Understanding human cognition is both challenging and intriguing as it depends on a field of research that grows and changes constantly. Today, we know that even newborns are mentally active and are born with a variety of cognitive skills that help them acclimate to reality outside the womb. They are constantly learning and their cognitive skills grow and develop by the day. In this article we try to make the mysterious subject of human cognition a little easier to understand. Cognitive skills are the mental processes through which we understand our world. As you watch your baby grow and develop, it is important to understand how her mind is developing so you can help her as much as possible and provide her with the tools she needs to maximize her potential. Understanding the stages and elements related to cognitive development will help you guide your child through the wondrous adventure of learning .
Our cognitive skills are a complex mix of many mental processes. We interpret information received from our senses, remember it, sort it into categories, understand causal relationships, and draw conclusions. This is how all our cognitive processes work, and how we learn new things, think and imagine. If you take apart any task that you have learned – from how to open a door to skiing – you can see that these processes are what drive learning and our ability to think, draw conclusions, imagine and conceptualize. Baby progresses quite rapidly from reacting only to reflexes to reacting intentionally and intelligently. As your baby grows, she begins to understand that there is a cause and effect relationship between what she does to what happens. By the end of the first year, baby will have succeeded in organizing her world into neat categories that make sense of the input she processes.
At this stage, you can see her budding imagination at work – one of the most important and wondrous characteristics we all possess. When your one-year-old baby searches for her pacifier, sees it on the table, pulls on the tablecloth to bring it within her reach, and smiles with satisfaction as she takes it and puts it in her mouth, she shows just how much her intellectual development has progressed since the days she was a newborn. In order to follow your baby's intellectual development, it is important to know what to look for. Unlike the development of fine or gross motor skills, which are pretty obvious to the naked eye, monitoring the development of your baby’s cognition can be a little more challenging. It is much more difficult to pick up on the fine nuances of developing cognitive skills than “noticing” that your baby has started sitting, crawling or walking. For example, you’d never imagine that your baby's annoying habit of throwing everything off her high chair at the age of 9-months is an intellectual achievement. But, in fact, seeing you pick up what she tosses down helps her understands the causal relationship between her actions and the results: she throws it down; you bend down to pick it up. This is an important cognitive achievement.
The first years of your baby's life are when his brain matures and develops the most. All of what he is exposed to stimulates the brain and enriches his cognitive capabilities. These experiences have an enormous influence on the future, and underscore the importance of your role as your child's first "teacher." The exposure you provide helps your baby acquire broader, richer skills and talents. While the obligation to expose your child to diverse stimulation is vital, remember: too much of a good thing is not always helpful. Do not flood your child with cognitive stimulation and generate unreasonable expectations that will frustrate him.
A successful and enjoyable learning experience stimulates a baby's curiosity and self-confidence. If learning experiences are unpleasant and frustrating, motivation declines. This may even compromise your baby's cognitive development. Even if your baby did not reach the objective you set, the process itself has a value. Your baby learns from any stimulation, any attempt and practice, and even from mistakes. If your baby decides to put the rattle in her mouth instead of shaking it – like you wanted her to – let her. Instead of imposing you intentions on your baby, accept her preference and talk with her baby about the sensation of the rattle in her mouth instead. Let your baby lead the way. Your baby knows best what he really needs. Work with your baby to develop creative, new ways to play and learn. But most important, give your baby a lot of positive feedback, either verbally or with a smile, hug, or approving glance. Learning will only be more effective if both you and your child enjoy the intellectual challenge together – it is the best way to ensure that your child continues to develop his curiosity, and seeks new opportunities to learn and experience more.
Any advice and information provided in this website is given as suggestions only and should not be taken as a professional medical diagnosis or opinion. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent.