Every now and then, parents hear that cognitive skills are very much important to make kids smarter and parents should help their children to improve their kids’ cognitive development but do the parents really know what cognitive development is?
Let me first elaborate here, what exactly are cognitive skills or when we talk about cognitive development what should we focus on?
Why cognitive skills are needed due to excessive competition?
Cognitive skills are skills that help you to understand, process and react according to situation. It’s your cognitive skills which help you to understand that today is colder than normal day and so you should wear sweater to go out.
Any day to day situation, big or small decision and every choice you make in your life need your cognitive skills and so now you know why it is pretty much important for your kids too.
Cognitive skills are not only to make your kids extra intelligent but it is essential for them to perform well in day to day life, to take care of themselves in uneven situations and to improve their decision power.
Personally, I don’t believe in any competition and so I would suggest you not to force your kids for anything but yes, these are the skills which constantly help one to grow mentally and mental growth is equally important to physical growth and thus you must make sure that they don’t lack in these skills.
What skills can be taught to children to help them grow smarter?
When we talk about cognitive skills in children we mainly focus on:
- Concentration span
- Processing procedure and/or time to process
For example, when you instruct your 4 years old kid 1. To remove his shoes 2. Wash his hands and 3. Join you for the dinner and if your kid listens all three instructions (even if they reply with No), you can say your kid has good concentration level. If he does all of these means he has got an excellent memory too and if he takes extra effort to put his shoes in shoe rack or wipes his hands after washing means he really has good processing power. So, basically cognitive skills mean 1. How well your kids listen to instructions? 2 How do they process that information? and 3. How much they really remember?
All three skills are inborn and improves gradually with the age. For example,
Concentration: Your 3 years kid cannot sit for more than 10 to 15 minutes to colour while 5 years kids can sit for longer time.
Memory: All the parents are aware of short memory span of younger children and that’s the reason they all use distraction method to stop their kids from crying or rotate toys instead of getting new toys every time.
Processing: Your two years toddler can handle one or two instructions at a time while 4 years pre-schooler can process three to four instructions in the same amount of time. Normally, for kids, every year add ups one or two instructions to process. (Of course, this doesn’t mean you can instruct your 12 years old kids with 12 instructions at a time but yes, they can complete the task that contains 12-15 instructions all by themselves.)
Though, kids learn all these at their own pace, you can help them to improve these skills with little effort and repetitive practice. Our old playtime like marbles, hopscotch, seashells games and even humming bird game play vital role to develop cognitive skills.
Ways to improve your kids’ cognitive skills or speed up their mind to learn these skills without forcing them:
- To increase concentration span you can read them story books and ask them to tell you the same story again. You can encourage them to play games similar to “concentration 64”. (yes, old games are pretty amazing to develop cognitive skills!) Musical instruments, painting, blocks and puzzles are also very helpful to increase concentration span. But at the same time remember that concertation is all about how well they listen, not how do they listen. If your kid is not looking at you but answers your questions perfectly, shows that he has got good concentration. Sitting at one place can count but not necessarily important.
- To increase memory span, you can use memory games likes memory cards, missing thing from a table or tell me what’s in my basket. Small conversations with your kids about their day in a school is pretty much effective. Encourage them to share details.
- To increase thinking/Processing power you can give them tasks to accomplish. Instruct them with multiple instructions and see how well they can perform. Leave the control for a while and let them decide what should be done next. For example, if you come back from shopping, instead of guiding them what to do next, let them figure out what could be done next from their cognitive memory. Let them miss the jacket or water bottle for the picnic and let them learn “what did they forget” and “how did that impact them” as at the end practical experiences teach a lot than theory.
I will still insist you to show your kids “the old games” that you played as a kid because no matter how good blocks or puzzles are, they cannot replace the magic of old games that played essential role in our cognitive development.