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Cognitive Domain


_____________________________________________Lindsay Robbins

Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development


Birth to 2 Years Old


h Infants use their senses and motor actions to explore and understand the world. At the start they have only innate reflexes, but they develop ever-more “intelligent” actions and, by the end, are capable of symbolic thought using images or words and can therefore plan solutions to problems mentally.”   g


(Sigelman, pg 42,1999.)


Substages of the Sensorimotor Stage

(Sigelman, pg 173, 1999.)

Reflex Activity (Birth to 1 month)

“Active exercise and refinement of inborn reflexes”


Accommodate sucking to fit the shapes of different objects

  Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months)

“Repetition of interesting acts centered on ones’ own body”

Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months)

“Repetition of interesting acts on objects”


Building Skills With Your Infant or Toddler:

Toy Websites for the Developing Child



Repeatedly shake a rattle to make an interesting noise, or play with a mobile to make it wiggle.

Coordination of Secondary Schemes (8-12 months)

“Combining of actions to solve simple problems); first evidence of intentionality”


Push aside a obstacle in order to grasp an object, using the scheme as a means to an end.


Object Permanence:

The understanding that objects (including people) continue to exist when they are no longer visible or otherwise detectable to the senses; fully mastered by the end of infancy.

8 months & Younger: Don’t search for hidden objects

8 months: Can immediately search for the hidden object but if they wait for more than a few seconds they forgot about it

2 years: Grasp full idea of object permanence although are sometimes scared that someone has really disappeared or hide themselves where a part of their body is still visible

Berger, pg. 172, 2003

Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months)

“Experimentation to find new ways to solve problems

or produce interesting outcomes”



Explore bath water by gently patting it,

then hitting it vigorously and watching

the results or stroking, pinching, and patting a cat

 to see how it responds to varied actions


“The Little Scientist”

“Experiments in order to see”…

Trial and error with the scientific method…

What happens if…


Beginning of Thought (18-24 months)

“First evidence of insight; can solve problems mentally now using

symbols to stand for objects and actions; is no longer limited to thinking by doing”


Visualize how a stick could be used to move an out of reach toy closer



Words Used By Children Younger than 20 Months:

Sound Effects- Baa baa, meow, moo, ouch, uh-oh, yum-yum, wolf

Food & Drink- Apple, banana, cookie, cheese, cracker, juice, milk, water

Animals- Bear, bird, bunny, dog, cat, cow, duck, fish, kitty, horse, pig, puppy

Body Parts & Clothing- Diaper, ear, eye, foot, hair, hand, hat, mouth, nose, toe, tooth, shoe

House & Outdoors- Blanket, chair, cup, door, flower, keys, outside, spoon, tree, TV

People- Baby, daddy, gramma, gramps, mommy

Toys & Vehicles- Ball, balloon, bike, boat, book, bubbles, plane, truck, toy

Actions- Down, eat, go, sit, up

Games & Routines- Bath, bye, hi, night-night, no, peekaboo, please, shh, thank you, yes

Adjectives & Descriptives- Allgone, cold, dirty, hot


Noises, Cooing, Babbling, & First Words:

Cooing- (3-4 months) repeating vowel-like sounds such as “ooh” and “ahh”

Babbling- (4-6 months) repeating consonant/vowel combinations such as “dadada” and “baba”

Holophrases, “First Word” – (1 year) a single word that suggests a whole sentences meaning

Telegraphic Speech- (18-24 months) combining 2 words into a simple sentence


Parental Encouragement in Language Development: 


“Yes! That’s Right!”

*Imitation of the child’s vocalization*

Repeating “dog” directly after the child says “dog”

*Describing objects in child’s surroundings*

“This is a red ball.”

*Ask questions to the child*

“Is that a doggie over there?”

*Play prompt*

“Why don’t you put the dolls clothes on?”

*Exploration prompt*

“What else are we going to do today?”


You Can Talk Baby Talk Too!


Our First Memories

Contrary to our beliefs that children ages two and younger can not remember anything, developmentalists now say that infants can remember numerous events if these conditions exist:

-Experimental conditions are similar to real life

-Motivation is high

-Special measures aid memory retrieval


Tie a ribbon from your baby’s foot to a colorful (bright colors such as red & yellow) mobile. Take note when they kick and notice that the mobile moves when they do this.  A week later, again tie the ribbon to the baby’s foot and mobile and the baby will start to kick immediately…The Baby Remembers!

(Rovee-Collier, 1987, 1990.)

Implicit & Explicit Memories

Implicit Memories…

“Memory of events, objects, and experiences that can be recognized when certain cues are present but cannot be recalled without reminders.”

…Remembering the color and texture of your first teddy bear with help…

Explicit Memories…

“Memory that is available for instant recall; often involves material that was deliberately studied and memorized.

…Remembering your phone number from your childhood house… (Berger, pg. 184, 2003.)



An opportunity for perception and interaction that is offered by people, places, and objects in the environment (Berger, pg177, 2003).

Graspability: the perception of whether or not an object is of the proper shape, size, texture, and distance to afford grasping

Visual Cliff:  an illusion of a drop off on a horizontal surface between a child and his/her guardian

Dynamic Perception: perception that is primed to focus on movement and change

Categorization & Organization:


Children under 6 months categorize objects by shape, size, amount (up to 3 objects) and color.


Children around a year old can distinguish between birds and other animals (knowing that a pigeon is in the same category as a sparrow but is different than a dog), between men and women, children and adults, beautiful people and less attractive people, between dogs and cats.


To Create the Perfect Cognitive Domain for Your Infant or Toddler…


v      Mobile over the crib with the pictures facing into the crib

v      Age appropriate toys that are colorful, have movement, noises, and lights

v      Repeating and affirming child’s vocalizations

v      Helping children categorize information and objects

v      Repeating events to jog memories 

Works Cited


Berger, Kathleen S. (2003). The Developing Person: Through Childhood and Adolescence. New York: Worth Publishers.


Sigelman, Carol. (1999). Life-Span Human Development. New York: Brooks/Cole Publishing  Company.

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