Cognitive development means the learning process in which your baby develops memory, language skills, thinking, and reasoning. When your baby takes their first step or utters their first word, or waves their hand indicating a goodbye, they are showing cognitive development. Your child is expected to reach these cognitive development milestones by a certain age. However, research confirms that adults can help shape healthy brain development in babies and promote cognitive development skills through caring relationships, child-focused engagement and interactions. Since the brain will be the most active in the first few years of a child’s life, it might be a good idea to invest time in cognitive development activities for your baby. Here are the top cognitive development activities for infants:
Cognitive Development Activities for Infants: 0-3 Months
Research says that in the first year after birth, an infant’s brain will undergo steady and rapid development. The pace of development is the fastest in the first year, gradually slowing down beyond the first few years. And hence, in the first few years, the involvement of parents and caregivers can enhance the development of cognitive skills in babies. The way parents sing, speak, cuddle, play, make eye contact, or interact with the infant, can help them develop these cognitive skills faster.
By three months of age, your infant should be able to move their eyes along with a moving object, be able to respond to sound, cry when they are hungry, and make a fuss when they are bored. By three months, infants recognize the difference between their mother’s breasts and a bottle. As a parent here are a few things that you can do to improve the cognitive skills of your infant.
- Talk to Your Baby: This is the simplest thing to do that will enhance their development. They will not understand anything that you say but they will observe you. They will notice how you speak, how you take a pause, and how you smile or frown while talking. This will teach them about speaking. Talk to your infant while bathing them, feeding them, and even putting them to sleep. Remember, babies recognize their mother’s voice from the womb. When you talk to them, they feel safe as they know your voice. Notice how intently your baby listens to you. In no time, you will observe that your baby is trying to respond to your words by twitching, shaking their hands, or smiling. Regularly talking to them will improve their language skills.
- Sing to Bour Baby: You may not be a good singer but your baby will never judge you for this. They will love it when you sing to them. Singing soothes your baby. They fall asleep faster if you sing. Having a good sleep is extremely important for brain development. Music plays an important role in brain functioning. Music boosts the infant’s moods and makes them calmer. Songs will also teach them about rhymes and lyrics.
- Use Rattle Toys: Rattles are one of the first toys of your infant. Hang a rattle over their crib or bassinet. Your infant will get attracted to the noise of the rattle. Gradually, your infant will try to grab the rattle. This will help your infant develop grasping, holding, and shaking objects. Rattles are great toys to encourage the development of your infant’s motor skills.
Cognitive Development Activities for Infants: 3-6 Months
By the time your infant turns six months of age, they are on a journey of self-discovery. They can transfer objects from one hand to the other. They learn to grab objects. By this age, they are also able to express happiness and sadness. This is the age when you should introduce stimulating toys to them.
- Textured Toys: This is the age when you can introduce toys or books that have different textures. You can give them woollen balls, plastic cups, velvet soft toys, and wooden toys to help them understand various textures.
- Read Aloud: Reading is a skill that will help your baby’s cognitive development. It is never too early to start reading to them. Use a book that has various textures and sounds. Musical books are a good way to start with. Read aloud to your baby. Make animal noises while reading to them. Reading to your baby will help them recognize different noises, sounds, and colours. Also, remember to allow your baby to turn the pages as you read aloud to them.
- Touch and Sound Toys: Toys like kick-and-play baby gym mats with a musical piano keyboard encourages your child to reach out to the hanging toys and kick the keyboard to make sounds. This not only keeps the child engaged but also supports their cognitive development.
Also Read: 15 DIY Kid Friendly Activities for Toddlers
Cognitive Development Activities for Infants: 6-12 Months
Before your baby’s first birthday, they should be able to transfer objects from one hand to the other, play hide and seek, play with building blocks, look for hidden objects, and confidently turn the pages of a book. At this age, you should allow them to play individually under your supervision. The more you encourage them to explore on their own, the better for them to develop cognitive skills. Here are some toys that can help your toddler.
- Stacking: Let them play with a stacking toy. Let your baby stack objects according to their shapes, sizes and colours. You can even use cups and containers from your kitchen and let your baby stack them.
- Sorting and Dropping toys: This is the time when you can introduce your baby to shapes and colours. A shape-sorting and dropping toy is a great way to let your baby practise their fine and visual motor skills.
- Hide and Seek: At this age, your baby will love to play hide and seek with you. Hide an object and let them find it. Cover your face and see the joy on their face when they remove the hands and find you.
Your baby’s cognitive abilities develop right from birth, and these skills become better as they continue to interact with their surroundings. The more they explore and experience their surroundings and daily objects, the more neural pathways get formed.
Parents and caregivers can play an important role in speeding up the development of these skills (such as thinking, expressing, and reasoning) by introducing cognitive development activities for infants and babies. The best way to develop your baby’s cognitive skills is by turning everything into playtime. Play with them while feeding them, bathing them, and putting them to sleep.
Playing, talking, reading, and singing with them are great ways to boost their confidence. However, do not overwhelm your child with too many activities or toys. Follow their lead and know when to give them a break. Also, if for any reason you feel that your baby’s development is delayed, it would be a good idea to discuss it with your paediatrician as soon as possible.