By age two, children can typically walk, talk and feed themselves. Between birth and age 18, children experience phenomenal cognitive development. Anyone who has watched a baby grow knows the tremendous physical and mental changes a child experiences in his first two years of life, as he goes from barely able to move to walking and talking. While all children advance in their cognitive abilities, they don't all progress at the same speed. Many factors account for differences, including genetics. However, physical factors specific to children and their environments play a large part. Birth
oThe circumstances under which a child is born can have a tremendous impact on his cognitive development. Premature babies very often develop more slowly than babies that carry to term. Their systems, including their brains, aren't quite as developed, which means that things like speaking and identifying colors may come a little later for them than the typical child. Similarly, babies born under traumatic conditions---particularly those facing oxygen deprivation---may sustain damage to their brains that can cause lifelong physical and cognitive delays. Nutrition
oThe old adage "You are what you eat" very much applies to babies and young children. Well-rounded nutrition is very important to cognitive and general physical development. In order to develop their brains further, young children need adequate protein. Kids who like fish may also have an advantage, as numerous studies show that fish oils containing omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for brain and neural development. Activity
oBabies are born with brains that aren't fully developed. As they age, the brain adds myeline---a lipid-based electrical conductor---that activates neural pathways. Each pathway brings new abilities, including cognitive ones. Children need physical activity and stimulation to trigger myelination. For example, in early stages, belly crawling...