Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development

Infants and toddlers are born ready to learn.

They learn cognitive development through:

  • cuddling with a caregiver;
  • listening to language;
  • trying out sounds;
  • stretching on the floor;
  • reaching for objects;
  • tasting foods; and
  • exploring their environments in countless ways everyday.

Their brains go through amazing changes during the first three years of life.

This month’s blog from the Little Fish room will highlight cognitive developmental milestones for infants and toddlers.


What are Milestones? A milestone is a marker that signifies a change or stage in development.

Infants’ and toddlers’ thinking skills grow as they interact with the world and people around them.

Early experiences matter. Consistent, nurturing experiences help infants and toddlers make sense of the world.

Those experiences literally build brain architecture.

As infants and toddlers develop, they begin to understand and predict how things work:

  • Opening and closing a cabinet door over and over;
  • Filling and emptying a cup of water in the water trough;
  • Banging a spoon on a high chair to hear the sound.

Watching an infant or toddler make new discoveries is truly exciting.

Think of how exciting it is the first time an infant stacks blocks (and knocks them down) or the first time a toddler pretends to “read” a book to you.

The chart below highlights infant and toddler cognitive development as they grow.

Keep in mind that individual differences exist when it comes to the specific age at which infants and toddlers meet these milestones and that each infant and toddler is unique.

Think of milestones as guidelines to help you understand and identify typical patterns of growth and development, or to help you know when and what to look for as young children mature

Cognitive Developmental Milestones

2 months

  • Pays attention to faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change
  • 6 months
  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to another

12 months

  • Explores things in different ways like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Copies gestures
  • Starts to use things correctly (like drinks from a cup, brushes hair)
  • Bangs two things together
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Lets things go without help
  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”

18 months

  • Knows what ordinary things are; for example telephone, brush, spoon
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Point to one body part
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”

Cognitive development is a unique process and is specific to each infant, toddler, and family.

Many factors influence cognitive development, including genes, prenatal events (i.e., before or during birth), and aspects of the child’s environment.

A family may wonder about their young child’s cognitive development and feel uncertain about what they are observing, as well as what to expect.

As an infant and toddler educator, we have an opportunity to learn first from a family and consider offering additional developmental information, including possible warning signs.

The Kids Included Together can be a valuable resource for you (http://www.kitonline.org), as well as the developmental milestones and act early information located on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

What have we been doing?

Over the past few weeks to improve our baby’s cognitive skills we have:

At 3-6 months

  • Read books, sing songs, and recite nursery rhymes together. Babies enjoy cloth books with different textures, flaps and puppets.
  • Teaching our babies how to hold, drop and roll different balls. This helps the babies learn about how things move.
  • Letting the babies play with rattles, bells and other toys that make noise.
  • Putting toys around the babies while they are having tummy time to encourage movement.

At 6-18 months

  • Providing lots of fun bath toys for dunking, measuring, floating and pouring. Plastic milk bottles and food containers work just as well as shop-bought toys.
  • Giving our babies toys with buttons to push to make things happen, and providing activities like shaking or banging objects.
  • Letting them play with stacking blocks and toys that they can roll or push across the floor.
  • At the group times when reading with our babies, use different voices for different characters or make the sounds of different animals.
  • Providing our children with a few play options to choose from, making sure not to overwhelm them with too many. And letting them choose what and how to play.

With close supervision, we step back when children play to give them the chance to work things out independently. We help them learn by describing what’s happening. For example, ‘That pot makes a big noise when you bang it!’ It’s always good to respond to your baby’s interests and share baby’s delight at discovering new things, however small they might seem. For example, ‘Wow! Look how the little red boat floats in your bath’.

We hope you have found this blog helpful.

That’s all from Miss Roshin, Miss Julie and the Burranans.

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