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About importance of developing child’s cognitive interest and logical reasoning

Research studies assert that in order to successful studies at school it is of high importance to develop internal necessity to receive knowledge. Mainly, ‘intellectually passive' children, who have negative attitude to brainwork and seek to avoid any mental activity, fall behind with their studies. The reason of the ‘intellectually passive behavior’ is that child’s cognitive interest was not developed during preschool years. So what is a cognitive interest?

Striving to learn new things, discover inexplicable about qualities and characteristics of the objects and events of real life, desire to go deep into the essence of things, find existing relations and bonds between them, find correlations between certain actions and events, all of these are the signs of the developing cognitive interest and logical reasoning. As you know some children do well academically only thanks to their discipline and unbelievable assiduity, others ‘catch on very fast’ and do their homework quickly. And it is not about different mental abilities. Children are able to process information easily thanks to their cognitive interest to everything new and unknown. There are children who are slow learners at school, they complain of ‘not understanding the subject’ and ‘having bad memory’, but when they encounter an interesting story, they can relay its content in a very accurate manner that surprises their family and teachers. Any adult person has more difficulties in doing the task if it does not spark their interest, and we want it from our children.

The development of cognitive interest begins in early childhood, when a toddler starts asking ‘why’. Healthily growing child is always striving for learning and creating, and it is necessary that adults take part in this process.

The problem of development of cognitive interest in their children is a concern for many parents. Unfortunately, at the moment the substitution of live communication and a trend of interactive learning mediums prevent the children from developing their reasoning and imagination. However, thinking and imagination develop in the game, role-playing and pretend play in older age. Modern children play very little. The game is replaced by watching cartoons on the Smartphone or tablet (we will definitely discuss cartoons in a separate post). Communication with family and same-age peers is considerably decreasing and this fact makes cognitive and speech development of a child slower. There is no computer program-game, and no cartoon which could possibly replace simple but essential for a child communication with an adult. Even attractive interactive toys do not contribute to development of a child’s play activity if they are used without an adult. Quite often I can see parents that put in front of a child of approximately one year old a phone or a tablet with some cartoon to avoid him or her bothering them while they are having their cup of tea or coffee in a coffee house. They think that it will calm the kid down; that it is beneficial for him/her. In reality, if you keep turning on a cartoon all the time, the only thing that will be developed is a screen addiction. It happens because any bright flashing activates dopamine system in children, and it leads to release of dopamine – so called ‘happiness hormone’. The child likes this feeling, cannot leave without it anymore and demands a new dose.

So let’s go back to cognitive activity. What other mistakes of adults lead to decrease of children’s curiosity.

First, adults interact little with children, do not participate in their games, do not demonstrate them that it is possible to change typical, repeating scenario of the game, include new characters and participants in the play, switch roles and change the ways to express emotions. Do not be afraid of expressing and demonstrating your emotions; do not be afraid when your child demonstrates his/her emotions as well, because only after having accumulated emotional experience, children’s emotional development begins.

Second, parents constantly prohibit things without giving explanations to a child on why he/she should not do it, and do not suggest any alternative activity; this way they demonstrate their authority or manipulate a child threatening him/her with punishment. But we all understand that it is just a delay-action bomb which first of all affects child’s psyche, makes negative impact on his/her behavior and development.

Third, it is not uncommon when parents react with irritation to child’s questions. Nowadays, parents do not have enough time and energy to provide answers or explanations to a child because they are very busy.  They keep to very rude answers or even just ignore child’s questions. A lot of people think that they will teach them everything at school, and that is why child’s cognitive interest goes down. ‘Why should I ask about something if they just yell at me’.

Forth, parents often forget to praise a child for his/her effort and small achievements. They mainly notice failures in child’s activity. And a child stops making an effort, because he/she knows that their endeavor will never be acknowledged by the most important people – his/her parents.

Fifth, parents do not take into consideration specific characteristics of child’s behavior; that is, impulsive behavior and inability to predict the consequences of their actions. They do not understand that some actions can harm a child, that he/she might become withdrawn, or on the contrary, demonstrate violence, have a temper tantrum and demonstrate other impulsive behavior.

So how can we stimulate cognitive development?

          It is important to remember that the leading activity is pretend and role play. Only during a game all the psychological processes such as perception, speech, thinking and reasoning, imagination, memory and attention are initiated and developed. And that should be parents who teach a child to play, develop a storyline and make a common event become a fascinating game. However, parents often underestimate the role of a game in child’s life. Remember how children like playing in a pretend family, work, grocery shop and other games related to his/her experience in the surrounding world.

During a game that is when the cognitive activity is developed. Game is one of the important ways of learning about the world around us, it enriches emotional world of a child and creates positive attitude. Game helps them to learn moral values, create and specify the concepts about the world. Key advantage of the game comparing to other activities is that a child voluntarily follows the rules. Complying with the established rules gives the child pleasure; hence play activity contributes to volition development. Behavior becomes conscious, game provides a child the opportunity to demonstrate initiative and independence.

