Cognitive Development in Early Childhood The Complete Guide 

Cognitive development is a component of holistic development, and this aspect of development focuses on the ability of kids to reason, think 💭, problem-solve, understand, and comprehend.

Cognitive skills also include attention, memory 🧠, logical reasoning, problem-solving, learning, thinking, and so on, which contribute to the growth of kids. 

This aspect of holistic development also lays the foundation for the future learning and education of kids.

Why is Cognitive Development Important?

Cognitive development is important for kids from their early childhood for them to think, reason, problem-solve, and other skills, which contribute to success in their life in personal aspects and academically.

Cognitive development helps with the language development of kids, which is essential for their everyday communication 💬 and for forming meaningful relationships with others, which lays the foundation for social interactions and development.

This aspect of development provides kids with the necessary skills required to function as an individual in society in an effective manner that contributes to their growth and development in other areas. For more details, read our article.

Role of Cognitive Development in Holistic Development

Cognitive development is a pillar of holistic development that helps your kids understand and make sense of the world better, along with providing them with other essential skills, which include –

  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Logical reasoning 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Memory 
  • Attention 
  • Analytical skills

Key Components of Cognitive Development

The key components of cognitive development include – 

1. Language Development 

Language Development in Kids

Language development, especially in the English 🔤 language, is an important milestone in the cognitive development of kids. It serves as a tool for them to understand and communicate through language, which plays a crucial role in their growth.

I would say that language and communication are essential for kids throughout their lives, and language development should be encouraged from early childhood for kids to interact, communicate, and understand others, and also aid their literacy development.

An introduction to the English language from early childhood helps kids improve their memory and creativity and aids their cognitive abilities. As they engage in the language learning process, it also allows kids to work their brains and put their memory and attention to learning the language.

Another aspect of language development is its impact on the ability of kids to express their thoughts and emotions. When kids develop their language abilities, they can communicate with others to express their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and opinions, which also has a positive effect on their emotional well-being.

Stages of Language Development

There are six stages in the process of language development in kids that occur at various ages, which are –

  1. Prelinguistic Stage

The prelinguistic stage occurs from the birth of kids to 9 months of age. 

In this stage, kids communicate with non-verbal gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, body language, cooing sounds, and the babbling sounds they tend to make. 

  1. One-word Sentence

The one-word sentence, also known as the holophrase stage, occurs when kids are between the ages of 9 and 18 months old. 

As the name suggests, kids generally utter single words at a time whose entire meaning can be understood with non-verbal cues and based on the situation. These one words convey their basic needs and emotions.

For example –

dada and mama, as a way of getting their attention.

  1. Two-word Sentence

The two-word sentence stage occurs when your kids reach the age of 18 months. 

At this stage, kids move from uttering a single word to two-word sentences, which helps convey a clearer meaning of their thoughts and emotions. 

For example – 

thank mom/dad! as a show of thankfulness, more food, as a request for more food, and so on.

  1. Multiple-word Sentences

The multiple-words stage occurs when kids are between the ages of 2 and 2 ½. 

At this stage, kids can form sentences with more than two words, and they can even form sentences that contain subjects and predicates. 

For example –

Where is ball?, to ask for the ball,

I falling, to indicate they’re falling.

  1. Grammatical Structures

The grammatical structure stage occurs when kids are between the ages of 2 ½ and three years of age.

At this point, kids start to use sentences that have complex grammatical structures that explain the meaning better and have more language elements.

For example –

I can’t sleep, to indicate that they can’t sleep

Where is the dog?, to look for the dog

  1. Adult-like Language Structures

The adult-like language structures stage occurs when kids reach the ages of 5 to 6 years old. 

At this developmental stage, they are aware of the basics of the language, and they know the difference between certain sets of words and communicate almost like adults with structured sentences.  

For example –

Ask her to come here.

Can you give me some chocolate?


The benefits of language development for kids are –

  • Enhances the literary skills of kids with the ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend.
  • Improves brain functions of kids in the area of the brain responsible for memory and attention.
  • Promotes social interactions for kids to form meaningful relationships.
  • Improves spoken and written language abilities of kids allowing for better communication with others.
  • Contributes to the academic success of kids and their learning abilities.

