When a parent is knowledgeable about the stages of development their child goes through, they are better able to address the child’s needs, help them the child in their physical as well as cognitive development. help them to grow into healthy and successful adults, and to identify any needs they may have. In terms of childcare, when choosing the quality care their infant and toddler should receive, parents will know the right questions to ask when deciding on where to place their child and be able to discuss any problems or delays the toddler may have with the caretaker.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development helps us to understand the developmental stages of a child from birth to 7 years of age. According to Jean Piaget, children are forever processing information and adapting them to their environment. They become “aware” of their surroundings and act according to its demands. You see Piaget, while observing his own children and others, discovered that infants and toddlers learn through exploring and playing. During his four stages of cognitive development, children are constantly learning through a process of assimilation and accommodation.
These two processes relate to the schema or how we organize and interpret situations into groups and categories, because Piaget’s theory holds that because conflict is guaranteed, children assimilate and accommodate old and new information all the time – constantly “updating” knowledge – the child also has to organize and reorganize his way of thinking (Santrock, 2013) – again schema – in order to bring balance/equilibrium.
So how does this work? Through disequilibrium, which is the thing “. . . that causes cognitive conflict in trying to understand the world” (Santrock, 2013) . Disequilibrium forces the child to learn new things. Also, for most children, there is a “refractory” period. Since the brain can only handle one environmental stimulus at a time, a lack of response/slow reaction should be expected. As you can see, equilibrium and disequilibrium drives the child’s – and some adults – learning, forces us to accommodate to new challenges and leads us to a new way of thinking (McLeod, 2009, 2012).
For infants and toddlers, we see this process in the sensorimotor stage and the pre-operational stages, which are the first two stages of a child’s journey into life, and the most important as it sets the foundation that can lead to a healthy or unhealthy life. The sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years old) is when infants learn their environment through sensation and movement. It consists of six sub-stages…
1. Simple Reflexes or “Sucking” (birth to 1 month) is a coordination of sensation and action through inborn reflexes. Example: suck reflexively when a nipple or bottle touches a newborn’s mouth. One activity can be to play music while the child is breastfeeding.
2. Primary Circular Reactions or “What is this” (1-4 months) where infants coordinate sensation and...