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Cognitive development and its importance

The first five years of life are monumental in human development including cognitive development. Cognitive development is imperative because it determines how a person engages with the world around them, problem-solves, and thinks. Cognitive development is brain development, which impacts other areas of growth from language and social/emotional skills to physical development.

What is Cognitive Development?

The term cognitive is about the brain and growing the ability and skills to engage in the world using the mind. Part of brain development, cognitive development,is learning how the world works, understanding how to work within our environment, and problem-solving obstacles.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, developed cognitive theory in 1952 which states children and adults seek to understand their environment and adapt to it. He further identified four stages of cognitive development in children including:

  • Sensorimotor
  • Preoperational
  • Concrete
  • Formal

Cognitive Milestones

There are several cognitive milestones between birth and age five. For example, newborns should be able to see objects eight to 12 inches from their face, roughly the distance from the mother’s breast to her face when nursing. They should be able to hear sounds nearby and may be startled by them.

By one month, an infant should be able to watch objects and faces for short periods and follow moving objects with their eyes. At two months, a baby can recognize familiar people at a distance and cry or fuss if bored.

At one year of age, a baby can put objects into a container and pull them out, look at the correct picture of an item when it is named, and poke at items with their index finger. By age two, children should be able to build a tower of four or more blocks, begin to sort colors and shapes, and play simple pretend.

When a child is three years old, they should be able to draw or copy a circle with a crayon or pencil, make up imaginative stories, and work toys with buttons, levers, and other moving parts. Once they reach four years old, children should know basic colors, copy letters, and draw people with two to four body parts.

Some of the milestones at age five include counting 10 or more objects, drawing people with at least six body parts, and recognizing their own name in print. Some children may even be able to write their name.

What Parents Can Do

As soon as a child is born, parents should promote cognitive development. There are several steps parents can take to help children expand their cognitive abilities from day one.

First, parents can provide quality interactions throughout the day,every day. Talking to an infant about objects and people helps them develop an understanding of the world around them. As you hold or wear your baby, explain what you are doing, seeing, and touching. Singing and reading to your baby takes their understanding of the world to an even higher level.

As your baby grows, it is important that they are encouraged to play with a variety of toys. Parents can lay on the floor with their baby and talk to them about each toy as they play, it’s colors and sounds. Parents can demonstrate what each toy does and show their baby how to engage with it.

Children become mobile as they roll, scoot, and crawl. Parents need to ensure their babies have a safe environment where they are encouraged to move and explore. This is why baby proofing is so imperative as well as proper adult supervision.

In addition to toys, parents should provide babies and toddlers with age-appropriate books and puzzles. This will further develop cognitive skills that can lead to better language processing and early math skills such as sorting items by size, color, shape, or use. Use cardboard books for infants and toddlers with bright colors and easy-to-follow story lines such as those offered by Baby University, classics such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or authors such as Sandra Boynton.KiwiCo, Mattel, and other toy manufacturers offer a number of puzzles to engage infants and toddlers in play that will increase their cognitive development.

At about age two, children begin to ask “why” questions. While this can become a lesson in patience for parents, it’s important to answer these questions as simply and directly as possible. The answers parents provide will supporttheir child’s understanding of the world and improve their cognitive development as a result.

Additionally, if a child shows particular interest in a subject, parents can encourage that interest. For example, if a child likes cars, trucks or tractors, parents can take them to a car lot, tractor shop, or fire station to see the variety of cars and trucks in the world. If a child enjoys animals, a trip to the zoo or a petting farm might be ideal.

Parents can also encourage their child’s cognitive development by providing them with options as often as possible. This allows the child to make thoughtful decisions. By offering a children choices, they learn to problem solve.

The Importance of Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is very important, especially in early childhood, those first five years of life. It’s so vital because early cognition lays the groundwork for how a child will learn, process information, think, and figure things out as they continue to grow for the rest of their life.

Cognitive development is the growth of knowledge, problem-solving skills, and the understanding of the world around us.Ultimately, cognitive development refers to the intellectual abilities of a child that are considered “normal” based on their age. Some of the most important and relevant cognitive skills children learn include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The ability to think.
  • Memory and retention.
  • Development of language skills.
  • The ability to process information.
  • Attention span and response.
  • The ability to problem solve.
  • Recognizing patterns.

For more information on screening for cognitive concerns, activities to enhance your child’s cognitive development and finding resources to get further help, please download our app Jiguar or contact us at or call us at +1 (732) 372-9228

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