Cognitive development has a bearing on as simple an activity as say making gestures. In the initial days, the baby does not have the power to recall or the ability to think something out of context. But he may start reusing simple gestures repeatedly to communicate one single thought.
Dr Brunda Amruthraj, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, ZeitGeist, Centre for Personal and Organisational Development, Bengaluru, says: “Cognitive development involves looking at the neurological development of a child. So under cognition comes intelligence, memory, attention-span, distraction of the child, and of course his abilities to perceive things.”
The process of cognitive development starts from the time the babies opens their eyes and makes their first squeal. They look around and learn, pick up smells and voices, study facial movements and even try to emulate lip movements in some cases. They repeat these simple cues from their surroundings till the time they get a hang of it and can perform it in their own way.
Dr Amruthraj also says: “The minute a child is born, you observe the child’s early responses like how he or she cries, how he or she responds to the mother – all of these falls under cognitive development.”
This is one primary reason why parents are told to play the same game with the baby repeatedly till the game and the associated movements and meaning gets set in the baby’s brain. Distracted babies with too much of paraphernalia beside them may have a hard time concentrating on and fully deciphering things around them.
Reading to babies help in their cognitive development. Familiar phrases, words and a reading voice stick in their head and help them recall or associate that word with other things in the long run. Talking to the babies also helps them associate with you. They will have the tendency to read your expressions and may soon try to copy them, too. Some even feel having large mirrors beside your baby in which they can see themselves playing around or moving around allows them to associate more with their movements and relate to themselves.
Musical toys or lullabies often give out familiar tones and babies, over time, tend to relate to them, too. This is something that starts even before the baby is delivered. They pick up sounds and noises even from the mother’s womb.
Cognitive milestones exist to give some common behaviour that is expected from the babies as they grow up.
Dr Amruthraj says: “Milestones can be many. At three months, head holding can be a milestone. At five months, you expect the child to turn over. At six months, you expect the child to move forward and sit. And by one year or one-and-a-half years, you expect the child to walk.”
All these small processes and developments go a long way in the cognitive and skill development of the babies, a process that starts right after delivery (and sometimes even before that), and continues for well over 18 months.