Cognitive Development

13 - 18 Months

One-year-olds have an improved sense of objects, their permanence and their use. They know that things and people exist behind closed doors. They will move one object aside to get at another. They try to take things apart to see what’s inside. They may use one toy as a tool to reach another. They can recognize that an object is upside down and turn it rightside-up.

The ability to imitate others develops at this age. This is a useful skill that helps your baby as he learns to talk, feed himself, and even laugh. One-year-olds are able to match words to concepts, for example, to identify simple objects in a book. If you ask, “Where’s the ball in this picture,” your child can now point to the ball. She can also form a mental picture of something she cannot see. For example, she can imagine her shoes and then go look for them if you ask her too.

The concept of cause and effect is further understood during this period as your toddler continues to learn that certain actions bring about predictable responses from you: If she drops a toy, you pick it up. If she reaches upward, you pick her up.

How Your Toddler Learns
Your child is learning through a combination of methods, from the sensual to the higher level techniques of problem-solving. Each learning experience, as always, is built on other learning, and now, with so much accumulated knowledge as a base, his ability to learn is explosive. Primarily, your toddler learns by:

  • Using his senses. When he feels wind blow through the window, when he compares the texture of a ball made of tin foil to one made of sponge, when he smells a flower, listens to a song, or sees the bark on a tree, your toddler is categorizing his experiences in ways that help him make sense of the world around him.
  • Experimenting. Your toddler might drop a spoon on the floor over and over again, not to aggravate you, but to memorize the cause and effect of things. She will also vary an action slightly to see if the change affects the outcome. “What will happen if I drop the spoon and the fork together? What if I toss the spoon onto a cushion instead of the floor? Will it make a different sound?” All of these experiments prove that the world follows certain physical rules and enables her to make reasonable predictions. This knowledge gives her the safety to venture out, with the firm knowledge, for instance, that the floor is solid and will support her attempt to walk across it.
  • Manipulating objects. Your toddler learns a great deal by “accident” as she handles objects and learns how one object interacts with another. For example, she may try to push a toy through the bars of her crib and find that, in the position she is holding the toy, it doesn’t fit through. Eventually, by chance, she may rotate the toy and succeed at sliding it through the bars this time. The next time she tries the same action, she will remember to turn the toy so it fits through easily. She learns the correct position by accident, and is able to retain this bit of information to use the next time. This accidental learning, a form of experimentation, is the beginning of problem-solving.

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