Cognitive Development Activities for Toddlers & Infants

Written by christine wheatley
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Cognitive Development Activities for Toddlers & Infants
Talking to your baby is one way to help her cognitive development. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Cognitive development is a term used to describe the intellectual growth that begins at birth and continues throughout an individual's life. The systems and learning structures in the brain start developing the moment a new baby starts looking around and interacting with his surroundings. To foster cognitive development in your infant or toddler, you can incorporate a variety of activities into your daily routine.

Activities for Infants

The activities that help promote cognitive development in infants are surprisingly simple. Move a rattle back and forth slowly in front of your baby's face. Take your infant for a walk around the room, pointing to and naming objects. Show your infant a toy, then cover it with a blanket and encourage her to find it. Hang a mobile for your non-sitting infant and let her watch it. Play baby games with your infant, such as peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake. Put a mirror designed for infants in a place where your baby can see her reflection.

Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers require activities that are a bit more intellectually stimulating. Introduce a shape sorter to your toddler and encourage him to lift off the top, take out the shapes and fit the shapes in the correct holes. Hang pictures of familiar objects on the wall at your toddler's eye level and have him name the objects. Encourage your toddler to stack a tower of blocks; let him knock it over and watch the blocks fall. Conceal a toy behind you and ask your toddler if he can find it. Teach your toddler sign language for simple, everyday items and encourage him to use the sign as he speaks the word.

Activities for Both

Some activities help the cognitive development of both infants and toddlers. Read to infants and toddlers to help them learn the sounds of language and encourage early literacy skills. Tailor reading to a toddler's needs by naming pictures in the book and having the toddler point to them. Play music and sing to infants and toddlers; have your toddler sing along with you. Talking to infants and toddlers, whether in conversation or to describe everyday tasks, will encourage them to use words and sentences. Ask toddlers specific questions about the words they are already using to promote further language development.


Children who are the same chronological age might function at different developmental levels. Watch your child carefully so you can introduce activities that fit her specific needs. Start with simple activities before moving on to complex ones. Offer numerous choices for toddlers and let them choose to participate in the activities with which they're the most comfortable. Always remember to show lots of love and attention to children and keep their activities enjoyable.

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