Cognitive Skills: The First 3 Months

Cognitive Skills for babiesFrom the moment your little one is born they begin to take in information and process the world around them. The skills needed to do so are called cognitive skills.  Some of the signs that these skills are emerging may appear very subtle. If you look closely you will notice your baby doing little things that are helping him learn about his environment and process new information.

All children develop differently so know that if your baby is not doing the exact same things as your best friend’s, that is ok.  However, if you are concerned about your little one’s development always seek out the Early Intervention program in your area for a free screening or evaluation.  In this post I will give you information about what cognitive skills look like and how to encourage cognitive skills in babies from birth to three months.

Are you thinking about teaching your baby a second language?  Starting from birth is best.  If you would like to read more about how to get started click HERE.

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0-3 months cognitive skills include:


Responding to sounds in their environment

Your little one may stop moving and become still when they hear a new sound so that they can take it all in.  They may also do the opposite by startling.  Both of these reactions show that your little one has heard something that they are unsure of and are trying to process and respond to the information present.  Most hospitals do a hearing test very soon after birth to ensure your baby is hearing, as it is a critical way for them to take in information.

Responding to voice

One of the first things your little one recognizes when they reach the outside world is voices.  They have been hearing a muffled version of their mother’s voice for the past months while inside the womb and now are hearing it clearly for the first time.  You may notice your baby respond to your voice by stopping crying when they hear you as it is soothing.  As they get a little older they may turn their head towards you when they hear your words.

Notices Hands

Your little ones first favorite toy will be their hands!  Once they discover them they can’t get enough of them!  They will start by just looking at their hands which will tell you that they are starting to see a bit more clearly.     As soon as they gain some coordination they will be putting them in their mouth to explore them a little bit more.  You may also notice your newborns hands are fisted at first but will slowly relax in the upcoming months to a more open position.

How can I encourage cognitive skills?



Simply talking to your little one from birth is one of the best ways to start working on cognitive skills.  Connect with your sweetie by telling them all that is going on in the world around them.  Narrate your day by telling them about what you are making for dinner or about what you are going to wear that day.

The television does not provide your child with the same kind of input so do not count on it to teach your baby language.  Babies can not process the television like we do so it is not effective.  To learn more about the guidelines for television and young children click here.


You can read to your little one from day one!  Use a soft book (like this) to show them pictures and gently guide their hands to touch and feel it.  My husband would read adult books or magazines out loud to my son while he was holding him-this counts too!  Baby magazines (like this) will work well for a different literacy experience.

Books can also be a great motivator while your baby is working on tummy time.    A perfect distraction to intrigue your little one and introduce them to the world of books.  A great way to start a bedtime or nap routine is to add a book in from the very beginning as it will become a perfect way to grow their early literacy skills right away.

Singing and Music

It may be natural for you to sing to your little one as they drift off to sleep and it happens to be a great way for your little one to learn too ( read more about the benefits of singing here).  You can also sing to your baby during diaper changes or while in the car.  Introducing your baby to gentle music is also a great way for them to hear some new interesting sounds.  This wonderful social activity can also help soothe your baby when they need some extra comfort.  If you are looking for more ways to encourage your baby’s development check out One Minute Milestones.

For ideas on toys that help encourage your baby’s development stop by our Baby Resource Page.


Would you like to learn about the other areas of development?  Check them out in the list below!

motor development





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Cognitive Skills 0-3 Months INFANT


About Kayla ONeill

This is me and my beautiful bouncing baby boy! Before my little guy arrived I earned a Bachelor's degree in Special Education Birth to 21 as well as my Masters in Education. For six years I worked as an Early Interventionist serving children and families from birth to age three before becoming a stay at home mom to be with my son.

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