Cognitive Development in Childhood

childrenCognitive development in children refers to the stages of growth as children begin to remember, recall, think, learn and make decisions. Cognitive development starts in childhood and occurs into young adulthood. Cognitive development really takes off when children begin to involve mental and physical processes in an attempt to better understand and manipulate what is happening around them.

Cognitive development is a subset of several psychology branches including cognitive psychology and developmental psychology. Many psychologists have addressed, researched and studied cognitive development in children in great depth. A Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, formulated the following theory regarding cognitive development in children which he broke down into four stages, including the following:
  • Stage 1 (Infants to 3 years of age) – Also called the sensory motor stage, stage 1 asserts that children during this stage of development explore their surroundings and things around them without awareness of what they are doing because they cannot understanding things. During this stage motor skills such as sucking, moving and grasping develop.

  • Stage 2 (3 to 7 years of age) – Also called the preemptive or pre-operation stage, stage 2 represents cognitive development as children begin to think and learn about things around them. During this stage (2 to 4 years old) speech develops and latter (5 to 7 years old) speech becomes more social.

  • Stage 3 (7 to 11 years of age) – Also called the concrete operative stage, stage 3 is where children begin to start doing things in a practical manner in addition to thinking and learning about them. This is where logical thought enters a child and the begin to "think for themselves".

  • Stage 4 (12 to 16 years of age) – Also called the formal operative stage, stage 4 is where children begin observing things around them and developing basic problem solving and decision making skills. During this stage children develop logical reasoning and formulate hypotheses about situations around them.
The theory of cognitive development in children, as set forth by Jean Piaget, states that cognitive development is a result of adaptation as a way to process information gathered from a child's environment and that change in a child's perception is a result of how they adapt so that they can gather information.

Language Development in Early Childhood

Language development in children is probably one of the most amazing aspects of cognitive development in childhood. In just a short period of time a child go from making noises to saying just a few words to producing complete sentences and communicating. Researchers have discovered that language development starts as a fetus before a child is even born. In fact, studies have shown that unborn babies, while still in their mother's womb, are able to identify the speech and sound patterns of their mother's voice and that infants only a few months old are able to recognize different sounds and even read lips. And by age 3, most children will have a vocabulary of about 3000 words.

Stages of Language DevelopmentThere are several different theories as to how and why language development occurs in children. A behaviorist theory, put forth by B.F. Skinner, suggests that language development is a result of young children imitating what they hear and having this reinforced. A nativist theory, by Noam Chomsky, suggests that children are born with a language acquisition mechanism, that language acquisition is an inherent human quality.

There are several stages of language development in children. These include the following:
  • Babbling: Often referred to as the prelinguistic or cooing stage, stage 1 of language development usually lasts from the age of 3 to 9 months and is characterized by babies beginning to make vowel sounds such as as aaaaaaa and ooooooo. Babbling occurs around 5 months when infants start making consonant sounds such as ma-ma-ma, da-da-da or ba-ba-ba.

  • Single Words: Sometimes referred as the one-word or holophase stage of language development, stage 2 typically lasts from the age of 10 to 13 months. During this children begin to produce their first words. Interestingly, while children at this stage can only produce a few single words, they can understand considerably more. Infants are usually able to understand language about two times faster than they can speak it.

  • Two Words: This stages begins at about 18 months of age. Here children begin to produce two word sentences composed of nouns and verbs. For example, a common phrase many babies will start saying is "Where ma-ma?"

  • Multi-word Sentences: The multi-word sentences stage typically starts when a child is around 2 years old. During this stage they'll start using multi-word sentences that include subjects and predicates. For example, a child might say "Daddy is big" or "Want more food."

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