2. Memory and Attention Development

Memory And Attention Development in Kids

Memory 🧠 and attention are two aspects that are important to the cognitive development of kids. Attention is the act of taking in new information, while the memory of kids allows them to retain information.

Attention is the process by which kids can focus on certain things while ignoring the rest, which aids cognitive skills.

Memory is the process that allows kids to store information, where the gathered information is first stored in the primary memory and then transferred to the secondary memory for storage.

When kids need to recall the stored information in the secondary memory, they can do so with brain signals.

Memories are classified into types based on the nature of the information stored and the period of retention. The following are the major types of memories, which include –

Short-Term Memory:

Short-term memory is also known as primary or active memory. True to its name, this type of memory stores information in a readily available state for a brief amount of time for kids to recall.

Working Memory:

Working memory is a type of memory that assists kids as they perform cognitive tasks, and they can store information of limited capacity that kids can use actively while doing a task.

This helps connect new information and work with the information stored in the short-term memory.

Long-Term Memory:

Long-term memory is a type of memory that stores the majority of the memories that kids can recall. This also involves the process of transferring short-term memories into long-term memories that last for many years and for kids to hold on to throughout their lives.

Long-term memory is further classified into types – explicit and implicit memory. 

Explicit Long-Term Memory:

Explicit memory involves the memories that kids take the time and effort to remember consciously, like birthdays and phone numbers, and important milestones that kids experience.

Explicit memory is further divided into two –

Episodic memories involves memories of certain events in one’s life and 

Semantic memories involve general knowledge collected throughout life about various topics. 

Implicit Long-Term Memory:

Implicit memory involves the memories that develop unconsciously, and this type of memory is concerned with movements of their bodies and motor skills, and allows kids to remember how to do certain things, like riding a cycle or operating a computer.

Sensory Memory:

Sensory memory is a type of short-term storage memory that helps kids store information about things in terms of look, sound, feel, taste, and smell – based on their senses.

Attention Span:

Attention span refers to the amount of time that kids can spend performing one particular activity or task before they lose focus and become distracted by other things.

I would say that attention span is one of the important components for the cognitive development of kids.

The attention span of kids slowly evolves with age and they are able to concentrate more as they grow older, and this is an essential aspect that can contribute to the learning process of kids.

The average attention span of kids belonging to different age groups is as follows –

4 to 6 minutes for 2-year-olds 

6 to 8 minutes for 3 years olds

8 to 12 minutes for 4-year-olds

12-18 minutes for 5 to 6 year olds

16 to 24 minutes for 7 to 8-year-olds

To increase the attention span of kids, you can reduce their screen time and the amount of time they spend with gadgets and technology, and encourage play – indoors and outdoors.


The benefits of memory and attention development for kids are –

  • Helps build critical thinking skills in kids that aid thinking and reasoning.
  • Contributes to the academic success and literacy growth of kids.
  • Improves the language learning abilities of kids as they can retain language-related elements and use them for communication.

3. Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-Solving Skills in Kids

Problem-solving is the ability of kids to process, analyze, and solve problems. It is the skill that enables kids to find solutions and come up with ways to solve and overcome the problems they are faced with efficiently. 

I would say that problem-solving skills play an essential role in the cognitive development of your kids. Problems and obstacles are a part of life in various areas – personal, academic, sports, etc., which requires kids to tackle them effectively with their thinking and reasoning. 

There are five basic steps that kids can adopt for the problems they face and are looking for ways to solve them –

  1. The first step to solving a problem is for kids to identify the problem and obstacle at hand.
  2. Next, kids can brainstorm and try to make a list of at least 5-6 possible ideas with some creative thinking as solutions and ways to solve the problem.
  3. Next, kids can go through the rough ideas of solutions one by one to analyze the positive and negative consequences of them.
  4. Once kids have analyzed the possible solutions, you can encourage them to zero down and pick one solution.
  5. The last step involves kids testing the solution they picked, which they can execute, and if it doesn’t work, they move to the next one on their list based on the results.

