One of the most important aspects of development is “mental development.” When the child is mentally fit only then he can complete his developmental task in time. Mental development includes development of intelligence, reasoning power, memory, thinking, imagination and power of judgment.
After birth the baby comes in contact with environment, but he is not aware of the things around him. As he starts getting alert towards his environment, he starts receiving various stimuli and sensations.
Slowly he starts to response and understand these stimuli. He also tries to perceive their meanings. All this continuous process helps in the development of brain and ‘understanding’ in the child. Along with the understanding other mental processes like reasoning, thinking, imagination, imitation, etc., also start developing.
The cognitive development of a child means the development of his various mental processes and capabilities by which he understands and adjusts with his environment.
Important Charactertiscs of Cognitive Development
(i) Cognitive development is systematic
First the child starts giving attention to stimulation from the environment, perceives them, forms concepts and then finally gives response.
(ii) Cognitive development starts from general to specific
The children first learn about him and forms concepts, then learn about other people and environment and make concepts on the basis of reasoning and understanding.
(iii) Individual differences are there in cognitive development
Cognitive development takes place differently in different children. Some have a better thinking capacity, some have better logic and understanding and some are more imaginative.
(iv) All the developmental aspects and cognitive development are related
If a child is physically sick he also becomes mentally sick as tension in the mind affects his other developments like social and emotional.
(v) Guidance and training affect cognitive development
Good guidance and training encourage better cognitive development. If a child doesn’t get training and guidance he can lay behind cognitive development even though he is intelligent.
(vi) Cognitive development is the s total of past and present experience
Cognitive development is based on past present experiences a child receives perceives. These experiences are the basic concepts formed in the brain.
Many psychologists have worked on cognitive development. Most important w is done by Jean Piaget. He has described following stages of cognitive development:
1. Sensory motor stage
In this stage the child tries to achieve balance between H sense organs and motor activities. This stage is divided into six stages. They are interrelating where an individual difference in cogniti development is also found.
Stage 1: 0-1 month
The infant d many natural reflex activities like crying holding of hand, sucking, closing of the presence of strong light. Though the infant is unaware of his environment one month-o child is able to understand these reflex activities to some extent.
Stage 2: 1-4 months
During this stage the sense organs start receiving stimuli from the environment. The infant starts learner differentiation. He repeats natural activities e.g., closing and opening of his fists is done the infant voluntarily. Certain activities this stage are directed like while throwing arms and legs, he is able to take his fist in’ his mouth. When this activity gives pleasure and repeats it again and again.
The moment mother holds the baby he calms down and that shows understanding and perceptual development.
Stage 3: 4-8 months
The stage ii related mainly to infant himself. He repeating the activities, e.g., rattling of the toy, rub’ utensils on the floor, feels happy to listen ii sounds and gets pleasure. Drops thing to picked up by others and repeat it again. Baby starts understanding th difference between mother’s breast and the soother. Differentiation is quite primitive at this age but baby becomes conscious of his environment.
Stage 4: 8-12 months
Baby starts crawling and exploring his environment. He tries to understand and analyse his environment. The activities of the child are now focused directly. He can now solve some problems like to reach his toy.
He can remove the obstruction in his way. During this stage the baby takes help of his past experiences. If a toy is hidden at another place, instead of the first place he will look for it in the previous place only. It shows object permanence to a certain extent. He enjoys a game of peek-a-boo.
Object Permanence is an understanding of an object that continues to exist when out of site.
Stage 5: 12-18 months
In this stage the child uses his already learned skills in new situations. He becomes more active and curious. He is ready for toilet training guidance. His activities are goal oriented. He tries to unveil mystery. That is why he is able to play hide-and-seek with mother and enjoys it. Here it becomes quite clear that thinking analysing, decision making abilities are used by the baby to reach his goal.
Stage 6: 18-24 months
This is the last stage of sensory motor stage. The child starts recognising ‘signs’. He becomes more alert and the mental process develops at a fast speed. He can imagine new situation and tries to adjust with them. Plays make-belief games, e.g., imitates as a driver or a teacher, make different sounds from his mouth. He is able to recognise the product while watching, TV advertisement. By observing the sign ‘X’ he understands it to be the clinic or hospital.
2. Pre-operational stage (2 to 7 years)
During this stage, the child gathers experiences and continuously interacts with the environment. These experiences form images in the mind of the child. He starts recognising symbols and tries to perceive their meanings. His memory starts developing and he becomes imaginative.
He is impressed by the imaginary characters of stories and imagines himself like them. He is lost in his imaginary world and toys. He holds a stick like a sword and acts as a king. Girls act like their mother by wearing her ‘dupatta’ or ‘sari’.
He understands the meaning of many symbols. By observing the sign of he can recognize hospital. When mother gets ready, he understands that she is going out of the house. He guesses the weight of an object. Acting like a doctor by size. He is self- centered during this stage.
3. The concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years).
At this stage, the child becomes quite intelligent and worldly wise. He comes out of his imaginary world and is more realisticnow. He is able to reason out and make judgment. He goes to school and learns to cope up with many situations with the help of his reasoning power. Power of differentiation and analysis also start developing at this stage. He makes use of his abilities for his friends and their group activities, e.g., any responsibility if given to him by the teacher in school, he is able to carry out well though he needs guidance.
4. The formal operational stage (11 to 16 years).
During this stage intelligence, understanding and other mental capabilities are almost developed. Child is able to analyse the situations. He has foresight and reasoning capacity developed by then. He can take advantage of others experiences. He understands symbols, riddles, similes, poems and their meanings.