The first five years are imperative to a child’s development of cognitive skills.
Cognitive skills include a child’s ability to think, imagine, communicate, understand, remember, and work out what might happen next.
One of the founders of cognitive development theory is Jean Piaget, who suggests that children progress through four main stages of mental development:
- Sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years)
- Preoperational stage (2 to 7 years)
- Concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years)
- Formal operational stage (12 and up)
As a parent or caregiver of young children, it’s crucial to encourage the development a child’s cognitive skills from the day they’re born as it forms the foundation for success in school and later adult life. Children who can distinguish sounds at six months, for example, tend to be better at developing the skills to read and write when they reach the age of four or five.
Here, we focus on some of the things we can do to encourage the development of cognitive skills in our children.
Things to do on a daily basis
- Encouraging a baby to explore and move around
- Singing and reading to a baby
- Being patient and taking the time to answer “why” questions
- Encouraging growth in knowledge of a particular interest, for example cars, trains or dinosaurs.
Children learn best when they’re interested in an activity, so it’s a great idea to let your child take the lead when playing.
Here are some play ideas to support your child’s cognitive development:
- Games that combine singing and moving, such as ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’
- Jigsaw puzzles and other memory games
- Card games like ‘Snap!’
- Stacking and building games like Lego and Duplo
- Board games like ‘Snakes and Ladders’
- Cooking (especially the measuring, counting scoops, repeating ingredient names)
- ‘I spy’
- Exploring in the garden
Playtime is also a great opportunity to help your child practice language skills by asking them to describe what’s happening. For example, if Teddy is at the vet we can ask “What can we do to help Teddy?”.
It’s important for us all to remember that every single brain is completely individual, both in its development and in the way it encounters the world, so progress in your child’s development may differ to other kids.