Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

Introduction

Children develop in unique and unpredictable ways. What is normal for one child is absolutely unacceptable for another. Children are personalities, and they display different character traits. Yet, all children pass the basic developmental milestones. Piaget is fairly regarded as “a giant in the field of human development” (Sigelman & Rider, 2014, p. 202). Brought together, children’s developmental milestones, according to Piaget and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, create effective conditions for meeting the psychological, social, and emotional needs of children.

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Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

Children are born with the basic reflexes or thinking schemas. These schemas undergo a profound change as children adjust to the conditions of life in their social environment (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Piaget divides the process of cognitive development in children into four distinct periods. First, infancy is associated with sensomonitor changes. At this stage of development, children do not use any symbols but demonstrate remarkable motor activity (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Small children have a very limited understanding of the world around them. They use physical movements to interact with the surrounding reality (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

By the age of 7 months, children acquire some object permanence, while their physical skills facilitate the development of their intellect (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Second, the pre-operational stage of development covers the child’s early years. This is when children start using symbols for communication, improve their language skills, and develop better imagination and memory (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Still, their activities and decisions are based on egocentric thinking (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

Third, the concrete operational stage covers elementary and early adolescence. Children develop better logic and intelligence (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). This period of cognitive development is associated with seven different types of conservation: length, number, weight, mass, liquid, volume, and area (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Symbols are used more systematically to identify and describe concrete objects (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Reversible mental actions gradually replace egocentric thinking, which used to prevail in the earlier stages of development (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

Fourth, the formal operational stage is the stage of transition to adulthood. Children use symbols more consciously and logically. They have already mastered the use and effective application of abstract concepts (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). This stage is characterized by a brief but reversible reference to egocentrism (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). By this time, only one-third of adults in the developed world has developed an ability to think and act formally (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

CDC Developmental Milestones

According to the CDC (2014), childhood is an essential stage of development for any person, and it is a childhood that lays the foundation for the subsequent success of an adult in all spheres of life. CDC (2014) defines healthy development as that which provides opportunities for the development of all abilities and skills. Children must grow in ways that enable them to meet their educational, social, and cultural needs. Meanwhile, their parents must be aware of the changes facing their children, as their intellectual and cognitive abilities are being shaped. Unlike Piaget, CDC divides the process of child development into eight stages. It is possible to assume that CDC (2014) offers a more detailed view of the way children develop and improve their cognitive abilities.

Infants represent the earliest stage of children’s development, from 0 to 1 year of age. According to CDC (2014), at this stage, children learn the simplest skills, such as focusing their vision, reaching out, touching, and exploring the things they see and find around them, making sounds, producing simple syllables (for example, “ma-ma”), or remembering names. At this stage, the bonds of love and trust between children and their parents also develop (CDC, 2014). They pave the way to smooth and positive emotional and psychological development in children later in life (CDC, 2014).

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In the second year of life, infants become toddlers. They learn to move more actively (CDC, 2014). Toddlers develop better self-awareness, and they learn to understand and recognize their surroundings (CDC, 2014). They display genuine interest in exploring their reality, and they also become more independent (CDC, 2014). It is at this stage of development that toddlers start to show some signs of disagreement and even defiance (CDC, 2014). They often imitate adult behaviors and, at the same time, learn to see and recognize themselves in a mirror (CDC, 2014). This period of cognitive development is associated with novelty and numerous discoveries. Toddlers get used to the names of the most familiar objects, people, and places. They also learn to follow simple directions (CDC, 2014).

As toddlers grow, they master new skills. Between 2 and 3 years of age, toddlers emphasize they’re striving to become more independent (CDC, 2014). Depending on how parents approach these decisions and actions, this period of development can be equally exciting and problematic for them and their children. On the one hand, conflicts are unavoidable, as children learn to act and think independently from their parents.

On the other hand, it is also a period of exciting developments and discoveries, as toddlers undergo dramatic improvements in their learning, emotional, and thinking skills (CDC, 2014). At this stage of development, toddlers improve their understanding of the world. They can easily follow complex directions consisting of two or three steps. The range of emotions they learn to express further expands, while children learn to distinguish physical objects by color and shape (CDC, 2014).

As children reach their third year of life, they are already classified as preschoolers. This stage lasts between 3 and 5 years of age (CDC, 2014). The world opens itself to children in its brightest colors. They acquire even greater independence, compared with the earlier stages of development, and learn to develop effective relationships with the children and adults outside of their regular surroundings (CDC, 2014).

They become more curious and ask unusual questions about different things and phenomena (CDC, 2014). Preschoolers actively engage in interactions with their family members, and these interactions influence their personality greatly (CDC, 2014). At the same time, they start to display the features, which are unique to their character and personality. They master simple tasks, such as riding a tricycle or making a difference between girls and boys (CDC, 2014). They enjoy playing with other children, singing songs, and other activities (CDC, 2014).

