Developmental Milestones

Problem Solving Skills & Activities

Problem solving, or cognitive skills, refer to how a child perceives, thinks, and gains understanding of his or her world and includes remembering, problem solving, and decision-making. From birth, babies begin to actively learn by exploring their everyday world through experiences.  Providing new sights, sounds, activities and opportunities for your child to explore their environment is vital to cognitive development.


4-9 months

  • Explores objects with fingers, hands, toes
  • Works to get objects out of reach
  • Turns head toward bright colors and lights
  • Explores objects by touching, mouthing, shaking, and banging
  • Looks for ball rolled out of sight

9-12 months

  • Finds toys hidden under boxes
  • Imitates actions from memory
  • Uses objects by function (phone to ear)
  • Shows interest in picture books

12-18 months

  • Plays simple games such as peek-a-boo
  • Likes to take things apart
  • Tries a number of things to activate toy (turns, bangs, pushes button)

18-24 months

  • Plays alongside a friend (parallel play)
  • Begins simple pretend play (talking on the phone, putting baby to bed)
  • Completes simple puzzles of 2-3 pieces
  • Points to a body part

2-3 years

  • Group objects by category
  • Engages in imaginative play with common household objects
  • Names objects and points to many objects in one picture
  • Stacks rings on a peg in order of size
  • Completes more complex puzzles

3-4 years

  • Engages in elaborate pretend play
  • Experiments with cause and effect in play
  • Understands basic concepts like tallest, biggest, same, more, etc.
  • Asks who, what, where, and why questions
  • Understands more complex words like time words (yesterday, tomorrow) and words to describe emotions (happy, disappointed)

5-6 years

  • Places four pictures in sequence
  • Imitates series of actions
  • Sorts and classifies by category
  • Learning to read and write basic words and numbers



  • Allow your infant to feel different textures
  • Provide experiences for your baby to look at a variety of colors, shapes and objects
  • Talk about your baby’s world
  • Sing to your baby and play music
  • Read daily to your baby


  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Play hide-and-seek with objects
  • Encourage play with puzzles, blocks, nesting toys and drawing materials
  • Provide a variety of toys and activities that require your child to problem solve
  • Play music and sing
  • Read daily to your child

2-3 years

  • Sort objects by color, shape, etc.
  • Help your child “write” his own book by writing his words while he or she draws the pictures
  • Teach the words; on, under, behind, around by playing games like Simon Says
  • Provide a “dress-up” box for your child for imaginative play
  • Read daily to your child

3-4 years

  • Teach your child to count and recognize the numbers 1-10
  • Conduct simple science experiments
  • Play the memory game
  • Compare objects of differing size and weight
  • Cut objects into fractions of ½, ¼, etc.
  • Read daily to your child

5-6 years

  • Plant a garden with your child
  • Show your child how to make simple recipes using measurements
  • Allow your child to have a lemonade stand, making the lemonade and counting change
  • Help your child write his or her name
  • Read daily to your child


Denver Developmental Activities

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