8 cognitive activities for toddlers

Cognitive play is an active form of learning that encourages children to make connections through play. Boost your little one’s cognitive development with these fun games and activities.

Cognitive learning is an active form of learning that encourages children to make connections through play using thought, experiences and your child’s senses. Learning in this way will help your child develop their ability to process information, and assess how to react to that information in a way that is appropriate to the experience.

ALSO SEE: The importance of outdoor play for your child’s development

8 easy ways to encourage your little ones’ developmental growth through cognitive play

Artistic creativity

Allowing your toddler to draw and paint provides them with opportunities to engage in creative thinking. This is one of the best ways to guide them in using their imagination. Not only does it help with creative and emotive expression, but all those squiggly lines will also aid their future formation of letters and words, as well as strengthen their hand muscles.

Puzzles

By encouraging your toddler to build puzzles you are shaping their fine-motor and emotional (patience, goal-setting) skills, while also enhancing their cognitive growth. Puzzles help your little ones gain insight and improve on their visual-spatial awareness, abstract thinking, shape recognition, memory skills and critical thinking through problem-solving.

Music

We all know that music is good for the soul, but it’s also a great way to get your little ones to express themselves. By learning to manipulate the different instruments they are developing patience, focus and creative thought.

ALSO SEE: 5 fun musical instruments you can make at home for your toddler

Language

The language you use when speaking to your children is an important learning tool. The phrases you use to explain what you see and hear encourages your children to take note of their surroundings. For example, you can say, “Look at the big blue round ball” or “The sun is hot and yellow” or ask, “Is the bath empty or full?”  Using fuller phrases when speaking to your children develops their listening skills, which is crucial for future learning. It also helps them build connections between a variety of concepts like shapes, volume, and features.

Maths

Count, count and count some more. From a young age, you can introduce mathematical concepts. For instance, counting. You can make it fun by spontaneously counting objects around you. Count the number of stairs at the mall. When unpacking the apples get your little ones to count them as they place them in the fruit basket. There are so many ways to get creative about counting. Use language like more or less, full and empty, small and big, all the while giving examples.

Options

By allowing your children to make decisions for themselves you are growing their independence. You are teaching them that there are choices in life and, with careful thought, they are capable of making the right ones. Again, using language to verbalise the choices before them, you can help them develop their critical thinking skills. For example, “Do I eat the entire chocolate in one go, or should I save some for later?”

ALSO SEE: 10 ways to encourage your child’s independence

Games

Games that encourage problem-solving such as “hide-and-seek” or “follow the leader”, and songs like “Head shoulders knees and toes” or “If you’re happy and you know it…”, will help with critical thinking, and creativity, enhancing the cognitive learning process.

Exploring

Turn the learning experience into a fun exercise. Visit interesting places like museums, parks, aquariums, and zoos if you can. Let your child lead the conversation, asking and answering questions that encourage thought. Bring in science and technology at an age-appropriate level. All the while stretching your child’s imagination to help them to think more critically, to interrogate their surroundings, and to embrace their environment as a bottomless well of learning opportunity.

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