My Little Genius

Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget, PhD., theorised that the development of children is a naturally-occurring event that is influenced by adaptions to what an individual already knows. This adaption is known as learning. As babies, between the ages of zero to two years, the child functions at a sensory level. The child uses his/her senses and motor skills at a progressively higher level as they grow and develop. The baby starts the learning journey by experiencing reflexes and progresses up to more complex combinations of sensory motor skills. It is during this stage that they begin to develop a schema, defined as an organisational or conceptual pattern in the mind, to understand their world.

The stage that follows the Sensory Motor Stage is the Preoperational Stage (between the ages of two to seven years). Children will begin to recognise symbols to broaden their scope of understanding. For example, they may see a block of wood as a road or a tree stump as a table. Children grasp the idea of past and future and may use it in creative play situations. They are able to manipulate symbols and further their creative side and are not fazed by the absence of actual objects. Their imagination is unlimited in its potential to visualise something that they have not seen or have never experienced.

Children start with a schema that helps them understand their world. As they grow and progress in development, the schema is influenced by outside sources and changes have to be made in the schema to reflect their new understanding. The term to describe this change is accommodation, which is defined as adjusting thought processes to include a new situation. Another form of changing the schema is to assimilate new information into the existing schema. Piaget believed that we continue using both, accommodation and assimilation, to broaden our understanding. He referred to the two functions as having a balance or equilibrium effect on our thinking.

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