Cause and Effect:

I believe that cause and effect is essential to teach kids the relationship between two things and how one thing triggers another thing to happen. 

In simple terms, cause and effect is concerned with the action and reaction, it explains why something happened and what happened as a result.

Cause and effect are  present in everyday situations around us, which makes it essential for kids to understand this concept from early childhood with the help of real-life examples.

A real-life example you can demonstrate to kids is that turning on a switch is the cause, and when the light 💡 turns on, it is the effect.


The benefits of problem-solving skills for kids are –

  • Improves academic performance and literacy growth in kids.
  • Builds confidence in kids to make informed decisions efficiently.
  • Improves the resilience of kids to tackle problems and take on challenges.
  • Encourages kids to become more confident and independent in their choices and decisions. 
  • Enables them to look at problems from different perspectives. 

4. Creative and Imagination Development

Creative And Imagination Development in Kids

I would say that creativity and imagination are significant for the cognitive development of your kids as they enhance their brain development.

The following activities can bolster creative and imagination development in kids as an aspect of cognitive development –

Pretend Play:

I would recommend pretend play for kids as an opportunity for them to imagine scenarios and create worlds with their creativity and imagination as they wish with what they have seen and experienced around them. 

Pretend play is an enjoyable activity for kids that also contributes to their language learning. It enhances their creativity and imagination in many ways as they recreate familiar scenarios, actions, and roles of people from the real world in an imaginary setting with toys 🧸 and other household objects. 

Some ideas that kids can engage in pretend play include cooking, baking, grocery shopping, teaching students, being a doctor or superhero, or running a pizza shop, bakery, or cafe. 


Art Activity for Cognitive Development

Art 🖼️ is a great way for kids to develop their creative abilities and is closely linked to cognitive development. Visual art allows kids to understand the world around them and represent and reflect on it on a medium.

Art provides kids with an opportunity to showcase their creative sides and limitless imagination in a visual form, and the process also offers them a good time and the happiness of creating their works of art.


Storytelling Activity for Cognitive Development

Storytelling is the process of narrating stories from books 📖 or imagination and bringing them to life. This practice helps foster the creativity and imagination of kids as they think of characters and worlds and chart out their paths and lives within the story. 

You can narrate stories and also make your kids tell 🗣️ a few of their own as a chance to express their creative abilities.

Providing them with words and sentence prompts is an exciting way for kids to craft and tell a story based on what they are presented with, and when you are narrating a story, it gives them the chance to imagine the worlds and the characters as they listen to you. 


Riddles for Cognitive Development

Riddles are fun for kids to solve and can help improve their creativity and imagination as they think out of the box to arrive at the answers.

You can engage kids with riddles of various kinds to allow them to think of possible answers while also creating an atmosphere of fun and joy. This simple activity allows them to improve their vocabulary and also creates a bond between parents and kids.

Songs and Music 

Riddles for Cognitive Development

Song 🎵 and music 🎶 also play a crucial role in enhancing the creativity and imagination of kids. You can play songs and lively music at home for kids to listen to and dance to as a fun activity.

It helps them listen to the tunes and lyrics to remember the order of the songs, which also develops their attention and memory. 


The benefits of creative and imagination development for kids are –

  • Allows kids to think creatively to solve problems and challenges.
  • Enhances social and emotional development in kids.
  • Improves their memory and attention span.
  • Encourages kids to think out of the box as they perform creative tasks.

Strategies to Foster Cognitive Development

I would like to share a few strategies that you can adopt to foster cognitive development in your kids –

Provide a Stimulating Environment for Cognitive Development

I would say that it is essential to provide kids with a stimulating environment to aid their cognitive development. 

A safe and stimulating space can provide kids with the opportunity to discover and explore, which leads to creativity, and imagination, and encourages them to engage in activities that aid their cognitive skills.

Engage in Age-appropriate Cognitive Tasks

You can make your kids complete age-appropriate cognitive tasks that require their attention and focus.

They can engage in activities and play games to improve their problem-solving skills by coming up with ways and finding solutions to successfully complete the activities while they also have lots of fun. 

