Cognitive development: two to six

This is a period of rapid development and you will witness your two-year-old magician change into a concept-forming, linguistically competent realist, ready to enter “big school”.

The cognitive development theorist Jean Piaget called this period the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Between the ages of two and four, the child makes more use of symbols, symbolic play and language.

Unlike infants, whose thoughts are limited to their immediate environment, these older children can talk about something not immediately present. They are egocentric and they do not realise that other people have feelings and thoughts. From about five, they become more intuitive and are more able to understand multiple points of view.

Language skills develop rapidly during the preschool years. By two and a half, a child may know one or two nursery rhymes, more colours, a few numbers and may start to count. By three, she starts to become more demanding by asking questions incessantly. During the next two years, she becomes increasingly more confident in using language. She loves trying out new words and learns to appreciate the nuances of language.

Grammar improves dramatically and she can use past tense, plurals and comparatives, even though it is sometimes used incorrectly. By the age of six, she speaks in full sentences and paragraphs that incorporate correct grammatical structure for formal speech and even slang.

Memory span increases but is still limited. Most preschoolers can only remember three units of information at a time.

(Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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