COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT in EARLY CHILDHOOD
I. PIAGET'S THEORY. THE PREOPERATIONAL STAGE
A. The preoperational stage, Piaget's second stage, is marked by rapid growth in representational, or symbolic, mental activity.
B. Advances in Mental Representation
1. Language is our most flexible means of mental representation.
2. Piaget believed that sensorimotor activity provides the foundation for language, just as it under lies deferred imitation and make-
C. Make-Believe Play
1. Make-believe play increases dramatically during early childhood.
2. Piaget believed that through pretending, young children practice and strengthen newly acquired representational schemes.
3. Development of Make-Believe Play. a. Over time, play becomes increasingly detached from the real-life conditions associated with
it. b. Make-believe play gradually becomes less self-centered as children realize that agents and recipients of pretend actions can be
independent of themselves. c. Play also includes increasingly more complex scheme combinations. d. Sociodramatic play is the
make-believe play with peers that first appears around age 2 1/2 and increases rapidly until 4 to 5 years. e. The emergence of
sociodramatic play signals an awareness that make-believe play is a representational activity.
4. Advantages of Make-Believe. a. Today, Piaget's view of make-believe- as mere practice of representational schemes is regarded
as too limited. b. In comparison to social nonpretend activities, during social pretend preschoolers' interactions last longer, show
more involvement, draw larger numbers of children into the activity, and are more cooperative. c. Preschoolers who spend more time
at sociodramatic play are advanced in general intellectual development and seen as more socially competent by their teachers. d. In
the past, creating imaginary companions, invisible characters with whom children form a special relationship, was viewed as a sign
of maladjustment. Yet recent research demonstrates that children who have them display more complex pretend play, are advanced
in mental representation, and are more sociable with peers.
D. Spatial Representation
1. Spatial understanding improves rapidly over the third year of life. With this representational capacity, children realize that a spatial
symbol stands for a specific state of affairs in the real world.
2. Insight into one type of symbol-real world relation, such as that represented by a photograph, helps preschoolers understand
others, such as simple maps.
3. Providing children with many opportunities to learn about the functions of diverse symbols, such as picture books, models, maps,
and drawings, enhances spatial representation.
E. Limitations of Preoperational Thought