Between the ages of 0 to 5 years old, children grow rapidly across four main areas of development – Motor skills, Language and Communication, Cognitive skills and Social/Emotional abilities.
Cognitive development is the term used to define the process of how children think, explore and figure things out on their own. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and decision making, which allow children to think and understand the world around them.
As parents and educators, it is vital for us to foster cognitive development in early childhood, because doing so provides the foundation for their success in school and beyond. For example, children who develop the ability to distinguish sounds at the age of six months find it easier to acquire reading and writing skills when they are around four or five years of age.
There are two important questions that we need to answer to get a better understanding of Cognitive Development –
- How do nature and nurture interact to impact cognitive development?
- What are the stages of cognitive development?
Nature & Nurture
Nature refers to each individual’s biology – the genes received from parents. Nurture refers to the social and physical environments that influence growth & development – from the womb in which the baby develops before birth to the homes & societies in which they grow up, the schools & activities they attend, and the people with whom they interact. Every aspect of development is a result of the interaction of genes and environment.
For young children, their parents largely determine the kind of experiences that they will encounter – whether they attend day care, which children they will have play dates with, which books they will have access to, and so on. In older children and adolescents, their parents’ preferences play a far smaller role in shaping their experiences. This is why it is important to set them on the right path from early childhood.
Stages of Cognitive Development
The milestones of developing cognitive abilities represent the important stages in a child’s development. Here are some broad indicators on what you can expect to witness in your child during different ages through their developmental journey.
Birth to 3 months
- Anticipatory behaviors, like suckling at the sight of a nipple or bottle
- Detect differences in pitch and volume of sounds
- Focus on moving objects
- See all colors of the human visual spectrum
- Distinguish tastes, from sweet, salty, bitter, and sour
- Respond to their environment with facial expressions
3 to 9 months
- Imitate facial expressions
- React to familiar sounds and faces
- Respond to facial expressions of other people
- Understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects
9 to 12 months
- Enjoy looking at picture books
- Imitate gestures and basic actions
- Maneuver objects by turning them over, placing them on top of each other, etc.
- Respond with gestures and sounds
1 to 3 years
- Identify similar objects
- Imitate actions and words of adults
- Learn through exploration
- Understand and respond to words
- Match objects with their uses
- Respond to simple directions from parents and caregivers
3 to 5 years
- Ask questions to gain information
- Demonstrate awareness of past and present
- Maintain longer attention spans
- Organize objects by size and shape
- Name and identify many colors
- Learn to rhyme
While these milestones are indicative of cognitive development through various stages of early childhood, it is important to understand that each child is different, and through the right exposure to mentally stimulating activities, social interactions, and the freedom to explore their surroundings in a nurturing atmosphere, every child will discover and enhance their own unique skills and capabilities.
At My Gym, our award-winning early development programs are designed to provide children with “structured play”, where children dive into a range of exciting, engaging, and fun activities, under the expert guidance and supervision of our experienced teachers.
Find the right program for your little one, based on their age group, and set them up for success from an early age!