Children’s Cognitive Development

Topic: Cognitive Psychology
Words: 585 Pages: 2

Cognitive development refers to the growth of children’s knowledge and skills and their abilities to understand their surroundings and solve problems. It is a positive change in the way children think and explore things, helping them reason and comprehend the world around them (Sternberg & Williams, 2010; Ranjitkar et al., 2019). Children’s ability to think and process information skillfully develops to higher levels as they mature.

Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget are influential theorists who acknowledge the significance of social interaction in cognitive development. Although their theories are exclusive, some of their basic aspects are different, as listed below:

Piaget’s Theory Vygotsky’s Theory
  • Determines that personal exploration is vital to learning
  • Determines that social interaction is vital to learning
  • Children acquire knowledge through experience
  • Children acquire knowledge when they learn to work in groups
  • Thoughts drive language
  • Language drives thoughts
  • Development does not change with context
  • Development changes with cultural and social context

The significant difference between the two theories revolves around how children learn. Piaget determines that children learn through personal exploration, whereas Vygotsky believes that cultural aspects and social interactions are instrumental to learning (Huang, 2021). Piaget holds that live experiences help children acquire knowledge, their thoughts shape language, and context does not influence development. On the other hand, Vygotsky accentuates interaction with other children, and people help kids acquire knowledge, and language shapes thoughts (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). Both social and cultural contexts have a significant influence on development.

Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory

The theory emphasizes that individuals go through four developmental stages that include sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational phases. Sensorimotor starts in infancy, where young children synchronize their hearing and vision by interacting with their environment to develop understanding and intelligence (Babakr et al., 2019). In the preoperational phase, children can fully comprehend logic, whereas, in the concrete operational stage, they start thinking maturely and adopt logical approaches to resolve problems (Babakr et al., 2019). Individuals can think hypothetically in the formal operational state that starts from adolescence to adulthood.

Vygotsky’s Concepts

Internalization, the zone of proximal development, and scaffolding are key concepts used by Vygotsky to explain his cognitive development theory. Internalization refers to how children acquire skills and knowledge by observing different social contexts (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). The zone of proximal development is the gap in between children or learners can do under guidance or in a group of more knowledgeable peers and what they can accomplish without any assistance (Eun, 2017). Scaffolding is the role played by teachers and parents to support the development of learners or children by offering essential structures to help them move to the next stage.

Importance of the Theory of Cognitive Development to Teachers

Cognitive development theories are an instrumental tool for explaining how children learn and process information. Teachers should understand these theories since they can help them design and implement more effective teaching approaches (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). Teachers can teach beyond the theories by focusing on every learner’s needs to ensure they acquire optimal knowledge and skills. Notably, children’s learning ability can be influenced by other factors such as health and genes.

Vygotsky and Piaget are critical theorists who explain cognitive development. Although they focus on the significance of social interaction in cognitive development, their fundamental aspects of the theories are different. Piaget’s Cognitive Development theory emphasizes that individuals go through four developmental stages, including sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational phases. In contrast, Vygotsky’s theory accentuates internalization, the zone of proximal development, and scaffolding.


Babakr, Z., Mohamedamin, P., & Kakamad, K. (2019). Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory: Critical review. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(3), 517-524. Web.

Eun, B. (2017). The zone of proximal development as an overarching concept: A framework for synthesizing Vygotsky’s theories. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 51(1), 18-30. Web.

Huang, Y. (2021). Comparison and contrast of Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 554, 28-32.

Ranjitkar, S., Hysing, M., Kvestad, I., Shrestha, M., Ulak, M., Shilpakar, J., Sintakala, R., Chandyo, R., Shrestha, L., & Strand, T. (2019). Determinants of cognitive development in the early life of children in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-10. Web.

Sternberg, R., & Williams, W. (2010). Educational psychology (2nd ed.). Pearson.

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