Cognitive Development in Early Childhood

Cognitive Development in Early Childhood

Often, toys or activities are touted as useful tools in cognitive development, but what does that mean exactly? How do cognitive development and early childhood relate? If you’ve asked yourself these same questions, you’ve come to the right place!

We have broken down the ins and outs of cognitive development, including what it is, why it's important, and what the milestones are for different age groups. Finally, we provide tips on how to help strengthen your child's cognitive development

Discover everything you need to know about cognitive development and how Kinoo can help your young ones become big thinkers. 

What Is Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development includes reasoning, memory, problem-solving, and thinking skills. Children’s cognitive development allows them to use these tools together to make sense of the surrounding world. Brain development is always happening, and young brains are always changing.

As your child plays, reads, communicates, and learns new things, their cognitive development increases. Cognitive development skills are cumulative, acting as building blocks, and embodying the very essence of “You must learn to walk before you can run.”

In early childhood education, cognitive development also includes the initial understanding of math and science. It’s also thought that gross motor skills and fine motor skills are directly linked to cognitive development. As soon as babies and toddlers can hold objects, crawl, and walk, a whole new world reveals itself.

When exploring, infants and toddlers process nearby sights, sounds, textures, and smells, encouraging cognitive development

Why Is Cognitive Development Important?

The cognitive abilities that make up cognitive development are essential individually, but these become the foundations for additional learning when put together. By practicing cognitive skills, your growing loved one will be able to understand some of the workings of the world, cause and effect, information processing, and reasoning, plus more advanced subjects like math and science and social development

What Are Cognitive Developmental Milestones for Each Age Group?

Cognitive development doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow and steady process that happens as children mature. Like most developmental stages in early childhood, kids reach different stages of cognitive development at different times. 

The psychologist Jean Piaget broke cognitive development into four stages, offering a more fluid perspective on tracking how children advance through critical skills and life stages.

The stages in Piaget’s theory are:

  • Sensorimotor Stage (birth to two years old): In this stage, children learn through their movements and senses. Physical development and cognitive skills grow together. 

  • Preoperational Stage (two to seven years old): In these early years, kids are more egocentric. Language and communication are getting stronger, but it's more concrete and less fluid. 

  • Concrete Operational Stage (seven to 11 years old): In this stage, thought becomes more organized and logical but generally still concrete. 

  • Formal Operational Stage (12 to adulthood): Abstract thought and the ability to use deductive reasoning develops in this stage. 

Remember, every child is unique. You may find that your precious angel hits certain milestones at different times than other children. If you're concerned with your child’s cognitive development, chatting with a pediatrician may put your mind at ease. 

Cognitive Development: 0 to 12 Months

A lot of early cognitive development happens from 0 to 12 months. Babies will respond to communication cues, such as eye contact. They will also begin to look at picture books, hold and explore objects with their hands, and recognize faces and familiar sounds.

Cognitive Development: 1 to 2 Years Old

At this age, children often imitate other people's actions and language and explore by crawling or walking. Littles may also be able to point out familiar objects in a book. Language skills often begin during this time.

While it may be too early for your child to carry a Kinoo call with Grandma on their own, children of this age can often recognize faces, so holding them up so Grandma can see that adorable smile can make both of their days!

Cognitive Development: 2 to 3 Years Old

By the time your babe reaches two years of age, you’ve probably noticed more independence. Toddlers like trying to dress themselves, even if they still need some assistance. (Be prepared to take lots of adorable pictures for Grandma and Grandpa of your toddler wearing a tutu to the grocery store or a superhero cape to daycare!)

Early stages of pretend play begin around this time and are often initiated by mimicking the adults in their immediate circle. Common favorites include playing house, pretending to rock a baby, or folding laundry.

Your little one may begin to follow simple directions by now and recognize themself in a mirror or picture. Naming, sorting, and understanding the use of particular objects often start at this age, and many of those skills can be practiced with guidance from far-away older loved ones in a Kinoo call. 

Cognitive Development: 3 to 4 Years Old

Welcome to the world of “Why?” Until this age, kids likely took things at face value but now, they want to understand more. Why is the sky blue? Why does broccoli have to taste like that? Why isn’t every day a birthday?

Three-year-olds begin comprehending past and present. They can organize objects into more advanced groupings, like size, shape, or color. It’s common to see attention spans expand and develop (maybe even to the point of sustaining a successful video call on their own).

Cognitive Development: 4 to 5 Years Old

Your four-year-old is likely learning early skills for school readiness like counting, singing the ABCs, drawing pictures, and identifying colors.

