From birth, babies are constantly learning as they experience different sights, sounds, movement, taste and touch sensations. As they move about their environment, babies begin to understand that their actions can cause things to happen. They imitate the actions of others and begin to anticipate events. Toddlerhood brings emerging problem-solving skills, make-believe play, and the ability to recognize things that don’t belong. Throughout the first three years, play and exploration lead to the development of memory, language, and increasingly complex problem-solving skills.

Cognitive Skills at 2 months

  • Takes an interest in faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes
  • May begin to recognize familiar people at a distance
  • May get fussy when activities don’t change

Cognitive Skills at 4 months

  • Lets you know she's happy or sad
  • Responds to affection
  • Reaches for a toy with one hand
  • Uses hands and eyes together by reaching for things he sees
  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
  • Watches faces closely
  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance

Cognitive Skills at 6 months

  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Brings toys to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other

Cognitive Skills at 9 months

  • Watches the path of something as it falls
  • Looks for things he sees you hide
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Puts things in her mouth
  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
  • Picks up small food items between thumb and index finger

Cognitive Skills at 12 months

  • Explores things in different ways, such as by shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it's named
  • Imitates gestures
  • Starts to use things correctly, such as a cup for drinking
  • Bangs two things together
  • Puts things in a container and takes them out
  • Lets go of toys intentionally
  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
  • Follows simple directions like "pick up the toy"

Cognitive Skills at 18 months

  • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Points to one body part
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say "sit down"

Cognitive Skills at 2 years

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Might use one hand more than the other
  • Follows two-step instructions such as "Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet."
  • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog

Cognitive Skills at 3 years

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what "two" means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Cognitive Skills at 4 years

  • Names a few colors and numbers
  • Understands counting
  • Follows three part commands
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands "same" and "different"
  • Starts to understand time
  • Predicts what is going to happen next in a book
  • Plays board games or card games
  • Often can't tell what's real and what's make-believe

Cognitive Skills at 5 years

  • Knows name and address
  • Able to distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food