Cognitive development – 4 to 12 months old

The way children solve problems, think, learn new skills and understand is sometimes called cognitive development.


Growth in the frontal part of the brain means bub is more motivated, pays more attention and is more confident to explore, all of which help bub to concentrate in small ways on exciting new challenges.

By 8 months old, bub can come up with a goal and to some extent hold back other urges while carrying it out.

Make sure bub is developing a healthy attachment because this provides them with a secure base from which to explore their world.

If possible, involve dad in caring for bub as much as possible because bub is more likely to later have better school performance, self-esteem and self-control.



This age marks an important time in the development of bub’s memory. By 5 months old, bub can look at something and remember it weeks later.

At around 8 months old, bub starts to remember things without having to look at, hear, feel, smell or taste something. This kind of memory is needed for bub to attach to parents/carers.

Bub can finally hold a mental image for a few moments after it has gone from view. This means bub starts to fret when separated from loved ones.

Put toys away or move them to another room when bub no longer seems interested because:

  • this keeps bub’s attention on new and exciting things around them
  • bub learns to link activities with a place, so the same old book may be more interesting if it suddenly appears in the car or kitchen.

Tell or read bub stories often because it will help bub to remember certain words up to weeks later.

Published — 22 March 2019 Last updated — 22 March 2019

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