Cognitive Development From Zero to Three

By Becky Swain
Your baby learns that her actions produce specific consequences.
Your baby learns that her actions produce specific consequences.

Your newborn’s cognitive development begins from birth, reports Infants build foundations for cognitive processes such as remembering, acquiring language and problem solving. The cognitive development that transforms your newborn bundle into a verbal bundle of activity by age 3 comprises an amazing developmental journey. All children achieve cognitive milestones at an individual pace, so enjoy your little one’s developmental journey.

The Transformation From Bundle to Dynamo

The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that appearances can be deceiving, because your infant does more than alert you that she’s hungry or wet. Infants exhibit behaviors designed to collect information about their environment, and help make sense of it. From birth to 3 months, infants track moving objects, and exhibit different facial expressions to strong stimuli. Your infant discovers the principle of cause and effect between 4 and 5 months, when she learns that her actions produce specific results. For example, waving a toy produces an animal sound, and your infant will repeat this action over and over again. Between 6 and 9 months, infants differentiate between animate and inanimate objects. As you prepare to celebrate your little one’s first birthday, she may look forward to stories, and imitating her favorite role model, who just so happens to be you.

Your Tiny Explorer Sets Sail

Between ages 1 and 2, parents understand why child-proofing the home environment safeguards their child, and the environment. Exploration occupies an important place on your little one’s daily agenda, as drawers, closets and cabinets reveal new treasures. Your child may demonstrate memory for events that occurred the previous day, and may match items in your laundry basket. Stranger anxiety may emerge during this developmental period, as your baby acquires a sense of self, and recognizes herself as separate from others.

But Why?

Some of the cognitive developmental milestones achieved between the ages of 2 and 3 represent exciting accomplishments for your child, according to the University of Michigan. “Why” is a question parents must address multiple times each day, as their children’s curiosity concerning the function of everything in their world grows. Your child may sort items by shape or color, recite the alphabet and identify objects in her picture books. An active imagination contributes to pretend play activities.

Don't Compare Apples and Oranges

It’s tempting to compare your child to other children when you want to gauge your child’s developmental progress. Keep in mind that your child will progress at a rate that’s right for her, and it’s not unusual for children to exhibit unequal rates of progress across the cognitive, physical, and social and emotional domains of development. Development may appear inconsistent and unpredictable from child to child. Address questions or concerns about your child’s developmental progress with your child’s pediatrician.