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As Easy as ABC: The Cognitive Development of Young Children

Representing a cornerstone of childhood development, cognitive development—which is the growth of thinking and reasoning processes in children—is key in helping comprehend the steps of a child’s maturation. By taking steps to stimulate your child’s personal progress in this process, you will set him or her up for a life that is academically, socially, and emotionally fulfilling. From infancy to adolescence, understanding the milestones and learning practices to promote childhood development are as easy as the ABC’s!


Notable Milestones of Cognitive Development

Infancy:

At this early stage of their life, newborns will explore their sense of sight, sound, and touch. They begin to focus on moving objects and see all colors. Moreover, infants can recognize faces, and will emulate facial expressions that they see, like smiling and frowning.


3 months:

At 3 months, infants develop their reaction skills; they will startle at loud noises, cry when they want food or attention, and giggle in response to you.


6 months:

By the time they are 6 months old, infants start to gain communication skills. They will imitate sounds, and understand the meaning of “no.” They may fear strangers, can respond to their name, look at themselves in the mirror, and transfer objects from hand to hand. 


9 months:

At this point, infants will point at objects, play peek-a-boo, place objects in their mouth, and flip the pages of a book. One vital development they will reach at 9 months is the understanding of object permanence: knowing objects continue to exist even if they cannot be seen, heard, or sensed.


12 months:

By 12 months, babies can start to say a few words, and will grow attachment to certain objects, like a blanket or toy. They can put objects in and out of containers, and respond to simple requests. They may also experience separation anxiety when away from their parents.


18 months:

At 18 months, babies will point to get the attention of others, identify body parts, speak 10-50 words, and enjoy books, stories, and songs. They will understand the purpose of certain objects, like a phone or spoon.


2 years:

When a child is two years old, their cognitive understanding broadens greatly. They will play make-believe games, begin to sort shapes and colors, and understand the emotions of love, trust, and fear.


3 years:

At 3 years of age, children can complete puzzles with a few pieces, draw or copy circles on paper, and use their imagination to make stories or games. At this point, they will also start asking questions, like “why,” “where,” “when,” “what,” and “how.”


4 years: 

4 year olds will comprehend concepts like “same” and “different,” and will begin to understand time. Other developments they will make are being able to explain what happens next in a story, begin counting, and use scissors.


5 years:

Children will be able to recognize their printed name, and may know how to write it themselves. They begin to count ten or more objects, and can draw a person with at least six body parts. Moreover, they will understand the function of everyday objects such as money and food.

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