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As parents, we often fret over our child's development. The milestones and the tips that follow will help you understand what your child should be doing, learning and how you as parent or carer can support the child's development. Well-known French Psychologist Jean Piaget's theory on the 4 stages of child's cognitive development provides a blueprint to child's brain and how it develops.Cognitive development refers to process of memory, judgment, perception and reasoning. A healthy development of cognitive skills helps a child multitask, solve problems, plan, decision making and control impulses as they grow. If these skills are not strengthened the child might have trouble with daily chores and social interactions. I am sharing amongst you what to expect from your child at 4 different stages based on Piaget's theory and how to promote the cognitive development in daily life.
First stage: Sensorimotor stage 0 to 2 years
Toddler’s play is all about sensorimotor, they enjoy using their senses, biting, touch, wriggling toes and fingers and suckling. Listening to music and sounds of their own and those around them, they learn to imitate. Do you remember your toddler opening his/her mouth while you spoke to them? moving their arms while they listened to their favorite rhymes or sounds? Provide a stimulus rich environment to strengthen this stage of object permanence. Our family favorites have been:
• Squeak toys- the first time you use this toy they are startled but eventually they realize it is made by an object
• Jar game - Have a plastic safe jar where the toddler can put and take out the objects from the jar.
• Stacking Stacking is fun but to keep stacking is not so fun. Well, if your toddler enjoys it we parent wouldn't mind playing it over and over and over isn’t?
• Peekaboo Perfect game to help them understand that an object exists even it is not visible.
Second Stage: Preoperational period 2 to 7 years
Young children are able to think activities symbolically, their communications become much mature, they have memory and imagination. It’s their intuitions they don't think logically, so the talks are hilarious and guarantee laughter every time! Games we played to help develop this stage:
• Role play/Character play,blanket tents (We are in Barbie/Frozen world-seems eternally Pinkish and snow!)
• PlayDoh's I know they are messiest but they are amazing to see what kids come up with their imagination. Have homemade dough mix with food coloring, the child can knead their own dough, have a plastic sheet under the table to avoid more mess. It's a messy play!
• Hands on practice skills with paper/cornflakes box cut outs alphabets, all you need color pens.
Third Stage: Concrete operations phase 7 to 12 years
I am currently focusing on this phase with my kids, my understanding so far has been that children migrate to more regulated thinking.
• We love Baking! be it cakes, muffins or pizzas.it helps in methodologically thinking and helps learning in portions. Whether its edible or not there is no escape from the untidy kitchen!
• Reading Books Make connections from the story to the children’s everyday lives or personal experiences. For example, while reading “The ugly duckling” I ask how many ducks initially hatched? Or How did the mother duck defend the ugly duckling? Ask questions that require children to recall an earlier part of the story. What occurred at the beginning of the story? I learnt children learn through repetition, so hearing new information more than once will help them learn and remember it.
• Help your child classify objects and even pattern (matching school socks).If you know more activities, please do share.
Fourth stage: Formal Operations 12+ years
Apparently at this stage, (I am dreading to face this age!) Teenagers should be abstract thinking, reasoning from known principles, considering many points of view and thinking about their process of thinking. Evidenced based activities that promote formal thinking in teenagers.
• Encourage them to play decision-making and strategy games like solitaire, checkers, Scrabble or chess.
• Engaging in discussions on varied topics, issues, and current events.
• Allow him/her to think independently and develop his/her own ideas.
• Help them set goals. Challenge him/her to think about future possibilities.
• Compliment him/her for smart decisions.
• Set an example of how to think through difficult situations. Cognitive deficit is impairment in child’s mental processes.
I would definitely seek medical attention if my child showed delay in the following areas: Attention ,Decision making , Judgment, Language ,Memory, Perception ,Planning, Reasoning. Discuss concerns with your child’s preschool teacher, pediatrician, child psychologist for diagnostic screening.
Brain Healthy Nutrients:
Parents are very inclined to include fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, supplements with DHA in their diet for brain development. Evidence found that those with high serum levels of omega3 fatty acids and vitamin D (commonly found in oily fish) and vitamins B, C and E (abundant in fruits and vegetables) performed better in cognitive tests than those who were low in the nutrients. Some of my fellow bloggers have resourceful posts on nutrition for healthy brain for your reference. Since DHA is not easily found in daily diet, it becomes extremely important to supplement it through health/drink supplements.
Now by understanding normal development, you can choose toys, activities and food according to your child’s need. You can also tell when your child may be lagging behind their fellow peers. A timely assessment will ensure early diagnosis and treatment if required. However, every child is unique and beautiful in their own way. Just make sure you stay informed and cherish every stage of your child’s growth. These moments can never be replayed so make sure you capture them with a cheesseeee.
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