10 Ways To Boost Your Preschool Child’s Cognitive Development

From birth to age six your child is in a period of child development that Dr. Maria Montessori described as “the absorbent mind”. During this critical period, your child’s mind is like a sponge, soaking up knowledge about everything in the local environment. They are undergoing intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from the environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously – and they’re using all of this information to construct a mental framework about the world around them that adults simply take for granted.

What children learn during the absorbent mind period is taken in effortlessly, and becomes the foundation of your child’s personality. It is important for both parents and teachers to recognize and value the importance of this developmental stage and find ways to help the child absorb the best formative experiences possible.

Cognitive Development In Children

In children, cognitive development is the study the  information processing, conceptual development, perception, language, and other areas of brain development and cognition.  It is focused on how children think, explore and solve problems – as well as how they acquire knowledge, master new skills, solve problems, and form ideas about the world around them.

Many researchers believe that children are born with cognitive systems to help them to overcome common challenges that humans have faced over the course of our species evolution. Other scientists are deeply involved with the study of brain plasticity, which helps us understand how childhood skills can be learned in such a short period of time.

Regardless of the origins of our cognitive abilities, scientists have come to understand that there are a number of core systems of cognition that make easier and more effective for children to develop different types of cognition. Some of the more commonly described systems include:

  • Numbers: It has been found that infants possess two systems for dealing with numbers. One system is optimized for small numbers and is called subitizing, and another deals with larger numbers and can approximate their measure.
  • Space: It has been found that very young children have an innate ability to navigate their surroundings. It has also been found that this ability to discern space is involved in the development of complex language skills which occurs between the ages of 3 and 5. Later on, adults tend to use language and symbols to reason out their information.
  • Visual Perception: Children can discern 3-dimensional objects from a very young age. However there are much more complex aspects of visual perception which occurs during their early development years and beyond.
  • Language: A very studied and important part of cognitive development involves the acquisition of language. It has been shown that learning and social experiences plays a key role in the development and acquisition of language.
  • Essentialism: This system has to do with the viewpoint that all entities function on their own and have individual properties.

By the time a child is old enough to begin preschool, the earliest phases of cognitive development have already passed. The child has basic skills, but needs the reinforcement of positive, intellectually enriching stimuli to help develop them further. As a parent, guardian, or teacher, you are in a wonderful position to assist your child with a wide variety of enrichment to help them develop as rapidly as possible during the absorbent mind period where they’re able to rapidly gain knowledge & master new skills.

10 Ways To Boost Your Preschool Child’s Cognitive Development

  1. Read to Them: Reading helps children begin to understand language, sound & symbols – and showing them pictures helps them to identify sounds with concepts & symbols. All of this gives them a big head start on language skills that they’ll learn in school, and helps them to increase their comprehension and exercise imagination.
  2. Practice The Alphabet: It’s valuable for preschool children learn the alphabet song, and along with this try introducing flashcards for each letter, which typically have a picture of an animal or familiar object on the card with a name beginning with that later.
  3. Visit a Museum or Zoo: Visiting interesting & engaging places expands your worlds and stimulates their mental development. Take your child to a museum with interactive exhibits, or stimulate your child’s natural curiosity about animals by taking them for a trip to the zoo. For example, Cincinnati Museum Center has a large children’s museum designed to encourage learning through play.
  4. Introduce Them To Puzzles: Preschool age children learn by playing with toys, stacking blocks, and solving puzzels to help them learn problem solving skills. For example, if a puzzle piece doesn’t fit, a child will try another one or put the piece in a different spot. Toys with pieces to sort help children realize things belong in groups – which lays a math foundation.
  5. Practice Counting: Helping your child count to ten can involve flashcards with numbers on them, and you can also help them practice sorting blocks or toys into groups corresponding to each number they are working to learn.
  6. Practice Shapes: Blocks and flashcards are familiar tools for helping children begin to identify & memorize the names of shapes. It’s also helpful to point out objects around the house or your local environment and having describe what shape each one has.
  7. Practice Colors: Learning the primary colors begins with naming the primary colors, and moves into more advanced activities like the Montessori color box or coloring with crayons. Colors are a rich, inspiring source of cognitive growth for your child and help them develop their artistic abilities at a young age.
  8. Teach Them Songs: Song and music helps children develop their auditory, social, language, and emotional skills. Introduce them to songs with motion like “I’m a little teapot” to help build their physical coordination, along with children’s classics like “Down by the Bay.”
  9. Encourage Questions: Young children have absorbent minds that soak up knowledge like a sponge – and they have an inquisitive drive to fill that mind with information about the world around them. Encourage them to ask questions about everything, which helps them develop critical thinking skills and become better communicators.
  10. Encourage Choices: In addition to questions, making choices is important. Ask your preschool child what they’d like to eat, what they’d like to wear, or many other questions requiring them to make a choice. After they choose, ask them why they made they made the choice that they did – this will help them begin to develop valuable critical thinking skills.

Remember, by helping your child learn, grow & succeed as a preschooler, you’re creating patterns of growth and success that will last a lifetime. It’s vital to their development that they experience as many positive, intellectually stimulating things as possible – and it will create a solid foundation for later success both in school and in life.