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A Preschooler's Stage of Cognitive Development

Understanding Your Preschooler's Stage of Cognitive Development

Did you know there was a time when children were regarded as "little adults"? Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental biologist and psychologist, is credited as being the first expert to suggest that until a child is at least 11, she is not capable of thinking and reasoning like an adult.

Piaget's revolutionary research began early in the last century and introduced four stages of development:

  • the Sensorimotor Period, from birth to 2 years
  • the Preoperational Period, from 2 to 6 or 7 years
  • the Concrete Operational Period, from 7 to 11 years
  • the Formal Operational Period, from 11 on

Your preschooler falls under the Preoperational Period, when kids develop language and have an understanding of symbols. A child in this stage begins to understand that a drawing of a dog, or the word "dog," represents an actual dog.

This is also the stage when pretend play begins, and children frequently use certain objects to represent other objects (for example, a piece of paper becomes a plate; a box is the table). Children are able to understand the basic concepts of past and future but the concrete idea of time is still beyond them. In terms of their character and personality, kids at this stage are very self-oriented and, as any parent can tell you, egocentric.

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