Cognitive 24 – 36 Months

Cognitive Development 24 – 36 Months

Up to the age of three, your child is already able to recognize the photos of yourself and perhaps 2 more familiar people he knows. He also knows his own gender and can tell the difference between a boy, girl, man and woman. He understands the implications when you tell him ‘no’, and will show a reaction through facial features or verbal and physical gestures.Out of sight is also no longer out of mind for him; so, if you try to hide his favourite toy from him, he will know that it is still there, just that it is out of his view. Other than being able to match and sort primary colours, he will also progress to sorting simple shapes (e.g. circles, squares and triangular objects).Though his attention span is still pretty short, he does pay attention if you read him stories. He will begin to remember details in familiar stories, and let you know if you have missed out a part. Completion of a simple 3-4 piece puzzle is also no big feat to him. 

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Cognitive At 24 – 30 Months

Gives One from Many

I am starting to understand what numbers mean. Between 24 and 30 months of age, I will start to connect in my mind that the number ‘1’ means the quantity of 1 object. Since I can identify the difference between ‘just 1’ and ‘many’ in the earlier task, you will see me GIVE you 1 from many items when you asked me for ‘1’ item.


  • Play with your child big building blocks/cars/trains, etc.
  • Ask him to GIVE you 1 item.
  • Observe his response.


Your child is on his way to understanding what numbers mean by first understanding what ‘ONE’ (1) means. In his mind, ‘1’ is not just a meaningless word. He has corresponded the word ‘1’ to the quantity meaning of a single item. He has moved from understanding the difference of ‘1’ from many, to giving ‘1’ from many. Very soon he will be able to say ‘1’ when ask how many of an item he has. If you notice he is still not showing the understanding of the meaning of 1, be patient and create a relaxed and fun atmosphere when developing this number awareness. You can try the following :

  1. Start by asking him to identify which 2 sets have ‘just 1’ of an item first.

  2. Then move on, asking him to give you ‘just 1’ from a group.

  3. Finally, you can ask him to tell you how many of a single item you have.

Do remember that the understanding of ‘1’ usually develops between 24 and 30 months. Look out for his understanding of the concept of ‘2’ between 30 to 36 months.

Take a look at some suggested activities below to use this number skill in everyday life.

  1. Play fun physical activities. E.g. prepare a short race where your child has to run from a line to a hula-hoop placed a short distance away. Put 3-4 items in the hula- hoop. Ask him to take only 1 item at a time and run to the line for keeping before running to the hoop again.

  2. During dinner time, ask him to help you give 1 spoon, fork, cup, etc., to each person on the table.

  3. During household chores, practice the concept of 1. E.g. when hanging clothes, ask him to give you 1 clothes peg at a time from a basket of clothes pegs. Or when keeping eggs after a trip to the market, ask him to keep 1 egg at a time into each egg-hole in the fridge.

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Cognitive At 24 – 28 Months

Three Familiar People In Photographs

I can spot and name at least 3 people I know very well in photographs. I will clearly realize that photographs can stand for people and things when I am between 24 and 28 months.


  • Look through a recent photo album with your child.
  • Ask your child to point to someone he knows.
  • Ask your child to name the person as well.

Feedback 1

This activity involves your child’s ability in understanding picture representations of people. In the progression of understanding representations, your child will move from photographs to colored drawings, black and white outline pictures and finally to words. You can also let your child recognize familiar people from black and white photos as well.

Look at the suggested activities for fun ideas to develop your child’s picture representational concept.

  1. When you next bring him to a fast food restaurant, let him choose his favorite food by looking at the photograph menu. Ask him both to point at and name the food he wants to eat.

  2. Have fun grocery shopping with your child. Cut out newspaper and magazine photo labels of what you want to buy. Place these cut-outs in photo albums and go on a "treasure hunt" for them while you shop! Ask him both to point and name the things you are buying.

  3. Read by pointing to and labeling objects and people in large, clear and colorful storybooks. Your child will be able to find the object you ask for and name them as well.

