Ways to Support Cognitive Development in Infants

We focus on supporting the cognitive development of infants by offering and sharing the world around them. Young children, from birth to 6 years old are like sponges soaking up everything around them. Dr. Maria Montessori referred to this as the period of the absorbent mind. A baby’s brain is taking in language, sights, sounds, and smells all around them. A great way to support a child’s development is through a prepared environment. We will support a baby’s development through movement and language. As you consider these ideas and activities for ways you can support cognitive development in your baby, just remember that all babies progress at different rates and we want to meet our babies right where they are and not push them further or hinder them from their next milestone. 

Newborns (0-3 Months)

Language for Newborns

A baby is drawn and attracted to the sound of voices. One of the best ways to support an infant’s cognitive development is by speaking to them. We can speak to them while we are handling them, like during diaper changes, getting dressed, or bath time. We can tell them what we are doing by saying things like, “I am putting your shirt on. First I will place your right arm in the sleeve and now your left arm.” We may also use an approach called sportscasting, which is where we say what we see them doing. For example, if they smile while we pour warm water over their belly during a bath we may say, “You are smiling. You must enjoy the warm water of the bath.”

We can keep our newborn babies close to us while conversing with others. There are so many important concepts they will learn just by listening to conversations. Additionally, we can simply name everyday experiences and name the objects we are using. At times we could play music in our homes, which is another aspect of language. The opportunities for language are endless but know that your baby will absorb their environment with ease.

Sensory and Visual Activities for Newborns

During the first three months of a baby’s life, we can offer opportunities to gaze upon visually appealing objects as well as move their body freely. It is best to do these activities when a baby is fed, freshly changed, and content. We can set up a movement area with a mat or blanket for tummy time or lying on their back. Above them, we can hang some Montessori baby mobiles and in front of them, we can have a mirror. The Montessori baby mobiles are engaging mobiles that offer opportunities for visual tracking. If you want to learn how to use Montessori baby mobiles check out this post. If you want to make your own, do that here!

Babies are sensorial learners and they will explore with their hands and feet. So, we can help them with this adjustment to the world around them by keeping their hands and feet uncovered, giving them total freedom of movement. Just make sure to have the home warm enough so they aren’t cold.

Cognitive Development Activities for Infants (3-6 Months)

Language Acquisition Activities

Just as we have been since birth, we can continue conversing with our baby. A simple way to do this more intentionally is by pausing at differnet moments and allowing your baby a chance to respond. They may make a sound back to you. We can respond to these sounds they make and encourage them to make more. A vital role as a caregiver to an infant is to show them the respect we would to another human being.

Another way we can support language development is through the use of baby sign language. We can start using these signs that are commonly said. Signs like “milk”, “water”, “eat”, “more”, “all done” and “help”. It may not be for many months that they start using these signs but they are still absorbing it all! We started using some baby sign language around 6 months old and at 13 months, one day during lunch they started signing for “MORE”. It allowed them to communicate with me before they had the words to do so. 


Floor time for a baby is so important at this stage of development. As mentioned earlier, we can prepare a movement area that allows our baby total freedom of movement. Having a mirror can be a fun way for a baby to see both their voluntary and involuntary movements. After the Montessori visual mobiles, we can offer tactile mobiles. At this stage, a baby will begin to grasp objects. My twins’ favorite tactile mobile was this wooden bell mobile with a wooden ring, currently unavailable. Another way we supported the movement with mobiles was by attaching a light ball or bell to a ribbon and hanging it near their feet for them to kick. They will likely have involuntary movements that cause the ball to move, which is just fine! At some point, they will begin to make the connection that their movements cause something to happen, and then they will start doing more of them. During this period our baby may start slithering around. We can offer some objects that roll slowly like a rattle, ball, rain stick, or a wooden cylinder with balls inside. 

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Cognitive Development Activities for Infants (6-9 Months)

It may be time to start making some small changes to your environment because, in the next few months your baby’s physical development is going to get a lot more active and busy! Gross motor skills during this time will include sitting, crawling, pulling up to stand, and cruising along furniture. We can offer a Montessori pull-up bar in our environment. We may introduce a Montessori weaning table when they start their solid food journey

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills may include reaching for objects, grasping objects with their whole hand, and transferring them from one hand to the other. They may start to wave and will gain increasing refinement of their grasping. A spinning drum and the object permanence box can be fun during this age. A favorite and simple activity at this age is a pop-up peg toy. This toy will span for many months to come. At this stage, it is perfect for grasping the pegs out of the holes, but later on they will enjoy making the peg guys spring out of their ho

Language Development

We will see our baby reacting to sounds around them. It is a good idea to name the sounds that go on around them, especially if it is the first time they have heard a sound like a dog barking. Your baby’s intellectual development just keeps progressing! They will begin to respond to requests like clapping or saying bye-bye. They will start to understand the difference in your tone of voice and the meaning of the word “no”.

Sensory Exploration

Cognitive development in infants is greatly supported by sensory exploration at this stage of development. There are many opportunities for sensory activities, especially while you introduce new foods and expose your baby to all the different textures. Solid foods can start to be introduced around 6 months of age, but make sure your baby is showing signs of readiness. We can promote overall development through healthy eating. Check out these easy sensory baby activities that will be perfect for this stage of infant cognitive development.

Plate with a quarter of a tomato, a banana spear and a cucumber spear
Tomato, banana and cucumber prepared for blw

Cognitive Development Activities for Infants (9-12 Months)

Every stage of infancy has its’ highlights, but I particularly loved this period. There is more consistency with daily routines and you can see so many connections being made! As you watch problem-solving skills be developed while they play with puzzles or work to nest objects together. Fine motor development can be supported through various activities that involve a baby’s hands. At this stage they will enjoy taking knobbed puzzles out of the frame, they likely won’t be putting them back into the frame, so we can do this for them so they can pull them out again. They enjoy games like peekaboo and may start to point to objects. We can continue to offer baby signs for simple words and we may see them do those signs back to us. 

For more resources during this stage of development, check out these blog posts!

Gross Motor Development

A baby’s movement during the first year grows and develops radically. During these months they will continue crawling, pulling up onto furniture, and cruising around. We can have a walker wagon in the environment to support them as they start to walk. Your baby may even start walking during this time! But if not, don’t worry. It is normal for walking to happen anytime between 10 and 18- months old. Every baby meets the developmental milestones at slightly different times and develops at their own pace. If you have concerns about your child’s cognitive development make sure to check with your health professionals.

Walker wagon
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Before You Go

Infancy is an incredible time and opportunity to develop language skills, grow in emotional development, as well as support all sorts of physical activity! I have outlined plenty of different play activities that will support a natural progression of childhood development. Don’t underestimate the power of preparing an environment with engaging and developmentally appropriate toys and materials. Allow your baby freedom of movement to explore and expereince everything that their body is capable of. Take time to observe your baby and talk to them often about what is going on in the world around them. Babie’s brains are always working, we can support that through a beautiful and orderly prepared environment.  

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