written by: Kara Bietz
• edited by: Patricia Gable
• updated: 9/11/2012
Use these tips when evaluating the cognitive development of your preschool students. This article defines cognitive development, as well as supplying some helpful hints to use when observing children for cognitive milestones.
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What Is Cognitive Development?
Preschool cognitive development deals with studying a child's thinking and reasoning abilities. Many preschool programs do not regularly observe cognitive development unless a child is being evaluated for a learning delay. Watching children for signs of their cognitive development is important for the daily planning of your classroom. In order to present a challenging, yet developmentally appropriate, curriculum for your classroom, it is necessary to observe not only the children's interests, but their learning and reasoning abilities as well. Keep in mind that the following information should be used as a guide to preschool cognitive development. All children develop at their own rate, and any concerns about a child's cognitive development should be discussed with the family.
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Observing Cognitive Development
Observing certain cognitive skills in your preschool classroom may require a bit of planning. While it is easy to observe a child's language and motor development during normal daily play, children do not as often choose to participate in cognitive tasks on their own. An example of this would be counting. Setting up a small group game where the children will have to count a specific number of objects may help you observe this early cognitive skill. For example, using dice and beads. Roll only one die on the table. Help the children count the number of dots that comes up. Have each child hand you the number of beads that corresponds to the number of dots on the die. This activity is two-fold: it will show you if the children are able to count the number of dots on the die as well as pick a certain number of objects out of a large group. Be sure to take some time while playing this game with children to write down your observations on each child. Do not rely on your memory, jot down a few detailed notes while you are involved with the game. For another take on this activity, use colors. Make a homemade die with a different color on each side. Roll the color and see if the children can pick out that color bead. For a slightly more difficult challenge, use colored numbers. After rolling the die, call out the number and the color. Can the children match both colors and numbers?
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Cognitive Milestones - Learning More
After observing children for cognitive development skills, it will be necessary to chart all of your findings. There are several resources available to you to help create a developmental checklist for each child in your classroom. When creating your own milestone checklist, be sure to include the dates you observed the behaviors, the age in months of the child when the observable behavior occurred, as well as any anecdotal notes that support your assessment. While not a complete list, Education.com provides a good start to creating a preschool cognitive development checklist. For a basic understanding of all the areas of development that should be included in a preschool child development assessment, begin here.