Cognitive (Mental) and Language Development in Infancy

While children construct their knowledge of the world; Schemas use techniques of assimilation, adaptation, organization, balancing, and balancing.

Schemes : Schemas are organized patterns of behavior or thought. The brain creates schemas as the infant or child tries to construct their understanding of the world. These schemas are actions or mental designs that organize knowledge. Behavioral schemas develop in childhood. Babies develop their schemas on objects with actions such as sucking, looking, catching. Older children have strategies and plans for problem solving. In our adulthood, we create various schemes in many areas, from driving to budgeting.

We use our schemas together with the concepts of assimilation and conformity.

Assimilation: Concept suggesting that existing schemas are used to cope with new knowledge or experiences.

Fit: Children are changes in their existing schemas to learn new information and experience.

For example, when children are born, they take every object to their mouth and adopt a sucking behavior, but over time they gain the awareness that not every object can be sucked, this is an example of conforming behavior.

Organizing : Children organize their experiences with their thoughts in order to understand the world. It is the grouping of separate behaviors and thoughts in a higher system. Seeing how the hammer is used, the child also has an idea about how to use it on his big hammer, the sledgehammer.

Balance and Developmental Stages: While trying to understand the world, the child inevitably experiences cognitive conflict or imbalance. Complex situations create imbalance. The search for inner balance motivates the child for change and assimilates old and new schemas by developing new schemas.

With simple reflexes, the baby perceives the world and does this with sucking and seeking reflexes.

Object Persistence: It is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they are not seen, heard or touched. If you put a five-month-old’s toy behind an object, the child will not be able to perceive that it is behind the object. Object permanence continues to evolve with time.

Inheritance or Environment?

It has been debated for years whether heredity or environmental factors are more effective in the development of infants. In line with the researches, it has been proven that hereditary factors play a more effective role than environmental factors.

Of course, the environment and stimuli have a vital effect on the development of the child. Environmental factors affect cognitive development, but they cannot exceed the limits set by genetics. We cannot leave the development of children to genetic factors alone.

The variety of stimuli (games and toys) is very important for the baby. Toys that appeal to several senses should be preferred. They contribute significantly to the senses of colour, sound and touch. It is useful to get advice from experts about choosing the right toy for the child.

Learning, Recall and Conception

It would be helpful to explain learning in five subcategories.

Conditioning: Conditioning has taught researchers a lot, especially in stating what babies perceive. For example, it has been observed that babies suck faster when they are conditioned by music that stimulates sucking behavior.

Attention: It is the concentration of mental powers on a particular thing. Attention is present even in newborn babies.

It is an acclimation process that should not be ignored in attention. Repeating the same thing over and over to babies causes distraction. As children get older, their attention span increases.

Memory: It is the name given to the whole situation in which the organism preserves information over time. Memory develops as development continues. A twenty-month-old baby will have a memory older than an eight-month-old baby. Most of us do not remember the events of the first three years of our lives. This is because of what we call infantile amnesia. It is caused by the underdevelopment of our prefrontal lobe and hippocampus.

Imitation: One of the most basic factors in learning for babies is imitation. Studies show that newborn babies can imitate even when they are a few days old. As children grow, they expand their imitation attitude.

Concept Formation and Classification: Babies have concepts too. Researchers have observed that three-month-old infants collect similar-looking objects together, indicating classification even in the first years of life. As children grow, their concept formation and classification skills develop.

Individual Differences

Every born child is special. However, it is known that children will also show mental and physical differences. To give an example of the main differences, girls speak earlier than boys because of hormonal differences. One child can walk at 10 months, while another at 14 months. Such differences are individual differences and the most important determinant is genetic factors.

Language development

Language is a form of communication that can be verbal, written or sign based on symbol systems. It contains the words a society uses and the rules that will unite and change them. We need language to talk to others, to listen, to read, and to write. Our language helps us to recount past events in detail and to make plans for the future. It allows us to pass on our knowledge from one generation to the next and create a rich cultural heritage.

