Child Mental Development: What Every Parent Need to Know

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Child Mental Development, or cognitive development as some might call, is very important for parents to understand.

During every development stage of our infants, abstract thinking will play an important role in their development.

And let us focus on this abstract thinking for a few seconds.

What is exactly abstract thinking in child mental development and how important is it?

Very shortly, it is what allows them to think beyond what is in front of them, what is mundane. The importance you’ll get throughout this post.

As parents, you might have asked one of the following questions

When will my kids understand this?

When will they be ready to start reading? What about understanding math concepts?

What about that specific board game you want to play with them?

Why can’t they understand a simple concept such as time? Or something even simpler such as 3 – 1?

How do children develop intellectual intelligence skills to interact with their environment?

Why do they ask the same question over and over as if they didn’t know the answer? Do they really know the answer?

How do these cognitive skills develop and can they be nurtured? If yes, when can they be nurtured?

Pfff… we’re tired already. We sounded like them.

But these are all great questions, right?

Probably you’ve asked yourself a few of them, if not all.

And do you know what normally these questions lead to?


Pressure from parents to their own children and also of parents with themselves.

“Why can’t you understand something so simple?”

“Why can’t I make my child understand this?”

We’ve all been there or we will be one day.

And this post is our way to try to give you more info about what is really happening and understand your child’s mental development. And also what you can do to nurture their intellectual development.

Groundbreaking theory

Before we move any further, we need to talk about Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget that you probably heard of.

Jean Piaget is the father of a groundbreaking theory on cognitive development in children, that basically answered all the above questions.

Piaget basically explained how a child constructs a mental model of the world.

In fact, his theory focuses not only on how children acquire knowledge but also in understanding the nature of intelligence.

Piaget used to call the little ones of “scientists” as they were constantly performing experiences, make observations and learning about the world.

As they interact with the world around them, they are building their knowledge “internal files” and add new knowledge and adapt previous ideas.

It’s as if they were born with an empty brain ready to store all the info they collect.

As Jean Piaget said, that doesn’t make them less bright than an adult. It just makes that the child’s knowledge priorities are still not the same.

In fact, a child absorbs a lot more information as everything is new to them. We have a great task of helping them interpret the new information.

And what a great task that is, don’t you think? Challenging, but great.

Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

Before we move forward, let us just explain to you the four stages of cognitive development shared by Piaget.

He basically said that intelligence is something that grows and develops through a series of stages. Actually, based on his observations, he concluded that children were not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently.

Watch the next two videos to better understand Piaget’s theory and how it helps you understand what to expect from your child.

Khan Academy explaining the four stages:

The four stages

Stage 1: The Sensorimotor Stage Ages: birth to 2 years

What to expect in the child’s development?

  • The infant knows the world through their movement and sensations
  • They learn about the world through basic actions such as grasping, sucking, listening or looking
  • They learn that things continue to exists although they are not seeing them (object permanence)
  • They also understand that their actions can cause something to happen around them
  • They are separate beings from everything around them

It’s this last “item” that allows kids to start attaching names and words to things.

Stage 2: The Preoperational StageAges: 2 to 7 years

What to expect in the child’s development?

  • Children learn to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects
  • Children, at this stage, tend to be egocentric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others
  • Their language and thinking improves a lot, but they still tend to think in very concrete terms

Children become much more skilled at pretend play, although they still think very concretely about the world around them.

They still struggle with logic and about taking the point of view of other people.

Stage 3: The Concrete Operational StageAges: 7 to 11 years

What to expect in the child’s development?

  • Children finally begin to think logically about concrete events
  • They begin to understand the concept of conservation (remember the example in the above videos where the kids understood that a taller and skinny glass could contain the same amount as a larger and wider recipient)
  • Although in still very concrete thinking, children think more logically and in a more organized way
  • Using logic, children begin to reasoning from specific information to a general principle

This is a huge step in our child’s mental development, don’t you think?

The usage of logic, although still very concrete, is a great growth step from children.

This also leads to a major development. As they use logic, they begin to understand that other people might see the same situation in a different way.

And this is where the egocentrism starts to fade away.

Although logic starts playing a major role in their thinking, as we said before, this logical thinking is still very rigid.

In fact, it’s common that kids, in this age, to struggle with abstract and hypothetical concepts.

Can you imagine how their view of the world becomes so different from the simple fact that, at this age, they start to understand that their thoughts are theirs and theirs alone?

This is huge! Before this stage, kids have a hard time when, for example, us, the parents, say something that goes against their will.

Let’s keep that in mind when dealing with our toddlers.

Stage 4: The Formal Operational StageAges: 12 and Up

What to expect in the child’s development?

  • At this age, the teen, or young adult, begin to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems
  • They start to think more about moral, social, ethical and even political issues that require more abstract thinking (both theoretical and reasoning)

This is the final stage of Piaget’s theory and it involves an increase in logic, the ability to use deductive reasoning and an understand of an abstract idea.

Think about how great this is when dealing with a complex problem. In fact, with any problem.

Being able to abstractly think about different solutions is an amazing mental asset.

The simple fact that they can plan for the future, using hypotheses and abstract thinking, is really amazing.

You’ll see a major difference in their playing style in strategic board games, as they will start to anticipate future plays.


Reading the above four Stages Piaget brought us, don’t you feel you understand our kids’ brains a lot more?

Don’t you feel you understand a lot better the child’s mental development?

You own child mental development.

The way they think, what we can expect at each age, it’s amazing.

Final and very important note on Piaget theory

As we shared before, Piaget’s theory explains in depth the four stages of cognitive development in children.

And these are greatly important to understand how to boost creativity in Babies and Toddlers, for example.

But it also mentioned something else that is really important.

According to Piaget, children’s intellectual development is not a quantitative process.

This means that kids do not add more information and knowledge to their existing “database” as they get older.

Instead, Piaget suggests that there is a qualitative change in how children think as they gradually move through the four stages.

It’s not that a child at the age of 7 has more information about the world than a child at age 2.

The major difference is not in quantity but in the way they both think and perceive the world.

Are you as excited as we are to know all these things?

As you can see, this is a never-ending process in our children’s minds. It’s a constantly active process.

And a process that is constantly finding their own ways, as kids are not seated waiting for information to get to them.

They are explorers.

This is how they’ll build their understanding of the world.

Step by step. Stage after stage.

What if you could have Piaget himself, handpicking your kid’s gifts?

After we were researching and writing this article we were thinking: why not using each stage theory to research the best gifts?

The best gifts for each stage.

For each mental development stage.

Gifts that would tease their mental development in the best approach and timing.

That is exactly what we did.

And we felt as if we were shopping with Piaget himself.

Each time we found something interesting we questioned ourselves: what would Piaget say about this one? Where would it fit the stage spectrum?

Check our list.

It’s as if Piaget, himself, would have handpicked them for us:

Best gifts for babies Under 2

Best gifts for kids Under 7 (and over 2)

Best gifts for kids Under 11 (and over 7)

Just like we teach our kids to ask what they want, I’ll ask you to take a second to share “Child Mental Development: What Every Parent Need to Know” with your audience. They respect great content.


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