What should we do?

Play with your child such games that broaden his/her mind and develop speech; ask questions, make changes in scenarios if you start noticing that he/she keeps on playing using the same scenario, and introduce new characters into you play. If a child is playing with one car, pick another one and suggest to play in races, and who reaches the sofa quicker; invent a garage, give a ride to a doll or another toy. There is no limit to imagination, just give it a direction and the child will catch it up. When you are playing with your child, include cognitive elements in your plot and use developmental play materials.

Bring positive emotions to your child’s life, praise him or her, support any initiative and do not be afraid of resistance. Before getting involved into the game, ask for child’s permission; show what exactly you want to do especially if it is a special needs child. He or she needs to understand you attempts to interfere in the game and be prepared for it.

Anyway be ready for a peak of a child’s cognitive activity, and the period of why-questions. The specific features of this period of life are curiosity, inquisitiveness, persistent desire to learn new things, striving for new experience, craving for observation and search of new information about the world. By satisfying his or her curiosity during activities, the child forms a cognitive system from separated concepts and images. It is of great importance for a child’s cognitive development to develop attention, memory, speech, ability to compare things, analyze and determine cause-and-effect relationships.

Psychologists have proved that precisely the age of 5-7 years is the favorable period to develop cognitive interests of the person. Therefore, parents need to encourage child’s cognitive activity and demonstrate their personal interest in child’s discoveries. This age is a time to give colorful encyclopedia as a present to your child. However, we should remember that for a child not only the amount of knowledge is important, but also the way of getting this knowledge. When you read to your child, do not expect him or her to remember all the content of the chapter. Little ‘whyer’ loves getting already known information again and again. This need must be satisfied in order to specify, extend and classify child’s ideas.

Never ever brush your child’s questions off; ask them counter-questions like: ‘And what do you think? How did you figure it out?’ Children’s questions should be taken seriously. Do not leave them unanswered, make discoveries with your child together and create happy atmosphere of collaboration. You are recommended to answer their questions the way that supports and extends the curiosity and cognitive interests of a child.

Cognitive independence of the ‘whyers’ manifests in questions like ‘What’s for?’ ‘How?’ ‘Why?’. A child often tries to find the answers him- or herself, showing initiative by wishing to try and take to pieces objects and toys, that is why children are so attracted by construction sets, kits for creativity and experiments. Such a creative investigative activity provides incentives for reasoning and development of cognitive interests. It is necessary to teach a child to make a volitional effort to obtain a result even though it is necessary to overcome obstacles in order to do so.

Development of a cognitive interest supposes getting new knowledge. But shy children lacking self-confidence require some specific approach. At the first glance they seem to be passive; there are few things that interest them. Such timid children should be encouraged to ask questions and look for the answers through a hands-on activity. You definitely want to widen their horizons by observing the nature, visiting exhibitions, theatres and reading books. Establish connections with their prior experience by organizing child’s knowledge. Be attentive and support your child when you notice slight interest in intellectual activity and help him or her achieve success. Child’s participation in an intellectual trivia game or competition, positive emotions and game hacks spark child’s curiosity. Make a small trivia game at home. You participation and kindness will help your child to believe in his/her own potential and will encourage the child to some new cognitive activity in the future.

Do not try to explain and tell children about everything that they can see. To contribute to development of child’s interest it is advisable to provoke their cognitive activity, motivate them to ask questions and seek for answers by observation. For example, you can offer your child to determine what has changes in the park since your last visit; make up some riddles about what he/she can see and use poems about nature.

When introducing children to a world around them, use comparisons more frequently. It is easier for a child to find differences between the objects than similarities. Therefore, first offer a question: ‘What is the difference between a birch and a fir-tree?’ and then discuss, what are their similarities. By comparing objects and phenomenons of reality, the child gets to know them deeper, determines their new characteristics and qualities, which gives him/her an opportunity to take a look at a seemingly familiar concept from a different angle.

Do not forget about motivation; no child will be eager to do things if he or she does not have motivation. Psychologists point out several conditions that are required to build cognitive motivation:

1.     Emotional support. A child can longer hold attention and interest if you encourage him or her and praise their efforts.

2.     Discussion of success and failures with a child. Why were you able to find an answer; what helped you? Encourage your child to find answers on his/her own.

3.     Activating of mental processes. Cognitive activity can last for a week or more if you keep on asking suggestive questions.

4.     Adult’s help in mastering skills of planning and goal setting by a child.

Cognitive interests make a child to strive for learning new things and look for new ways of satisfying thirst for knowledge. It is in children’s nature to be curious. Therefore, you should encourage them to get information and analyze it.

          Important! The world opens to a child through his or her perception, personal emotional experience and practical activity. Your support of child’s curiosity in different areas of life will contribute to widening your child’s horizons. Desire to learn new things will become a necessity and will motivate a child to study a school program deeply. Wish you best of luck!