Piaget's theory of cognitive development describes mental maturing of children. It explains how humans step by step acquire psychological result of perception, learning and reasoning due to biological maturation (Simply Psychology, 2013). Piaget’s theory claims that language, emotional and intellectual development in infants is all integral to cognitive maturity of infants and toddlers. The theory exemplifies how infants gradually grow and adapt to their new environment after birth. Upon realization of change in surroundings, infants develop an apprehension of a new world using cognition in differentiation between known and unknown notions. As they try to adapt to a new environment, infants gain reasoning capacities and then can reflect, communicate and experience various emotions. It should be noticed that at the age of six months infants are able to feel attachment to their mothers and care givers. Their emotional development includes the period between six months to about two years old. According to WebMD (2013), there are three fundamental constituents of cognitive development of infants and toddlers as illustrated by Piaget's theory. They are as follows:
Schemas are the major building elements of cognition. Piaget believed that infants already possess congenital schemas even prior to their interaction with the external environment after birth. For example, babies possess sucking and grasping schema that is visible immediately after birth. Schema is especially important as an initial and starting adaption to the surrounding environment of infants. They establish blocks of operative intelligence of an infant.
Assimilation and accommodation are basic processes that enhance developmental stages of cognition. When humans encounter new information, which they cannot perceive through their cognitive reasoning, they tend to be assimilated. Assimilation occurs through making references to the information they have learnt earlier and forming new decisions. As infants start crawling, the use of attachment figures is noticeable. Attachments figures may include the mother or other close care givers. Normally, it is the early stage of attachment and emotional growth of infants as they interact with a new environment prior to accommodation. Accommodation involves perception of human surrounding as well as a newly gained information and subsequent change in already existing schemas to allow interaction with the newly acquired information.
The fundamental stage of cognitive development, which includes Sensorimotor, is the initial stage of cognitive development of a baby, as described by Piaget’s theory. It ranges from birth to two years old. During the period, the infant establishes an apprehension between him/herself and the external environment. An infant develops a mutual attachment to his/her mother. Though children have a high tendency to feel attachment to their mothers at this stage, they can also have strong affection toward close caregivers whom they frequently interact with. The infant exercises understanding through basic cognitive developmental experiences such as seeing or hearing. They also improve motoric actions, for example sucking, stepping and grasping. Vision, hearing and basic motor skills, such as grasping, are three basic senses that are apparent at this stage. During the sensimotor stage, infant learning experiences usually involve assimilation and accommodation. They show simple reflexes such as sucking and grasping of objects, circular reactions and perception of schemas. Preoperational stage is apparent for babies from two to four years when s/he begins to learn how to speak. At this stage, Piaget noted that an infant lack complete understanding of fundamental logic, and therefore, they cannot easily control information from the surrounding environment. The infant cannot fully conceptualize ideas. The period is characterized by pre-operatory thought stage when a toddler’s thinking is egocentric. According to Edpsycinteractive (2013),the infant’s mental reasoning is limited to the physical actions. The infant displays various levels of reasoning, which include animism when a baby thinks lifeless objects have life. For example, a child may think that signalling disco light bulbs in the room are doing it because they are feeling happy. Artificialism is another mode of reasoning at this stage; it means that a toddler attributes external environmental conditions to human influence. For example, roaring of thunder — to someone beating a drum. Transductive reasoning takes place when an infant cannot fully differentiate between the cause and the effect of an event.
Concrete operations stage occurs when a child is between seven and eleven years old. It is the third stage of children’s cognitive development. During this period, they employ logic reasoning and express thoughts that exhibit maturity. Children can think inductively though they still find it challenging to use deductive thinking. At this stage, kids can solve logic problems and can only see discrepancies between their thoughts and those of other people in their environments. Children can solve those mathematical problems that involve addition or subtraction. They can sort objects according to various properties such as size and colour. Accommodation is more pronounced at this stage (About, 2013).
Formal operations stage is the final stage of cognitive development according to Piaget. The stage ranges between the ages of 11 and 15 years old. During this period, cognition is fully developed and a child does not employ concrete objects in reasoning out, s/he no longer has strong attachment to her mother or other caregivers. A kid feels comfortable being among the peers. Therefore, emotional development depends on his/her peers. Children can involve themselves in deductive thinking as well as hypothetical reasoning almost like adults. The period proceeds from adolescent to adulthood and is characterised by intelligence growth. Children are able to meditate on likely consequences of the actions they take.
As discussed above, it is evident that language, emotional and intellectual development in children is integral to cognitive development. Piaget’s theory has exclusively explained how a child undergoes cognitive development from birth to a fully developed thinking capacity.
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