Describe the general characteristics of the sensorimotor stage child, as defined by Jean Piaget? What would the sensorimotor - stage child observe, think, feel and believe, on encountering...

Describe the general characteristics of the sensorimotor stage child, as defined by Jean Piaget? What would the sensorimotor - stage child observe, think, feel and believe, on encountering Santa?


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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When babies are born, their responses are mostly impulse-related; random behavior through reflexes as a reaction to stimuli. The sensorimotor is the first of Jean Piaget's four cognitive development stages which lasts from birth to about two years of age. As sensory skills develop and motor activity increases, infants learn more about themselves and their surroundings.

Primary circular reactions follow reflex actions as originally chance  occurrences produce pleasing results, which encourage an infant to repeat his behavior. Between one and approximately four months, babies are able to adapt these new experiences depending on the circumstances; for example, sucking a dummy and sucking a bottle or changing from breast-fed to bottle-fed are similar activities but require different sucking motions. The baby learns to suck differently for the desired outcome.  

The third of Piaget's six subsections of the sensorimotor stage is the Secondary circular reactions stage as infants become more aware of their environment, between four and eight months. An activity, such as shaking a rattle, produces an interesting sound and so the baby repeats the process intentionally. As yet, whilst intentional, these actions are not goal-directed and initially still occur incidentally.

The baby's behavior soon becomes more deliberate, between about eight to twelve months and a baby begins to use learned behavior. The infant can now anticipate a result and therefore behavior is now goal-oriented during the Co-ordination of secondary schemes phase.

As a toddler, between about twelve to eighteen months, a curiosity develops and a baby learns to experiment. Trial and error is used to solve problems. Consider a toddler negotiating steps and how he adapts in order to climb up or down or a baby trying to fit his cup through a gap that is clearly not wide enough and how he will find another way. This is the Tertiary circular reactions stage.

At eighteen to twenty four months, toddlers can now often anticipate the results of their actions. Thinking about something allows them to do it right the first time, exhibiting insight. Most people can relate to having watched a child trying to open something and his or her mouth opens wider as he tries harder, unconsciously representing his effort and purpose. Pretend becomes a large part of the child's world in the stage of Mental combinations.

Children in Piaget's sensorimotor stage are then mostly responsive although, in the later stages, they do develop an awareness of space and their own identity. Beng faced with Santa Claus in their limited environment would scare a child initially but , as they are at the stage of making associations, the pleasing results of his presence - the gifts - would reduce tension and trust would develop very quickly. There is no question of belief as a child within this stage accepts what is put before them and would not question his efficacy.   

A Child's World,Infancy through adolescence 10th Edition; Diana E Papalia, Sally Wendkos Olds, Ruth Duskin Feldman; McGraw Hill

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