatments with them—so we can all support one another in offering your child the guidance and assistance they need throughout their days to help them practice and develop their fluid reasoning capabilities. 

Reach out today to get your child in the loop of the best, most comprehensive therapy and learning support services in Chicago and beyond! 

The Loop provides Chicago area private schools and families with a wide variety of therapy and educational support services. We proudly offer speech, language, occupational, and behavioral therapy, as well as learning remediation, executive function coaching, and educational consultancy and advocacy

Stay in the loop by following us on all your favorite social media platforms @theLoopSLL, checking in regularly with our blog, and reaching out to our team with any questions at, by completing our contact form, or by phone at 773-720-0646.

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