How to support the cognitive development in toddlers

How to support the cognitive development in toddlers

You’ve probably heard the term ‘cognitive development’ before. When it comes to our little ones, the term refers to the growth and maturation of a child’s intellectual and thinking abilities during the early years of life. It’s a foundational period of development because of how much they grow within that time. In this article, we’ve broken down the most significant areas of cognitive development in toddlers and have included games and activities to help parents and caregivers support each area of development.

Language development

During the first few years, we see our little ones rapidly expanding their vocabulary and language skills, going from basic words and simple phrases to more complex speech over time. They learn to express themselves, understand instructions, and engage in conversations.

How can you build their language development?

To support language development in your toddler, the first thing to turn to is books! Storytelling and reading picture books will get them excited about language, reading and stories. You can also encourage rhyming games and sing songs with them to enhance their vocabularies. Another clever little trick is to label objects around your home, which will start connecting words with their meanings.


One of the most foundational things they’ll start learning at a young age is memory. As your toddler begins to develop their memory skills, you’ll see that they start remembering recent events and can recall them, even if it’s just by using a single word (for now).

How can you help build into their memory and recall? 

To help your little one with their memory development, you can play games with memory cards and engage in scavenger hunts throughout your home. You can also encourage your little one to retell stories back to you to begin strengthening their narrative memory. Getting them to replicate visual patterns with objects like blocks or toys is also a great way to help them understand patterns, which build their short-term memory. 


Learning problem-solving is going to help your little one in so many other ways. Toddlers start to develop problem-solving abilities as early as you start encouraging them to do so. Your focus here should be on helping them learn to figure out how things work and complete tasks themselves with more and more independence. Start slowly, and you’ll see that their confidence will grow the better they get at it!

What games can you play to help them problem solve? 

The best activities for problem-solving are things like puzzles, shape sorters, and building with blocks. These games challenge their logical thinking and force them to solve gentle ‘problems’.

Spatial awareness

As your little one becomes more and more aware of their own bodies and limitations, they’ll become more in tune with spatial awareness. This is where they begin to understand and navigate the physical environment around them. By building into their spatial awareness, they’ll begin to judge distances, recognise shapes, and start building with blocks or toys.

How can you help with their spatial awareness development? 

Creating simple obstacle courses using cushions or pillows will encourage their spatial awareness, as well as their coordination. You can also play games like ‘Simon Says’, where you’ll give them commands like ‘touch your toes’. This will help them grasp the foundations of spatial awareness.

Cause and Effect

  • Cause and effect is another very important skill you can help your little one develop. Here, your focus is on helping them understand that their actions lead to a specific outcome. For example, something as simple as pushing a button to make a toy play a sound.

How can you encourage them to learn cause and effect? 

To teach cause and effect to toddlers, engage in activities like ball dropping, where they observe the outcome of dropping a ball. You can also let them explore sensory bottles filled with different materials, allowing them to see how shaking or rolling the bottles produces a reaction.

Cause and Effect

Imagination and pretend play

This is probably the most exciting of all the skills to develop with your child! Helping them to pretend, use their imagination and get creative will significantly grow their cognitive ability. In fact, studies show that the impact of creativity helps children develop stronger friendships, positive mental health, and experience stronger family connections. 

How can you grow their imaginations? 

Have fun! The best activities to foster imagination are games like dress-up and role-play (shop, family, space expeditions – anything you can think of!). Make sure to include as many props as possible. You can also set up tea parties with your little one’s stuffed animals or dolls to inspire them to play along with the imaginative scenario. The sky really is the limit when it comes to fostering imagination.

Making development fun

Making development fun 

By engaging with your little one and being purposeful about their growth, you’ll soon see them putting what they’ve learned into practice. Remember, every child learns at a different pace, and may develop faster in some areas and slower in others. 

Child’s Play is big on cognitive development in toddlers! We built our toddler curriculum around every area of your little one’s cognitive growth. From educational toys, games and activities, you can be sure that your child is in good hands. If you’re a parent or caregiver who is looking for a kindergarten that’s big on learning and fun, get in touch with us today.