As children grow, they develop physically and have measurable attributes such as weight and height. Further to this physical growth, as children grow, they also develop cognitive abilities. Jean Piaget was the first psychologist who did an in-depth study into how children acquire understanding as they grow. Piaget concluded that cognitive abilities were developed gradually as the child grew up and interacted with the environment (Mollon et al. 275). The deduction here is that the more children interact and familiarize themselves with things, they acquire a better understanding of how those things work. This development continues into their early years through to middle childhood. The cognitive development of children is a key aspect of their growth, especially in their formative years.
Children are Born with Cognitive Abilities
Psychologists who deal with development today believe that Piaget was not right. They propose that young children can understand objects they are yet to encounter and how they work. A good example is children aged three months knowing how objects they had only viewed but not interacted with work. The conclusions of a study done involving three-month-old babies showed that they knew the properties of objects that they had no previous interaction with (Easte 15). These babies watched a toy truck roll down and then went behind a screen. A box that looked solid but had a hole in it was then placed next to the screen, and the truck rolled right past the box set beside the truck, as was expected.
In the next bit of the experiment, the hollow box was then placed right on the tracks to block the truck. When the truck came this time, it went right through the hole in the box with no impediment. The infants were baffled and curious they took a lot of time trying to wrap their minds around the fact that solid objects cannot go through each other. In their mind, they did not know the box was hollow and therefore did not expect the truck to go through it. This led the researchers to believe that children learn how objects work long before interacting with them (Mollon et al. 277). The conclusion, therefore, is that children are born with certain basic cognitive abilities that enable them to understand how objects work long before they encounter them.
As children grow up, certain physical milestones are expected at different ages. For example, there is an age when they are expected to crawl and walk. There are also cognitive milestones that are expected of children as they grow up. As the children grow up, they develop cognitive abilities such as communication, problem-solving, and the ability to think. Infants, for example, will begin shaking their heads when they mean no from around six to nine months (Easte 15). They can also respond when verbally requested to do things like waving bye-bye.
Perhaps this is well demonstrated in toddlers aged 12 months and above when they enjoy playing hide and seek. Toddlers also develop the cognitive abilities to look for objects in places as directed. In preschool, children aged between three to five years old make a lot of progress in cognitive development. For example, they are well capable of counting numbers and saying their names and their ages. The children in preschool begin to develop a rudimentary understanding of time, for example, before and after.
During storytelling, they can begin to speculate what will happen next based on the story they have been told so far. At this stage, the children also start to appreciate jokes incorporated in storytelling sessions. The best demonstration of cognitive growth in children of this age is their curiosity and desire to find out more as they constantly ask the question, “Why?” They develop an understanding of time better which gives them another cognitive ability, the ability to plan based on time. They can process the idea of cause and effect as well as perform addition and subtraction.
Language acquisition is yet another aspect of cognitive development that has been well researched. The process and order through which a child learns a language is very consistent across different cultures (Paradis et al. 148). Before they are born babies, are already developing communication and language skills, albeit rudimentary. At birth, the child can distinguish between the voice of the mother and that of strangers. In addition, they can also differentiate between the language spoken by their mother and foreign languages. Children are also able to use gestures before they develop speech. Evidence from research indicates that gesture usage can predict language development (Capobianco et al. 65). Another interesting cognitive fact is that babies will make sounds that are replicated in their languages.
A baby with French-speaking parents will use a different tone to coo instead of a baby with Spanish-speaking parents. Cooing is closely followed by babbling which often starts with a single repeated syllable, usually ba-ba or ma-ma. When the child is about two years old, the child’s speech is between 50 and 200 words. When the child gets to three years, their vocabulary will expand to accommodate up to 1000 words, and they can also construct and speak in sentences. The growth and expansion of vocabulary in the early childhood years are extremely rapid, it is sometimes referred to as the vocabulary spurt stage. It is estimated that children in this stage will accumulate up to 20 new words within a week.
However, research that has been done recently suggested that this vocabulary spurt is not experienced by all children (Eshghi et al. 3415). At five years of age, the children have now expanded their vocabulary collection to understanding 6,000 words and being able to speak up to 2,000 words. It is speculated that children will learn language based on positive feedback as they attempt to speak. This positive feedback could be when they see they have been understood or expressed approval from their parents. A two-year-old who wants water may say, for example, “me water” when the mother responds by giving the child mother, he or she is affirmed and uses the phrase more confidently.
The cognitive development of children is just as important, if not more, than their physical development. While it was initially thought that children develop all cognitive skills gradually, it has now been proven that children are born with some cognitive skills. Cognitive milestones are important in determining if a baby is developing mentally. Every cognitive milestone is reached when the child attains a certain age, and these ages may vary. The process of language acquisition in babies is consistent in all cultures. As children grow, they also develop and expand their vocabulary banks. Cognitive development is more prominent in from birth to middle childhood.
Easte, Drake. “Child Psychology.” Psychological of Science Article 1.1 (2021). Vol. 13.
Capobianco, Micaela, Elena Antinoro Pizzuto, and Antonella Devescovi. “Gesture–speech combinations and early verbal abilities: New longitudinal data during the second year of age.” Interaction Studies 18.1 (2017): 55-76.
Eshghi, Marziye, et al. “Vocabulary growth from 18 to 24 months of age in children with and without repaired cleft palate.” Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 62.9 (2019): 3413-3430.
Paradis, Johanne, et al. “Children’s second language acquisition of English complex syntax: The role of age, input, and cognitive factors.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 37 (2017): 148.
Mollon, Josephine, et al. “Course of cognitive development from infancy to early adulthood in the psychosis spectrum.” JAMA psychiatry 75.3 (2018): 270-279. (Mollon et al. 275).