Children develop at different rates. Some walk before their peers, and others read more quickly than their classmates. But the stages of development in nearly all children remain relatively consistent within a range of years. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is credited with defining the road map for understanding the cognitive stages of development in children.
Ages 0-2: Sensory Motor
Piaget's first stage of development takes place from birth to age 2. This is the period in which your child will develop various sensory motor skills that range from gross-motor skills to fine-motor skills. Within this period of development, several other sub-stages also help define the basic development of the child. During the first two months, for instance, children react reflexively, using basic instinctual movements like sucking. By the third month or so, children will begin to lift their heads, follow objects with their eyes, respond to external stimuli like a rattle, begin to smile and recognise the comforting touch of the parent. Beyond the eighth month, children will begin to make more intentional movements and efforts such as reaching for objects, crawling and walking.
Ages 2-7: Preoperational
Ages 2 to 7 represent the stage Piaget recognised as the preoperational period. These are the preschool years and the first year or two of primary education. Here, children begin to develop more complex ways of thinking. Increased vocabulary and language use result in the development of a more complex form of communication. The Child Development Institute notes language during this period is primarily egocentric. This happens from ages 2 to 4. From agse 4 to 7, children develop less egocentric communication skills. Children tend to have an intuitive understanding of logic while retaining belief in that which is magical.
Ages 7-12: Concrete Operational
Ages 7 to 12 represent the period that Piaget referred to as the concrete operational period. This is the period in a child's development where he moves beyond magical belief and develops more formalised logical thinking. No longer impeded by her developmental abilities, she can multitask much better than children in the preschool and early school phases who tend to focus on one task at a time. Children begin to read and write during the early part of this phase and develop these skills more fully by the time they reach age 12. Children tend to become more reflective in their mental development and may begin to develop their own sense of morality, based on experience.
Ages 12 and Beyond: Adolescence
During the child's final stage of development, from age 12 onward, abstract thought becomes more common. This period of formal operations, according to Piaget, is the period in which thought can move beyond concrete reality to conditional and hypothetical thought. Children can begin to understand more complex systems of thought and mathematical concepts like those found in algebra and geometry. Virginia Tech University's website points out that the child's brain is still developing, even at this late stage. Physically, children develop much more rapidly in weight and height; they also begin to develop secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair and voice changes in boys.
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