You hear a lot in the media about how researchers in the field of early childhood education say the
early years of life, from ages 0-5, are the prime time for brain development. They tell us that children
should be exposed to numerous experiences that lead to cognitive development so that they will have
academic success when they begin school.

Most professionals point to preschools as places where young children will get the experiences they
need to acquire these skills. Why? What exactly is "cognitive development" and what can preschool
parents do to encourage it in their own young children without sending them to preschool?

There's no big mystery to "cognitive development." It refers to functions of the brain such as thinking,
learning, awareness, judgment, and processing information. These are things healthy children do
quite naturally as they learn and grow.

The Swiss philosopher and psychologist, Jean Piaget (1896-1980), was the first to suggest that
children go through different stages of cognitive or mental development and that learning activities
should correlate to and adjust with these developmental stages as follows:

Sensorimotor Stage, 0-2 years of age, child learns through sensation and movement.
Pre-Operational Stage, 2-7 years, children begin to understand and master symbols (language) and
draw from past experiences to make assumptions about things and people in their world.
Concrete Operational Stage, 7-11 years, the child's ability to reason begins, based on his/her own
personal experiences.
Formal Operational Stage, 11+ years, children can speculate, understand abstract ideas, and develop
theories.
Piaget invented developmental psychology and cognitive theory - the foundation for education-reform
movements. Piaget inspired the belief that children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge
(as traditional pedagogical theory had it) but active builders of knowledge who are constantly creating
and testing their own theories of the world.
Piaget invented developmental psychology and cognitive theory - the foundation for education-
reform movements. Piaget inspired the belief that children are not empty vessels to be filled with
knowledge (as traditional pedagogical theory had it) but active builders of knowledge who are
constantly creating and testing their own theories of the world.


Note: You can learn more about Piaget here:

Time Magazine's 100 Most Important People of the Century - Jean Piaget

The Jean Piaget Society

So, what are some of the activities that correlate with the cognitive developmental stage of 2-5
year olds? A typical course of study designed for preschoolers suggests concepts that
educators think children ages 2-5 should learn.

What follows is an adapted listing of the
World Book Encyclopedia's Typical Course of Study for
Preschoolers.

It suggests the key concepts to help children understand during the preschool years.

Activities should help the preschooler to:

  • Understand Size:
  • Big and little.
  • Long and short.
  • Match objects based on size.

Identify Colours and Shapes:

  • Recognise and name primary colours - red, yellow, blue, green, white, black.
  • Recognise and identify circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles.
  • Match objects based on shape.
  • Copy a shape on paper.
  • Identify Numbers & Count:
  • Recognise numbers from 1-10.
  • Count to ten.
  • Count objects in one-to-one correspondence.
  • Understands more and less.

Reading Readiness Concepts & Skills:

  • Has been read to daily.
  • Has own books.
  • Looks at books and magazines.
  • Uses left-to-right progression.
  • Pretends to read.
  • Understands that print carries a message.
  • Recognises some nursery rhymes.
  • Looks at pictures and tells a story.
  • Answers questions about a short story.
  • Knows what a letter is and is familiar with the alphabet.
  • Remembers objects from a given picture.
  • Pronounces own first and last name.
  • Identifies own first name in manuscript.
  • Prints own first name.
  • Identifies other children by name.
  • Expresses self verbally.
  • Can repeat a sentence of 6-8 words.
  • Can complete an incomplete sentence with proper word.
  • Tells the meaning of simple words.
  • Identifies parts of the body.
  • Identifies objects that have a functional use.
  • Knows common farm and zoo animals.

Listening and Sequencing:

  • Follows simple directions.
  • Listens to a short story.
  • Listens attentively.
  • Recognises common sounds.
  • Can repeat a sequence of sounds.
  • Can repeat a sequence of numbers.
  • Retells simple stories in sequence.

Position and Direction:

  • Child should understand:
  • up and down
  • in and out
  • front and back.
  • over, on, and under
  • top, bottom, middle
  • beside and next to
  • hot and cold.
  • fast and slow
  • full and empty
  • day and night
  • time - such as morning, noon, night
  • knows age and birthday
  • Can identify a calendar

Motor Skills:

Child is able to:
  • run
  • walk a straight line
  • jump
  • hop
  • alternate feet walking down stairs
  • march
  • stand on one foot for 5-10 seconds
  • walk backwards for five feet
  • throw a ball
  • paste objects
  • clap hands
  • matches simple objects
  • touches fingers
  • button a garment
  • builds with blocks
  • completes simple puzzles (5 pieces or less)
  • draw and colour beyond a simple scribble
  • zip a zipper
  • control pencil and crayon well
  • cut simple shapes with scissors (handles scissors well)
  • copy simple shapes

Next to : Social-Emotional Development
Cognitive Development
&

A Typical Course of Study for
Preschool
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