10 Cognitive Activities For Infants To Boost Development

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Cognitive activities for infants can strengthen their ability to think, communicate, and analyze. A child’s cognitive development happens when they interact with their environment (1). Each interaction gives rise to new nerve connections in the brain.

In infants, cognitive development is seen when they grow curious and reach out with their hands to touch and feel things (2). In the first year, babies also start understanding language and develop bonds of love and trust. The way parents speak, play, cuddle or interact with their children also helps in the cognitive development of their children (2).

In addition, many theories of cognitive development have also been put forth by scientists such as Jean Piaget, Erikson, Bronfenbrenner, and others. This post enlists some exciting activities that will help you develop your child’s cognitive skills.

10 Cognitive Development Activities for Infants

Every child is different and reaches their developmental milestones in their own time. These activities can help boost your infant’s cognitive development at different ages.

Cognitive activities for infants 0 to 3 months

A newborn baby is able to see objects around 12 inches from them, is sensitive to sounds nearby, and startles when they hear loud noises by kicking their legs, flailing their arms, and arching their back (3).

From one to three months of age, your child should be able to move their eyes as objects move, respond to startling and loud noises, follow objects such as rattle toys, recognize familiar people from a distance, and cry or fuss when they are bored or want to communicate. During their third month, an infant can recognize their mother’s breast or bottle when it is feeding time and learn to follow moving objects or people by turning their head.

Here are some cognitive development activities that are apt for infants:

1. Read to your infant

Reading to your baby has many benefits, and it is never too early or late to start. Children benefit from being read to from a very young age (4). Reading to your newborn helps them recognize voices, sounds, and showing them picture books with bright colors helps in their cognitive development.

2. Talk to your baby

At 0 to 3 months of age, your baby is way too young to speak or converse with you. However, you can still try talking to your baby, look at them and smile, and have regular conversations with them. Notice how your baby will listen to you intently.

Having conversations with your baby and talking to them helps them develop language and communication skills (5). Your baby may also respond to you by cooing or making noises.

3. Hang a moving rattle over their crib

Hanging a moving rattle, or mobile, over your baby’s crib or within their reach during tummy time encourages them to reach out for it. This helps them move their hands and legs while enabling them to hold their head (5).

4. Sing to your baby

Singing to your baby has multiple benefits for your baby. It helps in the development of a bond between you and your baby, teaches them new words and rhythms and improves their listening skills–all of which help in their cognitive development (6).

Cognitive activities for infants 3 to 6 months

By the time your baby turns four or five months old, they develop a sense of self-discovery. They begin to understand that they can influence their surroundings and are able to appreciate interactive toys.

At this age, your infant is also able to communicate if they are happy or sad, looks at you when you are feeding them, and reaches for toys and other objects with their hands. By six months of age, your infant is also able to transfer objects from one hand to the other and reach for things around them.

Try these cognitive development activities for this age group.

1. Encourage object play

When your infant turns around four to five months of age, they begin to understand ‘cause and effect’ in play. They learn to drop things on purpose and observe your reaction. Give them objects such as small boxes, balls of different sizes, spoons, and plastic cups to encourage object play. Ensure that the objects are not potential choking hazards.

2. Provide age-appropriate interactive toys

Once your child is acquainted with the cause-and-effect relationship of certain activities, it is a good time to introduce age-appropriate interactive toys that follow this principle. For example, introduce them to interactive toys with buttons that open the doors or create music. Seeing the result of the action, such as when they press a button, can help strengthen your baby’s self-confidence.

3. Introduce them to different textures

As your child begins to use their hands more for holding objects or reaching out for them, introduce them to different types of textures such as wool, velvet, and corduroy in the form of textured balls or activity boards meant for this purpose (7). Allow them to play with different types of objects and textures and understand them in their own way.

Cognitive activities for infants 6-12 months

Between six and twelve months of age, an infant’s cognitive abilities develop rapidly and they can use their hands more, transfer objects between both hands, turn book pages, look for objects that you hide, put and pull out things from containers, make sounds using objects they have, and understand simple commands (3).

Some activities that can help boost your infant’s cognitive abilities in this age span include

1. Stacking

A stacking game is great for infants between six and twelve months of age. You can get different types of stacking cups or containers. Teach your infant how to stack objects.

You can also play a stacking game where both of you may stack objects at the same time. Apart from learning the cause-and-effect concept, your child also develops fine motor skills through this activity.

2. The disappearing Cheerio

At around seven to eight months of age, infants learn the concept of object permanence as per Jean Piaget’s theory (8). This concept posits that the object exists even when it is hidden. The disappearing cheerio and peek-a-boo are good games to help your infant develop this concept. These activities develop attention skills, memory, and object permanence in your infant.

3. Container play

As your child begins to sharpen their grabbing, gripping, and motor skills, give them different toys in a container. Your infant may reach out for a few toys or overturn the entire container and observe the toys falling out or producing rattling noise.

Make this a habit every day and allow your infant the independence to pick out toys they would like to play with. As your infant grows older, you can teach them to put the toys back into their containers. Any type of container play is intriguing for an infant and boosts their cognitive abilities.

Children grow rapidly in their first year. Every month, you can observe them reaching some milestones. Parents may try various cognitive activities for infants to improve their learning and development.

Key Pointers

  • Selecting age-appropriate activities is vital for infants’ cognitive development and offers proper stimulation.
  • 0 to 6 months infant activities can stimulate them to respond to sounds and reach out to things they like.
  • 6 to 12 months infant activities may enhance their ability to look for hidden objects and understand simple instructions.


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Dr. Meenakshi Maruwada

Dr. Meenakshi is a dentist and a passionate writer with over eight years of experience in dentistry and four years in writing. She started her career as a dentist with a dental chain in Mumbai and soon rose to lead the clinic as a Head Dentist. She then switched to working for two start-ups in healthcare, before beginning her own... more

Dr. Jessica Madden

Jessica Madden is a pediatrician, neonatologist, lactation consultant, and mother of four, who has been taking care of newborns since 2001. She works as a neonatologist in the NICU at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded Primrose Newborn Care, a newborn medicine and “4th trimester” home-visiting and telemedicine practice, in 2018.  Dr. Madden is a Fellow... more