Understanding your child – Explaining stages of brain development (Piaget)

Ok, so everybody knows that children are mysterious and complex beings and it’s often hard to work out what’s coming next….a hug…a tantrum…a strange question…

Here I am going to explain (in simple terms) Piaget’s theory of cognitive (brain) development to help you better understand your child are the way he thinks. There are 4 stages of cognitive development:

  1. Sensori-motor stasensorimotorge (Birth – 2 years). As the title suggests, as a young baby, his cognitive development is based on his senses (sensori) and his movement (motor). Everything he knows is due to his experiences within his environment. In this stage your child turns from a helpless newborn baby into a thinking toddler.
  2. preoperationalPre-operational stage (2 – 7 years). During this stage, your child is learning to communicate and problem-solve. This takes a lot of thinking, which has not been connected and organised yet. This leads to your child’s thinking being illogical and sometimes ‘magical’. This is the time your child immerses himself completely in fantasy, role play and the world of make-believe. He will often completely transform himself into a fiction character and makes you call him ‘superman’ for weeks on end.
  3. Concrete operations (7 – 11 years). Your child now has the ability to focus on a specific aspect of a situation. He can think logically, as long as all the information is known to him.
  4. Formal operations (11+). There are now no limitations to your child’s thinking and he is able to think of all possibilities to a situation. He is able to think in a hypothetical sense and will often ponder the ‘what if’s’ and deeper meaning questions of life.

There are further ‘sub-stages’ of cognitive development, which I have explained in more detail in ‘Understanding your baby (Birth – 2 years)‘ and ‘Understanding your child – 2 – 7 years’. I have also provided many activities to do with your child at each stage so go and check them out.

Does any of this ring a bell? What stage is your child at?


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