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The Importance of Knowing and Understanding a Child's Cognitive Developmental Stages

Dealing with children takes a lot of work and sometimes, it can be emotionally and psychologically overwhelming for parents or caregivers, teachers, and any other authority figures in that child's life.

For that reason, understanding a child's cognitive developmental stage from first-month all the way to adolescent years, is vital, not just for the child's well-being, but also for the parents/caregivers. Because by knowing in which stage the child is and what to expect from him/her at that stage, it helps you better prepare yourself on how to effectively deal with him/her.

Why is this important?

Because how you raise your children will have great effects, either positive or negative within the society in which they're evolving. An unhealthy childhood often triggers unhealthy adulthood. Cognition by definition is the way a person uses his/her mind to understand his/her environment and the world. With that says; studying the cognitive development of a child helps to acknowledge the changes that occur in how people think and learn as they grow.

(Cognitive Developmental Stages)There are many types of child's cognitive developmental stage theories. For examples; Freud's psychosexual stage theory, Erikson's psychosocial stage theory, Kohlberg's moral understanding stage theory, Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, and Jean Piaget's cognitive development stage theory to name a few.

For many, Jean Piaget's theory is one of the most popular theories and it is widely used. According to Jean Piaget's cognitive developmental stage, from 0 to adolescent, a child experiences four different stages known as; Sensorimotor Stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.

Sensorimotor Stage:

Based on Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory, this stage starts from birth until the child is two years old. During that stage, a child is equipped with a set of reflex movements combined with a set of perceptual movement systems. At that stage, the child quickly begins to build up direct knowledge of the world around him/her.

Preoperational Stage:

This stage starts between the age of two and continues until the child turns 7 years old. The key feature of that stage is egocentrism. According to Piaget, a child’s thoughts and communications are typically egocentric. This means, at that stage, the child doesn’t have the ability to see situations from others’ point of view. According to Piaget, during that stage, the child assumes that other people see, hear, feel, and understand things exactly the way he/she does.

Concrete Operational Stage:

This stage starts from 7 to 11 years old. According to Piaget, this stage is mainly marked by conversation and it’s a major turning point in the child’s life and his/her cognitive development, due to the fact that it marks the beginning of logical or operational thoughts. At that stage, a child becomes less egocentric and gets better at conversations and communicating. This stage is very crucial.

Formal Operational Stage:

This stage starts at 11 and above. during that stage, the child becomes an adolescent and gains the ability to think in an abstract manner, he/she develops the capacity to combine and classify items in a more sophisticated way, while his/her ability to reason gets better. Key features of that stage are the child’s ability to manipulate ideas in his/her mind and his/her ability to reason abstractly.

As I said in the beginning, whether as parents, as teachers, or as a juvenile judge or any other authority figures in a child's life, it’s important to understand the cognitive stage in which a child is or operating in order to avoid misunderstanding, frustration, and unnecessary punishments based on that child's behavior or action (s). For example; a child who is in his/her preoperational stage might seem to be very selfish and seem not to care at all about other people’s feeling. Such a situation can easily escalate to frustration, anger towards that child, and in some cases even punishments. But if the parents or teachers, even the juvenile judge were aware of the key features of that child’s cognitive stage, he/she could've had a much better understanding of that child's behavior/action and have a healthier approach.(R.M., 2019).


Argosy University (2014). Human Development across the Life Span. Piaget’s Insight into Mental Development. Data Retrieved on 12/20/2014, from:

WebMD (2014). Children’s Health. Piaget’s Stages of Development. Data Retrieved on 12/20/2014, from:

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