What is Cognitive Development?

In the first six years of their lives, children develop and grow rapidly, physically, cognitively, language and communication, socially and emotionally. These areas of development are considered to be the four main areas of development of human life, and this period gains importance in terms of acquiring many gains. Activities related to the functioning of intelligence such as knowing, perceiving, remembering, thinking, reading and writing, which are the human characteristics that a person will benefit from throughout his life, are called cognition. As a result of human experiences that go through different cognitive processes since birth, he develops these cognitive features, and what kind of an individual he will be in adulthood and even what kind of life he will lead depends on how the foundations of these processes are laid.

The fact that the concept of cognition is so effective and vital has revealed a research topic called “cognitive development”. Cognitive development, which is especially important to focus on in the first years of infancy, deals with the path that human beings have covered in mental activities since birth. Let’s examine together the answers to the questions of how cognitive development progresses, what is cognitive development, what are cognitive development theories, which cognitive development activities can be done with children at what ages, which are discussed together by neurology and psychology.


Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is the process of acquiring mental functions that enable people to perceive and interact with their environment, starting from birth. Mental functions include activities such as perception, memory, reasoning, thinking, reading, writing, and creative thinking, each of which develops through the interpretation of one’s environment and the world.

Supporting the cognitive development of the child from the moment of birth is important in terms of forming the basis of his whole life. According to Piaget, who has done the most important studies in the field of cognitive development, there are factors that affect cognitive development (proximal development and social environment), and not all children may acquire the same mental development characteristics at the same time.

Although affected by hereditary and environmental factors, the mental development characteristics that can be observed in children from birth can be listed as follows:


0 – 3 Months

  • He can see objects close to his face.
  • It is sensitive to close sounds.
  • Tracks objects and faces and follows moving objects with eyes.
  • Responds to loud sounds with leg and arm movements.
  • By the age of 2 months, moving and loud objects such as rattles attract his attention and follow them with his eyes, he can distinguish familiar people. Cries and fusses when bored.
  • At 3 months of age, she recognizes the breast and bottle, expresses movement and sound by turning her head.


3 – 6 Months

  • He can communicate when he is happy or sad.
  • It watches faces and looks at your face as you feed.
  • He tends to reach for toys and put them in his mouth.
  • Wants to explore their environment with hands and mouth.
  • It can transfer objects from hand to hand.
  • Things that he can’t reach begin to attract his attention.


9 months

  • Begins to search for hidden and falling objects.
  • He starts to like the “Ce-ee” game.
  • Uses thumb and index finger to hold objects.
  • He can turn the pages of the book.
  • It can hold and transfer objects perfectly.


12 months

  • It can put objects in and out of containers.
  • He turns to look when he hears his name.
  • It makes a sound by hitting objects together.
  • Recognizes the purpose of use of objects.
  • Can follow simple one or two word directions.
  • The path of discovery has been hitting-throwing-shaking.
  • He often uses his index finger.


18 Months

  • Scribbles using a pen.
  • It shows the parts of your body.
  • Follows directions.
  • Knows what objects do.
  • Shows interest in toy animals and babies and can play with them.
  • He likes books, stories and songs.
  • Can turn book pages.


2 years old

  • He can build a tower by stacking four or more pieces.
  • Can find objects hidden under two or more covers.
  • He discovers how they are done by trying certain things.
  • Learns shapes and colors.
  • May follow two-step directions such as “Take your book and put it in your bag”.
  • Imitates and pretends.
  • He can name the items he sees in the book.
  • He memorizes the sentences in the books he constantly reads and completes the rest when some of them are read.


age 3

  • Makes jigsaw puzzles.
  • He draws various shapes with paint or pencil and copies the shapes he sees.
  • He has imaginary friends.
  • He makes imaginary games with his toys.
  • He creates stories and games using his own imagination.
  • Sorts and matches objects according to their shapes and colors.
  • Operates buttoned and mechanical toys.
  • Learns what numbers mean.
  • Turns the pages.
  • It can open and close the lids of bottles and jars, opens the door using the door pressure levers.


age 4

  • It shows the same and different.
  • It draws the body structure to a great extent.
  • He begins to learn time.
  • Can use scissors.
  • Board and board games attract his attention.
  • The story can complete.


5 – 6 Years

  • Counts a large number of objects.
  • Names colors correctly.
  • Learns and draws geometric shapes.
  • The concept of time is established.
  • Can write some letters and numbers.
  • Recognizes and writes own name.


