In domains with multiple competing goals, people face a basic challenge: How to make their strategy use flexible enough to deal with shifting circumstances without losing track of their overall objectives. This article examines how young children meet this challenge in one such domain, tic‐tac‐toe. Experiment 1 provides an overviews of development in the area; it indicates that children's tic‐tac‐toe strategies are rule based and that new rules are added one at a time. Experiment 2 demonstrates that even young children flexibly tailor their strategy use to meet shifting circumstances. Experiment 3 indicates that these adaptations are accomplished through a process of goal‐based resource allocation, whereby children focus their cognitive resources on applying rules most consistent with their current primary goal. A computer simulation specifies how this process works and demonstrates its sufficiency for producing behavior much like that of the children. The findings are discussed as part of a broader framework of mechanisms for generating problem‐solving approaches.