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Infancy and Early Childhood Paper Essay

I believe “Piaget’s theory of cognitive development” best explains the cognitive development both in infancy and early childhood. His theory is explained by a theory of cognitive organization called schemes. Schemes are the “actions or mental representations that organize knowledge” (Santrock, 2008, p. 94). According to his theory, schemes change with age; in other words, they are action-based (motor patterns) at first and then gradually change to a mental (thinking) level. There are several key terms that explain Piaget’s process of developmental change; those include adaptation, assimilation, accommodation, organization, and equilibration.

Sensorimotor stage is the first of the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. It lasts from birth to the about 2 years of age, where awareness of the world is limited to what can be known through sensory awareness and motor acts. Furthermore, Piaget divided the sensorimotor stage into six sub-stages: 1) simple reflexes; (2) first habits and primary circular reactions; (3) secondary circular reactions; (4) coordination of secondary circular reactions; (5) tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity; and (6) internalization of schemes (Santrock, 2008, p. 96).

•Reflexive Schemes: this is present in newborns. Initially, the infant’s actions are coordinated through reflexive behaviors, such as rooting and sucking. But gradually the infant produces behaviors that resemble reflexes in the absence of the usual stimulus for the reflex (Santrock, 2008).

•Primary circular reactions: it develops between 1 and 4 months of age. In this stage, infants begin to adapt their reflexes to their environment; simple motor habits are centered around own body (Caulfield, 2001)•Secondary circular reactions: it develops between 4 and 8 months of age. The focus of infants’ exploration shits to external events. Infants develop awareness that objects continue to exist even when not in sight at about 8 months of age (Caulfield, 2001)•Coordination of secondary circular reactions: develops between 8 and 12 months of age. Infants begin to demonstrate intentional behavior and anticipate events; they coordinate separate actions to achieve desired goals (Caulfield, 2001).

•Tertiary circular reactions: develops between 12 and 18 months of age. Infants reach an advanced level of proficiency; they begin to explore properties of objects through novel actions (Caulfield, 2001).

•Internalization of schemes: develops between 18 and 24 months of age. Their ability to represent the external world internally begins to develop, also called as symbolic representation. Also, deferred imitation, the ability to retain and copy a representation of an observed behavior, begins to develop (Caulfield, 2001).

I also believe Piaget’s theory best explains the cognitive development in early childhood as well. His Preoperational period, the second stage of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development lasts from approximately 2 to 7 years of age. In this age, “children begin to represent the world with words, images, and drawings. Not only that, they begin to form stable concepts and embark on reasoning” (Santrock, 2008, p. 145). Also, egocentricism (inability to distinguish between one’s own perspective and someone else’s perspective) and magical beliefs also begin to play a role in child’s cognitive development. There are different sub-stages of the preoperational stage.

Symbolic function sub-stage is the first sub-stage of the pre-operational thought. In this stage, the child has the capability to mentally represent an object that is not physically present. This stage occurs between the ages of 2 and 4 years of age.

The Intuitive Thought Sub-stage, the second sub-stage of preoperational thought that generally occurs between 4 and 7 years of age. In this stage, children are tempted to ask many questions. In other words, one of the most prominent words for the children around this age is “why”. There are many similarities and differences between the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development that explains infancy and early childhood.


•Both the selected theories that I believe best describes cognitive development in infancy and early childhood come from Piaget.

•Both theories have stages (Sensorimotor and preoperational) and are further divided into sub-stages.

•Both theories rely on the assumption that infants and children actively construct an understanding of the world.

•Both theories give a time frame of when the stages and the sub- stages occur•Both theories have limitations.


•Sensorimotor stage deals with infants from birth to 2 years of age and Preoperational stage deals with early childhood that generally occurs between the ages of 2 and 7.

•Sensorimotor is the stage one of the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development; whereas preoperational period is stage two of his theory.

•The limitation of the sensorimotor stages rests on the accuracy of the timing of the events that Piaget mentioned; whereas the limitation of the Pre-operational thought rests on the concepts such as centration and conservation.

Therefore, in this paper, I have considered Piaget’s theory to explain cognitive development in both infancy and early childhood. I have also considered the similarities and differences between the two theories.


Caulfield, R. A. (2001). Infants and toddlers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice HallSantrock, J. W. (2008). Essentials of life-span development. NY: McGraw-Hill.

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