Expectations for Cognitive Development

Birth to 3 months

  • Attends to faces/visually follows moving object 
  • Awareness of sounds 
  • Brings hands and objects to mouth

3-6 Months

  • Emerging cause-effect play (shakes rattle or bats at toys to “cause an effect”) 
  • Explores all aspects of objects 
  • Bangs objects on surface or together

6-9 months

  • Simple motor play continues (pushing, pulling, shaking, banging) 
  • Emerging object permanence (finds a partially hidden object) 
  • Participates in simple social games, plays peek-a-boo

9-12 months

  • Container play (takes things out/puts things into container) 
  • Finds completely hidden objects 
  • Demonstrates functional use of objects (brings spoon to mouth and phone to ear)

12-18 months 

  • Pretend play begins-first on self 
  • Trial-and-error skills (puzzles, shape sorters, stacking) 
  • Combines related objects 
  • Imitates new movements (participates more in social games)

18-24 months

  • Pretend play becomes more complex 
  • More mobile, explores environment and enjoys physical play 
  • Emerging matching skills

30-36 months

  • Matching and sorting skills 
  • Concepts emerging (‘big’ vs. ‘little,’ etc.)

3-4 years

  • Colors, numbers, letters, shapes 
  • Very interested in play with peers, rules during play begin to emerge 
  • Counts objects/recognizes letters

4-5 years

  • Play with peers becomes more structured, rules and roles 
  • Matches symbols (letters and numbers) 
  • Retells facts from familiar story