Encourage age-appropriate artistic pursuits, along with letter and number recognition and life skills like gratitude with some assistance from Kinoo. Kinoo’s patented video call technology bridges the gap between generations and is especially for young children who often struggle with focusing on video calls. 

Open up Kinoo’s ever-growing library and select the Gratitude Card activity to create and draw your next masterpiece. Your child can connect with a long-distance relative who will help them draw a picture to share their gratitude with someone important to them. Gratitude cards are just one of the many co-play activities geared toward specific age groups and developmental stages in the Kinoo library. With Kinoo, children can practice motor skills, creativity, and conversation skills, all while bonding with their loved ones. 

Cognitive Development: 5 to 8 Years Old

Older children in the five to eight-year range continue to add to their cognitive skill toolbox. Kiddos can form more complex sentences, learn more challenging math concepts, and explore the world through scientific reasoning.

Try Kinoo’s Moon Rocket adventure with these kids. Prompts in the game (and other games, too!) that only the older loved one sees enable them to share interesting facts and challenging questions that help advance learning for their younger loved ones.

How Can You Help Foster Your Child’s Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development is an integral part of early childhood development that often occurs through play and watching the world.

Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to foster a child's cognitive development:

Support Play and Movement

Children learn through play. When given the freedom to play, with or without adult input or guidance, they can work on a range of cognitive skills. Playing allows kids to discover cause and effect, develop social skills with peers, and create an imaginative world. 

When you support kids' ability to play and be physical, you foster cognitive skills development. What may look like insignificant time spent playing pretend, solving a puzzle, running, and climbing in the backyard, is actually extremely significant, whether in person or over a Kinoo video call.

Introduce Communication

Communication plays a huge role in cognitive development. Even as an infant, your baby is absorbing words, inflection, and other communication building blocks; eye contact, hand movements, and spoken words make a big impact. 

It may feel awkward to carry on conversations with your baby at first. Many parents find narrating their days or reading out loud can make this feel more natural. Plus, it’s never too early to foster that love of reading.

As kids get older, they'll be able to participate in the conversation. Include the other loving adults in their life in these chats. Communication with other friends and family members can build their cognitive development.

With Kinoo, families can chat with their loved ones even when worlds apart. Kinoo video calls last ten times longer than a regular call, creating opportunities for stronger bonds and more meaningful relationships. 

Encourage Learning

Learning doesn’t start during preschool years. Your little one is always learning. You can foster their cognitive development by encouraging learning. If they're interested in something new, make time for it.

For instance, your baby may be interested in how a ball rolls back and forth on the floor. Sit and talk about how the ball moves. Prompt them to touch and move the ball on their own. As they get older, they may want to learn a specific skill like a sport or musical instrument. Both of these activities can strengthen cognitive skills and independence.

Ask Your Child Questions and Allow Them the Space To Answer

When you're out and about with your mini learners, ask questions. When you go to the park, ask questions about what they see, how to do the trick they just showed you, and what they want to do next. Answering questions requires junior thinkers to pull from their memories and past experiences to form a complete thought. 

In return, allow them to ask questions. When they ask you questions, it's an opportunity for them to learn more things about the world. Your answers may help make sense of new concepts and ideas. 

Celebrate Problem Solving

When our kids experience a problem, it's easy to just fix it on our own. Sure, in the name of safety, sometimes we need to get involved. 

Other times, we need to step aside. To solve a problem, tiny adventurers must draw upon their knowledge of cause and effect, creative thinking skills, and memory.

When your little one solves a problem, whether it's big or small, celebrate. Say how you saw how hard they worked and how creative the solution was. Praise can go far for kids. It also reinforces the positive benefits of problem-solving and may encourage them to solve harder problems in the future. 

Child Care: Love and Support

Cognitive development is the backbone of the way we communicate, learn, problem-solve, and form new ideas.

Each age has its own cognitive development milestones to reach. In early childhood, the time between infancy and eight years old, there are huge leaps in cognitive development. Such jumps help kids to learn even more complex ideas as they get into later school years. 

One of the best things to facilitate your child's cognitive development is to encourage play! Communicating, learning, asking questions, and celebrating problem-solving are other ways to strengthen cognitive skills

Communication and connection with the ones we love have so many benefits, including cognitive development. With Kinoo, kids can engage with their loved ones through interactive games, creating an environment to explore together. 


Cognition | ECLKC

Child Development and Early Learning - Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 | NCBI Bookshelf

Play: An Important Tool for Cognitive Development | PSU

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