Key Stages of Cognitive Development

 In Child behaviour, Early Learning, Parenting, You & your family
Home » Key Stages of Cognitive Development



In order to understand the actions of another person, we must first understand where it is that they are coming from. One of the challenges family face when trying to understand a child’s behaviours is the fact that we are no longer at that stage ourselves. We simply cannot remember what it was like to see the world from a child’s perspective.

Even attempts to become more ‘childlike’ in our view will come from an adult perspective. And even though we tell ourselves they’re only children, a child’s approach to the world can be bewildering, exasperating, and marvellous, all in a matter of moments.

If you find yourself bewildered by your child’s development, there are some strategies you can use to decode their responses.

Understanding your child’s journey through the stages of cognitive development can make sense of a lot of strange behaviours.

One of the key thinkers in the debate around child cognitive development was Jean Piaget. Piaget’s work during the early part of the 20thCentury made significant contributions to child psychology. He pioneered the idea that children were not less intelligent than adults; they just processed information differently. Piaget saw children as little scientists, exploring their world each day, actively engaging in, processing, and assimilating information. It was Piaget who coined the four stages of development.

Piaget saw children as little scientists, exploring their world each day, actively engaging in, processing, and assimilating information. It was Piaget who coined the four stages of development.



Age 0-2

During this stage babies are observing, listening, grasping, and sucking. They begin to understand object permanence- the concept that an object still exists even when it is out of sight. They also encounter cause and effect, and a sense of separation from people and objects.



Age 2-7

Children at this stage are still egocentric in the world view and they relate the external world back to themselves. They explore pretend play and development of empathy as well as beginning to understand symbols. This means children can recognise letters and cultures as representative of something and they begin to build early literacy skills.


Concrete Operational

Age 7-11

Children at this stage of development are able to think more logically and see the world with greater objectivity. The ability to empathise is growing and organisational skills are improving.


Formal Operational

Age 12 onwards

Abstract and hypothetical thought are developing. Children at this stage are more easily able to consider moral, philosophical, and ethical issues.


Making Use of Cognitive Theory

When we look at this very simple overview, it is easy to see how important it is to create learning experiences for children that are suitable for each stage of development. While it is important to keep an open mind about children’s world views, there are some key factors raised by Piaget’s observations.

It is simply not realistic to expect children to see logic and use reasoning at certain stages. But approaching them with a language and set of symbols that does decode the world for them, in their language, means all kinds of frustrations can be avoided.

Child care educators are trained in the fundamentals of child psychology and they understand these stages of development. Learning programs are designed with these specific learning stages in mind so your child can access a world of information in a language they understand. Working together with our Mindarie childcare educators, you can bring these practices into daily life at home, creating continuity between their learning environments,


If you would like to talk to an educator at Mindarie Keys Early Learning School about cognitive development in our learning programs, or for another enquires, contact us today.

Enquire about our centre and enrolment program

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
parenting-tips-childcareSocial media and your child