Curious as it may seem, babies’ brain systems are more active than those of adults and are capable of forming millions of connections in their very first years of life. Therefore, knowing how to encourage this nervous performance of the little ones and ensure their cognitive development is a fundamental task for mommies and daddies.
Check out a complete and simplified guide on how to deal with and stimulate such important cognition in the newborn, early childhood, and preadolescence stages – the little one’s evolution will be potentiated with this specialized approach based on the Pikler and Montessori methods that we teach in this post!
What is cognitive development?
Cognition refers to an essential part of the brain. It is responsible for learning, storing information, and applying knowledge, factors that define an individual’s intelligence in general. Everything that involves the capacity for attention, memory, language use, problem-solving and logical-mathematical reasoning is directly linked to cognition! Given such importance, it is possible to understand why so many specialists and pedagogical professionals reinforce how careful the development of cognition in children should be.
What are the stages of cognitive development?
Knowing what the phases of cognitive development are is essential to understand what the needs of the little ones are in each phase. Based on this, you can adapt the environment and the activities passed on to the children in a very accurate and productive way, as explained by the Montessori and Pikler methods.
See which are the stages according to Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist and thinker who most developed studies on the subject and even created the general child development theory, detailed below:
1. Sensory-motor stage (0-2 years)
At the beginning of life, babies begin to develop their sensory and motor skills, which means that their perception of the environment starts to be through their senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing). As this is the only resource available at this age, all the questions of babies’ lives are solved in a practical way by it.
This explains why children cry when they feel hungry, sleepy, or even when their mother leaves their sight: another characteristic of this phase is that at this stage, the little ones focus only on the present – they do not yet understand the concept of past and future. So babies solve any objectives (eating, sleeping) with a physical manifestation such as crying or making sounds.
That’s not all: during this phase, they also begin the development of symbols and words in their mind, in a process known as symbolization. Montessori furniture for babies is very important to allow this process to be satisfactory, as it allows greater autonomy and freedom of development.
2. Pre-operative stage (2-7 years)
As early as their second stage of development, babies begin to explore the language further. They become able to articulate words that make sense and associate them with objects and people, but inconsistency in speech may still be present. Their internal mental representations also evolve, which in a few years will make logical reasoning possible.
However, this is not yet complete and, therefore, the child’s vision is very centred on him/herself. Everything he says and his priorities are egocentric, which causes some problems when playing with his friends, frequent conflicts with his siblings and even the habit of wanting to buy everything he sees.
All these are just reflections of the limited capacity to extend their concerns to other people during this period (they are normal behaviours!), so it is important to deal with them and focus on the great cognitive, linguistic, and conceptual evolution that children can develop in the pre-operative stage.
3. Concrete operative stage (7-11 years)
At this stage, egocentric behaviors begin to diminish and children are able to see the world through the perspective of others. Their reasoning also improves, a factor provided by the development of more logical thinking and reasoning.
These thoughts are always focused on concrete issues, as abstract propositions cannot yet be understood by children. Instead, they focus on actions that exist and can be observed, learning where things come from, how they work and what their impact is on the environment.
This is why the famous “Why” questions arise – in addition to having begun to understand that the world has dimensions, children’s own moral sense and code of values are born, so that they want to discover the motivations behind everything and everyone.
4. Formal operative stage (12 years old and upwards)
The last stage of children’s cognitive development extends until the arrival of adulthood. Throughout this period, pre-adolescents and adolescents are developing their most complex skills, such as abstract and logical-deductive thinking.
According to Piaget, their reasoning is no longer based only on tangible things, as children are now able to understand subjective concepts, create hypotheses and associate different information to create new knowledge/learning.
Other developments at this stage are linguistic and conceptual sophistication and the acquisition of reversibility, a skill that refers to the reciprocity of relationships, denial and acceptance and the emergence of consequences from their actions.
How to stimulate cognitive development?
Now that you know what happens to children in each of their periods of life, the process of designing activities to stimulate their cognitive development becomes much easier and intuitive. In the first stage, bet on playful activities that are full of sounds, colours, movements, and textures – the sensory box is perfect for this.
In the second stage, it is essential to stimulate children’s cognitive decentration, which refers to understanding that the world does not revolve around them. This can be achieved by means of collective activities, so it is good to prevent the child from spending too much time alone on the mobile phone and, instead, have fun playing old games with friends, for example.
In the concrete operative phase, Montessori activities are good options to encourage the logical development of children with puzzles and challenging processes. In turn, the fourth phase asks only for an evolution in the level of difficulty of these activities: try to stimulate reading a lot and maybe even internet courses with programming classes and other topics that require good cognitive skills.