Toys to Promote Cognitive Development in Toddlers & Infants

Cognitive skills are essential to a child’s ability to grasp ideas and concepts. From birth, children develop and refine cognitive skills through play. Provide your child with a variety of toys that promote learning and development in all developmental domains, including cognition.

Infant Toys

Newborns develop cognitive skills primarily through observation, as they do not possess the motor strength necessary to hold and manipulate toys. That doesn’t mean, however, that toys aren’t useful in infant cognitive development. Mobiles attract a baby’s focus and attention, while cardboard picture books promote identification. Use a scarf to hide and reveal a toy to your baby. Once she begins to look for the toy beneath the scarf, she has mastered object permanence.

Toys for Toddlers

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The toddler stage is a time of great exploration and discovery. Countless toys encourage toddlers to observe, question, make connections, problem-solve and understand the world around them. Playing with puppets encourages imagination, abstract thinking and language skills, while blocks promote counting, sorting and problem-solving abilities. Shape sorting toys help children to see relationships between objects, as do simple puzzles.

Household Objects

Constantly buying new toys that encourage infants’ and toddlers’ ever-growing cognitive abilities becomes expensive quickly. Toys do not have to be very advanced, however, to help children practice important basic skills. Chances are, you already have some ordinary items that double as useful toys for promoting cognitive development. You can turn a clean sponge and small plastic cups into amusing toys that encourage cognitive development. At bath time, help your child squeeze water from the sponge into the cups, causing them to sink down into the tub. This simple activity fosters a child’s ability to anticipate, predict outcomes and understand consequence. Fill a plastic water bottle with some water and small objects, like pebbles or sea shells. As your child rolls and shakes the bottle, observing the sounds and swooshes that it makes will encourage her ability to understand cause-and-effect and predict outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recognizes wooden spoons, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and empty egg cartons as ordinary objects that promote cognitive development.

Other Ways to Promote Cognitive Development through Play

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When toys are not at hand, use games and activities to promote cognitive development while curing a spell of boredom. Play patty-cake and peek-a-boo with an infant to encourage her ability to comprehend cause and effect. Play an old-fashioned game of “I Spy” with a toddler and encourage him to recognize and classify different types of objects.