Cognitive development means how children think, explore, and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem-solving, and dispositions or it can be said that cognitive development is a process by which children acquire, organise, and learn to use knowledge. It helps children to think about and understand the world around them.
Cognitive development encompasses children’s working memory, and attention, as well as the ability to manage and respond to the experiences and information they experience on a daily basis.
Useful techniques to enhance cognitive development
- Mnemonic. This is a memory tool and a technique for re-packaging information, it helps the brain to store it safely and find it again at the right moment. It is a great way to assist in learning a large amount of information and helps children to retain and memorise it in their long-term memory. Mnemonic aims to translate information into a form that the brain can retain better than its original form. For example, the mnemonic for the colour of the rainbow (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red) is VIBGYOR. The order of taxonomy (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) can be learned as ‘Keep pots clean or family get sick.’
- Memory joggers. Memory is important in building relationships and establishing recognition of patterns, people, and events. The brain needs to be taught to memorise, by using memory joggers. Memory Joggers teaches subjects using rhymes, stories, flashcards, pictures, and picture associations coupled with fun activities. It also includes visualisation exercises, which teach students how to visualise on their own. Teaching children how to “see” the picture in their minds is an important aspect of memory. Children learn with fun, as it takes the multisensory experiences of children.
- Concept mapping. This is a method of both eliciting and representing knowledge. They can take the form of flow charts, charts, graphic organisers, tables, Venn diagrams or timelines. It is a powerful study strategy because they help to see the big picture in one and provide information based on meaningful connections. It helps children to organise new information and learn about their knowledge structure and the process of knowledge construction. For example, children learn the concept of water cycle or food web with the help of an arrow diagram.
- Brain gym. It draws out learning using movement. It improves neural communication throughout the mind and body to help you access and achieve your highest potential in learning. Brain gyms are simple exercises that anyone can do at home, at work or at school. They are designed to strengthen the relationship between body and mind. Children using these exercises often show noticeable improvement in memory, concentration, relationships and communication, and physical coordination. The aim is to strengthen the connections between the left and right brain activity, strengthen neural pathways and improve coordination.
Brain gym exercises
- Cross crawls. This refers to any intentional cross-lateral activity in which children cross the mid-line of the body, such as touching opposite hands and knees or foot. The purpose of this exercise is to improve communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain for higher-level reasoning (critical thinking, problem-solving, auditory, organisation and more). It allows electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two hemispheres, which is essential for physical coordination as well as cerebral activities, such as learning language, reading, and hand-to-eye coordination. It also stabilises gait coordination and builds core strength.
How to do: Stand up straight and lift their left knee. Follow instruction to put right hand on their left knee, crossing the mid-line of body. After, children put their right hand on their left knee, and switch by lifting the right knee and putting the left hand on the right knee.
Hookups. It relaxes the central nervous system. It crosses the centre mid-line to activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Helps children to become emotionally centred and grounded. It’s a great activity to calm the body and help your children control their breathing. Exercise can be completed while standing (preferred), sitting or lying down on the ground.
How to do: Firstly cross one foot over the other. Stretch out the arm and cross it. Bring hands together with fingertips touching together and then lock fingers. Keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply.
Brain buttons. This exercise delivers the message from your right brain to the left side of the body, and from the left brain to the right side of the body. There is an increased flow of electromagnetic energy. It stimulates blood flow to the brain and activates the reticulated activating system which regulates wakefulness. Its purpose is to awaken the children and help them to stay alert, especially if they are lethargic or have problems with concentration. This exercise is especially good for children before taking an exam.
How to do: Stand up straight, put one hand over the navel area of the stomach. At the same time, place the thumb, index finger and middle finger of another hand gently press below the collar bone on each side of the sternum. Hold that position for 30 seconds and the children will begin to feel re-energised.
Cognitive milestones represent important steps forward in a child’s development. Fostering a child’s cognitive development at an early age provides the foundation for success in school and later in life.
Manisha Dhami is a PhD student at Punjab Agricultural University. She carries out research in human development.