As kids grow and age, their intellectual (or cognitive) skills develop as well. Watch this lesson to find out more about cognitive development in childhood, including the relationship between attention and memory, and the skill of meta-cognition.
Ariana is a happy and healthy nine-year-old. She loves to play with her friends and go on adventures with her family. Most of all, she loves school. She really enjoys learning, and when her teacher gives her an assignment that is really hard, Ariana gets really excited.
Ariana is in the heart of middle childhood, which lasts from age 7 to 12. During this time, children grow and change in many different ways. Among the changes seen in middle childhood are great strides in cognitive development, or intellectual growth. Let's look closer at some factors that impact cognitive development in middle childhood: attention, memory, and meta-cognition.
Attention & Memory
When Ariana was younger, she was like a lot of other infants. She quickly bounced from one thing to the next. She was interested in everything, and everything would grab her attention. Anything new would distract her. If someone walked into the room or a light went on outside the window or a bug flittered around the room, she naturally gravitated towards it.
Ariana was experiencing the difficulty of paying attention to just one thing, which is common in infants and toddlers. Attentional processes are important for memory. The things you pay attention to are the things you remember.
For example, imagine that you're standing in line in the grocery store, and you get a text message from your friend. As you read and respond to that text message, the hubbub of the store seems to fade into the background. You don't pay attention to the people bustling around you or to the music piped in through the stereo system. You are focused on your text messages.
Later, when you get home, you are likely to remember the content of the text messages sent back and forth between you and your friend, but you probably won't remember the color of the shirt of the guy behind you in line or what song was playing when you swiped your credit card. That's because you weren't paying attention to them; as we said before, the things you pay attention to are the things that you remember.
Like most kids in middle childhood, Ariana's concentration and attentional processes are developing. She finds that she is able to control her attention better. She can decide what to focus on at any given moment. Like when you concentrate on your text messages instead of everything going on in the grocery store, Ariana is learning how to harness attention. This will lead her to being able to remember things better.
In addition to attentional processes, Ariana is also experiencing an increase in meta-cognition, which involves knowing what you know and how you learn. For example, if I asked you to do something complex, like take apart a calculator, fix it, and put it back together, the first thing you'd probably do is figure out whether you know how to do that or not. You'd ask yourself, 'Is this something I know?'
If the answer to that question is 'No,' then you might ask yourself, 'How can I learn this?' You could look up the answer in the calculator's manual, or find a video on YouTube, or just take it apart and start fiddling with it. Which one you choose is based in part on what you know about how you learn. You might find it easier to watch a video, while your friend might find it easier just to do it.
Studies show that mega-cognition is crucial for learning. Students who understand what they know and how they learn do better academically than students who do not. And meta-cognitive skills develop in middle childhood after students have spent several years in school. In general, the longer a person is in school, the better they are at meta-cognition.
Take Ariana, for example. As a kindergartener, she didn't really know how she learned. Now, though, after several years in school, she's learned that she does her best work at the dining room table while her mom is cooking dinner, not at the desk in her bedroom. Her meta-cognitive skills have improved.
Middle childhood lasts from age 7 to 12, and involves great strides in cognitive development. Children become better and better at controlling their attention, which leads to better memory for information, and their meta-cognitive skills improve, which allows them to learn new information better.
Once you have completed this lesson you should be able to:
- Discuss the relationship between attention and memory in children in middle childhood
- Explain how attention and meta-cognitive skills change during middle childhood