Pre-K activities, learning games, crafts, and printables


Children's cognitive development  - Extra activities - Educatall

Children's cognitive development

The following activities call upon cognitive processes including perception, learning, memory, language and thinking. Cognitive development may seem complex, but from birth, children acquire simple abilities that will make it possible for them to grow and become more and more independent. Let's try to make sense of the different stages of cognitive development.


0-6 months
Right from birth, babies develop at a rapid pace. Between 0 and 6 months of age, babies express an interest in everything that surrounds them. They are able to recognize familiar people and objects, distinguish day from night, and coordinate various simple actions such as grabbing an object and putting it in their mouth. Here are a few ways you can stimulate their cognitive development:

  • Place them on their stomach and deposit a variety of objects nearby so they can grab hold of them.
  • Offer colourful and attractive objects.
  • Speak to them and describe what you are doing or nearby objects. Help children of this age discover their environment by carrying them around the house, daycare, playground, etc.

6-12 months
From 6 months of age, babies begin to manifest intentions through their actions and behavior (linked to obtaining a specific response or thing) and have a certain understanding of cause and effect. For example, they may associate their bottle to drinking milk. They enjoy peek-a-boo games and can look for objects they let fall to the floor. Through imitation, they are able to deposit objects in containers and find items hidden under something. Here are a few activities that are great for children of this age:

  • Cut a 1-inch square hole in the lid of a plastic yogurt container. Show children how they can drop tiny wooden blocks inside the container.
  • Stick pictures on the tops of frozen juice cans. Cut a slit in the lid of a plastic yogurt container and show children how they can drop the pictures inside the container. They will especially enjoy the sound the lids make as they land inside the container.
  • Sit children in their high chair and give them an opaque container with an object hidden inside. Encourage them to discover the object.
  • Use blankets, facecloths, or towels for peek-a-boo games.

1-2 years old
This is the age at which children acquire object permanence; they are able to understand that objects (and people) continue to exist even if they cannot see them. They are also able to recognize their reflection in a mirror. Through play, they can imitate various daily actions and change the function of different objects. Furthermore, they can associate objects to corresponding illustrations and point to their different body parts or to themselves if an adult asks them where they are. Here are a few activities that are interesting for children of this age group:

  • Play with them in front of a mirror. Use makeup pencils to draw designs on their face.
  • Pretend play. Use characters, dolls, or plastic figurines to represent daily actions (eating, sleeping, getting dressed, etc.). This type of activity may help you understand children better, for example, you may discover how a child is put to bed at home or which food items a child likes most.
  • Create a personalized album for each child using pictures taken during daily routines and activities. Include pictures of animals, everyday objects, family members, etc. Let children manipulate their book as often as they wish.
  • When washing children at the end of a meal, name each body part and encourage them to point to each one.

2 to 3 years old
At this age, children are interested in scribbling. They also love to change the names of people and animals. They are able to understand the difference between "one object" and "several objects". They can count "2" objects and state their age. When asked, they are able to distinguish between a small object and a large object. They understand spatial concepts such as "in", "on", "under", and "over". Here are a few activities that children of this age will enjoy:

  • Encourage them to count the pieces of fruit that are in their plate, the objects on the table, the number of buttons on your shirt, etc. Begin by teaching them to count up to 2. Once this is easy for children, count to 3, to 4, and so on.
  • Show children to state their age and use their fingers to express it.
  • Look at books and name the items you see. Ask them to identify larger or smaller objects.
  • Create indoor or outdoor obstacle courses. Have children climb over cushions, crawl under tables, etc. Explore spatial concepts as much as possible.
  • Decorate a cardboard box with your group. Select an object that children especially like, such as a figurine or toy car and ask them to place it on, under, next to, or inside the box. Help them if you see that they are hesitating.

3-4 years old
At this age, children can have an imaginary friend. They enjoy drawing, but they are the only ones who can identify or recognize the items they draw. They can count to ten or count up to six objects that are set in front of them. They are able to understand "today", "yesterday", and "tomorrow". They can differentiate girls and boys as well as heavy and light objects. They can complete puzzles containing six pieces and name three colors and the three basic shapes.

  • Draw items with your group. At first, provide only three colors. Once they are able to name and recognize them, add additional colors one at a time. Draw circles, squares, and triangles and ask children to reproduce them.
  • Use a piggy bank and encourage children to drop bingo markers in the slot. Give each child three bingo markers to begin with. Count them together as they drop them in the slot. Gradually add extra bingo markers.
  • Make personalized calendars for each child. Fill the boxes with drawings that will represent birthdays, special activities, outings, etc. Give each child an illustration that can be moved from one date to the next to help children follow along. Ask children what they did yesterday or which activities they will do today or tomorrow to help them understand the concept of time.
  • Fill a large container with water and provide a variety of light and heavy objects (feather, rock, utensil, paper, etc.). Give each child a light object and a heavy object. Encourage them to identify which one is light and which one is heavy before dropping them gently in the water. Observe which objects float and which objects sink to the bottom.

4-5 years old
Children of this age are now able to draw stick figures. They love stories, reading, and inventing. They understand "morning", "afternoon" and "evening". They are able to remember four different items seen in an illustration, name eight colors, and count to 20. They are developing abilities in preparation for kindergarten. Here are a few activities that are perfect for children of this age group:

  • Invent stories with your group. Cut pictures out of magazines and stick them on construction paper. Use them to create stories. Write down the text associated to each picture so you can read the story to your group when they are done.
  • Regularly read to your group, but also provide them with the opportunity to invent stories or "read" to you.
  • Hide four objects under a blanket. Let children look at them and name them. Hide the objects with the blanket and remove one. Encourage children to identify the missing object.


A few things to keep in mind
For each developmental sphere, children complete the various stages in chronological order. However, the speed at which the stages are reached can vary greatly. For this reason, avoid comparing two children of the same age.
If you feel a child has already acquired the competencies associated with his/her age group, do not hesitate to use the activities of the following age group to stimulate him/her further.

On the other hand, if a child's development worries you, do not hesitate to encourage parents to consult a healthcare professional. This consultation will either reassure parents or, if necessary, result in a referral to a specialist.


Have fun with little ones!

Maude Dubé
Specialized child educator is not responsible for the content of this article. The information mentioned in this article is the responsibility of the author. shall not be held responsible for any litigation or issues resulting from this article.


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