Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget was perhaps the most influential developmental psychologist ever known. His theories on learning and development are widely used today to develop early childhood education programs around the globe. He may be most famous for his theory on the four stages of cognitive development, which is a theory about the development of human intelligence or learning.
These four stages are: the sensorimotor stage; preoperational stage; concrete operational stage; and formal operation stage.
As early childhood educators, we are most concerned with the first two stages of cognitive psychology, which take children from birth to about seven years of age.
In the sensorimotor stage, infants up to age two, learn about their world through sensory and motor experiences. For example, children learn to move their bodies between birth and age two by first rolling, then creeping, crawling, standing, and finally walking.
According to Piaget, the cognitive processes of an infant in the sensorimotor stage would then include touching, mouthing, watching and listening, as well as all fine and gross motor activity.
The preoperational stage is a bit more complex, and lasts from the age of two years to about seven years.
Preoperational-stage children learn by watching others and imitating their behaviors. For example, a toddler may watch mom feed the baby, and then imitate the action with her own doll. Primitive reasoning also takes place during the preoperational stage, as children begin to make assumptions about the world around them and ask many questions.