Cognitive Infant & Toddler Activities

As infants and toddlers (age 0-24 months) interact with their world around them, they learn to think and understand behavior and how it affects their environment. According to developmental theorist Jean Piaget, it is through sensory and motor experiences that infants develop their cognitive abilities. There are a number of activities that parents and caregivers can do with their little ones to help promote language, memory and thinking skills.

Mother playing with toddler. (Image: Teresa De Paul/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Touch, Feel and Grasp

According to Jean Piaget, in the reflexive stage of cognitive development, infants and toddlers are learning through simple reflex activities. Soft toys such as stuffed animals or rattles provide infants with the opportunity to hold and feel items and use their grasp reflex.

Repetitive Play

Repetitive play helps infants learn motor responses, rhythm and language skills. Examples of these cognitive activities include guiding the infant's hands to clap, during a song or chant or playing "pop goes the weasel." In "pop goes the weasel," the infant can learn and associate "popping" with the word in the song.

Moving Objects

Infants can learn about how their behaviors affect the environment through interactions with objects and toys. They can learn cause and effect through moving and manipulating various toys. An activity that can help promote this is to hang a mobile over the crib, allowing the infant to hit or kick the hanging objects.

Block Play

Cognitive activities such as stacking blocks or filling and emptying objects can promote motor learning, spatial awareness and cause and effect. Through block play, infants and toddlers can learn to be intentional with their motor actions.

Obstacle Courses

Mini-obstacle courses allows toddlers to learn new ways to do things. They can go over, under, around or through things, which can help with understanding alternate ways to achieve a goal. This activity can also promote gross motor skills, coordination and balance.

Hide-and-Seek Games

Hide-and-seek games can help toddlers learn problem-solving skills. An example of a hide-and-seek type game is to ask the toddler to put something in the trash or in another location away from where they are. This can also teach language and direction-following skills. Simple hide-and-seek games will help toddlers to use thinking and problem-solving skills to find objects or people.

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