Cognitive milestones represent important steps in child development. Throughout human history, babies are generally considered simple, passive creatures. Before the 20th century, children were often regarded as the epitome of adults.
Until psychologists like Jean Piaget proposed that children’s thinking is actually different from that of adults, people began to regard childhood and adolescence as unique periods of growth and development.
Adults often ignore the extraordinary intellectual skills of babies and toddlers, but modern thinkers and researchers have discovered that babies are actually learning, thinking, and exploring the world around them all the time.
Even newborn babies are actively absorbing information and learning new things. In addition to collecting new information about people and the world around them, babies are constantly discovering new things about themselves.
From birth to 3 months
The first 3 months of a child’s life is a period full of miracles. The major developmental milestones for this age group focused on exploring the basic senses and learning more about the body and environment.
During this period, most babies begin to:
- Exhibit expected behaviors, such as rooting and sucking on the nipple or bottle
- Detect sound difference in pitch and volume
- Identify objects within 13 inches more clearly
- Focus on moving objects, including the face of the caregiver
- View all colors of the human visual spectrum
- Distinguish the taste, from sweet, salty, bitter and sour
- Use facial expressions to respond to their environment
From 3 to 6 months
In early infancy, perception is still developing. From 3-6 months old, babies begin to develop stronger perceptions. At this age, most babies begin to:
- Mimic facial expressions
- React to familiar sounds
- Meet familiar faces
- Respond to other people’s facial expressions
From 6 to 9 months
Observing the heart of a baby is not an easy task. After all, a researcher cannot just ask a baby what he or she is thinking at any given moment. In order to learn more about infants’ mental processes, researchers have proposed many creative tasks that reveal the inner workings of infants’ brains.
Researchers found that from 6-9 months of age, most babies begin to:
- Gaze at “impossible” things, such as objects suspended in mid-air
- Tell the difference between pictures depicting different numbers of objects
- Understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects
- Use the relative size of the object to determine how far it is
From 9 to 12 months
As babies become more proficient, they can explore the world around them more deeply. Sitting up, crawling and walking are just a few of the physical milestones that give babies a deeper understanding of the world around them.
When they are close to 1 year old, most babies are able to:
- Like to read picture books
- Imitate gestures and some basic movements
- Manipulate objects by flipping them, trying to put one object into another, etc.
- Respond with gestures and voice
- Understand the concept of object permanence, that is, the idea that an object will continue to exist even if it is invisible
From 1 to 2 years
After one year old, the child’s physical, social and cognitive development seems to have progressed by leaps and bounds. Children of this age spend a lot of time observing the behavior of adults, so it is very important for parents and caregivers to set a good role model.
Most one-year-old children start:
- Identify similar objects
- Imitate adult’s actions and language
- Learn through exploration
- Point out familiar objects and characters in the picture book
- Talk about the difference between “me” and “you”
- Understand and respond to text
From 2 to 3 years
At the age of 2, the child becomes more and more independent. Since they are now able to better explore the world, a lot of learning at this stage is the result of their own experience.
Most two-year-old children can:
- Identify your reflection in the mirror by name
- Imitate more complex adult actions (playing in the house, pretending to do laundry, etc.)
- Match the object to its purpose
- Name the objects in the picture book
- Respond to simple instructions from parents and caregivers
- Sort objects by category (ie animals, flowers, trees, etc.)
- Stack the rings on the nails from large to small
From 3 to 4 years
Children are increasingly able to analyze the world around them in more complex ways. When they observe things, they start to classify things into different categories, usually called patterns.
As children become more active in the learning process, they also begin to ask questions about the world around them. “Why?” has become a very common question in this era.
At the age of three, most children are able to:
- Ask “why” questions to get information
- Demonstrate knowledge of the past and present
- Learn by observing and listening to instructions
- Maintain a longer attention span of about 5 to 15 minutes
- Organize objects by size and shape
- Seeking answers to questions
- Learn how to group and match objects based on color
From 4 to 5 years
When approaching school age, children will better use language, imitate adult movements, counting, and other basic activities that are important for school preparation.
Most four-year-old children can:
- Create pictures they often name and describe
- Count to five
- Draw the shape of a person
- Name and identify multiple colors
- Tell them where to live
Help children reach cognitive milestones
For many parents, encouraging the intellectual development of their children is a major concern. Fortunately, children are eager to learn from the beginning. Although education will soon become an important part of the lives of growing children, the first few years are mainly affected by close family relationships, especially with parents and other caregivers.
This means that parents are in a unique position to help shape the way children learn, think and develop. At home, parents can encourage their children’s intelligence by helping them understand the world around them. When a baby shows interest in an object, parents can help the child touch and explore the object, and tell what the object is.
For example, when a baby looks at a toy rattle intently, the parent may pick up the object and place it in the baby’s hand and say “Does Gracie want a rattle?” Then shake the rattle to demonstrate its effect.
As children grow older, parents should continue to encourage their children to actively explore the world. Try to be patient with young children, they seem to have endless questions about everything around them. Parents can also ask their own problems to help their children become more creative problem solvers.
When faced with dilemmas, such as “If we…, what do you think will happen?” and the like. Or “What would happen if we…?” Parents can help encourage intellectual development and self-confidence by having children ask original solutions to problems.