Encouraging cognitive development in preschoolers
Early childhood is a very crucial time for the cognitive development of a child. It is important for parents to understand the way a child’s brain develops during this time and how they can support this development. Kids ‘R’ Kids, an educational preschool, shares important facts about early cognitive development and tips to encourage this development in preschoolers.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that intelligence changes as children grow. A child’s cognitive development is not just about acquiring knowledge, the child has to develop or construct a mental model of the world.
Cognitive development occurs through the interaction of innate capacities and environmental events, and children pass through four stages. Each child goes through the stages in the same order, and child development is determined by biological maturation and interaction with the environment. The four stages are the sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years), preoperational stage (2-7 years), concrete operational stage (7-12 years), and the formal operational stage (12 years and above). Here’s more about the preoperational stage that is relevant for preschoolers.
The Preoperational Stage – Ages: 2 – 7 Years
Children in this stage are learning to use language and how to think about the world symbolically. These skills help children develop the foundations they will need to consistently use operations in the next stage. A child’s thinking is dominated by how the world looks, not how the world is. It is not yet capable of the logical (problem-solving) type of thought. Children at this stage also demonstrate animism. This is the tendency for the child to think that non-living objects (such as toys) have life and feelings like a person’s.
How can parents promote cognitive development in preschoolers?
Play is a vital component of cognitive development in early childhood. It also allows parents to engage with their children. Parents can build an affectionate and loving relationship with their children that will become the foundation for their development and learning.
Preschoolers learn best through child-led or even adult-guided play. Children require lots of unstructured play with others that teach them to share, cooperate, resolve conflict, negotiate, and make friends. Here are a few ways parents can help preschoolers build their cognitive skills.
Reading daily to children is a great way to help their cognitive development. It helps develop the following skills:
- Language patterns
- Thinking skills
- Writing skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Attention span
- Listening skills
Having a talk with children about their day at school, their experience with an activity, about their friends, during a bath or a walk allows children to use the language they are hearing. Parents are the primary source of language for children in the early years. Since children learn by imitation, parents must use grammatically correct language that stimulates a child’s mind.
3. Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes are not only entertaining for children, they also teach language patterns and vocabulary and help build auditory perceptual skills. Classic nursery rhymes, songs, and poems are rich in language constructs that can help set up children for reading success later on.
4. Thinking Games
Critical thinking skills are crucial for a successful adult. Thinking “outside the box” and creative problem-solving can be built by playing various thinking games. Games such as the guessing game, the prediction game, pretend-play game, and memory games are all meant to develop various thinking skills in children.
5. Creative Activities
Creativity involves two processes – thinking and producing. Creative thinking helps the brains develop neural connections and learn new concepts. It fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities to experiment with new ideas, new ways of thinking, and problem-solving. Activities such as drawing, painting, molding, creating something with waste materials, or pretend-play are forms of creative expression. Parents can provide opportunities, materials, and stimulation for children to develop creative skills.
Puzzles require a lot of concentration and effort, as well as perseverance to complete. Children who solve puzzles develop deep thinking and intellectual capabilities. Parents can present children with challenging yet doable puzzles that are appropriate for their age.
Movement helps build neural pathways in the brain. It helps in the development of gross and motor skills among children. Movement wakes up, resets, and re-energizes the brain. Therefore, it can be used during any activity to reset a child’s concentration.
8. Symbolic Play
Symbolic play is when children use objects to represent other objects during make-believe play. A highly creative form of play, symbolic play enables children to develop advanced intellectual skills.
During this kind of play, children are inventing new ways to act out their world to make sense of it. Parents can offer access to toys and materials to encourage this play.
9. Age Appropriate Toys
A stimulating environment for a child does not require fancy toys or equipment. Basics such as wooden blocks, Lego, playdough, books, construction materials, and natural materials can be offered to children on alternative days or after every few days. By offering different manipulatives, children are encouraged to invent novel ways to play and create.
Why Kids ‘R’ Kids?
The philosophy of “Hug First, Then Teach”, defines every aspect of what Kids ‘R’ Kids, Valrico stands for. Unlike many daycare centers or childcare providers, its methodology is a whole-child approach. It constantly strives to strengthen and encourage every child’s emotional, intellectual, social, and physical well-being through the expertise of its childcare providers and a unique partnership with parents.