Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
December 30, 2021 No Comments Self Development emmahjoy

Jean Piaget a psychologist suggested that children develop in four different stages. The Piaget theory of cognitive development focuses on the nature of intelligence and how children acquire knowledge. According to the theory the cognitive development changes as the child grows and models the world.

The four stages include;

  • Sensorimotor Stage
  • Preoperational Stage
  • Concrete Operational Stage
  • Formal Operational Stage

The Sensorimotor Stage

It occurs as from birth to 2 years

The infant learns the world through their senses and actions. This is where when you observe a a baby they are never still, they are constantly exhibiting some form of movements.

The basic actions present in the child at this stage revolves around actions such as sucking, grasping, looking and listening.

The child learns through engaging their reflexes, senses and motor responses.

It is during this stage that a child gets to grow and learn a lot about the world around them.

They also realize that that their actions can cause movement or affect things around them.

The child gets to learn the idea of object permanence where things continue to exist even when we cannot see them. In the early stages when an object is removed from the child’s view, they tend to believe it no longer exists.

However, when they constantly play with the object, look at it, they get to organize their senses to realize the stability of the object.

They also develop other cognitive abilities such as self recognition, representational play and deferred imitation.

Preoperational Stage

Occurs between the age of 2 to 7 years old.

The child at this stage begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures.

The major achievement that occurs in this stage is the ability of the child to speak a given language.

The child becomes egocentric and tries to view the world from the perspective of others. Understanding the logical view of things is a big struggle for them.

Example, when you take an equally divided amount of water and pour one half in a broad glass so it appears half, and the other amount poured into a tall looking glass such that it fills to the brim, a child at this stage would pick the glass that looks full to the brim.

The child operates under a transudative reasoning. This is where they are unable to relate between the causes and effects. The child tend to take things at face value, they focus on how the world looks rather than what the world actually is.

Their thinking however, is still in concrete terms. They learn through pretend plays or the art of make believe.

The key principle at this stage is animalism; this is where inanimate objects have lifelike qualities. A child in this stage would believe that there was thunder and rain because the clouds were angry.

Therefore, it is important for the caregivers to engage the child in dramatic or imaginative plays that would foster their development.

Concrete Operational Stage

It is the age between 7 years and 11 years.

At this stage, a child begins to think logically.The egocentricism of the previous stages begin to disappear.

Children begin to use inductive reasoning. They understand things according to other peoples perspectives and feelings. However, they still have a problem in solving abstract and hypothetical tasks.

The child can only conceptualize objects and events that are concrete.

The children at this stage have also mastered several skills such as the principle of reversibility. They are able to follow through with the process of a step despite the order.

Other abilities developed in this stage include the principles of:

Conservation; where the child learns that quantity can stay the same even if appearance changes. Therefore, something retains its mass, volume or length when redistributed.

Seriation; it is a cognitive operation where the child should be able to mentally arrange objects in a quantifiable dimension.

Class inclusion; This is the ability of the child to identify objects according to their properties and categorize them. It also includes the ability to identify the order of objects in a hierarchical format and be able to group them.

The child also develops the ability to focus on more than one feature of a problem at a time. It is in this stage at school that mathematical problems of subtraction and borrowing are introduced due to the ability to focus on more than one part of the problem.

Formal Operation Stage

It is the final stage of development according to Piaget’s development stages.

It occurs as from 12 years and progresses into adulthood. It is marked with the onset of adolescence.

It is at this stage where a person begins to think in a more advanced manner. The child can think logically and relate symbols to abstract concepts. They are able to have the “what if” kind of reasoning when analyzing a task.

The skills of hypothesis and deductive reasoning are put in play. This is where they are able to analyze the environment around them, they can create theories about what future occurrences and possibilities based on their knowledge.

A child at this stage can come up with several alternatives of solving a problem and then pick the best alternative among them. They are bale to organize, plan and find the solutions to a problem easily.


Piaget’s theory of development can be used by caregivers in understanding the kind of play tools they can purchase for their children to help them in their given developmental stages. The theory also plays a great role in schools, the curriculum can be built depending on the cognitive ability of the child. The teachers can learn that the cognitive abilities differ from one child to the next depending on their given age.


McLeod, S. (2018). Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Simply Psychology, 1-9.

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