Periods or stages of child development

Periods or stages of child development

The cognitive theories They focus on the study of the structure and development of thought processes, especially how this affects the person's understanding of their surroundings. Of all the cognitive theories, one of the most popular is that extracted from the work of Jean Piaget.

Piaget supposed that Children at every age have the ability to solve certain issues and problems. He began studying children's mistakes. Piaget realized that children with the same age made the same mistakes and he therefore established an evolutionary sequence in the cognitive process.


    • 0.1 The concept of Piaget development stages
  • 1 Periods or stages of child development
    • 1.1 First period: Sensorimotor stage (from 0 to 2 years)
    • 1.2 Second period: Pre-operational stage (from 2 to 7 years)
    • 1.3 Third period: Stage of the concrete operations (from 7 to 12 years)
    • 1.4 Fourth period: stage of formal operations (12 years and older)

The concept of Piaget development stages

The central idea of ​​Piaget Stadium was that it was about a period of consolidation and "perfection" of structures (operative) and that these are combined and poured into a balance.

Piaget characterizes this culminating moment of each stage as the implementation of a assembly structure (overall structure or overall structure). We see, out there, that the Piagetian basic notion of (particular) structure extends into "global structure" to characterize a stage and that this fact is deeply linked to another of Piaget's key notions: equilibrium or equilibrium.

Piaget gives us a perfectly holistic or systemic conception in his approach to stadiums. While exposing these ideas, Piaget acknowledged that the existence of his assembly structures He encountered a phenomenon that he himself had consigned and called decalogues, that is, lags or mismatches in the application of the same structure in several domains. On the other hand, the fact of establishing relationships between particular structures in order to define a "global structure" is not a trivial problem: it is the key to defining the system, that is, the assembly structure. It seems that Piaget tried to find the counterpart of each of these (or any of these) in mathematical models that described progressive ways of operating the mind, but then do not insist more on this parallelism. Towards the end of his career, he acknowledged that his notion of assembly structure should not be taken too much to the letter.

Cognitive structures change over time, configuring stages of development. For those structures to configure a stage, they must keep an invariable temporal order, regardless of the age at which each of them is presented, but they are naturally integrated into the subsequent ones.

These stages take place in a fixed order in all children, and in all countries. However, the age may vary slightly from one child to another.

Periods or stages of child development

First period: Sensorimotor stage (from 0 to 2 years)

In this period the child uses his senses and motor skills to know the objects and the world (See what you can do with things). Learn what is called object permanence.

This stage takes place between birth and two years of age, as children begin to understand the information their senses perceive and their ability to interact with the world. During this stage, children learn to manipulate objects, although they cannot understand the permanence of these objects if they are not within the reach of their senses. That is, once an object disappears from the sight of the child, it cannot understand that this object (or person) still exists. For this reason they find so attractive and surprising the game that many adults play with their children, consisting of hiding their face behind an object, such as a cushion, and then "appearing" again. It is a game that also contributes to learning the permanence of the object, which is one of the greatest achievements of this stage: the ability to understand that these objects continue to exist even if you cannot see them. This includes the ability to understand that when the mother leaves the room, she will return, which increases her sense of security. This ability is usually acquired towards the end of this stage and represents the ability to maintain a mental image of the object (or person) without perceiving it.

Second period: Preoperational stage (from 2 to 7 years)

It covers the first five years of the child. In this phase, the child maintains an egocentric posture, which incapacitates him to adopt the same point of view of others. We observe that the children they are able to use symbolic thinking, which includes the ability to speak. Humans use signs to know the world and children already handle them in this period. However, this symbolic thought is still an egocentric thought, the child understands the world from his perspective.

It starts when it has understood object permanence, and it extends from two until he feels years. During this stage, children learn how to interact with their environment in a more complex way by using words and mental images. This stage is marked by self-centeredness, or the belief that all people see the world the same way he or she does. They also believe that inanimate objects have the same perceptions as them, and can see, feel, hear, etc.

Also in this phase, the way of categorizing objects is done globally, based on an exaggerated generalization of the most outstanding characters.

Jean Piaget

Another important factor at this stage is the Conservation, What is it the ability to understand that quantity does not change when form changes. That is, if the water contained in a short, wide glass is poured into a tall, thin glass, children at this stage will believe that the taller glass contains more water due to its height only. This is due to the inability of children to understand reversibility and because they focus on only one aspect of the stimulus, for example height, regardless of other aspects such as width.

It lasts up to seven years, and is characterized because the child is able to think things through the establishment of classes and relationships, and the use of numbers, but all this intuitively, without being aware of the procedure used.

In this period, the child first develops the ability to preserve the substance, then develops the ability to preserve the mass, and then the weight and volume.

Piaget points out that the transition from the sensomotor period to this second period occurs primarily through the imitation, which individually the child assumes, and that produces the so-called mental image, in which language plays a great role.

Third period: Stage of the concrete operations (from 7 to 12 years)

In this period from 7 to 11 years, the child can apply logic, apply principles. The child no longer knows intuitively but rationally. The child makes use of some logical comparisons, such as: reversibility and seriation. However, it still does not handle abstractions. His thinking is anchored in the concrete action he performs. It is the school period.

This stage is marked by a gradual decrease in egocentric thinking and the increasing ability to focus on more than one aspect of a stimulus. They can understand the concept of grouping, knowing that a small dog and a large dog remain both dogs, or that the different types of coins and bills are part of the broader concept of money.

They can only apply this new understanding to concrete objects (those who have experimented with their senses). That is, imagined objects or those that have not seen, heard, or touched, continue to be somewhat mystical for these children, and abstract thinking has yet to develop.

Fourth period: stage of formal operations (12 years and older)

It goes from 12 years onwards. We talk about teenager and adult. It is the stage of abstract thinking, not only think of reality, but how you can do things, you can already hypothesize.

In this period children begin to dominate the proportionality and conservation relationships. At the same time, systematize the specific operations of the previous period, and develop the so-called formal operations, which not only refer to real objects like the previous one, but also to all possible objectives. With these operations and with the mastery of the language they possess at this age, they are able to access abstract thinking, opening them with the perfect and critical possibilities that facilitate reason. They can apply reversibility and conservation to both real and imagined situations. Too develop a greater understanding of the world and the idea of ​​cause and effect.

This stage is characterized by the ability to formulate hypotheses and test them to find the solution to a problem.

Another characteristic of the individual at this stage is his ability to reason against the facts. That is, if they give you an affirmation and ask you to use it as the basis of an argument, you are able to perform the task. For example, they can reason about the following question: What would happen if the sky were red? "

In adolescence they can develop their own theories about the world.

This stage is reached by most children, although there are some who fail to reach it. However, this inability to achieve it has been associated with lower intelligence.

As a summary, for Piaget the whole process of intelligence development is a stimulation process between the two aspects of adaptation, which are: assimilation and accommodation.

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Piaget I, comparison with biology:

Piaget II, assimilation and accommodation:

Piaget III, reflections and schemes:

Piaget IV, the notion of object:

Piaget V, adaptation and learning:

Piaget VI, the reason for the division in periods of Piaget

Piaget VII, the development periods defined by Piaget

Piaget VIII, exercise of reflexes and circular reactions:

Piaget IX, coordination of sensory schemes:


Piaget, J. (1936). Origins of intelligence in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Piaget, J. (1957). Construction of reality in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Piaget, J. (1958). The growth of logical thinking from childhood to adolescence.

Vygotsky, LS (1978). The mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wadsworth, BJ (2004). Piaget's cognitive and affective development theory: Fundamentals of constructivism. Longman publication.