Jean Piagets Cognitive Development Theory from Birth through Adulthood

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory has had an influential and continuing impact in child cognitive development. Piaget’s theory centers on the idea that cognitive progression depends on schemas (schemes or categories of specific skills or grouped information) that improves as a person develops from birth through adulthood. Piaget’s four stages of development explain each stage as an individual continues to grow, and how each schema allows him or her to live and view the world in which we all live (Bee & Boyd, 2004).

Birth through age two

A child’s learning is based around simple, instinctual actions like touching, reaching and effortless observation. The bulk of the child’s understanding is the result of basic observation with the senses. The idea of objects having permanence typically begins near age nine months, which is the next stage of reasoning. The focus of the Sensori-motor Stage is the use of basic motor skills. This is the perfect time to use books and educational tools to challenge and widen the interest of a child’s senses. However, these learning tools must be age-appropriate so the child will learn and not become frustrated or uninterested.

Preoperational (ages 2-7)

During the Preoperational stage, the child starts communicating verbally, thinking semi-independently and now can recognize numbers letters, shapes, and colors. The perception of self becomes clear and is significant at making some decision. The child development begins to shift to the next stage when the child protects what he or she is attached to, likes, or wants and starts to plan events and meals in advance. At this stage, parents should heavily stress exercising, recognition and use of symbols. Books and toys that exercise the skills needed for reading and counting are excellent primary resources.

Concrete Operations (ages 7-11)

A child in this stage exhibits skills in ordering and conservation, understands the meaning of cause and effect, and begins to form relationships outside of the family. Now the thought process is changing and concentration becomes solid and natural, and can directly observe results. The transition to the next stage is marked by the use of abstract educational resources tailored to children; in this stage these would include tactile experiences, such as hands-on activities, models, demonstrative games and laboratory exercises.

Formal Operations (age 12 through adulthood)

Individuals during this stage now exemplify clear and abstract thinking skills. His or her logical thinking, critical decision-making and theoretical predictions are now beginning to become complex and center on advanced educational experiences. During his or her teen and young adult lives debating, advance mathematics, sciences, literature, and other educational information will help formulate the success he or she will experience as an adult (Atherton, 2009).


Although Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory is a good model for cognitive development, his theory is not complete. However, Piaget remains an important figure in cognitive development and is an important figure in the field of cognitive development and in the psychological community. His views have been found to be flawed, in some respects, yet much of his work is considered invaluable, and Piaget continues to be studied and honored by many who work and study Cognitive Psychology. 


Atherton, J. S., (2009). Learning and Teaching; Piaget’s developmental theory. UK. Retrieved April 15, 2010, from

Boyd, D. &. (2009). Lifespan Development 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.