What is cognitive development, and how can child care providers help children with their cognitive development?

Cognitive development refers to the ability to know and understand the world. It includes our ability to think about and remember what is happening around us.
Children’s thinking is different from the thinking of adults. Although adults have more information about the world, they also understand the world in different ways than children do. Over time, children move through distinct stages of thinking as they develop more complex ways of understanding the world.
When children are born, their brain is still growing and developing. In the first eight months of the child’s life, the brain matures. Connections are made for wiring the brain. Children’s play involves repeated interactions and explorations. These repeated experiences strengthen the connections in the brain.
Play is one of the most essential ways children develop their thinking skills. Child care providers should supply children with a variety of new materials, expose them to new experiences, and encourage them to explore and experiment. Building cognitive skills is an active process that requires hands-on learning. Choose activities that are just difficult enough so that children can learn a new skill or move toward a different way of thinking.
To learn more about cognitive development, check out our articles under Thinking, Learning, and Language in Child Care.