Jean Piaget’s cognitive stages of play are categorized into three broad categories. In addition, you may be surprised to learn that it starts at birth. That’s right — from day one, your little bub is growing and changing in ways you probably never imagined. According to Piaget, children’s biological maturity is a condition for their learning and development. He theorized that through play, children learn best — and that instead of children being less competent thinkers than adults — children think completely differently from adults. Piaget was the first to make an analytical study of cognitive development, and he concluded that play is what enables kids to learn and interact in their environment. So, get busy having fun!
The sensorimotor stage occurs between birth and age 2 years. You child will learn about himself through his physical senses like peek-a-boo and blowing bubbles. He has no idea how things react so he will constantly be experimenting with his environment, such as putting things in his mouth. So your little vacuum cleaner is actually learning from his environment. A dirty piece of cereal never hurt anyone, right? At this stage, his play will center around your kiddo or the things around him, because he does not yet connect to things outside of himself.
Pre operational Stage
Typically, the pre operational stage occurs between the ages of 2 and 7 where pretend play becomes the way to symbolize things and learn. While your kiddo can understand past and future, he does not yet understand more complex concepts like cause-and-effect, and time. Your kiddo’s language develops, as does his memory and imagination. So engaging in make believe, such as role playing his favorite superhero or cartoon characters or using a broom as a make-believe guitar to dance to is a typical example of play at this stage.
Concrete Operational Stage and Formal Operations Stage
The concrete operational stage comes later, when children reach age 7 through 11. All that play will have led your child to become a logical and later – to become an abstract thinker. The game playing will tend to lessen, but you may have a daydreamer and social butterfly. While he still may have a creative imagination, games such as hide and seek and other games that involve other people, become the norm. Finally, children move into the formal operations stage, where the need for rules and intellectual games takes precedent. Children between the ages of 11 and 15 are in Piaget’s final — and most advanced stage of play — the formal operations stage. As kids experience adolescence, they play games that governed by rules that also include intellectual elements. Examples include football, cards and charades. It is also during this stage that children’s intellectual abilities begin to approach an adult level, whether playing or learning.
Play is an important part of your kiddo’s development, so have fun with it. Be creative, play games, engage in make-believe play and encourage the imagination in your little one to run wild. Maria Montessori said that play is the work of the child, so make them work hard! She also suggests letting your kiddo make choices, good and bad, and experience all types of play — art, music, pretend, social — as play is the ideal setting for brain development.