The field of cognitive development has in the past couple of decades witnessed a surge in the number of emerging research that has sought a deeper understanding on the subject. It is important to note that all early proponents of cognitive development theories agreed with the fact that the environment remains the singular most important element that plays the biggest role in a child’s learning. In this regard, children are thought to learn through their constant interaction with their environment (Griddle & Shields, 2004). Therefore, it is believed that children are born without knowledge, but they gain it through these constant interactions which also contributes greatly to their mastery of certain their behaviors.

Perhaps the reasons why scientists have continued to pay close attention to this subject stems from the fact that cognitive development continues to raise more fundamental questions about the human nature hence motivating new research that seeks to have a better understanding of these cognitive changes (Santrock, 2016). It is noteworthy that this new evidence has mainly focused on age-related changes in a child’s thinking, language, causal knowledge, memory, and learning abilities concerning their academic skills. Over the years, this new information has continued to emphasize the role which early childhood educators play in helping children shape their understanding of the world and also shaping their decisions. Bruner (1990) argued that it remained imperative that these professionals gradually reinforce critical thinking skills amongst children in a progressive manner to enable them to assimilate new information.   

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Piaget’s Stage Theory

Jean Piaget is perhaps one of leading scientists of the 20th century whose work made a huge impact in the area of cognitive development. The reason why his work has had such a commanding influence stems from the fact that it differed sharply with the thought that the minds of children were smaller versions of the adult mind. However, he made an argument that a child’s intelligence developed through a series of stages which informed how they processed all of this information (Fancher & Rutherford, 2012). He further added that the preconceived thought that children were less intelligent than adults was not right. Rather, children had a different approach to how they viewed the world as it involved many continuous processes which led to changes in their mental operations.

It is worth noting, that contrary to the previous thought that a child’s development happened through a quantitative process, and that they did not add more information aside from that which they learned in their formative years, Piaget stage theory shed new insight on this debate. He argued that kids accumulated what they knew through particular qualitative changes. In this regard, children at different ages constructed their knowledge through a series of experimentations which fundamentally broadened their knowledge.

Therefore, this led to the argument that in spite of the fact that a 7-year-old was older than a 2-year-old, there was little difference concerning their level of information about the world; however, the difference between the two lied in how they both thought about the world (Piaget, 1977). Therefore, it could be demonstrated that children were merely little scientists that were intrinsically motivated to learn through their interactions with the world around them. These interactions ensured that they continually added new knowledge upon the existing one and with this new information, adapt to previously held ideas by accommodating new information.

Distinct Properties and Principles of Piaget’s Theory

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development had certain distinct features which included

  • Qualitative changes- this included the fact that children of all ages thought and processed information differently and, therefore, they had a distinct way of interpreting this information. Therefore, they progressively moved from understanding their environment from a physical setting and accommodated the abstract world as well (Fancher & Rutherford, 2012).
  • Brief transitions- Piaget held it that such transitions from higher stages of thinking were not necessarily continuous across all steps in a child’s development.
  • Broad applicability- this property made a case that a child at each stage had a particular type of thinking which pervaded content and topic areas.
  • Invariant sequence- Piaget argued that the steps cannot be skipped as he makes an argument that suggests that knowledge creation was an inherently active process which involved particular courses throughout a person’s life. Therefore, this made a case for understanding children’s intellectual growth which included the building and learning of how the world worked.

It is important to note that these properties were guided by three fundamental principles which formed the thought process behind Piaget’s theory. They included

  • Nature/nurture interaction- Piaget held it that both nature and nurture interacted to produce cognitive development in children.
  • Adaptation- it was argued that children interacted and responded to the environment demands in ways that met their own goals.
  • Organization- children integrated their observations of their surroundings into a body of knowledge that they could understand.

The reasons why these processes work, in essence, stem from the fact that children assimilate new information in a way that they can easily understand. These processes continue throughout different ages. Later on, these kids learn to accommodate new ideas as they get older and encounter new experiences which inform their understanding of the world (Piaget, 1977). However, the key aspect to note is that these children continuously balance between assimilation and accommodation to create a more neutral and stable understanding of the world.

Classroom Plan for Children at the Preoperational Stage

The preoperational stage is one that includes children between the ages of 2 and 7. It is at this juncture where kids begin to think and assimilate new information through symbols and pictures as they slowly grasp the use of words to represent objects. Also, they tend to think about the world in a solid angle as they are less skilled at processing abstract thoughts (Piaget, 1977). It is worth noting that perhaps the reason why learning for this group of children remains crucial stems from the fact that it is at this stage that they get to understand language and this forms a huge role in how they continuously process concrete information.

It can be noted that kids at this stage of development mimic the actions of adults around them and this could have an influence on their interactions with their peers during play times as they often mirror those actions which they have been exposed to them. For example, children can pretend to play being married and raising children or being in the kitchen making dinner for the family. However, this group can often find it hard to process information in a logical manner (Ormrod, 2012). For example, in an experiment that involves distributing liquids of equal volume into containers sizes of, an observer might observe these kids will have a higher preference for drinks poured out into many slender containers simply because they appear as being of much greater quantity even if they hold the same volume of liquid. Therefore, it can be argued that children within this age bracket struggle with understanding constancy.

