Activities to Boost Cognitive Development: An Age-by-Age Approach (Birth to 5)
The following simple activities can help you enhance your child’s cognitive development from birth to age 5.
Birth to 1 Year
- Read to your baby, especially books with bright colors and contrasting patterns.
- Sing simple songs, play classical music, and play with toys that make sounds.
- Hang up mirrors and mobiles to give your baby something to look at and reach for.
- Be attentive to your baby’s sounds and gestures, and talk to your baby often.
- Narrate your actions as you carry your baby around the house or on outings.
- Give your baby opportunities to move around with “tummy time.”
- Let your baby explore different textures.
- Use physical touch and body massages. (Studies show that physical touch aids in brain development for babies.)
- Play simple games like “Peek-A-Boo.”
1 Year to 2 Years
- Sing songs or recite nursery rhymes that integrate body motions, like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
- Continue playing a variety of games. Play with building blocks or, once your child is old enough to understand, play games like “Hide and Seek.”
- Get your toddler to help out when it’s time to clean up. Help your child learn about sorting and categorizing objects such as toys.
- Make your rules age-appropriate, simple, and consistent, and enforce them with positive discipline.
- Develop routines with your child.
- Give your child supervised sensory experiences with messy materials like sand, mud, and water.
- Identify noises that your child hears throughout the day.
- Sing the ABC’s.
- Practice shapes, colors, and counting in everyday contexts.
3 Years to 5 Years
- Give your child simple choices with two options: “Do you want to eat waffles or pancakes for breakfast?”
- Ask your child questions, like which toy he would like to play with first or why we look both ways before crossing the street.
- Visit interesting places like an aquarium, library, or children’s museum. Ask your child questions, and be attentive to his questions, reactions, and responses.
- Start engaging your child in simple board games or puzzles.
- Encourage your child’s imagination and creativity.
- Engage your child in symbolic play and pretend play.
- Continue reading aloud to your child, and use books as an opportunity to introduce thought-provoking questions.
- Encourage your child to reflect on his thinking and learning. After reading a book or after picking your child up from school, ask, “What’s something new that you learned?”
These activities are simple, easy to implement, and sure to help boost your child’s brain power.