Some activities and games kids can try are reading books, creative thinking, crossword and math puzzles, Sudoku, Rubik’s Cube, brainteasers, card games, board games 🎲, and matching letter and number card games, to name a few.

Encourage Creative Play

You can encourage your kids to explore and discover new things through hands-on activities in the form of art 🖍️ and crafts ✂️ projects, cooking 🍳 and baking 🍪 sessions, and science 🧪 experiments to foster their creativity and enhance their learning.

Creative play is a great way to provide kids with opportunities to develop their cognitive abilities – thinking and problem-solving abilities, and think of ways to complete the activities while also having a good time.

Facilitate Open-Ended Conversations

I would recommend that you facilitate open-ended conversations 💬 about various topics with your kids that allow them to think and come up with the answers and discuss their opinions to support their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.

This practice also allows kids to improve their comprehension, communication, and language skills as they engage in conversations regularly.

Obstacles and Solutions in Cognitive Development 

There are a few obstacles to the cognitive development of kids, which include –

  1. Developmental disorders create a hindrance for kids to reach certain developmental milestones at each age, which then affects their cognitive growth.
  1. Socio-economic factors play a role as kids sometimes lack the necessary environment and resources that are required to aid their growth.
  1. Lack of stimulation in kids leads to developmental delays that affect their cognitive growth.

There are a few solutions that can help overcome these obstacles for the cognitive development of kids, which are –

  1. Targeted interventions of pediatricians and occupational or physical therapists can prove helpful to kids with developmental disorders and delays to provide ways to tackle them.
  1. Social programs are an effective way for kids affected by socio-economic factors to make progress with their cognitive development.
  1. Provision of stimulating resources can help create a favorable environment with an addition of stimuli for kids to enhance their cognitive abilities.

The Role of Key Individuals

Parents, teachers, and community members are key individuals who can contribute to the cognitive development of kids, which can help them grow and understand things better from early childhood.

I would say that key individuals can foster cognitive development in kids by presenting them with opportunities to solve puzzles, riddles, memory games, and so on, learn new languages, ask questions, etc. 

I would also like to share a few strategies, resources, and tips that you can utilize for the cognitive development of kids –

  • I recommend you offer opportunities for your kids to speak and listen with everyday conversations and activities to promote their language abilities and allow them to practice their speaking and listening skills.
  • You can make your kids learn new languages that use their cognitive functions and allow them to process and organize information regarding the language.
  • You can inculcate a habit of reading from early childhood to help with their language development process.

For younger kids, you can read and point words to them from storybooks to help develop their language. For older kids, you can give them storybooks to read regularly to improve their language skills.

  • You can give them toys and other objects for them to sort, match, compare, and contrast.
  • You can provide kids with a chance to remember certain things, like certain dates, routines, timetables, where toys are kept, and so on, to develop their memory and attention.
  • Spark curiosity by asking them to notice things around them and ask questions afterward.
  • You can allow kids to solve problems by themselves to improve their problem-solving skills with practical experience. 
  • Make your kids complete puzzles and memory games.
  • Reduce distractions due to screen time, as too much technology usage can lead to too much stimulus in kids.

Cognitive Development and School Readiness

School readiness is the ability of kids to transition into a school 🏫 environment successfully. It involves a wide range of skills like the basics of academics, self-care, social skills, physical abilities, emotional regulation, and so on, and also includes the key aspects of holistic development.

In this case, cognitive development has a direct impact and contributes to the school readiness abilities of kids. It forms a foundation for all the learning processes that kids will undergo while growing up.

There also exists a relationship between early cognitive skills in kids and their academic success. Cognitive skills enhance attention, memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills that can play a major role in the academic success of kids through their school journey.

Cognitive development helps kids develop their language abilities, memory, attention span, logical reasoning, problem-solving skills, and so on, which are aspects that allow them to perform well at school and become academically successful.


Cognitive development is an essential pillar of holistic development that enhances the cognitive processes of kids with their problem-solving, critical thinking, memory, attention, and language abilities.

I hope this detailed guide 📑 on cognitive development in early childhood of kids was informative and beneficial for you to understand the topic better to help your kids with cognitive development for a better future. 😁

Cognitive Development in Early Childhood
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