Awesome Ways to Promote Cognitive Development Through Play

by Debbie Mogere

March 21, 2018

Cognitive development is the development of your child’s learning and thinking skills. This article will be covering the many awesome ways in which you can promote cognitive development through play.

Cognitive skills give your child the ability to pay attention, reason, remember, analyze, make comparisons and understand cause and effect. In other words, cognitive development is the development of intellectual abilities. Although some cognitive skills are genetic, most cognitive skills are learned and can be improved through the right training and practice.

How does play help cognitive development?

Play allows your child to have fun while at the same time learning crucial skills. Critical cognitive skills that your child can learn through play include memory, attention and the ability to think and analyze.

Playing is also great for building a relationship between you and your child. It provides a safe and comfortable environment for you to bond with your child and communicates to them that you value them. Your relationship with your child determines how your child will learn and develop. It also forms the basis of how they will view the world around them and who they are.

More benefits of play include:

  • Building your child’s confidence.
  • Developing social, language and communication skills.
  • Playing is fun and it helps your child to feel happy, loved and safe.
  • It helps your child learn how to relate and care for others.
  • It also helps in the development of your child’s motor skills.

For younger children, unstructured play is better

Children can have structured or unstructured play. For younger children, the best way for them to learn is through unstructured or free play. Free play allows the child to explore without guidance either alone or with others. Your child will start exploring items in the house and playing with the things they like. They can play with empty boxes, arrange shoes on a shoe rack or try dressing up. This exploration and discovery is good for their brains and enhances learning. Structured play can be incorporated as the children grow older.

unstructured play promotes cognitive development

Games that support your child’s cognitive skills development.

There are various games and toys that promote cognitive development in children. These games are easy to play and can be easily incorporated into your day to day play with your child. These games are listed below:

Games that require the child’s participation

Games that require your child’s participation are good for the development of your child’s memory and problem-solving skills. These include interactive storybooks and games that require your child’s response. Resist the urge to come to help your child solve problems. Sometimes it is best to supervise from the sidelines without helping them. Allow your child to try and solve the problem without your help, they may not do it right but it allows them to learn from their mistakes.

Participating in activities creates mental images in their minds which facilitate memory. Playing the same game or hearing the same story over and over again as if it were new reinforces it in a child’s memory. After some time they will remember the next step before it happens and even start completing the sentences or even telling the entire story themselves.

Examples of interactive toys: Puzzles, Play-a-sound books, and activity desks.

Games that involve singing and moving

Games that involve moving along and singing are a wonderful way for children to develop cognitive skills like memory and attention. Sing-alongs such as ‘head-shoulder-knees-and-toes’ are an easy way to have fun and learn at the same time. No wonder these songs have been in existence for so long! How else would kids learn their body parts?

Sing-alongs are also great for building your child’s vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times my son couldn’t learn a new word but through singing, “If you are happy and you know it say…” He says and does it correctly, it is amazing!

Sorting games

Sorting games can help your child to learn similarities and differences among items. Toddlers enjoy sorting items into categories and this develops their ability to analyze. For example, my son enjoys sorting out his toys according to their design and shapes. He will arrange all wooden blocks into one box, lego blocks into another and so on and so on. You can imagine how helpful this skill has become for cleaning up after play.

You can start by asking your toddler to sort out their toys by shape or color depending on their age and abilities. Using things that are readily available in your house, you can give them to your child and ask them to sort out into various categories.

Activities that promote cognitive development

Below are some really awesome activities that promote cognitive development which you can start implementing with your child. They are really simple ideas but they go a long way in developing your child’s cognitive skills.

1. Hide and seek

Hide and seek helps your child to learn that objects continue to exist even when they cannot see them. Hide a favorite toy and ask your child to find it. Guide them as they look by asking questions such as, “have you checked under the blanket?”, “it could be under the table”.

You could also hide yourself behind a chair and ask your child to find you. You will be surprised how much fun your child is having.

2. Identify alphabet letters

Using letter blocks that are not arranged in order, ask your child to identify the different letters of the alphabet. Take one letter block and ask them to find the one that comes after. For example, say, “This is A, which letter comes after A?” and let them find B. If they don’t get it right, say, “That is D, we are looking for letter B. Can you look for letter B?” Resist the urge to jump in and help every time they get it wrong, as their attention and memory skills develop it becomes easier for them.

There are also some great interactive toys such as a Touch and Learn Activity Desk that can help with this exercise.

toys that promote cognitive development

3. Identify shapes and Colors

There is a huge range of toys that you can use for identifying shapes and colors.  From shape sorting boards which are my favorite, activity cubes, to color changing touch boards. Use any of these toys to identify shapes and colors with your child.

You can also help your child to identify the shapes of different items in your house. Ask, “which color is the table?” If they don’t get it right just say, “This is a white table, it is shaped like a rectangle.” Be as descriptive as possible when explaining to a child, it not only helps them differentiate items, it also increases their vocabulary.

When you are driving, ask your child to identify the shapes of the road signs ahead of you or the color of the car in front of you. Cognitive skills development happens all the time, just use what you have around you as a training opportunity for your child.

4. Identify noises

You can help your child how different sounds relate to objects in his surrounding. For example, when you are outside and an airplane flies by, you can ask, “what sound is that?” and wait for their response. You can then say, “that sounds like an airplane, look there it is!”

Toys that produce different kinds of sounds are also useful for teaching your child differences in sound.

5. Play simple board games and puzzles with your child.

As your child grows older, you can play with simple board games, number and animal puzzles such as Hungry Hungry Hippos, Twister and Jigsaw puzzles. These games are so much fun for both kids and adults and they play a big role in developing cognitive skills. Find a board game that your child enjoys and incorporate it into your family time.

6. Offer Choices

Offering choices is another great way to develop cognitive skills in your child. Ask your child to make a choice between two items. You could ask, “do you want to wear these open shoes  or the closed ones?” That way, your child learns to differentiate between items and to analyze in order to make a choice. If your child is verbal enough, ask questions and listen to his experiences. Use everyday experiences as learning opportunities for your child.

Play, coupled with a good relationship between you and your child, plays an important role in the development of cognitive skills in children

It is a fact, play helps cognitive development. As a parent, you can offer the right toys that help cognitive development, play with your child and develop a loving relationship with them. If you implement some of the ideas above that are fit for your family, they can help you tremendously in supporting your child’s cognitive development when they are still toddlers.

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