Cognitive Development - Birth to Age 3
Babies start learning from the moment they are born and some of the things they learn in the first months of their lives lay foundations for their learning of specific skills and concepts that will be directly taught to them years later.
Engaging interactions with infants and toddlers about the world around them, including book reading and storytelling, are the best way to build foundations for reading. The ideas children form in the course of these interactions and the new words they learn will help them make connections when learning new concepts such as the ones in science and social studies at later ages.
Learning to write involves children's ability to control writing instruments. This ability is an outgrowth of the years of development--beginning in infancy-- of children's fine motor skills. Providing infants with various materials to manipulate helps them develop hand-eye coordination and control of their hands and fingers. An especially valuable activity to prepare toddlers for writing is drawing--it provides yet another opportunity to develop fine motor skills and at the same time helps children establish a connection between a symbolic mark on paper and a spoken word or a message.
To help children build their emerging understanding of mathematics, it is important for caregivers to frequently use math-related concepts in their interactions with babies and toddlers. Babies demonstrate an ability to discriminate between quantities and notice when a new object is larger or smaller than the familiar one long before they learn number words. These early ideas about number and size lay the foundation for the development of more advanced mathematical concepts. This later development is shaped by adults guiding infants and toddlers in their learning by engaging them in exploration of objects that differ in size, shape, and quantity. Learning to discriminate between objects based on their different attributes is important not only for learning mathematics --it is critical for developing logic and reasoning. Early developments underlying logical reasoning and other essential cognitive processes will not only contribute to children's future mastery of school subjects, but will also help them in problem solving across a variety of contexts.