Design and Physical Layout of the Facility   

Piaget has described children within the preoperational stage as being amongst those who readily process information through concrete items. Therefore, it becomes imperative that their learning environment reflects one which is richly filled with practical things which they can visually observe to aid in their learning. Therefore, its physical layout would include pictorial representations of animals and everyday items, puzzles that engage their critical thinking, and plastic models of things they would interact with on a regular basis.

The reason why such a layout would be chosen would be based on the fact that it becomes easier for the educator teach children and for them assimilate this new information. According to Piaget, these kids understand information through individual processes. The first of these includes assimilation which involves children accommodating new ideas that are different from what they have frequently been exposed to in the past. The second of these processes include accommodation of these ideas. For example, children that have been exposed to a pictorial representation of horses as being smaller as that is what the pictures have represented to them as the actual size of the animal may readily accommodate a new thought once they come across a live horse that is much bigger than they originally thought. Therefore, this would allow them to reach an understanding that the sizes of horses vary and, therefore, be open to the thought of seeing even bigger animals.

Teaching Activity: Correct Toileting Education amongst 2nd Grade Kindergarten Students

In order to bring out Piaget’s thoughts to life and highlight his crucial role in the learning process, it would be imperative to come up with a classroom activity which would work well for a particular group of children to achieve a certain objective (Lazarus, 2010). In this regard, therefore, this classroom plan will create with a purpose of improving a child’s toileting skills. This activity will target children between the ages of 2 to 7 who are at the preoperational stage and have yet to understand hygienic toileting skills. 

Parents have often found it difficult to train their children on the correct ways of toileting. The reason why such is the case is that children just lack interest in potty training because the process has not been made simple and appealing to them. Therefore, any attempts to persuade them to use these methods is met by reluctance and, therefore, they end up soiling their clothes which can leave them with an uncomfortable feeling. In line with Piaget’s line of argument, this planning activity will attempt to make potty training both fun and appealing to young children to achieve desirable levels of hygiene amongst this group while also gradually introducing them to independence. 

Physical Design and Layout of the Classroom

To achieve the goals set out in this study, this activity will make use of items that further its goals which help in the introduction of concrete concepts to the child (Lazarus, 2010). These elements include:

  • A video clip which depicts potty training in a fun way
  • A physical demonstration activity by the students themselves to gauge their understanding of the concepts they have learned
  • A Pictorial representation of the event.
  • Rewards for children who correctly demonstrate their abilities of correct toileting to motivate them to grasp this concept.

Step by Step Procedure

For this activity to be successful, an individual process has to be followed to achieve the objectives set out in the project. This activity would, therefore, include five procedural steps all aimed at ensuring children get the best understanding of the concepts being taught and slowly get to assimilate the information handed to them.

  1. The first of these procedures would involve the screening of the fun video clip aimed at introducing the subject in an interactive manner suitable for children within the age bracket. The video would include representations of objects which are easily identifiable to the children to make them feel engaged throughout the session.
  2. The second part would involve introducing these physical items in the classroom setting to these kids and letting them participate in naming them and demonstrating knowledge on their use.
  3. The third procedure would involve making a fun way for them to remember the key points to note when toileting through the use of pictorial representations and making a song about it to make it easier for them to remember.
  4. The fourth procedure would involve allowing each of the students to physically demonstrate that they have grasped the concept and this can be done by enabling them to act out the toileting skills that they have just learned.
  5. The last of these procedures would be showing generous gestures for their actions, and this may also include going a step further to awarding them to motivate them to enjoy undertaking toileting exercises regularly with consistent results.


There is perhaps no doubt that cognitive development plays a huge role in regards to how we perceive children learning and their intelligence. It can be observed that children process information differently at different ages as they continue to explore their environments and have a better understanding of it. Knowing which stage a child is in becomes imperative to developing a curriculum that is best suited for them (Ormrod, 2012). Educators who fail to understand the crucial role development plays in education might find it hard to teach children as they fail to assimilate new information readily. This failure could lead to children being considered as less intelligent which might not be the case as they learn to consume information differently at different ages. Therefore, based on the fact that Piaget made it readily known about the nature of education, it would be imperative that educators use this knowledge to improve their interactions with children further and achieve desired outcomes with practice. Additionally, this also helps children slowly understand concepts from a concrete way to one that demonstrates their willingness to accommodate abstract thoughts as they continue to strike an equilibrium between information that is being made readily available to them.


Bruner, J. (1973). The relevance of education. New York: Norton

Fancher, R. & Rutherford, A. (2012). Pioneers of Psychology: A History. New York: W.W. Norton

Gredler, M. and Shields, C. (2004) ‘Does No One Read Vygotsky’s Words? Commentary on Glassman.’ Educational Researcher 33 (2), p.21.

Santrock, J. (2016). A Topical Approach to Lifespan Development. New York: McGraw-Hill

Ormrod, J.E. (2012). Essentials of Educational Psychology: Big Ideas to Guide Effective Teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education 

Piaget, J. (1997). The Essential Piaget. New York: Basic Books; 1977

Lazarus, S. (2010). Educational psychology: in social context. Cape Town: Oxford University Press

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