The Preoperational Stage of Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget is referred to as the father of cognitive development. He was a Swiss psychologist who observed the intellectual development of children during childhood. According to him,

“Cognitive development is a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience.”

He studied the intellectual development of his three children.

Piaget believed that there were four main stages of cognitive development namely, the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage.

What are the Substages of the Preoperational Stage?

The preoperational stage begins at 2 years old and lasts till 6/7 years old. It is divided into two stages:

Preconceptual stage (2-4 years)

At this stage, there is increased use of verbal representation. However, speech is egocentric.

Intuitive stage (4-7years)

In this stage, speech becomes less egocentric and more social. The child starts basing their knowledge upon what they think is true.

Characteristic of the Preoperational Stage of Cognitive Development

The characteristics of the preoperational stage are as follows:

Identifies Symbolic Meaning

In this stage, the child begins to represent the world in a symbolic manner. They begin to realize that words and objects are symbolic.

Begins to Use Language

The child begins to use language and symbols. They start understanding the environment around them.

Learns complex mental representations

In this stage, the child becomes capable of more complex mental representations.

Start Using Logical Thoughts

In this stage, children start using logical thoughts and start imagining things.

Stage of Egocentrism

The preoperational stage is a stage of egocentrism where the child thinks only of themselves.

Only Focus on One Aspect

Centration takes place during this stage which means that children only focus on one aspect of a thing or situation.

Understanding of shapes

During this stage, conservation develops which refers to the understanding that even when you change the shape or size of something, the quantity remains the same.


It is important to remember that different children develop at a different level and therefore, parents and teachers must understand these characteristics of each stage of cognitive development and teach accordingly.