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Article by Kimberly Selchan

Photography by Kimberly Selchan

It can be easy for us as educators and parents to expect our children to be able to do things that come naturally to us, or that an older sibling is doing. But before we become frustrated or wonder if our child has some kind of delay, we have to pause and ask ourselves if our child's brain has developed in that area yet. Understanding children's cognitive development is very important as parents and educators so we can manage our expectations for our children and understand their growth patterns.

Generally, children have four (4) areas of development which include, cognitive development, social-emotional development, speech/language development, and physical development. However, in this article, we will focus on cognitive development and explore the stages and activities in child development. “The theory of cognitive development”, was postulated by Jean Piaget a psychologist who placed great importance on child education. As director of the International Bureau of Education in 1934, he emphasized that

“Education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent or gradual.”

Wikipedia defines cognitive development as how a person perceives, thinks, and gains an understanding of their world through the relations of genetic and learning factors. Furthermore, it involves the development of children’s reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and memory skills as they become more aware of the world around them and make sense of it. According to Piaget the stages of cognitive development include:

Sensorimotor Stage (Birth – 2 Years)

This is the stage where infants learn about their environment through sensory information such as touch, sound, and sight. For example, a child can start to know that touching some toys will produce a pleasurable sound or feeling. Also, crying can help them gain attention.

Preoperational Stage ( 2 – 7 Years)

This is the stage where children learn how to think about things more symbolically and abstractly, meaning they can use their imagination and understand that an object exists even without seeing it. For example, children learn to play make-believe like in the cartoon, Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.

Concrete operational Stage (7 – 11 Years)

This is the stage when children begin to think more logically, show concrete reasoning, and see things from another person’s point of view. Meaning they can classify and understand facts and figures clearly. For example, children can understand the properties of water like wetness, or understand that ice could melt into water. They can also classify and sort their toys or crayons by size and color.

Formal Operational Stage (12 – above)

This is the final stage of cognitive development whereby the child develops the ability to think logically and understand abstract ideas. At this stage, they can think logically and solve problems. For example, children at this stage can evaluate their thoughts and argue with the opinions of others. Also, they can understand concepts and solve problems like setting up a lemonade stand in the summer to raise money to buy a cool toy.

Although every child develops at their own pace, understanding the stages of cognitive development helps educators set cognitive development milestones for evaluating a child’s development so they can develop effective teaching strategies and incorporate them in their lesson plans or know when to apply corrective measures for cognitive delays; for example, a speech delay, trouble with understanding social rules or consequences of behavior, or difficulty in solving simple puzzles.

At Tutor Doctor Chandler-Gilbert we have a thorough understanding of cognitive development and we can foster a child’s cognitive skills by incorporating fun and interesting learning activities in our tutorials, tracking milestones, and identifying and correcting cognitive delays.

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