Stages Of Cognitive Development

Piaget was interested in the way a child’s mind worked and developed. In his research, he was most concerned with maturation (how a child grows up). He felt that children went through stages in which their mind worked and was capable to make decisions. In his theory, a child goes through different phases in his/her life in which showed new capabilities at each phase. Piaget came up with four stages of development: Sensori-Motor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational.



This is the first stage of Piaget’s theory of development. The sensori-motor stage begins at birth through the age of two.During the beginning of this stage, childrens’ behaviors are solely based on their perceptions. Children are not able to think about things that are not present at the time therefore, they rely simply on objects they are seeing in that exact moment.

Examples of Sensori-Motor Stage:

  • Trial and error- Children are constantly trying different things to learn more about their properties
  • Object Permanence- During the late part of this stage, children learn that objects are still in existence even when they are removed from their view


This is the second stage of Piaget’s theory of development. Children enter this stage at age two and continue through age six or seven.During this stage, children’s minds are developing at a fast pace and their thinking abilities are broadening. Children are now beginning to think and talk outside of simple experience however, they are not able to think and reason logically yet.

Milestones of the Pre-Operational Stage:

  • Able to use language to describe images and words about certain objects
  • Able to classify objects by grouping them (grouping all the blue blocks together etc.)
  • Extensive Pretend Play- children are able to dramatize their play time (playing doctor or mommy)

Concrete Operational

This is the third stage in Piaget’s theory of development. This stage begins at age seven and end at age twelve.During this stage, Children begin to show signs of using logical thinking similar to adults. However their logical thinking is limited to reasoning about real-life situations only.

Milestones of the Concrete Operational Stage:

  • Ability to distinguish the difference between their own thoughts and the thoughts of others; children are able to recognize that their thoughts and perceptions might be different from others around them.
  • Increased Classification Skills- Children are able to classify objects by number, mass, and weight
  • Ability to think logically about certain objects and events

Formal Operational

This is the final stage of Piaget’s theory of development. This stage begins at age 11 and continues through adulthood. It is argued that adults ever fully reach this stage of cognitive development.

During this stage, the ability of full logic and reasoning processes are used. Children in this stage begin to show signs of of using real as well as abstract situations as a form of thought. Qualities formed in this stage enable a person to use advanced reasoning in science and mathematics.

Milestones of the Formal Operational Stage:

  • Ability to think hypothetically about situations that have no real-life implications to them
  • Ability to test hypotheses
  • Development of advanced mathematical skills such as doing percentages, ratios, and fractions

Piaget’s Conclusions about his Theory….

Through his research in the stages of cognitive development, Piaget learned that some children advance through each stage faster than other children. Their advancement through each stage is based on a child’s interaction with others such as peers and family. Through these interactions with others, cognitive conflicts arise where children are put into a situation that is cause for debate or argument. How a child decides to confront these conflicts are determined by the cognitive stage in which a child has developed.

Here is a video where we can see children in each stage of cognitive development


A video of Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development

Test Your Piaget Knowledge! Take this short quiz to see how much you’ve learned about Piaget’s theory


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