Abbotsford Early Years

Resources and events for children 0 to 6 years and their families

Language & Cognitive Development

Please note: All children develop at their own rate. This information should be used as a guide. If you have concerns please talk to your doctor or a public health nurse.

Cognitive Development is learning and processing of information – our thinking and knowing. Cognition involves language, imagination, thinking, reasoning, problem solving and memory. Our cognitive skills help us organize what we know and generalize that knowledge into other areas.

Language Development is learning and processing language through reading, writing and speaking (oral).

Language & Cognitive Development Includes:

  • Interest in books, reading, and language
  • Literacy issues
  • Interest in simple math activities
  • Numeracy issues

General Sample Questions:
Is your child interested in reading and writing? Can your child count and recognize some numbers?
*Please note: these questions would depend on the age of the child.

Ages & Stages

Find out more about typical development for ages 0 to 5 along with activities you can do with your child and red flags to be aware of.

  • Recognize and calm down to a familiar gentle voice.
  • Pay attention to faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Speak to your baby frequently; call out their name to help them locate sounds
  • Gently rub and massage your baby’s arms, back, legs and tummy
  • Place an interesting mobile above the crib

Red Flags:

  • Show no reaction to sound.
  • Child arches their back frequently.
  • Body posture is floppy or limp.
  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Doesn’t bring hands to mouth
  • Use hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
  • Responds to affection
  • Lets you know if she is happy or sad
  • Watches faces closely

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Enjoy cuddle time with your baby
  • Babies learn when you talk about things your baby sees, hears, and feels
  • Encourage your baby to look at you or a toy and get him to follow its movement slowly

Red Flags:

  • Hands are tightly fisted
  • Child moves one arm towards a toy but the other arm remains still
  • Legs are stiffly crossed
  • Infant is not responding to friendly cuddles and care
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • React to loud voices and friendly voices.
  • Turn head and look in the direction of a new sound.
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Read picture books, talk about the pictures, tell stories
  • Hold a rattle a short distance from bay’s hand and let her reach for it
  • Show actions for “bye-bye” and “blow kisses”

Red Flags:

  • Child squints or an eye is turning in or out.
  • Does not engage in babbling or vocal play
  • Consistently has difficulty with soothing
  • Child seems very stiff, with tight muscles or very floppy
  • Has difficulty getting things to mouth
  • Starting to use fingers and thumbs to grasp small things. Watch for choking hazards
  • Respond to name and different voices
  • Reach, grasp and move toys from hand to hand
  • Looks for things he sees you hide

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Let him feed himself during family meals
  • Provide a variety of safe toys to explore and play with
  • Roll ball back and forth between you encourages turn taking

Red Flags:

  • Stands on tiptoes rather than on flat feet.
  • Has difficulty moving from a sitting position to hand and knees.
  • Child has difficulty crawling, for instance, using only one side of their body.
  • Doesn’t respond to own name
  • Doesn’t look to where you point
  • They look at “mommy” or “bottle” when you name them
  • Associate actions sounds with things (woof for dog)
  • Put things in container, takes things out of containers
  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Read interactive story books where child can point, imitate and name animals or objects
  • Encourage walking with ride-on toys
  • Have child point to parts of her body when asked

Red Flags:

  • Recurrent ear infections between 6 months and 1 year
  • Child is not yet crawling or pulling to stand at furniture
  • Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Can’t stand when supported
  • Has trouble grasping small toys with fingers
  • Recognize pictures of familiar people and things
  • Point to their toes, eyes, nose when you ask
  • Follow simple one step directions
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Plays simple pretend, such a feeding a doll or stuffed animal

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Begins to introduce items that encourage imaginative play such a brooms, telephones, pots and pans
  • Do simple shape puzzles and read with your child
  • Expand on what your child says. “car” – “yes, the car is going”

Red Flags:

  • Arms held in a stiff bent position.
  • Does not respond to own name or recognize words for familiar objects
  • Does not show interest in other children or relate to others
  • Child is not yet standing or walking independently
  • Is not yet talking or has lost previously acquired language skills
  • Understands simple questions and directions
  • Points to different parts of their body when you ask them to
  • Play make believe or pretend games
  • Build towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Can stay with one activity six to seven minutes

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Teach your child sharing and turn taking within your relationship first
  • Offer simple choices (Do you want milk or water?)
  • Use songs to assist in transitions such a “clean up, clean up”

Red Flags:

  • Up on toes when running,
  • Poor balance or frequent tripping
  • Does not use eye contact or gestures when communicating
  • Unable to follow simple instructions
  • Displays repetitive mannerisms (flapping hands)
  • Can listen to a story or music for 5 to 10 minutes with an adult
  • Understand what ‘yesterday’, ‘lunchtime’, and ’tomorrow’ mean
  • Can turn pages of a book one at a time
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handles

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Take your child to a playgroup or preschool where he can learn to interact and play with children his own age
  • Talk with your child about feelings and emotions. Help him learn to identify and name them
  • Provide simple puzzles and sorting games

Red Flags:

  • It is difficult to get child’s attention
  • Avoids contact with other children, plays alone
  • Trip or fall often when walking or running
  • Shows a lack of empathy when others are sad or hurt
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Plays board or card games
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Encourage your child not to give up on tasks or games
  • When outdoors, talk about things you see and do
  • Teach your child her name, phone number and address

Red Flags:

  • Child’s speech is difficult to understand.
  • Stuttering
  • Does not show any feeling when they hurt others
  • Can’t jump in place
  • Resists dressing, sleeping and using the toilet
  • Can follow directions and routines
  • Beginning to understand what ‘next week’, ‘next month’, and ‘next year’ mean.
  • Can print some letter or numbers
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food

Activities For Your Baby:

  • Draw with your child and talk about her drawing, hang her art in a special place
  • Make an ‘all about me’ book with your child (include things they like, friends, favorite food, games etc.)
  • Tell a story of your child’s life from birth to present

Red Flags:

  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Can’t give first or last name
  • Hurts animals or others on purpose