A Child’s Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development


Piaget’s theory of cognitive development provides resourceful insights into the transformations that happen in a child’s cognitive abilities from infancy to eleven years and beyond. According to the theory, the cognitive abilities change significantly as the child grows through the stages. The development begins from simple forms of cognition to more complex processes. 

The Thinking Patterns

In line with Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, the thinking patterns of a 5-year-old are uniquely different from the perspectives of a 12-year-old. A 5-year-old belongs to the preoperational stage of development. At this stage, the child is capable of thinking in symbolic patterns and demonstrates the capacity to imagine and memorize things (Piaget & Inhelder, 2008). Children at this stage have also developed the concept of time in the sense that they are capable of distinguishing between the past and the future. On the other hand, a 12-year-old is at the formal operational stage. At this stage the child is capable of using symbols that apply to various abstract concepts. The capacity to think about a wide range of variables in elaborate and systematic ways is another distinguishing attribute of 12-year-old children. According to Piaget, the 12-year-old is at the final stage of cognitive development and the perspectives they adopt may last for a lifetime (Piaget & Inhelder, 2008).


Drawing on Piaget’s perspectives, the way of dealing with children at these two stages should be consistent with their developmental needs. For the 5-year-old children, the interaction should be patterned on the need to spur their imagination in order to broaden their perspectives on the various issues that engage their interests. Adults should also expose such children to a wide range of symbols in order to enrich their perceptions. Concerning the 12-year-old children, the interaction should entail activities that sharpen their understanding of abstract things in order to help them to develop balanced opinions on issues of general interest.


Piaget’s theory is resourceful for understanding and supporting a child’s cognitive development. The dimensions of this development are crucial for long term character formation. Therefore, the nature of interaction with such children should help them to nurture their social intelligence in a way that enables them to engage productively with the unique experiences they encounter.


Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (2008). The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books.

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