Since the time of birth the baby is constantly in touch with the environment. As he becomes conscious of the environment he starts receiving stimuli and from there the development of understanding starts.
Various concepts start forming through which mental processes start developing. In the beginning a child does reflex activities like coughing, startling, holding objects in palm. Afterwards thinking, imagination memory, reasoning and imitation and other mental processes develop. Cognitive development starts with the understanding of similarities and differences among other objects.
(i) 1-4 months. Baby is able to differentiate between mother’s breast and a soother. He stops crying when mother holds him in her lap.
(ii) 4-8 months. Baby enjoys making sounds like it gurgles, coos or screams.
(a) He drops things and listens to the sound and feels happy.
(b) He repeats throwing things for others to pick them up.
(c) He feels happy and delighted to reveal mother’s face hidden behind her sari and plays Peek-a-boo.
(iii) 8-12 months
The activities of the child is goal oriented and with a little more understanding. This is the time when object permanence is attained to a certain extent.
This process means understanding of the fact that it even if something is out of site. For example, if an object or toy is shown to the child and then hidden, he tries to locate it. When mother plays hide-seek and hides behind a sofa he tries to locate her at the same place.
If she hides behind a chair then he will still look for her behind the sofa. He cannot visualize that the thing can be moved from place A’ to place ‘B’. This is called AB Search Error.
I. Activities become more goal oriented, can remove obstacles in the way of his goal, e.g., to get a balloon he can push away a box in his way.
II. Memory and observational qualities start developing.
III. He can understand and anticipate certain things like when mother gets ready, he immediately knows that she is going out and clings to her and demands to be lifted in her arms. The baby is able to Pushing a toy recognise his father after 2 to 3 months.
(iv) 12-18 months
The baby is more curious and his thinking and analysing power develops rapidly. To achieve his goal he can do a certain amount of reasoning. This is the stage of advance object permanence. He looks for his mother at various places like under the bed, behind a curtain or a sofa.
I. Baby reaches the box of candies by standing on the furniture lying there.
II. Baby learns by trial and error theory. He learns to make blocks, differentiate sounds, and gets amazed when things break after he throws them.
(v) 18 months-2 years
The baby develops insight and intelligence rapidly. He is able to think and reason to some extent.
I. He is able to memorise and is receptive to music and rhythm.
II. His imagination develops as he listens stories, watches cartoons, etc.
III. He recognises certain ‘signs’ and ‘shapes’ and ‘symbols’ especially a circle.
He imitates using memory. He can copy the actions of other people who are not present, e.g., He can imagine himself to be driver and tries to act by holding an imaginary steering in his hands. If he observes pet drinking milk with his tongue, he may try to do the same in his absence. This is called deferred imitation.
The ability to remember and copy the behaviour of people who are not present at the moment is deferred imitation.
(vi) 2-3 years
His mental development progresses rapidly. He plays make-belief games. In the beginning his action is self- centered, i.e., directed towards him but now he does actions involving other people, e.g., baby used to roll chapattis out of dough taken from mother or him but now wants to serve them to others. Pretends making tea from water and serving to others
As he becomes social he plays with other children. His favourite games are doctor- patients, House-House, Teacher and Students.
– Girls imitate their mother and boys their father. They are able to understand the gestures of other people. They stop doing activity if the parents show disapproval. They show concern when the other sibling do acting of ‘crying’.
– This shows that baby is able to assess the situation in his own way, remembers incidents and tries to make use of past experiences, analyses situation, makes decisions. They are able to connect various activities and make concepts in mind.
The child thinks that every person think, feel and perceive the situations as he does.
He believes that non-living things have all the living qualities, e.g., stops crying when mother scolds the chair which has hit him. He feels bad when the doll falls down and tries to soothe it.
Inability to conserve
He judges a product from its appearance if the appearance changes outwardly it will perceive it to be a different object. This is called conservation.
Conservation is the quality of understanding that certain qualities of the object remain the same even when the outer appearance changes. For example, drink in a tall glass will attract him more than the same amount of drink in a broad glass. As the child he is not clear about this aspect.
It is seen that child is able to give attention to one aspect of product and ignores other aspects.
The child is not able to understand that if the steps are reversed, it will not make any difference. The product would be same as it was in the beginning, e.g., if a paper boat is made and then is unfolded he will be unable to see that it is the same paper and will get confused.
Children often link two events that occur closely or simultaneously in a cause and effect manners, e.g., hearing the whistle of the night guard makes him understand that it is time for bed.
Lack of hierarchical classification
At this stage the child cannot sort out his things into group and classes, e.g., He can only differentiate similar coloured objects and not able to group them according to their usage or shapes, etc.
Symbol is the representation of an object, activity, quality and concepts, e.g., Red Cross (+) indicates medical assistance or first aid, ‘-»’ indicates direction, ‘-‘ represents subtraction.
Relatives often visit with sweets. If a baby sees a box of sweets at home he assumes that someone has come to visit them and expresses joy. Here the box of sweets is the symbol of relatives or friends visit.
With the help of concepts and symbols the baby forms mental images about his environment. As he matures mentally, ‘intelligence’ and ‘understanding’ also develops. The baby starts understanding his environment better. This helps in his cognitive development.
Many factors like sense organs, perception and concepts and various experiences which he receives from medium like activities, books, etc., the education and economic status affect the concept formation of the child.
The cognitive and mental development of the baby depends upon baby’s sensory exploration, motor manipulation, curiosity, observation, understanding of relations and training.