Developing conceptual skills occurs during infancy and into early childhood. While it does happen without a ton of effort on the part of parents, you can promote adequate development with fun activities. Watching for milestones and indications of conceptual abilities is helpful because you can alert your child's pediatrician if you think there might a delay or problem with his development.
Conceptual development refers to your baby's ability to match an object with its mental representation, according to the SKI-HI Institute at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. For example, when you say dog, your baby will be able to picture a dog in his mind. It also involves recognizing colors and emotions. Conceptual development differs from other parts of your baby's growth because it isn't linked to any physical skills. This type of development begins in infancy, but continues into the grade school years.
Several milestones during the infant years give you clues about your baby's conceptual development. You'll probably begin to notice them around 6 months, according to Virginia Tech University, though they might appear earlier or later in some infants. Your little one will express an interest in looking at pictures and may begin to identify the objects on his own. He'll begin to understand that objects or people still exist, even if he can't see them and might try looking for them, too.
Conceptual development occurs to some degree, regardless of the activities you do with your infant. However, some are ideal for promoting this part your baby's growth. Label objects as you go about your day. Name his diaper, pants, shirt and socks as you dress him, tell him the names of the foods you are feeding him, point out and label cars, trucks, signs and buildings while you drive around town and name his favorite toys. Read books and tell him what each picture is. For example, books that feature dogs, cats, people and furniture. Infant board books are an effective choice for this activity. Hide a toy you're playing with under a blanket and let your infant look for it.
When to Call the Doctor
Infants progress at different paces and you might notice variations among a friend's baby or even an older child during her infancy. However, if you notice a lag in conceptual development milestones, mention your concerns to your little one's pediatrician. He can set your mind at ease or do further testing to rule out a problem. If a delay is detected, your baby's doctor will create a treatment plan to help your baby catch up.