preschool activities for cognitive development

Activities to Promote Preschool Cognitive Development

Not all preschool cognitive development activities are created equal.

This is why it’s so important for early childhood educators to choose the right activities so toddlers develop to their fullest potential.

It’s been well-documented that the preschool years are critical for building the foundation for learning in the K-12 school years. During the foundation-building preschool time, your child will begin to engage in more purposeful play. Preschoolers start to form a whole new understanding as they expand their experiences with the world around them.

Preschoolers are eager to learn how the world works, and the best way for them to learn at this age is through play.

If you’re asking yourself how students can improve their cognitive skills, the following are examples some of our top activities to incorporate into your daily routine to promote preschool cognitive development:

Preschool Cognitive Activity Examples

Wondering what are some activities to build cognitive skills in the classroom? Here are some examples to help students improve their cognitive skills:

Memory Matching

preschool memory matching with cards

Memory matching games or simple card games like Go Fish allow preschoolers to intellectually work through a problem to find the answer or a solution.

There are hundreds of memory matching activities to choose from, but no matter which one you choose, they all involve developing the same skills:

  1. Identify an item or several items.
  2. Remember the items.
  3. Look for a matching item.
  4. Identify when a match is found.

Finding a match can be incredibly gratifying and make a child very proud of their discovery, which is why many preschoolers love memory matching activities.

Puzzles

preschool puzzle activity cognitive development

Puzzles provide children with opportunities to hone their problem-solving skills as they figure out where pieces fit or don’t. They teach preschoolers to solve problems and think in a more logical way.

Since there is only one way to solve a puzzle (a piece either fits or it doesn’t), they also teach children how to be more patient. As an educator, pay extra attention and encourage children to continue searching for the right piece if they begin to get impatient.

Sorting and Classifying

preschool sorting classifying cognitive development activity

Categorizing plays a large role in a preschooler’s cognitive development. Through sorting, children begin to understand that certain things have similarities and differences. This type of logical thinking forms the foundation for future mathematical concepts and even everyday tasks.

Choose activities that encourage sorting and classifying items, such as sorting toys by color, type or size.

Sequencing

sequencing activity preschool cognitive development

Preschoolers typically use their own routines to understand events and recall sequence. They understand time in a general way (for example, “yesterday” could mean something that happened anytime in the past), but can work on their sequencing skills to develop a better sense of time.

For example, you could ask your preschoolers to draw you a sequence of their morning routine in the correct order. As an educator, remember to emphasize sequencing words like, first, start, finish, next, last, then, before, after, etc. so they become a part of a preschooler’s vocabulary.

Symbolic

symbolic play preschool cognitive development activity

Both parents and caregivers can support preschool cognitive development by playing symbolic games with their children. Taking part in imaginary play with a preschooler helps them develop their natural curiosity about the world, invokes their problem-solving skills and helps develop their focus and attention as well.

Plus, in a world where there’s a product for just about every activity, imaginary play is completely free!


During the preschool years, children are undergoing a period of rapid brain development. This is why it’s so crucial to choose activities that are developmentally appropriate, so their developing brains or properly nurtured.

Parents and teachers can help maximize this period of brain development by supporting children with certain types of experience and activities, as well as encouraging children to pursue interests and play that come naturally to them.

If you are interested in preschool activities, you might also enjoy our free ebook about observations in early childhood education. Our team of educators came up with their top tips for effective child observations in the classroom. Download now!

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Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.

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