Middle childhood is the period which covers the ages between 6 and 8 years. It is the time of many considerable changes in how children construct their lives. Children have already learned how to dress themselves, use their hands while eating, and other skills (CDC, 2014). As a result, they gradually move towards a new stage of development, when their emotional, social, and psychological needs become even more important.

Children seek greater independence from their parents (CDC, 2014). They become part of a larger world, where friendships and interactions with other people are vital to their success (CDC, 2014). It is also a period of rapid emotional and intellectual development. This is when children should and can become more self-confident in their striving to learn their actual place in the complex world.

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Middle childhood continues through the ages of 9 and 11 years. Such children often display more interest in being with friends than with their family members (CDC, 2014). While friendships and interactions are important for every child’s psychosocial development, an optimal balance of peer and family pressures is always required (CDC, 2014). At the same time, children must have enough independence to learn a sense of responsibility for their actions. Also, physical changes facing girls and boys at this age should not be ignored (CDC, 2014).

These physical changes persist into the later stages of development, including adolescence. These changes can make young boys and girls, particularly emotional (CDC, 2014). Simultaneously, new challenges facing adolescents can become a cornerstone in the development of effective relations with parents (CDC, 2014). Alcohol, drugs, tobacco use, unprotected sex, depression, and eating disorders come together as children become mature adults (CDC, 2014). Between 15 and 17 years of age, teenagers are already physically mature to become adults, but they are still in the process of developing their unique personalities (CDC, 2014). This is the time to get ready for an independent life, as many teenagers are to leave their homes after graduating from high school (CDC, 2014).

Toy Selection

Stage of Development (CDC) Activities Toy Selection Rationale
Infants (0-1 year)
  1. Talking to the baby.
  2. Reading books.
  3. Cuddling and holding the baby.
  4. Using toys to develop movements and object permanence.
The toy facilitates the development of the baby’s basic reflexes and senses. It enables the baby to use physical movements, as it is the only way for the infant to interact with the surrounding reality.
Toddlers (1-2 years)
  1. Reading books.
  2. Playing games.
  3. Talking to develop the toddler’s language.
  4. Letting the child dress and feed himself without anybody’s help.
Toddlers need greater freedom, as they develop better self-awareness. At the same time, they need to maintain close contacts with their parents. The toy encourages the development of the child’s emotional and cognitive abilities. As toddlers develop object permanence, the toy allows them to use their physical skills, while improving their intellect.
Toddlers (2-3 years)
  1. Reading books.
  2. Playing role games.
  3. Learning and repeating names and ages.
  4. Engaging the child in collective games to overcome egocentrism (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).
These activities and toys reinforce the development of the toddler’s intellectual skills, including language. The toddler already has enough imagination and memory to use the toy, but parents should monitor closely the patterns of development in relation to egocentrism and defiance.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
  1. Reading books.
  2. Allowing the child to interact with other children.
  3. Learning new language skills.
  4. Playing games to learn new symbols and improve object identification skills (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).
This is the time when children discover the world, and they become more logical and systematic in their observations. Disney’s Eye Found It fits perfectly well into this stage of the child’s development, since it promotes teamwork and allows the child to improve object identification and matching skills.
Middle childhood (6-8 years)
  1. Engaging the child in simple tasks.
  2. Interacting with the child.
  3. Discussing problems and opportunities.
  4. Organizing family activities.
At this stage of development, the child’s egocentrism gradually wanes, and the proposed toy is a perfect example of how children can develop better logical and physical skills, by working with physical objects.
Middle childhood (9-11 years)
  1. Spending more time with the child.
  2. Making the child responsible for fulfilling household tasks.
  3. Informing the child of the positive and negative things.
  4. Encouraging critical thinking skills.
These children are logical enough to engage in complex strategies and tasks. The toys and activities provided facilitate the development of individual responsibility and abstract thinking. At this stage of Piaget’s development, children already have enough abstract thinking capacity to play the Monopoly game.
Young years (12-14 years)
  1. Spending time with friends.
  2. Going to family picnics to reduce the scope of reversible egocentrism that develops at this age (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).
  3. Allowing for greater freedom of behavior and choices.
  4. Encouraging healthy eating and physical activity.
It is time for parents to give their children more freedom. At the same time, it is important to set the basis for living a healthy life. Bicycles represent a safe alternative to computers in terms of healthy living, cooperation, and communication with peers.
Teenagers (15-17 years)
  1. Engaging children in sports.
  2. Encouraging more active involvement in community activities.
  3. Empowering the child to develop unique solutions to the existing problems by using their concrete and abstract thinking skills.
  4. Maintaining a tradition of family meals and activities on weekends.
As teenagers are prepared to leave their homes after graduating from high school, it is high time to remember the value of family relationships. Sports and family interactions will become the best way to encourage the child’s healthy transformation into an adult.

References

CDC. (2014). Positive parenting tips. Web.

Huitt, W. & Hummel, J. (2003). Educational psychology interactive. Valdosta: Valdosta State University.

Sigelman, C. & Rider, E. (2014). Life-span development. Boston: Cengage Learning.

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