Ron Spreeuwenberg of Hi Mama (an early learning resource) states that there are four different groups of activities that promote cognitive development in early learners. Cognitive development, or brain development, in the preschool years is incredibly important for early learners as they proceed from grade to grade. See below for four categories of cognitive development and matching activities to try with your early learner.
1. Working memory
Memory games like go fish or “Concentration” help to develop neuron connections in early learners’ brains and also serve to increase working memory. Additionally, memory games naturally lend themselves to quiet concentration in early learners, which assists in the development of focus and increased attention span. Other memory activities can be games like “I Packed My Suitcase,” or “Simon Says.” Check out this link for more great suggestions for memory games: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/memory-games
2. Sorting and classifying
Sorting and classifying is one of the first activities early learners participate in that assists them in developing comparison and contrast skills essential for grade school. Sorting and classifying is particularly important at the early learning stage because it may be one of the last opportunities children have to develop oral skills in comparison and contrast prior to learning to write fluently. Inspiration Laboratories (http://inspirationlaboratories.com/ideas-to-practice-classification-for-kids/) has some great (and easy!) sorting and classifying activities that can take place at home in addition to your child’s early learning center. They even include letter sorting activities!
3. Sequencing and ordering
Sequencing and ordering are essential cognitive skills for early learners (and something that even college students struggle with!), as they are skills that are needed in both the real world and in school. Sequencing and ordering is probably the first concentrated exposure that early learners have to transition words like “first,” “second,” “then,” and “last.” Children can participate in story sequencing with pictures, or guessing games with well-known stories like fairy tales. Check out this great resource for sequencing and ordering activities: http://www.dltk-kids.com/type/sequencing.htm
4. Pretend or imaginary play
Pretend or imaginary play (sometimes known as symbolic play), is essential for early learners’ cognitive development of imagination, curiosity, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, imaginary play assists early learners in developing focus and concentration skills through working with material and thoughts that they are interested in. Many adults find it difficult to fully participate in imaginary play with early learners, but there are plenty of great resources available. Learning 4 Kids (http://www.learning4kids.net/2011/12/30/what-is-imaginative-play-and-how-to-encourage-it/) has a wonderful how-to guide instructing adults in how to facilitate pretend play with early learners (without having to come up with a whole imaginary world out of nowhere!).
Do you have any creative cognitive development activities that you already do with your early learner? Let us know in the comments!