Activities that help develop cognitive skills in children

Updated June 13, 2017

Cognitive skills are the skills we use to think and learn. Educational expert Howard Bloom categorised these skills into different areas: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Develop your child's cognitive skills by using fun games and activities that motivate and encourage learning.

Memory Games

Developing your child's memory improves learning ability. Play games with picture cards. Lay the cards face down and take turns picking up two cards, trying to find a pair. If you pick up two matching cards, you keep them; if you don't, you place them back in the same positions. Your child needs to remember where the cards are to pick up matching pairs and win the game. Verbal memory games are simple and fun. Begin by saying, "I went to the shop and I bought ... ." The next player repeats what you have said and adds another item. The next player continues and adds another item.

Singing and Music

From the earliest ages, children enjoy singing and music. They can develop their cognitive skills through learning counting songs and alphabet songs. Making music develops creativity, even if only through beating out a rhythm with a wooden spoon on an upturned mixing bowl or shaking some dried pasta in a jar.


Puzzles develop logical thinking skills. Jigsaw puzzles are relatively cheap to buy and can be returned to again and again; they also improve memory skills. Make sure you provide puzzles that are suitable for the age of your child. Shape sorters are excellent for the youngest children. As your child develops, he relies less on trial and error for solving puzzles and begins to develop reasoning skills and strategies for success.

Role Play

Creativity is vital in developing cognitive skills. Encourage your child to use his imagination. Have a box of old clothes to play dress-up games and crate characters. Suggest scenarios such as a visit to a restaurant, a trip to the zoo or the circus and act them out together. Act out favourite stories from books and television. Dolls, plastic food and pretend kitchen equipment can all encourage role play and make believe, as can a simple, discarded cardboard box.


Reading with your child promotes language skills, understanding and knowledge. It's never too early to start. Even the youngest children enjoy hearing a story and listening to a parent's voice. Share books from the beginning. As your child grows, make time to read together every day. Make it fun by using silly voices. Talk about books with your child to improve their comprehension, reading and verbal abilities. Have reading materials all over the house; fiction, nonfiction, comics, magazines and even catalogues.

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About the Author

Based in Hampsire in the south of England, Alison Williams has been writing since 1990. Her work has appeared in local magazines such as "Hampshire Today" and "Hampshire the County Magazine." Williams is qualified in newspaper journalism and has a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from the Open University. She has recently published her first novel "The Black Hours" and has a master's in creative writing.