Feedback 2 

If your child shows some difficulty in recognizing some photos, check if it is because the picture of the face may be too small or the photograph may not be a recent one. Use photos where there is only 1 person in the picture, preferably a photo showing the whole body. Use recent photographs as well because your child may find it difficult to distinguish the changes in small details. Look if the suggested activities below could help further.

  1. Have a photo album which has individual photos of each of the immediate family members in your family. Then, have a photo at the end which consists of everyone in the photo. Flip through the album with your child, naming everyone. When you are at the last photo, ask him to identify each of them.

  2. Place photos of your family members around your living room. Play a "can you find so-and-so" game. Remember to praise him each time he correctly identifies a person.

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Cognitive At 24 – 35 Months

Identifies Three Objects With Their Functions

Go ahead and ask me questions about things and their functions. When you ask me to think of what object I can use for a specific function, I will be able to tell you. I can identify at least 3 objects correctly when you ask me by their functions between 24 and 35 months.


  • Prepare 3-4 picture cards or objects (e.g. biscuits, toy bunny, shorts).
  • Lay these cards or objects in front of child.
  • Ask "What can we eat?"
  • Ask "What can we wear on our legs?"
  • Ask "What can we play with?"

Feedback 1

Your child is developing his associative skills between objects and their functions at this stage. This skill usually develops for children between 24 and 35 months. You have done a great job in exposing him to objects and their uses. Take a look at the suggested activities below for more ideas to further develop your child’s associative skill.

  1. Move on to associate different body parts with their functions, e.g. what do we jump up high with, what do we see with, what can we throw a ball with?

  2. Move on to connect a variety of different items which all have the same function, e.g. what things can we wear? In a year’s time, he will learn to associate that various things belong together in the same category group because of their functions.

  3. Whenever you go for an outing, play a game of what you need to bring, e.g. ""what do we need when we go for a swim?"".

Feedback 2 

If you observe that your child shows some difficulty in his associative skills between objects and their functions. Do be patient in teaching him. Meanwhile, take a look at the suggested activities to encourage this skill.

  1. Identify what functions he may not be familiar with. Make it a point to link everyday objects with these particular functions as you eat, bathe and play with your child.

  2. Once he is familiar with the basic functions of everyday objects, then you can move on to associating other less familiar functions. E.g. you can move on to associate different body parts with their functions, e.g. what do we jump up high with, what do we see with, what can we throw a ball with?

  3. Move on to connect a variety of different items which all have the same function, e.g. what are the few things we can wear?

  4. Whenever you go for an outing, play a game of what you need to bring, e.g. "what do we need when we go for a swim?"

  5. Start with simple functions (eat, wear, play) and everyday objects (favorite food, clothes, toys) first. Illustrate your question with actions. Have your child choose the object after you have asked the question and acted out the function.

  6. Demonstrate whenever possible the use of objects. E.g. when you are sweeping the floor, show your child the broom and tell him that it is meant for sweeping and let him sweep. The familiarity with objects and their uses in real life situations will enhance his pace of learning.

  7. Allow the child to do as many self-help skills as he can, even when it may not be totally neat. E.g. let him try to comb his own hair, brush his own teeth, dry himself with a towel, eat with the spoon, drink with a cup, etc. These daily personal experiences make learning very real. While your child is doing the actions, you can highlight the object and what it is used for.

Cognitive At 24 – 36 Months

Turns Pages in Correct Order, One Page at a Time

I know that each page represents a part of the whole book. When I flip a page one at a time, I know that I am reaching the end of the book very soon. I will do this between 24 and 36 months.


  • Give your child a favorite story book.
  • Observe how your child rights the book.
  • Observe whether he flips each page, 1 at a time.


Your child’s spatial development has enabled him to be aware of the pages with reference to the storybook as a whole. This is a very good beginning for his reading readiness. This skill is right on track for children between 24 and 36 months.

Continue to interest him by reading his favorite books and getting him to participate in reading by turning the pages one by one. You may wish to leave him alone at times with a new book. Allow him time to explore and figure out how to flip the pages to discover the interesting pictures in it!

  1. If your child is turning the pages in a hurry:

    • Use a favorite story or a story with a preferred character.

