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Cognitive Development in Children

Geeta Dhavale Nov 26, 2018
Cognitive development is a gradual process that continues right from the birth till adulthood. Here's an information on the stages of cognitive development in children.
Do you remember the first word that you uttered, or the first time when you responded to your name? Well, there's a reason why you cannot remember such details of your infancy. Basically, we don't have the answers to such questions, as we are in the first stage of cognitive development.
Cognitive development basically refers to intellectual development that starts from infancy. It occurs in a series of four stages. Over the years, the child learns to process his/her thoughts. It has been proved by psychologists that infants too use their 'brains', but they have a unique thought process.

Cognitive Development Theory

There are many cognitive development theories put forward by various psychologists. But, one theory that has made a tremendous contribution to the field of psychology and education is Piaget's theory of cognitive development.
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, through his scientific observation of children in the natural environment, found out a pattern of cognitive development. He observed many children, including his own, to study how the intellectual development in children takes place.
He conducted various research studies and experiments. He observed that babies are aware of their surroundings, and they are always trying to explore their environment. This process leads to the development of their perception and other abilities.
Cognitive development includes a wide range of intellectual activities such as processing information, language development, reasoning, analytical ability, memory development, decision-making, etc., that determine the so-called intelligence of a person. Piaget came up with a very notable theory that divided the cognitive growth of children in four stages.


Stage 1 - Sensorimotor Stage

The first stage represents the cognitive development between 0-2 years. As the name suggests, in this phase, infants increase their intelligence by exploring the surroundings through body movements or motor activities.
They may put everything in their mouth, and explore objects through their tongue. They also tend to touch, kick, or suck everything that comes their way. They have very little knowledge of the world, which they try to boost with physical interactions and experiences.

Stage 2 - Preoperational Stage

Cognitive development between 3-7 years falls between this phase. This phase is characterized by symbolism where children try to demonstrate their intelligence through symbols. They also learn and pick many new sounds and words.
Though they start 'thinking' at this age, their thinking process is non-logical and non-reversible. Thus, they cannot understand things from the perspective of others, which is why their behavior is called egocentric.

Stage 3 - Concrete Operational Stage

This stage of cognitive development occurs between 7-11 years. At this time, children demonstrate their intelligence through logical and rational thinking. They also learn to think in an operational and reversible manner.
This stage is characterized by conservation of multiple things such as numbers, length, mass, volume, weight, etc. The egocentric behavior starts diminishing now and children learn to associate with symbols well.

Stage 4 - Formal Operational Stage

This phase begins with adolescence and persists through adulthood. They can demonstrate their intelligence through abstract thinking, and can relate symbols to abstract phenomena and concepts. By now, they slowly learn to analyze hypothetical events and possible outcomes. Their problem-solving skills and analytical ability too start developing at this stage.
Cognitive development varies in each child depending on the environment and genetic factors. Some children grow faster, while others are a bit slow. For example, cognitive development in children with autism may occur extremely slowly; they may not demonstrate their intelligence in a usual manner.
With the use of cognitive behavior therapy, it is possible to boost and improve the cognitive skills of a child. Cognitive growth is generally measured by intelligence quotient tests. However, this way of measuring cognitive growth in children is often subjected to criticism due to the narrow definition of intelligence it implies.
A healthy, interactive, and participatory environment is most likely to provide faster and better cognitive development. Also, shower your children with love, care, and affection; this would also increase their emotional quotient.