- Identify typical cognitive developmental milestones from birth to age 3.
- Discuss what to do if you are concerned about an infant’s or toddler’s development.
Infants and toddlers are born ready to learn. They learn through cuddling with a caregiver, listening to language, trying out sounds, stretching on the floor, reaching for objects, tasting foods, and exploring their environments in countless ways every day. Their brains go through amazing changes during the first three years of life. This lesson hightlights cognitive development milestones for infants and toddlers.
Infants’ and toddlers’ thinking skills grow as they interact with the world and people around them. Their early experiences matter. Consistent, nurturing experiences help infants and toddlers make sense of the world. These experiences literally build brain architecture. As infants and toddlers develop, they begin to understand and predict how things work: they open and close a toy busy box door over and over, they fill and dump a cup of water in the water table, they bang a spoon on a high chair to hear the sound.
Watching an infant or toddler make new discoveries is truly exciting. Think of how exciting it is the first time an infant stacks blocks (and knocks them down) or the first time a toddler pretends to read a book to you. The chart below highlights infant and toddler cognitive development. Keep in mind that individual differences exist when it comes to specific ages at which infants and toddlers meet these milestones and that each infant and toddler is unique. As you may have already learned in other courses, milestones provide a guide for when to expect certain skills or behaviors to emerge. Think of milestones as guidelines to help you understand and identify typical patterns of growth and development, or to help you know when and what to look for as young children mature. As a family child care provider, you can use information about developmental milestones, and what you learn from families, to create interactions, experiences, and environments for infants and toddlers.
Infant & Toddler Cognitive Developmental Milestones
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Developmental Milestones. An electronic resource available from: http://www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/actearly/pdf/checklists/All_Checklists.pdf
Cognitive development is a unique process specific to each infant, toddler, and family. Many factors influence cognitive development including genes, prenatal events (before or during birth), and aspects of the child’s environment. A family may wonder about their young child’s cognitive development and feel uncertain about what they are observing and what to expect. As a caregiver, you have an opportunity to build a trusted relationship with the child’s family, observe carefully to learn about the child’s development, and consider offering families additional information about their child's development. In your role as an infant-toddler caregiver, you may have to sensitively include information about possible warning signs that could indicate a developmental delay.
The website Kids Included Together can be a valuable resource (www.kitonline.org). And so can the developmental milestones and Act Early information located on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html. The table below highlights possible developmental warning signs for infants and toddlers:
Just as children’s bodies grow throughout infancy and toddlerhood, their brains are growing, too. You will see major changes between birth and 3 years in a child’s thinking skills. Watch this video to learn about milestones for infants and toddlers.
To support infant and toddler developmental milestones:
- Give infants and toddlers the safe space they need for movement and discovery (areas for climbing, crawling, pulling up, etc.).
- Provide a consistent, nurturing relationship with each infant and toddler.
- Read all you can about children's developmental stages, especially for ages of the children in your family child care home.
- Post developmental milestone charts for reference and share these resources with families.
- Recognize that children need different things from you as they move through their developmental stages.
- Observe children on a regular basis to determine where they are developmentally so you can both support and challenge their emerging skills.
- Remember that children are unique and progress at different rates and that one area of development may take longer than other areas.
- Consult with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator if you feel concerned about how a child is developing. Then share your observations and concerns, along with resources, with the child's family. You may want to encourage them to make an appointment with their health-care provider to learn more about their child’s development.
This video, developed by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers tips for identifying and acting on suspectected developmental delays: http://www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/actearly/multimedia/video.html
Observing infants and toddlers can help you see where they are developmentally, which is important as you plan learning experiences for them. Read, review and complete the Stages of Development Observation activity. Share with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator.
It is important to understand and remember developmental milestones. You can review the milestones posters and use them as a reference in your work and share them with families. You will find separate posters for infants and toddlers.
|Cognitive skills||The mental skills or behaviors that help children access information, solve problems, reason, and draw conclusions|
|Developmental delay||This may be suspected when children do not meet developmental milestones at the expected times; delays can occur in any area of development|
|Developmental milestones||A set of skills or behaviors that most children can do at a certain age range|
|Developmental screening||A tool used to help identify children who are not developing as expected and who may need supports; screening can be completed by health-care providers, teachers, or others who know both the child and child development well|
Albrecht, K., & Miller, L. (2001). Innovations: Infant & Toddler Development. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Learn the Signs, Act Early: Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html.
Early Head Start National Resource Center. Retrieved from https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/national-center-early-childhood-development-teaching-learning-ncecdtl.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org.
Track Your Child’s Developmental Milestones. (2011). [Brochure]. Missouri First Steps, Early Intervention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/MO-Wic%20Broch_2_English_508.pdf.
Zero to Three. Retrieved from www.zerotothree.org.