Describe conceptual understanding in cognitive development as related to toddlers and a summary of how infants and very young children are far more cognitively competent than they appear and possess a rich set of abilities that allow them to learn rapidly.
When we look at cognitive development in children we are exploring a theory developed by Piaget called the Theory of Cognitive Development. Within this theory there are four major stages of development including the sensorimotor stage in infancy, the pre-operational stage in toddle to early childhood years, the concrete operational stage in elementary and early adolescence and the formal operational stage in adolescence and adulthood.
When we are looking at infants and young children we are focusing on the sensorimotor and the pre-operational stage. In the sensorimotor stage there are limited language skills and communication is based on physical interactions. Object permanence, the ability to know that something exists even if a child cannot see it begins to develop around 7 months and it is at this time that symbolic language abilities also begin to develop (the child will associate a word with an object). Once the child moves to the pre-operational stage verbal language begins to develop from symbolic language. Memories can be formed however they are not always formed in a linear manner and thus time is not a reliable concept.
During this time a child may have trouble outwardly communicating what they understand however this does not mean that the child is not experiencing the world around them, forming memories and making connections with their environment through language. It is through the concrete and formal operational stages that we see a full development of what the child learned in the first two stages of development.