Complete Guide to Cognitive Development from 0-6 Months

From 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.

How can I encourage cognitive skills in my baby? There are simple ways to encourage cognitive development in your baby from 0-6 months within your daily routines. Learn what cognitive skills like in babies 0-6 months.

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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.


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.





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!  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.

For more information about 0-3 month development check out these areas:








Discovering Fingers and Toes

Your little one has a new favorite toy…luckily it is something they have with them all of the time!  You may have noticed while changing your little one’s diaper they are starting to grab at their toes to play.  What a fun first for baby and you!  While they are laying in their crib or sitting in their car seat they bring their hands near their face and watch how their tiny fingers move.

Mouthing Toys and Hands

One of the ways that a baby takes in new information is by using their mouth.  Putting toys or hands in their mouth is just another way to learn more about an object.  Give your child safe and clean toys (like these) to explore while you are changing their diaper or enjoying some play time on the floor. It is important to make sure that your house is baby proofed and all small items are picked up as they become a choking hazard.

Reaching for Toys

The world is so interesting that your baby wants to reach out and touch it!  You may notice them reaching out to bat or touch toys above them.  They may also work to reach toys that are out of their reach.  Baby gyms (like this) are great for giving your baby something safe and fun to grab at.

Help them practice this skill by leaving toy a little ways away and letting your baby figure out how to reach them on their own.  Link toys (like these) work well because they are easy for your baby to grab and motivating!




Give your little one lots of opportunities to play.  Toys should be very simple at this age and can include things like soft blocksunbreakable mirrors, books (this is one of my favorites), and rattles.  Show your baby how a rattle works by gently shaking it. Then hand it off to them to give it a try.

Mirrors are very motivating and interesting for babies and are great to use during tummy time.  Place the unbreakable mirror in front of them and see how they react.  At first they may just gaze at it but eventually they will be amused by the baby right in front of them.

Peek-a-boo is the perfect game to introduce during diaper changes or while getting your little one dressed.  Hide behind a small cloth or towel and peek out at your baby.  Watch their reactions. If you are seeing smiles then continue with the fun social game.

If your baby seems frightened by it then you may want to hold off on it for a couple of weeks.  Always watch your baby’s cues during playtime or when introducing something new.


Now is the perfect time to introduce those soft squishy books (like these) to your baby if you haven’t already done so.  While they are playing on their tummy, lay down in front of them and show them the pictures.

Describe what is on the pages to your baby so that they can hear new words.  Gently guide their hands to feel the different textures of the book to help them explore.

Magazines also work well as they provide little ones with a completely different literacy experience (these ones are designed for babies)  After you are done “reading” them let your little one explore them by crinkling and crunching them up with their hands.  You could also save them for craft projects or scissor practice for when they are a bit older.


While your baby is taking in the world visually narrate what they see as well.  Take them on a tour around your house and describe to them all the new things around them.

When you are outside for a walk point out the puppy and talk about how warm or cool the air feels.  While you are making dinner, tell them all about it!  Your baby needs to hear words over and over so that they can learn them.

If you are looking for more ways to encourage your baby’s development check out One Minute Milestones.

For more information on 3-6 month skills check out these other areas:


Language Skills

Motor Skills

Social Skills

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5 Fun Bath Toys to Encourage Development

7 Essential Toys to Encourage Development 0-6 Months

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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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