The language has some rules and reproaches. Language is a highly measured and ordered concept. The smallest unit of a language is the phonemes, which determine the sounds used and how they are combined. Every baby can pronounce vowels in all languages ​​at birth. Besides the eight vowels in Turkish, it also has the capacity to extract vowels in Korean. Over time, he will imitate the sounds he hears in his immediate surroundings and forget other sounds. As the baby’s development continues, he or she will notice certain connections between the sounds and repeat them, just like daddy-daddy.

Phonemes combine to form morphemes. This is the area where the word has its basic meaning. Now the child has begun to understand which word means what.

After it is formed in morphemes, it comes to syntax. It is formed by combining words and valid phrases to form sentences. As children grow, they begin to make larger and more meaningful sentences. ‘come’ is a sentence and a one and a half year old can say it in a meaningful way. However, daddy, let’s play football together, it takes a lot of time and phases.

At 8-12 months of age, babies begin to use gestures to point or point at an object. Mama can show the bottle to eat or show a dog to show her interest. Problems in pointing and showing gestures are one of the main indicators of autism, but autism will not be diagnosed until three years. It is useful to be vigilant in this regard. Not communicating is the hallmark of autism. In a study, it was observed that the gestures of the children of families with high socio-economic status were more pronounced than those of families with low socio-economic status. Factors causing this situation; education, stimulus diversity, and conscious parental attitudes.

It has been determined that children can understand up to fifty words at the age of thirteen months and can speak these words at the age of eighteen months. First words often consist of words such as important people (parents), toys (ball), animals (woof woof).

When children who are still developing reach 18-24 months, they gain the ability to use two-word expressions such as ‘look at the dog, where is the ball’.

Biological and Environmental Factors in Language Development

Biological Factors: The ability to speak and understand requires other vocal equipment as well as our nervous system. The nervous systems and vocal equipment of our ancestors have changed over thousands of years.

It has been proven by scientists that some parts of our brain are used for language. This discovery was made by examining people with brain damage. The broca region, which is located in the left frontal region of our brain and we use for word extraction, is the Wernicke region in the left hemisphere, which plays an active role in understanding language. Damages in these two areas cause aphasia (loss of speech), which we call language loss or damage. Damage to Broca’s area makes it difficult to convey words as desired, while damage to Wernicke’s area weakens individuals’ understanding and causes them to speak fluently but incomprehensibly.

Renowned linguist Noam Chomsky states that children are born biologically equipped to learn languages. The developmental stages of children and studies prove the accuracy of this theory.

Environmental Factors: When a baby says ‘mom-what’, the mother hugs the baby and shows affection. The child who learns this says more mother and sees love. Experts in the behaviorist school argue that language occurs gradually and is learned as a complex act like playing the piano.

Babies whose mothers talk more frequently have been observed to have a significantly broader vocabulary. Better predictors of the development of children’s vocabulary were the mother’s language and literacy skills, and the mothers’ use of a large number of different words. For example, the development of children’s vocabulary was more efficient when mothers used more diverse words while talking to their children. However, it was not found to be related to the total amount of speech of the mother. The conclusion to be drawn from here is not the duration but the quality. For example, when a child says puppy, mother says yes, puppy eats meat, it will be more beneficial for the child.

According to a study, it was observed that the children of mothers who read daily books to their 14-24-month-old children had much stronger language and cognitive development when they reached the 36th month than children who did not read regularly.

Suggestions for Parents for Language Development

1) Be an active conversation partner. Talk to your baby.

2) Talk to your baby as if they understand you. Your baby will notice your interest.

3) Don’t miss your feelings while talking to your child. Children feel emotions more than we think.

4) Your child will grow up and start to tell you his problems and share his feelings with you. Be a good listener right here.

5) Move away from gender stereotypes, this often has a negative effect on 3-5 year old children who are starting to form their sexual identity.

Thank you for reading.

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