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  • Writer's pictureLena Agree JD, PsyD

5 Ways for Your Nanny to Support Your Child’s Cognitive Development, Ages 0 to 5 ~ Part 1 of 2

Updated: Oct 14, 2023



Methods 1-3


Your nanny probably spends a lot of time with your child, which means she has lots of opportunities to do things that will promote your child’s cognitive development, which is the ability to use the mind in intellectual and creative ways. According to research, incorporating these first three things will help cognitively support your child.


Method #1. Promote object exploration. Infants and young children learn by exploring their environment. They look at things, listen to things, and touch things (“objects”). This is the process of “object exploration.” Caregivers can promote object exploration by noticing the child’s capabilities and gently encouraging them to expand their current ability.

With infants:

o Place toys and objects within their reach

o Hand them different and new objects to manipulate

o Sit them up so their hands are free


With toddlers:

o Suggest different ways of using objects

o Teach imitation by modeling new ways of handling things

o Add unfamiliar objects to their play

o Praise the child’s attempts to use objects in new ways

o Encourage exploration of different aspects or functions of thing (eg: open and closing, sorting by color, shape or use)



Method #2. Scaffold play. The term “scaffolding” refers to the process of supporting increasingly higher levels of sophistication. Here it is applied to the child’s play. Starting in toddlerhood and beyond your nanny can incorporate these tactics to scaffold your child:


  • Demonstrate features of objects the child may not recognize (eg: round objects can bounce off each other, blocks can be stacked)

  • Encourage the transition from functional to pretend play (eg: blocks can used to represent things like a house or a space ship; objects take on pretend roles)

  • Follow the child’s lead and support and help expand the child’s narrative, (whether or not it is realistic)



Method #3. Encourage concept development. “Concept development” is idea development. Your nanny can help increase your child’s knowledge of general concepts by labeling and talking about:

  • Size

  • Shape

  • Color

  • Spatial relations (over, under, above, across, up, down, between - This is a good activity in the car as you are driving under, over and across bridges, for instance)

  • Feelings

  • Categories of things (animals, numbers, letters)


Check out the fourth and fifth ways your nanny can support your young child’s cognitive development in Part 2 of this series.


Based on research by:

Atkins-Burnett, Sally, Shannon Monahan, Louisa Tarullo, Yange Xue, Elizabeth Cavadel, Lizabeth Malone, and Lauren Akers (2015). Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT). OPRE Report 2015-13. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Halle, T., Anderson, R., Blasberg, A., Chrisler, A., & Simkin, S. (2011). Quality of caregiver- child interactions for infants and toddlers (QCCIIT): A Review of the Literature, OPRE 2011- 25. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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