Piaget theorized that cognitive development occurs in a four distinct, universal stages, each characterized by abstract levels of thought. The stages are successive in nature, in which each stage is crossed by what was learned in the previous stage. They are as follows,
Sensory-motor stage (birth to 2 years) during the sensorimotor stage, a childâ€™s thinking is largely based on perceptions of the environment and their physical interactions with it. Mental representations are highly limited. Object permanence was proposed by Piaget. It is the ability to understand that an object exists even though it is not physically seen. Intelligence is expressed through motor skills in this stage. Development of mobility allows the child to explore new intellectual capabilities. Some non-verbal abilities are developed by the end sensory-motor stage.
Pre-operational stage (2 – 7 years)- According to Piaget, children exhibit intelligence through a wide variety of symbolic-representation skills, such as drawing and using language and imagination but in a non-verbal and non-reversible manner. However, they tend to focus on single dimension, while solving problems at this stage. For example, if ball shaped clay is remolded to a thin sausage, they claim that there is now more clay now.
Concrete operational stage (7- 11 years)- Single dimension problem solving is overcome by logical thinking in this stage. However, logical and systematic thinking is not fully developed although they try to apply it. This stage is characterized by operational thinking i.e., the ability to manipulate and reverse mental actions instead of one direction thinking.
Formal operational stage (7- adulthood)- In this stage, children attain the reasoning power as equal to adults, which allows them to solve mathematical and scientific problem where they can understand concepts. However, this cannot occur without exposure to formal education. Intelligence is demonstrated through abstract concepts such as use of scientific symbols etc.
Piagetâ€™s theory faces criticism that there are many more stages to cognitive development and certain developments appear quite earlier than what he claims.
Cognitive developmental milestones in infancy
Cognitive developmental milestone is essential for the overall wellbeing of the child. Breakdown of milestones till the age of one are listed below.
0 to 3 months- The child explores the basic sensory inputs and the environment surrounding it as everything is new to it. Infants begin to show reflexive behaviors, such as rooting and sucking. They can identify sounds and differences in pitch and volume. They can also identify objects clearly which is 13 inches away. Visual and auditory focus is high; they begin to understand and differentiate colors across the spectrum. As their taste buds develop, they can differentiate flavors such as sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.
3-6 months- During this period infants develop a stronger sense of perception. They can now react to familiar faces and sounds, and respond with facial expressions to care givers.
6-9 months- They begin to gaze longer at objects. They start using visual cues such as, relative size of an object to determine its distance from them. They can also understand real and animated toys or objects at this age.
9-12 months- As children begin to move physically, they understand depth perception. They can manipulate objects by turning, fitting, and rotating them. Basic actions and gestures can be imitated. Object permanence begins to develop around the age of 12 months.
Cognitive developmental milestones from 1-5 years
Children begin to show tremendous leap in cognitive development from the age of one year. The cognitive milestones till age five is considered as crucial for the adaptability in schools and other settings.
1-2 years- They begin to imitate language of adults and understand concept of similarity in shapes etc. A child can point at objects; can differentiate between self and others i.e., â€˜Iâ€™ and â€˜Youâ€™.
2-3 years- Children learn to become a little independent at this age. They begin to imitate complex adult actions such as washing clothes, pretending to cook etc. They can match objects and their uses; name objects seen from a picture; sort categories and can stack sizes in order.
3-4 years- Children begin to form schemas or representative categories or templates to sort and differentiate objects or things based on shape, size, color, function etc. At this point asking â€˜whyâ€™ questions and seeking answers is prominent. They understand present and past; listen to instructions; have longer attention span then before; can organize.
4-5 years- Children can speak in sentences; begin to count; can copy geometrical shapes and draws basic shape of a person with at least six body-parts; can name different colors; understands concept of time; can imagine and create stories.
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