How to Improve Your Child’s Cognitive Skills

As a parent, I like to think that I’ve given my children a good start by passing on (at least a few) desirable genes, putting the kids in good schools and enrolling them in extra curricular activities. That said, I often wonder about ways to supplement my children’s activities or look for ideas that may give my kids an extra boost. I dug a little deeper into the topic and found that, as it turns out, interactions with familiar adults are a terrific support for development of a variety of cognitive skills.

Wanting to understand how I could best support the children in my life, I performed a quick websearch which led me to the Infant and Toddler Learning and Development section of the California Department of Education website. I learned that motor, perceptual, emotional and language abilities all play a role in learning and the completion of cognitive tasks. The group points out that the term cognition actually encompasses a variety of areas which begin to develop in early childhood and are affected by interactions with the people most important in children’s lives. So many in fact, that the California Department of Education maintains multiple pages devoted to cognitive development. The pages summarized several areas of cognitive development and how interactions with people affect skills development. Skills such as understanding cause and effect, learning through imitation, participating in imaginative play and maintaining attention were described along with other skills important for development of cognitive functioning.

I read to my kids daily, but are there other specific steps a parent or caregiver can take to influence a child’s cognitive development? I came across a University of Chicago News article which described work by Susan Goldman Meadow along with other researchers who are studying ways to help children learn language and develop cognitive skills. The researchers discussed that the way we talk to our kids can help increase skills development. Practical strategies such as encouraging gestures, modeling a variety of words, using complicated language structures, and talking about numerical and spatial relationships with kids were suggested. I’ve always talked a lot with my kids but reading the University of Chicago news article made me think about talking to my kids with a purpose beyond the day to day events.

Reading about the variety of experiences affecting my children’s cognitive development provided me with a refreshing outlook on our day to day lives. Knowing the role I can play in promoting various skills by being around, being tuned in and talking on a deeper level was encouraging. According to the professionals, parents like me have more influence on a child’s cognitive development than we may have realized.