Babies cognitive abilities are remarkable! Babies don’t live in a world of reactions, impulses, mystifying sights, and confusing sounds. Your newborn has a collected number of cognitive, perceptual and sensory competencies that you can enhance through contact, environment, and social interaction. 

babies cognitive abilities

Babies Cognitive Abilities: Cognitive Competence

Because babies spend most of their time sleeping, crying and sucking, it was once believed that infants lacked the ability to think or form complex ideas. Their minds were considered to be, “Tabula Rasa”, or “blank slates” to be written on by experience.

babies cognitive abilities

If your newborn sleeps 16-18 hours a day and spend up to 2-3 hours crying how on the ball can he or she be? The fact is your little on is remarkably competent and demonstrates cognitive abilities soon after being born. For example, within days or even hours after your baby was born, he or she could show a preference for faces or face-like stimuli (Mondloch et al., 1999). At three-days-old your infant was able to make the distinction between your voice and other voices in a room. At one week of age, your little bundle of joy preferred your smell to another nursing mother. And at four-months -old your baby recognized their name (Mandel, Jusczyk, & Pisoni, 1995).

Jean Piaget And Babies Cognitive Abilities

Breaking away from the accepted model that linked child development with environmental factors, Piaget decided to explore innate aptitudes. He believed these aptitudes guide children’s progression through a series of developmental stages. He believed that children were active and autonomous learners, using their senses to interact with the world around them. Piaget stressed the importance of nurturing and guiding your children, while giving them the freedom to experiment and explore on their own.

Newborn babies

Jean Piaget’s Four Stages Of  Development

According to Piaget, every baby passes through various stages of cognitive development; the stages have different qualities and are hierarchal. A child only moves on to the next phase after completing his or her current stage. The time it takes your baby to move on to the next stage of development can’t be rushed; each child has his or her pace of development.  Piaget believed children will construct an understanding of the world around them, and will then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment. To explain his theory, Piaget used the concept of stages to describe development as a sequence of the four following stages
Babies Cognitive abililities -Jean Piagets four Stages of development
The four stages represent levels in the development of intelligence mainly providing a list of the “schemas” that babies use at a particular moment in their development. A schema is a mental model of a set of ideas perceptions and actions that help organize our past experiences and prepare us for experiences in the future. Your baby’s first schemas are simple, for example, “things I can eat”. But, as they grow, children’s schema’s become more complicated. Allowing them to understand the difference between their bedroom and the kitchen, what distinguishes a horse from a cow or what constitutes, “best friend”. According to Piaget, intelligent behavior is made up of a growing collection of schemas.
new babies

The First Stage of Development: Sensorimotor

 “The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Child’s Self-Esteem” series will examine each stage of Piaget’s theory. This post covers the Sensorimotor Motor stage, which spans the first two years of your baby’s life. During this period, your baby learns about the world primarily through his or her senses (sensor) and movement (motor). Newborns at this stage are egocentric, which means they see the world only from their perspective. At the beginning of the stage, infants practice reflexes without understanding or intention. Later, they can extend and coordinate their reflexes with objects, as evidence by their ability to grab and hold a rattle. As their cognitive skills develop, babies start thinking about their behaviors and reacting to different stimuli such as noises, movement and emotions. Your baby might giggle or smile because he or she perceived something as funny or interesting. Because such a reaction is a induced by cognitive development, it falls within the sensorimotor stage.

Babies Cognitive Abilities: Physical And Social Environment

Your baby is a sense machine. And you create your baby’s world with a variety of stimuli. A variety of stimuli means changes in available toys and objects. Provide your child with lots of different types of toys that the manufacturer designed to fit your child’s developmental level. Also, encourage your baby to explore actively all the sights, sounds and objects that fill his or her world. 

According to a study published Thursday in Science, babies learn by being surprised by the objects around them.
“Our research suggests that infants use what they already know about the world to form predictions. When these predictions are shown to be wrong, infants use this as a special opportunity for learning,” Lisa Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the study, said in a statement. “When babies are surprised, they learn much better, as though they are taking the occasion to try to figure something out about their world.” Read more…

Tips for cognitive development

  • Visual Stimulation: Brightly colored objects for play such as a mobile to hang over the crib. Buy more than one mobile so you can vary them every few months.
  • Auditory Stimulation: Expose your baby to pleasant music and sounds. Talk and sing to your newborn. Get outside for long walks there’s a variety of sounds for your baby’s ears. Enrich your daily strolls outside by naming the sounds in the air, “Do you hear the bird”? “Listen to the Bells”, or “That’s a loud truck”!
  • Tactile Stimulation: Activate tactile stimulation with plush toys or books that include textures such as, cotton, fleece or silk. Play interactive hand and toe games such as Patty-Cake, Peek-a-Boo and This Little Piggy.
  • Gross Motor Skills (large muscles): Teach your baby how to throw and kick a ball. Observe him as he explores an opened box. One of my son’s favorite toys was a plunger, (it was new) I purchased at Target. I’d suction it to the kitchen floor, cover the handle with a towel, and he loved knocking it around. Rocking horses, tricycles, wagons, toy strollers or lawn mower are great toys for gross motor development.
  • Fine Motor skills (small muscles): For eye-hand coordination, invest in a baby gym with dangling toys. Peg boards, sorting toys or filling and dumping trucks all stimulate the small muscle, groups.