Cognitive Development Theories

Cognitive development theories are the studies that reveal which cognitive developments a person shows in which period from birth. Besides Jean Piaget, who has put forward the most comprehensive of these theories, the Cognitive Development theories of Jerome Brumer and Lev Vgotsky can be studied under their own names.


Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

According to Piaget, the basis of cognitive development is one’s ability to adapt to the environment. The active child realizes the harmony with the balance – imbalance – rebalance – balancing process, and while doing this, he gets support from his inner motivation. Piaget, whose views he put forward received reactions from some circles, mentions 4 factors that affect cognitive development:

  1. Maturation: Maturation, which means that an individual has reached a certain physical maturity to be able to do a job, also affects mental development. In newborns, reflex movements turn into purposeful behaviors over time.
  2. Active Experience: Based on experiences, the person associates and codes stimuli with events.
  3. Social Interaction: The social transfer that a person provides with what he/she has learned from his/her family and close environment forms the foundations of a person’s mental development.
  4. Balancing: According to Piaget, newly learned information first creates an imbalance in the organism and this leads the person to re-balance.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development has four elements that are accepted as the basic concept. These,

  • The schema, which is the perception frame that the child creates in his mind to know the world ,
  • Adaptation, which means scheduling and framing something that has just been learned ,
  • Organizing , which is the process by which he understands and makes sense of what he has just learned .

Piaget examines cognitive stages in four periods, each of which includes a different mental skill.

  • Sensory Movement Period: In this process, which covers the age of 0-2 and is also called the motor period, the baby begins to imitate, to comprehend that objects do not disappear when they are hidden, and passes from reflexive behaviors to purposeful behaviors.
  • Preoperational Period: In this period, which corresponds to the age of 2-7, in which language development is gained step by step, symbolic and intuitive developments are experienced. Monologues, parallel games, imitation, sequencing, and the ability to categorize continue with time in reverse ordering and evolving symbolic thinking.
  • Concrete Operational Period: The concrete operational period, in which concrete problems can be solved through logic, covers the 7-11 age range, and the acquisition of mental skills such as making sense of and following the rules, thinking backwards and transforming, classifying and creating sequences draws attention in this period.
  • Abstract Operations Period: The individual, who can think abstractly, can also solve problems perceived abstractly through logic in this period, and the thinking activity becomes scientific. An individual between the ages of 11 and 15, whose personality is noticed, begins to be interested in social issues and to become conscious of identity.


Jerome Brumer’s Theory of Cognitive Development

According to Bruner, cognitive development is achieved when the responses become independent of the stimulus. Cognitive development, which is shaped by the processes of processing and storing information, is gained by the effect of language and learner-instructor interaction. Brumer examines cognitive development in three periods:

  • Operational Period: This period, in which the child learns socially and by experiencing, thanks to the interaction with the objects, corresponds to the 0-3 age period, which Piage calls the sensory-motor period.
  • Imaginary Period: In this process, which coincides with Piaget’s pre-operational period, the individual between the ages of 3 and 6 encodes his experiences in images and transfers them to his mind.
  • Symbolic Period: In the symbolic stage between the ages of 6 and 18, experiences are described in symbolic ways.


Lev Vgotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Lev Vgotsky, who put forward his own theory by opposing Piaget’s idea that the child performs the cognitive development process alone, emphasizes the concepts of social learning and cooperation in cognitive development. Saying that the source of cognitive development is the social environment, Vgotsky says that the natural line dominates the development of the child until about the age of 2, and then it leaves its place to the cultural line.

According to this theory, children should be encouraged to work in teams in cooperation with each other in academic life. However, while doing this, he argues that teachers should not completely release their students and should observe them as a guide.


Cognitive Development Activities

Parents who know that children will lay the foundations of their future skills during this period know that the bond they establish with their children and the games they play support their cognitive development. In this respect, the following examples can be given to cognitive development activities that will contribute to the healthy cognitive development of children.

  • Talking to the baby a lot, naming frequently used objects using their visuals and picture cards.
  • Allowing the baby to explore objects, toys and creating an environment where they can move freely.
  • Singing to the baby, telling stories and reading books.
  • Number – object matching, patterns, finding the missing piece, completing, grouping activities.
  • When he starts walking, ensuring that he encounters objects and books that will increase interaction around him.
  • To ensure the development of the child’s area of ​​interest by providing him with the opportunity to research and examine in areas of interest.
  • Giving logical and coherent answers to the child’s questions.
  • To enable him/her to develop his/her decision making skills by using his/her logic among alternatives.
  • To give time to think in activities, to give an opportunity to make mistakes,
  • To be patient while guiding the child, most importantly and above all, to love him very much, to make him feel unique and valuable.

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