cognitive development during early childhood

My Child – Intellectual and Cognitive Development in the Early Years


From its first breath, the newborn baby begins to understand the world around through their senses.  Their hands, nose, mouth become the instrument through which they pick up impressions.  These first impressions work their way to the brain.  This is where the work of analysing, dissecting and categorizing information takes place. 

Even a toddler who cannot yet verbalize, is very quick to translate impressions. For example, a toddler that touches something hot and makes a sound so as to express ‘hot’.  This toddler may not have the words to express but is able to take the impression (through touching and feeling) and translate it into information.  The faculty of the brain and the work it conducts is a gift of nature.  

The role of the adult therefore is to nurture this gift of nature by offering activities and play that the child can collect information and the brain can process this to create more healthy outcomes.

Fantasy play in young children while may be entertaining for the child, can create more negative outcomes. Firstly, the child’s brain is still developing and thus is not able to clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy.  Offering play or audio visuals that cannot be categorized appropriately creates confusion.

Secondly, offering fantasized play or programs is wasting natures resources as most fantasy play does not offer much sensorial experience i.e., there is not much opportunity to capture impressions of touch, smell, and other such information. Thus, not only is the information translated into confusion but also there is minimal brain development taking place.  In excessive amounts fantasized play and audio visuals can cause harm to the process of brain development.

Here are some options for at home activities:

  • Water and Sand play including washing activities
  • Preferable offer toys that are made of wood or metal and where appropriate glass.  Real materials as opposed to synthetics have weight and temperature and thus create opportunities for the child to absorb information the adult would hardly ever think of.
  • Offer play with kitchen gadgets and utensils that are safe
  • Puzzles
  • Creative activities with art and craft materials – allow the child create their own designs.  The child’s imagination has no limits – let us allow growth instead of confining them to our expected results.
  • In closing, offer your child opportunities for REAL HANDS ON PLAY.  This is their time – let us support the early years understanding their needs.

Sherin Alibhai
Educational Consultant & Family Coach
January 2021

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