Thought Processes and Conceptual Development in the Pre-School Children
Vinod Anand | 24 Aug 2013

Thought Processes and Conceptual Development in the Pre-School Children (Vinod Anand) The intellectual landmark of the end of infancy is the completion of the period of sensorimotor intelligence, a phase of cognitive development. At this point, the child has achieved two major feats, the control of his movements in space and the notion of object constancy. He realizes that an object continues to exist even when he does not perceive it and that it can move in space which also is there when the child is no dealing with it. Sensorimotor intelligence links successive perceptions and movements, with brief anticipations and memories. It does not take a large, sweeping view: “Sensorimotor intelligence acts like a slow-motion film, in which all pictures are seen in succession but without fusion, and so without the continuous vision necessary for understanding the whole”. Representational thought is what makes the period of preoperational thought distinctly different from the sensorimotor period. Instead of confining his interactions to the here and now, the child can think about objects, people, and actions that are not present. He shows that he does this by imitative and imaginative play. Representational thought can be applied to the past, when the youngster acts upon an event that has happened, and to the future in the for of planning which also appears as play. Both actions and objects are used in symbolic ways to serve representational thought. The child begins to use language at about the same time that he starts to use objects and actions in representational thought. Language quickly becomes a powerful tool of thought. Even so, imaginative and symbolic acts continue to be useful throughout life. The period of preoperational thought ordinarily lasts from 18 months or 2 years to 7 or 8. During this time, the child is building mental structures which will eventually result in logical thinking or operations. This he does through his interactions with objects and people. The interaction takes the form of the two complementary processes, assimilation and accommodation. The child assimilates by acting on the environment and fitting it into existing schemas. For instance, when first given a wagon or a kiddy car, the young child manipulates the wheels, using an examining schema which is already established. Further examination shows this toy to be different from his other toys and he adapts old schemas and develops new schemas for playing with it, thus accommodating to the wagon as he loads it, pulls and pushes it and unloads it, or as he propels the kiddy car. Through assimilation and accommodation, he learns the properties of toys and other objects, materials such as water, clay, and paint. He also learns ways of manipulating objects through “logico-mathematical experiences”. By arranging, grouping, and counting his blocks, sticks, cars, or anything else, he is operating on them. Through repeated actions of this type, he internalizes these experiences into concrete logical operations. While he is working his way through the period of preoperational thinking, his thought has certain characteristics that distinguish it from concrete logical operations, the period that is to follow.