Cognitive Development: Years 3-7

A child’s development milestones represent important steps forward in their growth. What’s happening in the brain at a biological level impacts a child’s cognitive skills, motor development, language and socio-emotional growth. Here's an overview of what parents may observe during this unique period of growth and development, and suggestions for how they may help.

Month 36

Genes provide a blueprint for the brain, but a child’s environment and experiences carry out the construction. A single cell can connect with as many as 15,000 other cells! Synaptic density reaches its peak during the third year, up to 200 percent of its adult level. Better able to use the past t…

Read more

Month 37

The brain is a self-organizing organ. The connections eagerly await new experiences that will shape the brain into the neural networks for language, reasoning, rational thinking, problem-solving and moral values. Interestingly, the infants' brains look very similar at birth. You start seeing the…

Read more

Month 38

Don’t shrink-wrap that brain! Scans of children’s brains show that the growth at this age is explosive, a fact that allows them to absorb and organize new information at a rate much faster than adults. The uniqueness of each child results from the complex actions between genes that control brain gro…

Read more

Month 39

New insights into brain development affirm that loving attachments between young children and adults, and stimulation that is positive and appropriate, really do make a difference in children’s development. Researchers have found that parents of children with high IQ's seem to do the following: T…

Read more

Month 40

It is the experiences of childhood, determined by which neurons are used, that wire the brain as surely as a programmer at a keyboard reconfigures the circuits in a computer. Which keys are typed -- which experiences a child has -- determines whether the child grows up to be intelligent or dull,…

Read more

Month 41

Kids don’t learn to talk simply by waiting for their synapses to form and axons to myelinate. Just like each of the sensory and motor skills on which it depends, language development is also critically shaped by experience. The scientists, based at King's College London, and Brown University, R…

Read more

Month 42

During critical learning periods, or windows of opportunity, pathways grow that form the foundation for future skills. (imageext: synaptic-density.png mode: resize width: 300) The early stages of development are strongly affected by genetic factors; for example, genes direct newly formed neurons to…

Read more

Month 43

Repeating motor skills over and over strengthens the neural circuits that go from the brain’s thinking areas to the motor areas and out to the nerves that move muscles. As young children mature, they begin to use movements and actions to act out internal ideas and try them out for real. They may r…

Read more

Month 44

Each time a child is stimulated to think, either new neural bridges are formed or pre-existing ones are strengthened. The more neural bridges formed or strengthened, the more the intellect will be developed. The brain’s ability to change and reorganize in response to some input is known as p…

Read more

Month 45

A neurological scan of children who are singing nursery rhymes and doing counting games would show sections of their brains literally glowing with activity Singing, moving and playing to music during your child’s early years will give your child a head start. During these formative years when the b…

Read more

Month 46

The “prime time” for language development and learning to talk is from birth to 10 years of age. We have known for a long time that different parts of the brain control different parts of who we are – our ability to throw a ball, to remain calm under stress, to figure out an algebra problem, or to play …

Read more

Month 47

Children see magic because they look for it! Increasingly, child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality. Imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don't directly experience, such as history or events on…

Read more

Month 48

Brain research underscores what educators have long argued: early social and emotional experiences are the seeds of human intelligence. Each child’s neural circuits are carving highways in the brain where future learning will travel with ease. (imageext: children-dancing.png mode: resize width: 3…

Read more

Month 49

“The brain is an association machine”, says Dr. Larry Katz, a neurobiologist at Duke University. “The brain constantly looks to link things together – by sight, smell, sound, and space. Then it calls on those associations to make sense of the world.” The brain develops from back to front and from the insid…

Read more

Month 50

What parents do, or don’t do, has a lasting impact on their child’s reading skill and literacy! Children develop much of their capacity for learning in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90 percent of their eventual adult weight (Karoly et al., 1998). Given the course of brain dev…

Read more

Month 51

Children who grow up in an environment rich in language are almost always fluent by age three. People deprived of language as children rarely master it as adults, no matter how smart they are or how intensively they’re trained Dr. Susan Curtiss, Professor of Linguistics at UCLA, who studies the w…

Read more

Month 52

Genetics, environmental, and social factors interact in complex ways to determine how the brain develops and functions. (imageext: links_between_nutrition_education.png mode: resize width: 350) Researchers have found that poverty is one of the major risk factors in children’s cognitive development. F…

Read more

Month 53

Piaget believed that children were active participants in learning. He viewed children as busy, motivated explorers whose thinking developed as they acted directly on the environment using their eyes, ears, and hands. (imageext: jean-piaget_toast_permanence.jpg mode: resize width: 700) Jean Piaget,…

Read more

Month 54

The more words a child hears, the faster he learns language. The sound of words creates the neural circuitry that is necessary for children to develop language skills. (imageext: brain-growth-post-natal-years.jpg mode: resize width: 350) Windows of opportunity for language development occur…

Read more

Month 55

Behavior, cognitive, and other personal factors, and environmental influences all operate interactively as determinants of each other. (imageext: cognitive-behavior-emotion.jpg mode: resize width: 300) Brain research indicates that emotion and cognition are profoundly interrelated processes. Recent…

Read more

Month 56

"Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom." (Childhood and Society, 1950) (imageext: psychosocial_erikson.gif mode: resize width: 350) Erik Erikson, a German…

Read more

Month 57

The brain has a boundless capacity to store information. Each time it processes new information, it goes through physical and chemical changes that form neural networks Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987) described three stages of moral development, which described the process through which people learn…

Read more

Month 58

Development, it turns out, occurs through this process of progressively more complex exchange between a child and somebody else--especially somebody who's crazy about that child – Urie Bronfenbrenner Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) developed the ecological systems theory to explain how everything i…

Read more

Month 59

Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s life and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities – Gary Smalley (imageext: time-out-bench.png mode: resize width: 300) In a review of more than 20 years of resea…

Read more

Year 5-7

Scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization” — the capacity for optimal efficiency Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study…

Read more