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Understanding the 4 Cognitive Stages of Childhood Development

Understanding the 4 Cognitive Stages of Childhood Development

When French psychologist Jean Piaget published his groundbreaking theory on cognitive development in children in 1952, he didn't know it would become the most well-known and influential theory of cognitive development to date.

Answering questions about children's learning capabilities at different stages in development, how they develop intellectual skills and react to (and interact with) their environment, and how/when cognitive abilities develop has helped our understanding of both cognitive abilities and disabilities for decades. Here are the four cognitive stages he identified:

  1. Sensorimotor Stage: Birth through about 2 years. During this stage, children learn about the world through their senses and the manipulation of objects.
  2. Preoperational Stage: Ages 2 through 7. During this stage, children develop memory and imagination. They are also able to understand things symbolically and to understand the ideas of the past and future.
  3. Concrete Operational Stage: Ages 7 through 11. During this stage, children become more aware of external events, as well as feelings other than their own. They become less egocentric and begin to understand that not everyone shares their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings.
  4. Formal Operational Stage: Ages 11 and older. During this stage, children are able to use logic to solve problems, view the world around them, and plan for the future.

Cognitive skills include attention, short term memory, long term memory, logic & reasoning, and auditory processing, visual processing, and processing speed. They are the skills the brain uses to think, learn, read, remember, pay attention, and solve problems. Most learning struggles are rooted in weak cognitive skills.

If your child or teen is struggling with learning, reading, attention, or memory, we encourage you to schedule a Brain Skills Assessment. This one-hour test will give you a detailed look at how your child is performing cognitively, and will identify specific strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the results can help LearningRx create a one-on-one brain training program to target and strengthen any weak brain skills. To find a LearningRx Center near you, visit