Cognitive development is the development of a child’s thinking abilities or the ability to learn and solve problems. This includes skills such as reasoning, problem solving, categorizing, concentration, perception, and memory. Your child’s cognitive development is shaped by their experiences and the world around them. In this area of development, some of the skills that children have as they enter kindergarten are the ability to be motivated and curious about learning, be flexible in their thinking, solve problems, remember, and connect experiences, and show their own ways of categorizing items.
Wordless picture books
Give your child verbal instructions on how to get to a certain location in the house without naming the location. You can do this in stages and follow your child’s progress to the location. Some examples include “go three large steps,” “climb to the top of the stairs,” “turn right,” and “walk seven paces.” You can even hide a prize at the end of the journey as an extra incentive to follow directions accurately.
Simon Says is a great game for building cognitive skills and learning to follow directions. You can switch it up and have your child give the directions, as a way to build thinking skills. Your child can see if his or her directions bring about anticipated results.
Have your child tell the story with a wordless picture book. Get your child started by asking what’s happening in the picture on the page. This gives your child a chance to think through a story and express his or her ideas. It also develops vocabulary and language which helps to strengthen cognitive skills.
There are lots of premade games available through popular websites such as Amazon or Melissa and Doug. However think about what you have around the house that could serve as items to match. Matching is the first step to be able to categorize items. Here are some ideas for matching games. Laundry day gives you the perfect opportunity to work on matching. We can all use our help with socks. Doing the dishes or emptying the dishwasher works too. Can your child put all the spoons away in the drawer? Or all the forks?
Make up a story together. Start with one sentence and take turns adding a sentence to build your story. This will start to work on those memory skills as you need to remember what you have each said. Not only are you working on memory skills but you will also be working on narrative skills (telling or retelling a story) and sequencing skills (order).
Here are some starter sentences to get you going:
Organization is categorizing. Your home or child’s room is the perfect place to start working on this skill. We all know that keeping toys under control is a feat that challenges most families. Enlist the help of your children. Starting as young as two, your child can start to sort their toys. Have them help you put all the cars in one box, all the stuffed animals in a basket, or all the books on a shelf. This is sorting and organizing. As your child gets older they can help to find places for all their belongings. Ask them what drawer they want their socks in or where in their room should they keep their Legos or blocks? You can extend this even further by labelling areas in their rooms or playroom with words and pictures so that they start to work on letter and word recognition.
Mazes are a great way to work on problem solving skills. What happens when you get to a dead end? What do you do next? If I go back, which way do I turn? Here are a couple of maze ideas:
Puzzles are a great tool for learning how to solve problems. There are lots of premade puzzles for purchase that you can use or you can make your own. You can also use old magazines with colorful ads or pictures. There are a couple of ways to make the page a bit sturdier for little hands so that the pieces don’t get torn. You can cover the picture in clear contact paper and then cut out your shapes. Your child can then try to put the puzzle together. If you want it to be even sturdier, glue the picture onto a thin sheet of cardboard, cover the cardboard with clear contact paper and then cut out the pieces. The beauty of this is when pieces go missing or the puzzle gets worn you can toss the puzzle into the trash and then make new ones. If you want to extend the activity to work on fine motor skills have your child help you cut out the pieces.