Remember, boosting babies cognitive abilities  can’t be achieved by toys alone  You’re the anchor in your child’s life; it’s your engagement and participation in all of your child’s play activities that will boost their cognitive abilities.

your baby's cognitive development

This concludes the, infant section in my, Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Child’s Self Esteem. Don’t miss my next section, 

Until Then,




By | 2017-07-06T11:29:30+00:00 |Categories: Learning And Development|Tags: |
  • Mahal Hudson

    I could remember by university days when you talk about Piaget’s theories. I can relate in two aspects…my yearning to be a Mom and my studies in Behavioral Science when I was in university.

    Thanks for posting.

  • SafariOnTheBlog

    This is so beautiful! love all the cute images and all.I find the stages so fascinating.
    Very important that we engage with our children, talk to them and play with them.

    Thank you for sharing Pamela x

  • Tim

    From this I understand completely why I grew up to love the water. I have a photo of me at 16 months, sitting in a bucket naked and outside in the hot sun. Water was definitely my friend and I loved it then and now.

    • Send me that image Tim, and I’ll feature it in a post!

      • Tim

        Let me know your email address and I will.If I can say so; it is a cute one.

  • Krystyna Lagowski

    That’s just fascinating, the way babies progress into young people with the “schemas” – I’ve never heard of that before. And even though there are so many resources to help them develop, it’s always, of course, their parents that truly set the course! Love it!

    • You’re right on the mark, Krystyna. Interactive parenting is a critical factor in raising your child’s inner self-esteem.

  • Babies are so wonderful and when my kids were little I had the great opportunity to watch them grow every day. It was wonderful to see how they progressed. Thanks for sharing.

  • Love all the cute images as usual but the last one is a winner because I’ve always been a sucker for baby toes! it’s really fascinating learning how babies learn and develop. I was watching a video yesterday of a baby just learning to crawl and it was amazing to see her focus and how hard she was working at it, but what made it even cuter was the family dog laying on the carpet watching her intently as she struggled to make progress. After several minutes the dog scooted over to her and licked her nose – adorable!

    • I love that Dr. Seuss quote. Youtube has great videos on child development.There’s a child development center that posts videos of the same child at 3 or 4 month intervals. It’s incredible to witness the amount of learning and development that occurs in a matter of months!

  • Susan P. Cooper

    It is amazing how early on babies can recognize your smell, their name, your voice etc. fascinating. It is also interesting how easily they can pick up additional languages that are so extremely difficult to do when you are an adult. Love the picture with the little tiny feet. So cute.

  • How in heaven’s name did you come up with the plunger toy on the kitchen floor toy? My now 31 year old son loved to play (bang around) with the pots and pans in a low kitchen cupboard—-usually when I was on a call for work (sometimes with a Judge!) and this was back in the day when the telephone was affixed to the kitchen wall in our apartment so I couldn’t move away.

    • LOL…My son never really liked toys, so I figured, “why fight it”? Oh yes, I remember those tethered phone conversations. AT&T couldn’t make a cord LONG enough for me!

  • Catarina Alexon

    Really interesting information even for someone who doesn’t have children. Can recognize some of it in children that have been close to me.

    • Thank you Catarina.These little ones could all be rockin’ the International Business scene in a few years!

  • This is so interesting, and I can’t wait to read about my kids’ stages (age 8 and 10). It’s so fun to see how their cognitive abilities change as they grow.

    • Oh yeah..onward and upward to the “tweens”! That’s when we all have to , buckle up for safety : )

  • I love the last picture on the bottom. I remember learning about Piaget and his stages in my Freshman child development class (I couldn’t get into the classes on my list, and so somehow ended up in child development even though it had nothing to do with my major). It really is amazing how children and especially babies develop. Since we can’t really remember that time in our lives, it is great that we can have someone explain it to us. I’m sure this entire series is very helpful to parents of little ones.

  • Jacqueline Gum

    I have to tell you that I really enjoyed this series! And I don’t even have kids! LOL But I sure have bee with many children throughout my life, including the kids I was a Guardian Ad Litem for. I just find these stages fascinating and am so glad that new parents pay more attention to their kids development. Or at least that is the hope!!

  • Phoenicia

    It is important that we engage with our children; talk to them, play with them, cuddle and hold them.

    As you stated, children are constantly developing whether it is obvious obvious to us as parents.

  • Beth –

    It’s fun to think about these things so many years since my children were babies. I read everything there was to read about babies then. Still, though I did things pretty much the same for my 2, they responded very differently. Magical little beings!


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