Cognition and General Knowledge in Early Childhood

Cognition and general knowledge skills come together to form the building blocks for school readiness: logic, reasoning, mathematics, science and social studies.

Cognition is the broad category for what children know, learn and remember. This includes the thinking skills children use to make sense of all the knowledge they acquire. These important skills help children make meanings, patterns and relationships in their learning.

General knowledge has two components: details about the world around us and social concepts. These include facts like “snow is cold” and social information about jobs, community, stores, etc., as well as the understanding of how things work, such as science skills.

In order for children to build their cognition and general knowledge skills, it is important for them to engage in a wide variety of activities and experiences that promote learning through both open exploration and focused investigation. Parents and caregivers can support children’s critical thinking skills by encouraging them to “think out loud” with prompting and conversation, to find their own answers and explore the world around them.

Children’s early science and math experiences lay the foundation for their future understanding of more complex science concepts. Let children’s natural curiosity lead the way!

Michigan State University Extension offers the following online and face-to-face trainings to support children’s development of cognition and general knowledge skills: Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Science for Young Children, More than 1, 2, 3 – Math in Early Childhood and The Purpose of Play. Look at the events calendar to find out when these programs are being offered near you or contact an early childhood educator to book a presentation at your library, childcare center, school or other community program.

In addition, MSU Extension also offers a variety of downloadable resources for parents and caregivers interested in learning about cognition and general knowledge in young children.

MSU Extension also recommends the following additional resources:

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