Cognition refers to thinking and problem solving.
It is our ability to use and manipulate information. It is how we
evaluate, plan and select a course of action. Cognition involves reasoning,
perception and intuition. Two important components that are important
to highlight include memory and attention.
For a small child, cognition involves the development of trial
and error as well as tool use. A child will manipulate objects over
and over in order to bring about a desired result. Tool use may
be as simple as using one toy to reach another toy. As a child manipulates
objects again and again cause and effect develops. This means that
a child understands that an action they do causes a certain response
from others or from the toy. As the child gets older, he/she will
develop an understanding that others cause events to happen and
they are not the cause of all events or actions. As cause and effect
continue to develop, they can begin to understand that a cause took
place by observing the effect. Another important aspect of cognition
for the young child is imaginative play. While engaging in make
believe play, the young child is acquiring the ability to differentiate
between the real and the pretend.
For an older child, when thinking of cognition, we often think
of attention which is the ability to sustain our focus on one task.
Someone who has difficulty attending may not complete tasks that
were begun, may have difficulty focusing on the work at hand, and
may be easily distracted from the task.
Memory is an important component of cognition and refers to the
holding of information so that it can be recalled. Dr. Mel Levine
has “Memory Factory Floor Plan” that he has developed
that makes the concept of memory easy to understand. The information
is taken in and is first processed in the “short term department”.
This is where the information is condensed for understanding and
where one decides whether to use it now or store it in long term
memory. If it is needed now, the information is processed in the
“active working department”. This is where the information
is held long enough to complete the activity at hand. Children who
have difficulty with any of these aspects of memory might have trouble
with mental arithmetic or trouble remembering what he intended to
write while beginning the act of writing.
As an older child develops, formal logic will emerge. This refers
to the ability to maintain information, reflect back on it, determine
causality and change the course of action if necessary. Logic refers
to the process of thinking and not to the solution itself.
Cognitive skills can be enhanced through play with toys that have
a strategic component. They require a child to evaluate a situation,
plan ahead, and choose a course of action. This will require both
attention and memory. The toys placed in this section will require
varied levels of both attention and memory and overall cognitive