Cognitive Skills


Cognitive skill development in children involves the progressive building of learning skills, such as attention, memory and thinking. These crucial skills enable children to process sensory information and eventually learn to evaluate, analyse, remember, make comparisons and understand cause and effect. Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.

Cognitive or thinking skills can affect the following:

  • Attention
  • Decision-making
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Safety awareness

Difficulties with such skills in children are associated with developmental delay, an injury to the brain, or as the result of trauma. Occupational Therapists (OTs) are trained to identify difficulties with cognition, and the impact these difficulties have on every day skills. OTs work on improving skills and providing suggestions. For example; they can break down a task into steps (task analysis). This method may make it easier to perform the task.


There are key benchmarks of cognitive development by age. Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether your child is at risk.

 By 7 months Finds partially hidden object
Explores objects with hands and mouth
 By 12 months


Explores objects in many ways (shaking, banging, throwing, dropping)
Finds hidden objects easily
Begins to use objects correctly (brushing hair, drinking from cup)
 By 18 months Imitates housework
 By 24 months Helps with undressing
Finds objects hidden under multiple covers
Begins to sort by shapes and colors
Begins to engage in parallel play
Begins make believe play
 By 3 years Makes mechanical toys work
Plays make-believe with dolls and animals
Participates in cooperative play
Completes inset puzzles with 3-4 pieces
Undresses self
Toilet training begins
 By 4  years Correctly names colors
Understands concept of counting
Begins to understand time
Understands the concept of “same” and “different”
 By 5 years/school entry Can count 10 or more objects
Knows about use of everyday items (food, money)
Develops reasoning skills
Learn through language and logic/reasoning
Child shows a strong desire to learn
 6 years + Able to solve more complex problems
Individual learning style becomes more clear-cut
Can solve simple math problems using objects

We would be happy to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s cognitive skills. We offer assessment and therapy to assist with the issues mentioned above.