    • Try getting him books with hard cover pages for easy turning.

    • Try stapling page markers (like that in a diary) at each page for easy flipping.

    These strategies will help to slow your child down.

  2. If your child is passive and does not show interest in the book:

    • Use books with feely materials that he can touch or interact with.

    • Try preparing home-made books with nice surprises inside each page. He can even take each surprise out and do something with it, e.g. cookie, sticker, etc.

    • Buy/Prepare short books of 3-4 pages first.

    • Buy books that have big pictures with a character that he is interested in.

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Cognitive At 29 – 33 Months

Colors Black, White, Blue, Red And Yellow

I can compare 2-3 colors of objects and see whether they are the same or different. I will match sharply contrasting colors first such as black and white. Then I will match less contrasting colors such as red, blue and yellow. I will develop color matching skills between 29 and 33 months.


  • Place 2 transparent containers in front of your child.
  • Show your child a black block. Keep in 1 container.
  • Show your child a white block. Keep in another container.
  • Show child 1 black and then 1 white block and see if he can match.
  • Repeat for blue and red colors.
  • Repeat for 3 colors; blue, red and yellow.


This activity shows your child’s understanding of the similarities and differences between shades of colors. His success in marching colors shows that he is progressing nicely in the area of color awareness and the matching of colors. This skill usually develops between 29 and 33 months. For the next milestone, watch out for his ability to match photographs and pictures of objects.

Take a look at our suggestions for ideas in further developing this skill.

  1. Give your child more items to match. Instead of giving him 1 object at a time, give him a box of 3-4 objects at a time for him to match the 2 colors himself.

  2. Challenge your child’s color concepts by using different objects for each color. E.g. give a blue block and a blue car, a red block and a red button to your child. Let him match the objects base on colors. Your child will have to match the car to the block because they have the same color even though they are obviously different objects.

  3. Prepare different colored paints. Have your child step on each color and make a pair of different colored footprints on a large piece of paper. Play a physical game where your child has to find the same colored footprints on the paper by stepping on the same colors. Increase the distance between the same colored footprint and play a simple version of "Twister".

  4. Involve him in matching and sorting his different colored pairs of socks when you are doing the laundry.

Feedback 2 

If your child shows difficulty in this skill, do first make sure your child is medically able to perceive colors. Bring him for an eye check if you suspect any color blindness. Start always with sharply contrasting colors of black, white and red, before moving to blue and yellow.

Look at the suggested ideas below for more ways to play and develop your child in this area of learning colors.

  1. Use identical objects that vary in appearance only by their colors, e.g. identical balls of different colors. This helps to focus the child’s visual attention only on the colors. 

  2. Prepare blue, yellow and red paint. Have your child step on each color and make a pair of blue, yellow and red footprints on a large piece of paper. Play a physical game where your child has to find the same colored footprints on the paper by stepping on the same colors. Increase the distance between the same colored footprint and play a simple version of "Twister" on it.

  3. Use play dough and enjoy cutting a favorite shape on each colored dough. Make 2 same color shapes of each primary color and place them in a container. Use it to help your child learn matching of primary colors in a natural and interesting way.

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Cognitive At 30 – 36 Months

Completes Three To Four Pieces Of A Jigsaw Puzzle

When you give me a 3-4 piece interlocking puzzle, I’m able to put it together. This is because I’m relating and orientating the different parts of the puzzle to the actual object. For example, in a puzzle of a cat, I know that the head is in front, the tail is at the back, while the legs are at the bottom. I will do this between 30 and 36 months.


  • Show a finished 4 piece puzzle.
  • Label the picture and identify the parts.
  • Break the pieces up.
  • Ask your child to try putting the pieces together.


Your child is developing good visual spatial skills in this activity. He is able to relate the parts of the animal puzzle in relation to the animal as a whole. This skill is very appropriate for children between 30 and 36 months.

Take a look at to suggested activities for more ideas on this skill.

  1. Buy him different types of puzzles. Each piece represents a smaller part of the whole animal. Challenge him by slowly increasing the number of parts he has to put together. It will be good that in time, he is able to complete more complex puzzles, i.e. more pieces.

