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Thinking and reasoning development - the first 1000 days

Thinking & Reasoning

Thinking and reasoning is a complex area of development which includes skills such as being able to pay attention to a stimulus; concentrate; being able to store information in memory and retrieve that information.

The ability to think and reason allows a child to develop critical skills which will enable her to access experiences and teachings via memory, evaluate situations, plan, execute plans, solve problems, and make decisions. From an evolutionary perspective these skills would ensure the survival of the individual, e.g. “Is this a safe berry to eat?”; “How much food should I gather and save for the winter months?” In contemporary society these skills are often equated with success in an academic setting, a particular career path, or even in life, in general.

Children learn through their interactions with others who are more skilled in a particular activity, e.g. learning how to button up a jersey by working with a parent on this skill.

Claire Toi, clinical psychologist for Nubabi shares some important points you should notice in your little one in the first three years starting from birth:

Birth to 2 years

Cognitive development may take place in stages, one theory suggests the first two years after birth is a sensori-motor stage, during which a young child is tasked with learning to coordinate their senses with motor responses. The infant initially exhibits simple reflexes such as sucking; then develops a curiosity for their world via their senses, e.g. an infant turning their heads towards a novel sound.

During this initial stage the child also develops a sense of object permanence; when an object is no longer in sight (e.g. mom leaves the room), it does not cease to exist. Games like peekaboo help to develop this sense.

From 3 years

  • Children will start moving towards symbolic thinking in their third year (this stage can last four to five years), e.g. I can pretend these stones are food.
  • The accompanying development of expressive language helps them to express concepts more fully.
  • A child will also start categorising objects by a single feature, e.g. colour or shape. At this stage, thinking is still egocentric and it is difficult for children to see a situation from viewpoints other than their own - this is absolutely normal!

Here are some activities to help boost your baby’s thinking and reasoning development:

Teaching toys

Research has shown that even babies younger than one month are already capable of learning. Often babies are given a new toy and expected to “know” how to play with it. However, some toys require a skill such as turning or shaking so it’s up to you to teach your new baby how to play with it. Claire Toi, clinical psychologist for Nubabi.

What to do:

  1. Teach your little one how to play with new toys, e.g. show her how to turn the toy. Then let her play with it for 5 minutes.
  2. Give the same toy to her the next day and let her play with it for another 5 minutes. Do this for several days.
  3. If your baby plays with the toy for short periods of time repeatedly, she will remember the skill better than if she is given the toy for a 30 minute stretch. The goal of this activity is to support her memory rather than to have her play with the toy “perfectly”.

Skills: Thinking & Reasoning, Eye-Hand Co-ordination, Kinesthetic memory

Mirror, mirror on the wall

At around 6 months, if your little one has been spending some time in front of the mirror now and then, he will have picked up certain features of his own face. He will still not be aware that the baby in the mirror is himself, but he will be more familiar with his reflection’s face. This means that a novel face will be more interesting for him than his own face. Claire Toi, clinical psychologist for Nubabi.

What to do:

  1. During a playdate place your baby and the visiting baby in front of the mirror. Watch their responses to the reflections. Does he show an interest in his own reflection? If he does, say, ” There you are “Ben!“.
  2. Does he notice the other baby’s reflection? Name that baby’s reflection too.
  3. Does your baby notice your reflection? He might pause and look from your face to the reflection and back again with a perplexed expression. This can be quite amusing to watch and is also a great indicator that his brain is trying to work out how there are two of you!

Skills: Thinking & Reasoning, Self-awareness, Sensory Visual, and Visual Memory

Animal sorting

An important skill is knowing how to sort or categorise things as this helps us to make sense of our world and to store information. At around 12 months, your baby can start to develop this skill by playing with something he’ll enjoy - animals! Claire Toi, clinical psychologist for Nubabi.

Equipment: 2 different categories of animal figurines (e.g. farm animals, sea animals, jungle animals, etc.), 2 empty ice cream tubs, pictures of a farm/sea/jungle, adhesive tape or glue.

What to do:

  1. Place all the animals in one bag. Stick a picture of a farm on one tub and a picture of the sea on the other.
  2. Let your baby take an animal out of the bag. Say, “It’s a fish. Fish lives in the sea.” Show him that the fish goes into the sea tub.
  3. Let him take another animal out of the bag. Say, “It’s a pig. Pig lives on the farm.” Show him that the pig goes into the farm tub.
  4. Repeat this until your baby has sorted all the animals or tires of the activity.

Skills: Thinking & Reasoning, Self-awareness, Sensory Visual, and Visual Memory

Lock and Key

Toddlers love playing with “real” objects rather than those bought at a toy shop. This activity will satisfy this need as well as challenging your little one’s ability to solve a problem and use her memory. Claire Toi, clinical psychologist for Nubabi.

Equipment: 3 padlocks and keys, key ring

What to do:

  1. Try to use padlocks and keys that look very different so that your toddler doesn’t get confused and frustrated. Place the keys onto a simple key ring (just the ring part is great).
  2. Place the locks and keyring in front of her and demonstrate how to unlock the first one. Say, “Open. Open lock.” Close the lock and invite your toddler to try. Keep chatting and encouraging her. Use phrases that describe what is happening (the process) and not only the end result (the open lock), for example, “Key in”; “Turn key” and so forth.
  3. If your little one becomes frustrated with the activity, pack it away and try it another day with just 2 locks and keys and when she feels confident, add the third.

Skills: Thinking & Reasoning, Fine Motor, Problem solving, Trial-and-error experimentation , and Visual Memory

Please remember that babies and toddlers do not always have the same developmental challenges in their spotlights at the same time. The real measure of your child’s development is how they’re progressing compared to themselves - not anyone else. Remember, your baby is unique and will develop at his own unique pace. A solitary delay or lag is usually nothing to worry about and does not indicate any long-term issues. Watch out for a cluster of issues, especially if the delays are in more than just one area of development as this may need to be investigated.

Spend time with your child and trust your intuition as they develop, taking a keen interest in what they are doing and how they are doing it. If you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s development you can find support from various professionals (pediatricians, therapists and teachers) and be proactive in providing opportunities to help them reach their true potential.

For more activities to boost your baby’s Thinking and Reasoning Development and other developmental skills, visit Nubabi.

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