Early Learning Success Manual, pages 55-57

The Cognitive Development domain focuses on a child’s curiosity about the world around them, and how they make sense of it.  From infants and toddlers learning about the world through their senses, to preschoolers just beginning to use information in complex ways, to school-agers who are acquiring a large amount of knowledge at a very rapid pace, all are exploring their worlds.

Some States include the components listed below as individual developmental domains, as well as one titled ‘logical thinking and problem solving’.  Regardless of how the early learning standards are organized, all the concepts are included.

Common components within this area of development used by the Early Learning Success curriculum include: 

  • Mathematical Knowledge and Reasoning – knowledge of number concepts and operations; patterns and relationships; spatial relationships; measurement; and mathematical reasoning
  • Scientific Observation and Problem Solving – knowledge of scientific observation, inquiry and investigation; life science; physical, earth and space science
  • Social Systems Understanding – knowledge of family and human relationships; understanding the world in which we live including our community and world; directional and map skills

Each State has early learning standards which are written to further describe the knowledge and skill expected for each component.  These specific standards should be used to develop child-specific goals.

In Practice

Offer many opportunities for children to practice cognitive skills through the day, such as:

  • Play games with infants and toddlers that use directional words such as ‘on top of’, ‘underneath’, or ‘next to’
  • Hide objects under a blanket and ask ‘where is the object?’
  • Count toes and fingers when washing hands or changing diapers
  • Sing songs to encourage memory
  • Count how people and children are in the group
  • Practice one-to-one correspondence with objects and numbers
  • Create activities for children to match simple patterns or shapes, and sort objects into sub groups
  • Give children opportunities to identity common shapes that are seen outside, at school and at home
  • Measure objects using arms, hands, legs and feet, as well as rulers or measuring tapes
  • Use a bathroom scale- children can weigh themselves, each other, or objects in their environment. 
  • Have children guess or estimate and then create a chart-what is the favorite ice cream flavor or pizza topping in their group? 
  • Have magnifying glasses available for children to study ‘up close’ item found on a nature walk

Cognitive activities are integrated into all aspects of the environment and happen all day— sometimes without anyone noticing. Counting the number of chicken nuggets on their plate at lunch or setting out the correct number of spoons or cups for snack time is ‘math’; we just don’t call it that. Offering puzzles, Legos and blocks for the children to play with? Again, more mathematics happening!! To complete the puzzle, children need to recognize the shapes to know where the pieces fit. Legos and blocks develop children’s spatial awareness as well as the concepts of balance, weight, length, and size. Look at the activities children are doing and see if you can identify any math/science or logical thinking going on—I bet you will!