Your baby's brain grows and changes from the moment he's born. Cognitive development is what governs his understanding of cause and effect, the relationships between objects and problem solving. And, despite what toy manufacturers would like you to believe, some of the most effective ways to support your infant's cognitive development require little more than your attention and a few basic household items, reports HealthyChildren.org. Initiating play with your infant, and responding enthusiastically to his attempts to engage you, contribute positively to encouraging his cognitive development.
Many battery-powered baby toys teach cause and effect by playing a sound or lighting up a certain area when your baby presses a button or shape. In its purest form, the effect will always be the same and come from the same source. For instance, making a funny, entertaining sound every time your baby grabs your toes, or opening and closing a doll house door whenever she touches the outside of the door.
Singing interactive songs like "Old McDonald Had a Farm" and "The Wheels on the Bus" actually supports several important cognitive functions. Hearing rhyming words highlights the phonetic similarities between sounds, which can help his understanding and use of language. Additionally, the hand movement associated with the words, such as the rolling motion of "round and round," teaches him that specific words are associated with specific meanings. The rhythm of the music also teaches him how to anticipate and remember specific patterns, which is another important cognitive area.
Hidden Object Games
Partially hiding your infant's favorite toy under the edge of a blanket or cloth helps her learn the permanency of hidden objects but also that objects over or inside each other can affect the outward appearance. When she does discover it, clap and praise her discovery. Once she's mastered discovering partially hidden objects, cover the toy completely with a cloth or a cup and encourage her to search again. Playing peek-a-boo with yourself, objects or picture book flaps is another way to help your baby learn that objects don't go away when they're hidden from view.
Endless Outcome Games
Banging two small toys together or pushing over a basket of blocks creates a different result each time. When he knocks the blocks together they make a specific sound -- a sound that's different from two soft toys knocking together. Dropping the objects on top of each other or letting them fall to the floor helps him understand all the different ways objects can affect each other. For example, one block falling on three others looks and sounds different from one block dropping on a bare carpet; sometimes the blocks might fall in a pile, other times they might scatter across the floor because the outcome is always new and different.