The process by which a child acquires the skill to learn about perception, thought, memory, language and physical coordination is called cognitive development. A child will use each of his five senses to help process what is happening in his world. Cognitive development is a natural process in children as they grow and learn new things every day.
Seeing, Hearing and Touching
Starting at birth, a child sees, hears and touches everything over and over again to process the object he is holding or looking at. Positioning brightly colored objects or toys in front of your baby that also makes noise, such as rattles and mobiles, etc., or giving your baby toys that are soft and fuzzy to touch or rub on his cheek to experience different textures, enables learning. Playing simple games with your child increases physical coordination. Singing, rhyming, and talking develop listening skills and stimulate interest in sounds and words. Reading picture books with different textures aloud to children, encouraging them to touch the pictures and feel them, develops visual recognition and language development.
Smell and Taste
Children naturally like to put objects in their mouths, whether or not it is food. By smelling and tasting the object, they are processing its purpose. At first, your child may taste every food, but once he discovers he does not like the flavor or consistency, he will remember this and refuse to eat that food again. When a child is older and plays with toy food in his pretend kitchen, he will try to eat these foods even though he now knows they are not real. Eventually, he will use the skill of recall and remember that non-food items should not be put in his mouth.
Reading and Song and Rhyme
Your child is most likely asking you a million questions each day -- such as why is the sky blue -- and you might not have an answer for him all the time. Reading books to look up the answers engages the senses of sight, touch and hearing. If your child is in school, by age 4 he is already expanding his understanding of basic concepts he began to learn at home by the senses of seeing and hearing. Perhaps through song and rhyme, he has learned how the day is divided into morning, afternoon and night, or about the different seasons. He is also exploring counting, the alphabet, the names of geometric shapes and size relationship such as big versus small.
More Activities Requiring Sight and Touch
As your child grows older, finding new and interesting opportunities for learning will assist in his cognitive development. When you take your child to a museum or zoo where they can actively explore using all of their senses -- especially sight and touch -- this heightens the learning process. It is important to keep your child's special skills and talents in mind. If he seems interested in art or is artistic, then head to galleries or try out an art class.