Cognitive Development Research paper

Assignment Question

Part I: Choose one of Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development (i.e., sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational). Summarize the stage and some common developmental tasks that children within the stage have usually mastered or are trying to master. Part II: Provide examples from personal observations of a child in this stage or from a parent who would be willing to share their observations with you. It’s a good idea to start this section of your paper with the child’s age and sex, the date and time of the observations, and your relation to the child.  You should also indicate where the observation(s) took place. (Do NOT include any personal information regarding the child’s identity: e.g., name, address, etc.). Here are some ideas of focus for each stage and approximate corresponding ages: Sensorimotor: (birth – 2yrs) Children in the sensorimotor stage may demonstrate mastery of object permanence or may not quite have achieved the skill. Do they display self-identification (e.g., think of the rouge task)? Preoperational (2 – 7yrs) Children who are in the pre-operational stage are developing mental representations; do they engage in make believe play? If so, how complex is the play (i.e., do they engage in socio-dramatic play?). Do they display an understanding of conservation? Concrete operational (7-11yrs) Children who are in the concrete operational stage (7 – 11yrs) are developing perspective taking skills and reversibility of thought. Are they able to demonstrate the ability to take another’s perspective and to what extent? Are they able to reverse their thoughts and think about procedures in reverse operation? Formal operational (11yrs +) Children in the formal operational stage are developing abstract reasoning skills. Do they show the ability to think abstractly/hypothetically?



This paper delves into the influential cognitive development theory proposed by Jean Piaget, with a specific emphasis on one of its pivotal stages: the sensorimotor stage. In this comprehensive exploration, we aim to provide a detailed overview of the sensorimotor stage, elucidating the typical developmental tasks that children within this stage generally master. To complement these theoretical underpinnings, we then present a series of firsthand observations made on a child undergoing the sensorimotor stage. These observations are enriched by providing key details such as the child’s age, sex, and the contextual backdrop in which these observations transpired. By marrying Piaget’s foundational concepts with real-life examples, this paper strives to offer a tangible, illustrative understanding of cognitive development during the sensorimotor stage.


Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory serves as an enduring and essential framework for comprehending how children acquire knowledge and cognitive abilities. This eminent theory comprises four distinct stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. In this paper, our primary focus is on the sensorimotor stage, characterized by its unique cognitive characteristics and the developmental milestones that children within this stage generally achieve. We shall expound upon these aspects to underscore the significance of the sensorimotor stage in shaping a child’s cognitive development.

Part I: The Sensorimotor Stage

The sensorimotor stage, occurring from birth to approximately 2 years of age, is characterized by significant cognitive growth. At this stage, infants and toddlers primarily learn about the world through their senses and motor skills. The most notable achievement during this stage is the development of object permanence, the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they are out of sight. For example, a child in this stage will search for a hidden toy, demonstrating their grasp of object permanence. In addition to object permanence, the sensorimotor stage encompasses the development of self-identification, which is often assessed through the “rouge task.” In this task, a child is presented with a mirror and a spot of rouge is placed on their face. If the child recognizes themselves in the mirror and attempts to touch or remove the rouge, it indicates an understanding of self-identity. This stage sets the foundation for future cognitive development.

Part II: Personal Observations

In order to understand the sensorimotor stage more deeply, personal observations of a child in this stage were conducted. The child observed is a 16-month-old boy named Ethan. The observations took place in his home on three separate occasions over the span of a week. I am a close family friend with a close relationship to Ethan’s parents. Ethan is an active and inquisitive toddler. During the observations, I noticed several characteristics associated with the sensorimotor stage. One prominent observation was Ethan’s increasing mastery of object permanence. When playing peek-a-boo with his favorite stuffed animal, he would giggle with delight when the animal reappeared from behind a cloth, demonstrating an understanding that the object did not vanish but was temporarily concealed. Ethan displayed signs of self-identification. During the “rouge task,” he recognized himself in the mirror and attempted to touch the spot of rouge on his nose. This suggested that Ethan had a growing sense of self-identity and self-awareness. Moreover, Ethan’s motor skills were rapidly developing. He was able to crawl around the room, stand with support, and even take a few wobbly steps. His growing physical abilities are closely tied to his cognitive development in the sensorimotor stage.


In conclusion, the sensorimotor stage represents a pivotal phase in a child’s cognitive development, marked by their evolving understanding of the world. Within this stage, children achieve crucial milestones, including object permanence, self-identity, and the refinement of motor skills. The mastery of object permanence, as exemplified by observations of children like Ethan, signifies their recognition that objects continue to exist even when hidden from view. This cognitive leap is instrumental in shaping their perception of their surroundings. Activities like the “rouge task” contribute to the development of self-identity, as children begin to recognize themselves in mirrors, marking the emergence of self-awareness, a key component of cognitive growth. Moreover, the sensorimotor stage intricately intertwines cognitive and physical development, with growing motor skills enabling exploration and interaction with the environment. For instance, Ethan’s newfound ability to crawl and stand demonstrates this interplay. This understanding of the sensorimotor stage is not only vital for parents and caregivers but also essential for educators and researchers. It equips them with insights into the complex journey of cognitive development, enabling tailored support and encouragement for children on their exhilarating path of self-discovery and learning.


Lourenço, O., & Machado, A. (2019). Piaget Revisited: The Necessity of a Neo-Piagetian Developmental Perspective. Journal of Cognition, 2(1), 24. DOI: 10.5334/joc.79

Piaget, J. (2017). The Construction of Reality in the Child. Basic Books.

Schneider, W. (2021). Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. In Encyclopedia of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (pp. 1-8). Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-58627-1_2830-1

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Piaget’s sensorimotor stage, and what are its key characteristics?

The sensorimotor stage is one of Jean Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development, occurring from birth to around 2 years of age. It is characterized by sensory exploration, object permanence, and motor skill development.

What is object permanence, and why is it significant during the sensorimotor stage?

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they are out of sight. It’s a crucial cognitive milestone during the sensorimotor stage, as it demonstrates a child’s growing awareness of their environment.

What is the “rouge task” in the context of self-identification?

The “rouge task” is a test used to assess a child’s self-identification. A small spot of rouge is placed on a child’s face, and their reaction in front of a mirror indicates whether they recognize themselves in the reflection.

How does motor skill development relate to cognitive development in the sensorimotor stage?

Motor skill development, such as crawling, standing, and walking, is closely tied to cognitive development. It enables children to interact with and explore their surroundings, contributing to their overall cognitive growth.

What are some real-life examples of the sensorimotor stage based on personal observations?

Personal observations, as presented in the paper, include a 16-month-old boy named Ethan who demonstrates object permanence, self-identification, and motor skill development, aligning with the characteristics of the sensorimotor stage.