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Importance of an Infant's Cognitive & Memory Development

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Cognitive development refers to growth and changes in an infant's abilities to think, reason, understand, solve problems and remember. Babies are able to recall information for longer and longer periods as they mature into toddlers. In fact, memory retention is in place before your infant can verbally express an event that happened in the past. Memory is an important component of cognitive growth. For instance, it teaches your baby that when you leave the room you will come back and that you will respond when he cries.

Significance

Early cognitive development in infants is marked by progressions and restrictions that include greater adaptability but restrained memory abilities. As babies grow, the can hang onto information for longer periods. The ability to recall events gives an infant the insight to distinguish between the familiar and the unknown, come to expect and take part in daily routines -- such as holding her arms up when you’re about to dress her in a clean tee shirt. An infant’s memory system is quite extraordinary and performs at a higher level of sophistication that earlier believed, according to the California Department of Education. Infant's have the capability of long-term recall long before they can verbally express their memories.

Deferred Imitation

Infants are well-equipped to observe and imitate other people. Watching a certain behavior a handful of times for less than 30 seconds is enough for a baby to remember the action a month down the road, notes the Raising Children Network. An experiment performed by the Talaris Research Institute, called "deferred imitation," was conducted using five toys and uncommon ways to play with them, so that researchers can find out to how long infants can remember how to do new things. For instance, infants might observe a plastic spoon combing a doll's hair. The babies could recall about 70 percent of the unusual ways to play with the five toys three minutes later, and a 50 percent-recall rate was reported one and four weeks after the experiment, according to researchers.

Cognitive Expansion

Social, emotional, motor, language and perceptual experiences -- babies do have definite preferences, when it comes to what they like to look at. As cognition skills mature, infants learn to identify certain colors and solve simple problems. For example, a 4-to-7-month old baby can find partially hidden objects, such as when only the tip of rattle is revealed under a blanket, notes HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Considerations

Praise your baby's ever expanding memory when she remembers how to do things, whether it's using a spoon or tugging on a soiled diaper to let you know it's time for a change. Remembering the names of people and objects along with listening and understanding are major first year milestones. Cognitive development continues to grow as your baby gains a deeper understanding and meaning of their world.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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