Reviewing Piaget’s Stages of Development

As early childhood educators, we are required to have a comprehensive understanding of the stages of development is essential.  Jean Piaget, a 20th century Swiss-born psychologist observed four stages of development, and is widely recognized as one of the most celebrated experts on the development of the human mind.  Piaget’s four stages of development are as follows: the Sensimotor Stage (birth-18/24 months), Preoperational Stage (18/24 months-7 years), Concrete Operational Stage (7 years-11 years), and the Formal Operational Stage (11 years-to the end of life).  This post will review briefly each stage of development and why it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of each.

Sensimotor Stage (birth-18/24 months):

  • Only aware of their immediate surroundings.
  • Develop a sense of object permanence (7-9 months of age)
  • Early language development
  • Beginning to explore trial and error
  • Beginning to move around, thereby increasing rate of cognitive development

Preoperational Stage (18/24 months-7 years):

  • Begin to understand symbolic thinking.
  • Language becomes much more comprehensive
  • Memory develops, and imagination begins to flourish
  • Able to recognize the difference between past and future
  • Understand “make-believe”
  • Not completely logical in their thinking process
  • Struggle with complexity, cause and effect, and time.

Concrete Operational Stage (7 years-11 years):

  • Logical thinking becomes the norm
  • Concrete reasoning flourishes
  • Reflection on relationships takes place
  • Less ego-centric
  • Increasingly aware of external threats and events
  • Beginning to understand their feelings aren’t shared by everyone
  • Still struggle with abstract and hypothetical thinking

Formal Operational Stage (11 years – to death):

  • Understand abstract concepts
  • Ability to think systematically
  • Consider multiple outcomes
  • Formulate educated hypotheses
  • Think deeply about their relationships
  • Piaget argues that as adults accumulate knowledge they continue to development

SOURCE: All information on the stages of development conveyed in this post was taken from “Piaget Cognitive Stages of Development” posted on WebMD.

It is essential that early childhood educators understand and think critically about all four stages of development because the education children receive birth-age 5 affects development into adult age.  Strong early childhood education fosters development.

Questions to Reflect upon:

  • How is the class you teach developing?
  • Does your curriculum focus on developing complex thinking?
  • Are any of your children not developing according to their corresponding stage of development? If so, how can you modify the child’s development?
  • Are you doing anything that is hindering the development of children in your class?



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