Category Archives: Cognitive

The logical minds of babies: Considering sample and sampling process

MIT Early Childhood Cognition Lab lead investigator Laura Schulz studies early childhood learning and how it fundamentally relates to human cognition.Schulz has been trying to understand how children learn and absorb so much in a short period of time and how they reach logical conclusions from the data that surrounds them.

In a study she conducted, Schulz intended to prove that babies make inferences from their surroundings and learn by using logic. In the experiment, a fifteen month-old baby is shown a box full of balls in two colors, blue and yellow. The balls either squeak or don’t squeak. For the first part of the experiment, the majority of the balls in the box are blue, and a researcher takes out three blue balls in a row and squeezes them so that they squeak. The baby then infers that the balls squeak.

But what happens when you hand that baby a yellow ball from the same box? Continue reading

Why is curiosity so important and how can we encourage it?

Babies are born curious – they come into the world with an innate desire to understand how things work. They are drawn to new things and experiences, they question, explore, and by doing so, they learn!

If you want your child to be a lifelong learner, the best way to do it is by cultivating his curiosity. All children have some level of innate curiosity that motivates them to explore, however it is important that you take into account your child’s particular curiosity style. Remember, not every child is the same. For example, some children like to explore with their minds, while others prefer to do it through physical activities (touching, crawling, smelling, or tasting). Provide opportunities for each style within a safe and encouraging environment!

Research has shown that it is a child’s inner desire to learn (their curiosity), not external pressures, that motivates them to seek out new experiences and solutions. Curious people are “seekers” of knowledge, they do not only enjoy exploring, but they actually like to look for challenges. Curiosity helps people approach uncertainty in a positive light.

A recent study conducted by researchers from John Hopkins University revealed the critical role curiosity plays. In their experiment, when babies were surprised – that is, when their expectations of an object’s behavior was challenged – researchers discovered that they learned best! Curiosity drew babies to test, explore, and consequently figure out what was going on to better understand the situation.

Given the importance curiosity plays in learning, how can parents nurture their child’s curiosity and make them become knowledge “seekers”?

Here are some tips that will help you get started:

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Building blocks and puzzle play help boost math-related skills

Although toys, such as puzzles and blocks, may not be as flashy as video games or electric toys, there is evidence suggesting that children who play with them may gain a whole lot of cognitive benefits. In fact, research shows that specific types of play are actually associated with the development of certain cognitive skills, meaning there may be some toys you should be paying attention to! 

According to a study done by researchers from Rhodes College, data from 847 children were examined and the results indicated that children who played frequently (about 6 times per week) with puzzles, blocks, and board games tended to have better spatial reasoning ability. Interestingly, other types of play such as drawing, riding a bike, or playing math games were not associated with the development of such ability. Another study conducted by psychologist Susan Levine from the University of Chicago, a leading expert on mathematics development in young children, further confirmed that children who played with puzzles early on, develop better spatial skills.

 

But in what way does having better spatial skills help your child?

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Developmental Edge: The Serious Need for Imaginative Play

When people think of play, they automatically think of children engaging in physical exercises such as tag, ball games, or playing on slides and swings – in other words, kids exploring their physical environments. Play has been shown to be a key component in development in a child’s early years – even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized it as a right for every child! But although physical play is the first thing that comes to mind, this is not the only kind of play. In fact, there is another type of play – imaginative or pretend play – that has caught the eye of many researchers, educators, and psychologists because of the many benefits it may provide.

According to Laura E. Berk, renowned professor and researcher in the field of child development, imaginative play stimulates the senses and generates opportunities for exploration and creative thinking that can help your little one improve various language, emotional, social, and cognitive skills – including creativity, impulse inhibition, and empathy!

Given the importance of pretend play, many parents may wonder at what age does pretend play start to emerge in children?

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Executive function: the most important set of skills we can teach our kids

Early experiences – whether positive or negative – have a profound impact on the developing brain and its basic neural circuitry, which in turn provides the foundation for more complex higher-level skills. Of these higher-level skills, executive function has been gaining a lot of attention lately – and rightly so. Executive function helps us focus on different information at the same time; make decisions; review and change plans as necessary; and control our emotions and impulses. Laying a strong foundation in order to allow the acquisition of these executive function skills is one of the most important tasks of the early childhood years because they are so critical to adult functioning. Executive function serves as the brain’s air traffic controller – managing all the different signals, impulses, and desires of the brain. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is critical to executive function, but it does not act alone, as it controls behavior through interactions with the rest of the brain. By the time a child’s first birthday comes along, the brain – which originally worked almost as a set of isolated neurons – starts to function as a large network of interconnected areas. This begins to allow coordinated action and the management of different impulses. As adults, this translates into an ability to multitask, display self-control, stay focused in spite of distractions, and follow multi-step directions – all critical to achieving our goals, getting along with others, and becoming contributing members of society. Continue reading

The first few years: cognitive development

 

In this series, we’ll explain each of Kinedu’s four areas of development. Keep reading to find out what you can expect from your baby’s development in the first years!

 

Babies are a lot like little scientists – actively testing the world to figure out how it works. A baby’s cognition – or the group of mental processes that include abstract thinking, memory, problem solving, and attention – helps create this understanding of the world.

One of the first big leaps your baby will take is developing a sense of agency – or that she can make things happen. This is tied with understanding cause and effect – again, pretty important when it comes to making some sense of how the world works.

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Why the early years matter

Here at Kinedu, we’re committed to giving parents the best tools for improving their child’s development. But why do we focus on babies 0-2 years old? There’s a good reason for this!The early years matter – for the rest of a person’s life. During this important period of brain development, a baby’s brain is incredibly active – it’s changing and adapting at a rate that won’t be matched for the rest of his or her lifetime.

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