Identify stages of cognitive development in children from birth to 7 years

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.9: Facilitate the cognitive development of children
Learning outcome: Understand about cognitive development in children
Assessment criteria: Identify stages of cognitive development in children from birth to 7 years


Cognitive development is an important part of a child’s growth and maturation. It encompasses the physical, psychological, and social changes that occur as a child develops from infancy through to adolescence. This blog post will focus on cognitive development in children aged 0 – 7 years old.

Cognitive development occurs during four primary stages—sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. During the sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years old), a child begins to explore their environment through the use of their senses; they learn about how things work by manipulating objects with their hands or mouth (e.g., putting blocks together). At this stage, it is also important for caregivers to provide a safe environment for exploration and to be aware of potential hazards.


The preoperational stage (2-7 years old) is characterized by increased symbolic thinking; children are able to think about ideas such as animals or colors without actually having them present in front of them. They also begin to use language more effectively and engage in pretend play. In addition, they may start asking questions in order to better understand the world around them. Learning basic concepts such as shapes and colors is also important at this stage.

The concrete operational stage (7-12 years old) focuses on the development of logical thinking; children are able to think logically about problems they encounter and can apply reasoning skills when solving puzzles or engaging in activities like math or science experiments. Additionally, they are able to take other people’s perspectives into account when making decisions or understanding situations.
Finally, during the formal operational stage (12+ years old), adolescents are able to think abstractly; they can conceptualize ideas that do not have immediate physical manifestations and develop their own theories about how things work based on evidence gathered from experiments or observations. This ability allows them to make predictions about future events and form hypotheses which can then be tested against reality.


Cognitive development is an ongoing process that helps children gain an understanding of themselves and the world around them. Through careful observation, caregivers can identify which stage each child is at so that appropriate activities can be provided that will help foster further growth in all areas of development—including cognitive development! By providing age-appropriate activities that challenge children’s minds while still keeping them entertained, we can help ensure that our little ones get off on the right foot when it comes to cognitive development!

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