Child Cognitive Development Stages

As you may already have heard, child cognitive development stages are four: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal operations. This popular theory belongs to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who recorded the intellectual development and abilities of infants, children, and teens.

Piaget Stages of Development

Piaget acknowledged that some children may pass through the stages at different ages than the averages noted above and that some children may show characteristics of more than one stage at a given time. But he insisted that cognitive development always follows this sequence, that stages cannot be skipped, and that each stage is marked by new intellectual abilities and a more complex understanding of the world.


Here is a brief description of each stage in the 4 cognitive stages for child development.

Sensorimotor Stage

During the early stages, infants are only aware of what is immediately in front of them. They focus on what they see, what they are doing, and physical interactions with their immediate environment.

Preoperational Stage

During this stage, young children are able to think about things symbolically. Their language use becomes more mature.

Concrete Operational Stage

At this time, elementary-age and preadolescent children demonstrate logical, concrete reasoning.

Formal Operational Stage

Adolescents who reach this fourth stage of intellectual development are able to logically use symbols related to abstract concepts, such as algebra and science. They can think about multiple variables in systematic ways, formulate hypotheses, and consider possibilities.

Read more at WebMD

Oftentimes, a child may not be progressing naturally through the 4 cognitive stages for child development. It is common for a child who has weak cognitive skills to manifest symptoms of developmental delay. However, this does not need to be a permanent situation. The solution is easier than most people think.

Understanding the 4 cognitive stages for child development can help teachers and parents understand how their child thinks, and how to teach them or discipline them. Interaction with the child is much less frustrating and much more fulfilling if adults have realistic expectations about what the child can do and understand.

You may also want to read: 4 Cognitive Stages for Child Development

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