Infant Cognitive Development - Thinking and Problem Solving
In the first year of life, babies make huge steps in their ability to think, solve problems and communicate. This is called cognitive development. As babies’ five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing) and muscles develop, they grow from totally helpless infants into little explorers who can open up cabinets, stack large blocks on top of each other, begin to say a few words and even throw food from the high chair! Although you may find some of these activities frustrating, they are proof that the baby has made leaps and bounds in cognitive development. These are all signs that a baby’s brain is developing and giving her the power to think and constantly learn more about the world around her.
Thinking and Problem Solving
At the same time that babies are learning how to communicate and develop their language skills, they are also learning how to “get what they want, when they want it.” This is called thinking and problem solving. Below are some examples that illustrate an infant’s problem solving process.
The baby thinks to herself… “I want that rattle!”
The baby solves this problem by…Deciding to roll over, reach for and/or crawl to the rattle.
The baby thinks to herself…“I am hungry!”
The baby solves this problem by…Communicating through cries, grunts or pointing until someone feeds her or pointing to the food or drink that she wants.
Additional Infant Cognitive Abilities
Newborn to 3 months:
- Begins exploratory play by touching objects and putting them in the mouth
4 to 7 months:
- Follows a disappearing object with the eyes
- Reaches to grab a dropped toy
- Finds a partially hidden object
- Explores with hands and mouth
8 to12 months:
- Recognizes family members
- Uses “trial and error” approach to reach a goal
- Explores objects in different ways
- Finds hidden objects easily
- Looks at correct picture when the image is named
- Imitates gestures
- Begins to use objects correctly
Language and Communication
Language development follows a predictable pattern. You’ll find that a baby’s language develops from coos and grunts in the first 12 months, to first words around 10-12 months, to two word sentences around 18 – 24 months and, finally, to whole sentences around age 3. In the first 12 months, babies also communicate with you by crying, smiling or using body gestures (like pointing to something). Communication and language development means learning how to use nonverbal as well as verbal (spoken) actions to express wants, needs or ideas. Developing language and communication skills is an important part of an infant’s cognitive development. How well these skills develop depends upon having an observing, sensitive adult who reads the child’s cues and responds accordingly. The following pages provide numerous activities that you can do with babies to help strengthen their language and communication skills.
Birth to 3 months
- Listens and responds to voice and other sounds
- Recognizes some sounds
- Tells feelings by cooing, gurgling, crying, smiling and moving arms and legs
- Smiles when sees you or smiles at the sound of your voice
- Cries differently for different needs (www.asha.org – Birth to One Year – hearing, understanding and talking)
- Begins to babble.
- Begins to imitate some sounds.
4 to 7 months:
- Begins to watch speaker’s eyes and mouth
- Begins to respond to own name
- Begins to respond to “no”
- Laughs or squeaks
- Begins to respond to changes in tone of voice and distinguishes emotions by tone of voice
- Responds to sounds by making sounds
- Babbles a series of syllables (like bababa)
- Plays with sounds by varying their voice (babbling loudly, then softly)
- Babbles begin to sound more speech-like with many different sounds included, like p,b, and m
- Makes gurgling sound when left alone or when interacting with you
- Uses voice to express joy and displeasure
8 to 12 months:
Pays increasing attention to speech, music or singing
By 12 months:
(Note: The information in the chart above comes from www.healthychildren.org and the Children’s Hospital in Richmond, VA. )
Learning how to communicate and express their needs can be a frustrating experience for young children who have not yet learned how to talk. Teaching children sign language can help to supplement their developing communication skills. Infant sign language is the ability of infants to use their facial expressions, hands and body to communicate their needs. Learn more at www.littlesigners.com or find out about American School for the Deaf baby sign language classes at http://www.asd-1817.org/page.cfm?p=664.
Babies love that sing-song rhythm of talking called “motherese” or “parentese.” Talk often to babies about what you are doing, what is around them, or pretty much anything! The more you talk to your infant, the greater their vocabulary and comprehension as they grow.
Tips for Promoting Language and Communication Development
Babies need LIVE people to talk with in order for them to learn language and communication skills, not just voices heard over the television. Avoid using the T.V. as a substitute for talking with the baby.
NEWS FLASH! When children learn two languages from birth, they are benefiting from the opportunity to take advantage of their innate abilities, as language capacity is greatest during very early childhood.