Help your child's cognitive development by providing creative new opportunities to learn and to explore.

Cognitive Activities for a Five Year Old

by Christy Long Marchand

“Why can’t we touch a rainbow?” Questions like this may make you yearn for a phone-a-friend lifeline. As your 5-year-old participates in new experiences, he will begin to ask analytical questions to help him understand the world around him. At first his questions may leave you perplexed, but asking these questions helps him develop cognitive skills and the ability to reason. Five-year-olds are enthusiastic, creative and learn best from hands-on activities.

1. Grow Together

Five-year-olds often fall into two categories: those who like to get dirty and those who don’t. No matter which type you have, gardening is a great way for your child to learn, and it’s a good excuse to get dirty — or not. The garden can be a petite indoor herb garden (try a hydroponic one for a sci-fi feel), a single pot of berries on the patio or a full-on garden with rows of colorful vegetables and fruits. The important thing is to grow something together. Make a trip to the store with your child to pick fun accessories and tools that go along with gardening. Choose seeds for a plant your child is curious about or for a plant with an interesting history, cultural connection or family tradition. While planting the seeds, you and your little gardener can talk about what plants need to grow. While caring for the garden each day, the two of you can talk about scientific principles like photosynthesis, seasons and weather changes. Even an insect or a pest problem can be a teaching point as you talk about the food chain and sharing resources.

2. Cook Together

Don your chef hats, pencil on silly chef mustaches, and turn on some music to set the mood for fun. You don't need to be Julia Child, and it doesn’t matter what you make: an old family recipe, a favorite dessert or something for dinner tonight. Cooking is a hands-on way to put math and science into practice as you measure or count ingredients, combine them, observe physical and chemical changes and watch the timer. Cooking gives you a chance to try out silly new accents while you experiment together and discuss serious mysteries in science, like "Why does toast land butter-side down?" If you're not sure you have all the answers — who does? — look them up together.

3. Read Together

Ham it up! The more excitement you show when you read, the more your child enjoys reading with you. You don’t need to be a graceful reader, just an enthusiastic one. So work it! When reading to your child, break out the funny voices and sound effects. The more engaging and entertaining you are, the better — even when it seems silly. Run your finger under the words as you read to help your child grasp new vocabulary. Let your child read repeated words or phrases throughout the story. This way, you won't be the only one with silly voices and bunny ears. In case you had any doubt, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading books aloud is one of the best ways to help your 5-year-old learn to read.

4. Sort and Classify

Ask your 5-year-old to help you clean up; it’s good for him. Really. Yes, really. Sorting and classifying objects helps your 5-year-old learn to notice differences and similarities — a skill he will need when learning math in elementary school. To practice this analytical skill, have your child sort toys into categories during clean-up time; have him sort by color, material, size, theme or other features. For an added brain-teaser, change the classifications from time to time. Boost his self-esteem while he’s learning by putting your child in charge of sorting and putting away clean laundry, such us towels, washcloths and socks sorted by color, size, purpose or style. Feeling “in charge” and being in control of even small things is very important to 5-year-olds.

About the Author

Christy Long Marchand graduated from the University of Central Florida with her Bachelor of Arts in English. She taught high school English before transitioning to professional writing and editing in 2006. Her experiences in writing and editing for technical and government projects led her into the quality arena and prompted her to achieve certifications in enterprise configuration management, ANSI/EIA-649B, CM assessment, and CMMI. Not limiting herself to human languages, she also dabbles in Python.

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