Infant Development - Cognitive Games

Infant Development - Cognitive Games

by Martha Scully

Prior to starting, I worked as an Infant Therapist. I truly feel that the most important time for a child's brain development is between 0-18 months old. If you are a parent or a caregiver of an infant, it is essential that you keep the baby's mind growing by playing cognitive games with them. I remember this stage with both of my daughters, and here are our favourite games.

Fun in the Dark

This is probably a relatively unknown game for babies, but it can really help to build their visual acuity as well as cause/effect understanding. Some babies instantly love this game, while others may need a slow introduction.  You will need a dark room and a flashlight.

  • Make sure the room is already dark, and enter it with your baby and sit on a chair or on the floor.
  • Comfort your baby by continually talking to him.
  • Turn the flashlight on, "Look at the light!"
  • Move the light around slowly - not too fast! - focusing on various objects in the room.
  • Make comments about each object, like wall hangings or toys.
  • Keep a similar routine each time you do this activity, so the baby can anticipate what happens next.

*Baby afraid of the dark? Leave the door open a bit to let some light in, or turn on a dim night-light. Never shine the flashlight into your baby's eyes.

Basket Fun

Around 8-9 months is a great time to make your own goody basket to help further develop your baby's dexterity and cognitive abilities. You will need a medium sized basket (wicker works well), plastic bowl, or small box, as well as a variety of toys, blocks, fabrics, and balls with different textures, colours, and shapes.

  • Put all the items in the basket.
  • Sit your baby on the floor, presenting her with with the goody basket.
  • Let her take items out of the basket one at a time - you may need to encourage her to keep going, as she may get distracted with each item.
  • Help her put each item back in the basket one at a time.

* It may take some practice, but she'll catch on!


Playing peek-a-boo with your baby teaches him that objects out of sight still exist, and can be found - an important cognitive lesson for baby. This game has many variations to keep it fun, there are really no limits!

  • Hide behind a wall or around a corner.
  • Cover yourself with a blanket.
  • Use household furniture to conceal yourself

* Make sure your baby is okay with being startled and/or being away from you shortly.


"Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man; bake me a cake as fast as you can...!" Babies can usually clap on their own at about 7 months old, and really love this game, especially because their own name is in the song!


Build a big tower of blocks with your baby, and let her knock them down. This game teaches cause/effect understanding because knocking down the block as a consequence.

This Little Piggy

Who doesn't know and love the game "This Little Piggy Went to Market"? Both of my daughters couldn't get enough of it when they were infants. Either follow the traditional rhyme, This Little Piggy...

  • went to market
  • stayed at home
  • had roast beef
  • had none
  • went... "WEE WEE WEE" all the way home...

Or change what they're going to get at the market, which gets a fun reaction out of your baby.

Any of these games gives you the opportunity to have one-on-one loving time with baby, and gets their little electrons firing!

What's your favourite game to play with infants? Please feel free to share in our comments!

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About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.