Preoperational Stage

Thinking and Understanding

Piaget believed that development moved from the individual to the social. He described development in a number of stages – sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operations.
  •  Piaget was interested in describing how a child thinks and learns to understand the world. 
Preoperational Stage
The preoperational stage occurs between the ages two and seven, and it is divided into the preoperative and intuitive phase.  The child’s imagination develops and they can take part in make believe. The child understands the relationship between the past and the future.
  • A toddler can understand and use symbols and during this stage, language and memory skills continue to develop.  
  • A young child cannot conserve objects and they believe that changing the physical appearance changes the substance of the object 

According to Piaget, a characteristic of a young child is his inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view. 
  • A young child’s thinking and language is egocentric and intuitive. 
  • For Piaget the goal of development was logical thinking,
Piaget believed that the egocentric child assumes that other people see, hear, and feel the same as the child does. 

Preoperational phase
A young child is according to Piaget not impervious to social influence, and the young child’s speech and thinking is egocentric. The child’s  thinking is also animalistic. The child can think about an object without the object being in front of him.
  • Egocentric speech is speech directed to oneself. 
  • A young child does not consider other people’s point of view while communicating. 
  • The young child tries to communicate but he fails.
  •  Egocentric speech disappear around the age of four when the child has learned to consider the other people’s view while he talking. 
A toddler thinks that everything is alive, or has human characteristics because they move or grow. From an adult’s perspective, animism adds a bit of magic to the child’s symbolic representations.
  • A young may say that the moon is following him, and he may draw sunflowers with faces. A chair has feelings and it can get hurt.

Intuitive phase

This phase is between 4 and 7, and according to Piaget the speech is now less egocentric.
  • Grasp of logic in some areas. 
  • Often focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others. 
  • The child becomes better at using symbols as this can be seen in the increase in playing and pretending.
An object can be used to represent something else – a cloth can become a dog.
Role playing is important and the child often play the roles of mommy and daddy. 
Mountain Task
Piaget used several techniques to study and examine the cognitive development of children. A three-dimensional mountain task was used to study whether children could change the perspective. 
  • Older children, could select a picture showing what someone watching from another perspective would see. 
  • Younger children choose the picture showing the mountain from their own view.
This video from the YouTube shows a four-year-old boy.


Research has suggested that children under the age of approximately seven have problems with this task. If the task is changed a bit, younger children can solve the task.  Margaret Donaldson suggests that Piaget underestimated young  children’s abilities. A suitable language and meaningful context allows young children to think logically.  She said that appropriate language with meaningful context allows 3-and 4-year-olds to think logically. 

Photo: Kid With Teddy Bear by Stuart Miles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s