The best way to understand child development stages would be through Piaget’s theory.
It was created by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development stages. He is known as “the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing”.
Along with Piaget’s theory on children’s cognitive development, we shall look at the physical changes in children through different child development stages and what parents should do for their children’s holistic development, mentally and physically.
STAGE 1: BIRTH THROUGH AGES 18-24 MONTHS
Firstly, let’s look at the cognitive ability of a child from birth to about 24 months old. According to Piaget’s theory, this beginning phase involves sensorimotor cognitive development. At this stage, children observe their surroundings and they react according to reflexes. Children constantly experiment by meddling with objects. They are basically learning through trial and error.
Children pick up languages easily and hence, it is essential to talk to babies. Their brain will store different vocabulary words and when they grow up, it will then be much easier for them to perform well in the language.
Looking at the aspect of health, it is highly recommended for mothers to breastfeed their child up to one year because this has a plethora of benefits that many are unaware of. The natural antibodies that the mother’s milk has act as natural passive immunity. No need to say that it is crucial for children to have a strong immune system.
STAGE 2: 2-7 YEARS OLD
At this phase, children’s cognitive development is at the preoperational stage. Their thinking is mostly intuitional and illogical at times. They can’t grasp complex concepts such as cause and effect, time, etc. One can also observe that the child has egocentrism and would unlikely be able to understand others’ perspectives. The child’s world lacks dimensions, they may not be grounded in reality; and they inhabit a disparate world of thought.
Children may ask a lot of innocuous ‘why’ questions, they may be obstreperous and out of control. Hence, parents must have lots of patience to deal with the paroxysm of weeping and screaming, and endless cavorting.
Where the child’s health is concerned, their immune system is still rather weak and in the process of strengthening. This means that they may catch a cold pretty often. As parents, let your child’s body recover by itself (that’s the secret to attaining an active immunity) instead of bringing them to the doctor every few weeks. Avoid giving them medical drugs to suppress their flu symptoms (modern medicine has long-run, graveside effects if consumed frequently!).
STAGE 3: 7-11 YEARS OLD
Children are at the concrete operational stage in cognitive development. They are able to do seriation, which means distinguishing objects according to their colour, shapes or sizes. Children in this phase would understand transitivity but will find it difficult to engage in deductive reasoning.
The child can now recognize complicated relationships between different categories and schemas. A key development at this one of the child development stages is the concept of reversibility. To be more specific, being able to understand that 3+4 and 4+3 yield the same answer is the concept of reversibility.
Children have a greater ability to learn and understand. However, they may not be able to grasp abstract ideas and internalise certain concepts that have intricate details. Children generally look for the big picture and they have a rather short attention span.
At this stage, parents would be able to observe that children grow up in quite a quick pace and there are a lot of changes in their appearance. Their immunity would be much stronger and this is a good time for parents to bring their children overseas to visit other countries.
‘‘Why travel?’’ You may ask. To elaborate on this further, travelling widens the knowledge horizon of a child. It inculcates the value of being grateful for that we have, from a young age. From the ‘health’ aspect, travelling to other countries would expose children to various weather conditions, food, atmosphere and water. This strengthens the immune system tremendously!
However, parents have to make sure that the appropriate vaccination jabs are being taken before flying off to different countries as a protective measure.
STAGE 4: AGES 11 AND ABOVE
Children will be at the formal operational stage and they will be able to get into the headspace of abstract and critical thinking. They can comprehend hypothetical situations as well.
Children above 11 years old would also be able to use meta-cognition. This allows them to assess their thinking and perform ‘inner-engineering’. This, in turn, helps them analyse themselves and change their thinking patterns.
When it comes to physical developments, children go through puberty and at this point in time. As we all know, hormonal changes can cause drastic changes in physical appearance. Children may not be emotionally mature and stable. This means that, of course, as all parents can expect, children will be rebellious in their own ways.
It is of paramount importance for parents to cultivate clean and healthy eating habits for children from this age onwards. It is necessary to explain the harmful effects of consuming junk food and those of a sedentary lifestyle. What is taught in from the cradle will carry on till the graveyard. Hence, the values and lessons parents teach will form their children’s body of discipline.
All in all, Piaget believed in lifelong intellectual development.
He insisted that the formal operational stage is the final one of the child development stages. The continuation of intellectual development in adults depends on the accumulation of knowledge.
Parents have to take particular care in teaching their children of good hygiene habits. It is also important to ingrain healthy eating habits as well as reinforcing the cruciality of an active lifestyle.
This way, children will grow up to be mature, hale and healthy young adults in the future.
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