What Are the Stages of Child Development?

The days are long, but the years are short, right? It’s both fascinating and emotional to see your child grow and develop from a tiny human to a productive citizen in our society. If your child is young, you may not even be able to fathom that reality yet. But don’t worry. We are here to help you every step of the way. In this blog, we will look at the various stages of child development, and how parents and caregivers can best meet children’s needs each step of the way.

Why Is Early Childhood Education Important?

Today we know that the early years are crucial in terms of social, emotional, and academic development. However, early childhood education is a relatively new construct compared to the timeline of history.

In fact, in medieval society, childhood virtually did not exist. Around seven years of age, children were treated as tiny adults in the community with similar expectations for work, marriage, and legal consequences. (Source: National Library of Medicine).

Today, we let kids be kids, and help nurture and facilitate growth all throughout their journey. Early childhood education programs help your kiddo prepare for kindergarten, which sets the tone for the rest of their academic career and life in general. Learn more about the importance of early childhood education on our blog!

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development: An Overview

One way of looking at the stages of child development is through the lens of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. According to Simply Psychology, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that intelligence changes as children grow. A child’s cognitive development is not just about acquiring knowledge, the child must develop a mental model of the world.

As a result of Piaget’s studies, he established four stages of child development, which he said are universal across all cultures. He said all children go through the stages in the same order, but not necessarily at the same rate.

Medical News Today breaks down Piaget’s stages of child development in the following way:

Sensorimotor Stage: Birth to 2 Years

Babies start to build an understanding of the world through their senses by touching, grasping, watching, and listening.

They also begin to develop a sense of object permanence, which means they understand that objects exist even when they cannot see them.

Parenting Tips for the Sensorimotor Stage:

Healthline recommends the following advice:

“Talk to your child frequently: Speaking to your child, even before they can answer, helps them develop language abilities and increase their vocabulary. You can talk to your child about everyday things, read to them, sing to them, and describe what’s happening during play and daily activities.

Provide environmental stimulation: During the sensorimotor stage, babies learn by using their senses to explore their environments. Providing a range of activities that involve the five senses help them develop their sensory abilities as they move through the substages. This could include toys with different textures, books with flaps and pop-ups, toys and activities that make sound and/or encourage movement, etc.

Provide supervision: Some activities are perfectly safe to let your child explore on their own. You’ll want to stay nearby, but you may not need to monitor every second of play.

For example, if you want half an hour to fold laundry at the kitchen table, you might open the kitchen cabinet where you store the pots and pans and let them bang away with a wooden spoon. (But make sure the situation is safe and they can’t get a finger or toe smashed by a heavy cast iron pot.)

Different activities may need more supervision. Play dough, for example, can quickly end up in a child’s mouth.

Babies in particular are very likely to put objects in their mouths, so you’ll want to make sure their toys are clean and safe for licking or mouthing.

And if your child keeps putting something in their mouth that isn’t safe, put it out of sight and firmly but gently redirect them to one that is. This can help them learn that only some toys are safe to put in their mouth without discouraging them from continuing to experiment with sensations.”

Here at Kiddi Kollege, we offer high-quality early learning programs for infants, toddlers, and beyond!

Preoperational Stage: 2 to 7 Years

Children develop language and abstract thought. This means they can think about concepts and ideas that are not physical.

They also begin symbolic play (“playing pretend”), drawing pictures, and talking about things that happened in the past.

Parenting Tips for the Preoperational Stage:

In this stage, the best thing you can do for your child is encourage their creativity!

Very Well Family explains the importance of pretend play in the following way:

“Pretend play allows kids to reflect what they experience in the world around them and re-create social relationships through play.

Kids make sense of the world and mimic the social interactions they see around them through imaginative play with friends, siblings, parents, and even stuffed animals.

Kids will share with a teddy bear, give them a check-up, praise them for sharing, or make them some tea at a tea party. It’s not only adorable, but it’s a great way for kids to put into practice the interpersonal skills and dynamics they’re learning.

And if you catch them sounding just like you or your spouse, it’ll be an important reminder of the importance of not using colorful language and speaking nicely to people around the kiddos.

Pretend play also encourages cooperation and conflict resolution.”

Kids have tons of opportunities to practice pretend-play when they’re around peers going through the same milestones, especially in a school setting. Looking for a high-quality preschool or pre-Kindergarten program? Perhaps a center for after-school care? Here at Kiddi Kollege, we offer programs for Kansas City families with children from six weeks to age 12!

For specific ideas on how to enhance your pretend-play skills, read the full article from Very Well Family. Playing with your children is not only fun and a great way to bond, but it also helps them grow up to be healthier adults. Research shows that kids whose parents play with them are more likely to be happy and less likely to experience anxiety or depression.

Concrete Operational Stage: 7 to 11 Years

Children learn logical, concrete (physical) rules about objects, such as height, weight, and volume. They also learn that an object’s properties stay the same, even if the appearance changes (e.g., modeling clay).

Parenting Tips for the Concrete Operational Stage:

To help nurture your child at this stage, check out Healthline’s list of activities, including building with Legos, baking cookies together, and performing simple science experiments!

Formal Operational Stage: 12 Years and Beyond

Adolescents learn logical rules to understand abstract concepts and solve problems. For example, they’ll begin to understand the concept of justice. (Queue the phrase, “that’s not fair!”) If you are reading this now, you yourself are likely in the Formal Operational Stage. Being a lifelong learner is the way to be – go you!

Parenting Tips for the Formal Operational Stage:

What can you do to help your tween or teen thrive as they move into the Formal Operational Stage?

HowToAdult.com has a great list, including volunteer work, board games, and throwing a murder mystery party!

Let’s Break It Down Further

Another way to view the stages of child development is through these five simple categories: Newborn, Infant, Toddler, Preschool-Age, and School-Age. Here at Kiddi Kollege, we set up our classrooms based on the age and development of our students, with these groupings as a guideline. Check out next month’s blog for a breakdown of these stages!

At Kiddi Kollege, we provide high-quality early education in southern Kansas City for children as young as six weeks all the way to age five (and we have after-school programs for kids through age 12, too).

Schedule a Tour at Kiddi Kollege

Enrichment activities and opportunities for socialization are some of the most important things you can provide for your child in their early years. Sending your kiddo to an early learning center, preschool, or pre-K is a fabulous way to do this! But how can you be sure you’re choosing the right school for your family? Download our free checklist to help guide your search! (Scroll down on our home page to find it).

We know early childhood education is a deeply personal decision with many factors to consider. Take your time and explore all your options. When you’re ready to check out our amazing staff and facilities, schedule a tour on our website!