Cognitive Development: Everything You Need to Know

This is the process by which children learn how to engage in thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. Parents should foster their children’s cognitive development as soon as they’re born because doing so helps to build the foundation for the children’s success in school and later in life.

According to Jean Piaget’s theory, children experience four different stages of cognitive development. These stages include:

The sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years)

Major developmental changes and characteristics include:

·         Infants know the world via their sensations and movements

·         Kids learn about the world via basic actions, such as looking, listening, sucking, and grasping

·         Infants learn that objects continue to exist even though they can’t be seen

·         They’re separate beings from the objects and people around them

·         They realize their actions can make things happen in the world around them

During this first stage of cognitive development, toddlers and infants acquire knowledge via manipulating objects and sensory experiences.

The preoperational stage (2 to 7 years)

Major developmental changes and characteristics include:

·         Children start to think symbolically and learn using pictures and words to represent objects

·         Kids at this stage are likely to be egocentric and struggle to see things from others’ perspective

·         While they’re getting better with thinking and language, they’re still likely to think about things in highly concrete terms

The foundations of language may have been built during the sensorimotor stage, but the emergence of language is one of the most important hallmarks of the preoperational stage.

The concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years)

Major developmental changes and characteristics include:

·         At this stage, kids start to think logically about concrete events

·         They start to comprehend the concept of conservation. For instance, the amount of liquid in a wide, short cup is equal to that in a skinny, tall glass.

·         Their thinking becomes more organized and logical, but still very concrete

·         Kids start using inductive logic, or reasoning from certain information to a general principle

At this stage, kids also become less egocentric and start to think about how other people may think and feel.

The formal operational stage (12 years and up)

Major developmental changes and characteristics include:

·         During this stage, the young adult or adolescent starts to reason about hypothetical problems and think abstractly

·         Teens start to think more about philosophical, moral, ethical, political, and social issues that require abstract and theoretical reasoning

·         Start to utilize deductive logic, or reasoning from a general principle to certain information

At this point, teens can think more scientifically about the world around them and see multiple potential solutions to problems.

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