Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development places infants in the sensori-motor stage of cognitive development (Mussen, 1983). It extends from birth to two years. This implies that their knowledge of their environment is limited to sensory perceptions and motor activities. This subsequently limits the abilities of the infant to simple actions.
A key characteristic in sensori-motor stage is the use of motor abilities such as grasping, kicking and hand movements. Parents and caregivers should therefore stimulate motor activities in infants. This can be done through provision of toys for young children to manipulate. This way, they exercise their fine (small) and gross (large) muscles. Similarly, for the children who can engage in complex actions, parents should provide play opportunities and materials for children to engage in.
Children at this stage become mobile especially when they learn how to crawl or walk with or without support. Caregivers should ensure that the child’s environment is safe (Piaget, 1952). For instance, poisonous substances or sharp objects such as knives should be kept out of children’s reach. In addition, floors should be clean, dry and safe for the children who are learning their way around the house. Precaution must be taken against prohibiting infant’s locomotion by confining them to a fixed space. This will slow down the realization of milestones. Furthermore, developing complex skills is a great achievement to the child who was earlier restricted to the cradle.
At 7-9 months, children acquire the ability to understand that objects or people exist even though they cannot be seen or heard. This is referred to as object permanence. It is a symbol of maturity in infant memory. Earlier before the highlight, children’s world was based on what they could see or touch. To facilitate the concept of object permanence, parents can play games such as peek-a-boo. Here, the parent hides her face and then reveals it to the child. It is noted that the baby ‘searches’ for the parent’s face.
Early language begins at this stage. The child experiments with the language familiar to them, which is often the language used by the caregiver(s). The use of language for infants is an exciting milestone, considering the earlier stages of crying, cooing and babbling which hampered effective communication. Therefore, caregivers should stimulate children’s language through interacting with them repeatedly; exposing infants to language and reinforcing infant’s efforts to use language. It should be noted that we as caregivers should refrain from mocking wrong language as it creates a negative self esteem in children.
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