  2. More importantly, describe the parts of the puzzle after the child has completed it. This description helps the child understand that the parts of objects and pictures have a particular space in the whole picture, be it on top, at the bottom, the side, etc.

  3. Make your own puzzles. Cut up a picture of an animal from a magazine into 3-5 parts. Do not cut randomly. Instead cut leaving parts that the child can identify (e.g. the head, hand, legs, etc). Have your child put them together.

  4. If your child finds the puzzle difficult, start with a simpler two-piece interlocking puzzle and slowly increase to 3 and then 4 pieces. This creates success and motivation in completing a greater number of puzzle pieces.

  5. Buy puzzles with a frame. Frameless puzzles may be difficult for some children at this age.

  6. Buy puzzles with small knobs for easy handling.

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Cognitive At 33 – 40 Months

Points To At Least Three Colors And Sorts Them Into Three Groups

I can visually differentiate colors by now. I’ll point to at least 3 different colors when you ask me. Also, I’ll group at least 3 objects of the same color together. I can play simple color pointing and sorting games between 33 and 40 months.


  • Observe whether your child is able to point to the right colored sock. Demonstrate how you will sort 2 different colored socks.
  • Let your child try after your demonstration.
  • Let him group socks of the same color together.
  • If successful, introduce a third color. Let him sort the socks now to 3 different piles.

Feedback 1

Your child is learning more about the color concepts at this stage. He is also developing his ability to differentiate and classify colored objects into separate groups. This skill usually develops from 33 and 40 months, and you have done a wonderful job in exposing him to color concepts and in organizing his ability to group these concepts together.

Look at our suggested activities for fun ideas in using his color concept and sorting skills practically and meaningfully in real life.

  1. Have your child help you group colors for daily chores and routines. E.g. sort different clothes pegs, towels, plastic cups, spoon, plates, etc., into different utensil baskets. Teaching him using natural contexts helps him use and apply his knowledge of colors practically.

  2. Make jelly together for enjoyment and giving away to neighbors. When making jelly, ask your child what color he wants his jelly to be. Let him drop in the coloring and see the jelly turn to the color he wants. Then prepare for the other 2 colors. When the jelly has solidified, ask him to help you pack all the same colored jelly into the respective colored boxes to give to family and friends. The colored boxes will serve as a visual category for him to sort.

  3. Read books on colors that feature his favorite character, e.g. Spot the dog. As you identify the objects in the book which have the same color, lead him to point to other things he sees in the room which have the same color.

  4. Collect things of the same color together in a bag. Use 3 bags with 3 different colors and treasure hunt for the same color objects round the house.

  5. Play finger painting to learn even more different colors.

Feedback 2 

If your child understands the different colors but have some difficulty in sorting the different colored items, do not worry as this sorting skill of colors usually develops between 33 and 40 months. Your child has lots of time to develop and understand the meaning of sorting the colors.

Things you can do to build up success in sorting:

A) Prepare containers highlighting the colors. 

B) Start with 2 colors first. 

C) Ensure that all the objects to be sorted are the same except for their colors. 

D) Minimize distractions and disorganization by clearing the table or work area of any toys or clutter. 

E) Always demonstrate first before expecting your child to understand what you want of him.

Take your time in enjoying color sorting games with your child. Look at our suggested activities to develop his sorting skills. With your patient teaching through play activities, your child will soon be able to sort groups of objects together.

Feedback 3 

If your child keeps being inconsistent in his pointing of colors, he may be confused about the concept of colors. Do not be afraid to start teaching him to point to colors first. Always create success and aim for the next step. Teach him the main colors first, black, white, red, blue and yellow using the same objects that only vary in colors. When he is consistently pointing his colors out, then you can move on to sorting. Try the following idea to help him learn to match colored items first.

  1. Play "find a matching color" with your child. Place 2 different colors in front of him. Give him 1 color and ask him to find the same color. Praise him when he finds the match. Move on and match the next 3 colors. Focus on his matching, pointing and understanding of the color. Do not make it an issue if he pronounces the word unclearly, e.g. back for black.

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