Developmental Biologist Jean Piaget once concluded that children are not less intelligent than adults; they simply think differently in that they are actively learning about their world in a series of progressive stages whereas adults continue to learn passively once developmental learning plateaus.

In early childhood development stages, children start off with a very limited range of skills that they develop over time through mimic behavior. This puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on parents who naturally want to encourage developmental motor, cognitive, language and social skills from an early age. A parent asking what is intellectual development in children and how do I ensure my child develops properly has to realize that it's more than just the personal role of influence the parent has over the child, but that it's the entire environmental atmosphere that determines the child's intellectual abilities.

Right from the start children begin to develop motor skills which enable them to perform rudimentary tasks such as to roll over or stand up and as their nervous systems develop, increasingly complex motor skills come into play and they are able to do more complicated things like walk. At the same time they are developing minor motor skills that give them the ability to grasps objects.

childhood developmentThese stages of cognitive development in children are motor responses to the sensory perceptions of touching, seeing, feeling and tasting that help them associate with their world externally and which continues until about age two, at which point language skills begin to develop. Piaget calls this stage the Preoperational Period.

It's not clear exactly how a child learns language, but most agree it happens through a certain level of mimicry and reinforcement. The ability to speak is no doubt innate but how parents encourage speech is key to a child's understanding. For example, developing children respond better to "baby talk" in their early years than other forms of interpersonal communication that is more difficult to interpret.

As your child begins to recognize words, the imitation of speech begins, typically with incoherent babble or a slur of vowel sounds. The natural progression moves to the child's first word, then single word usage, two word sentences and finally, at around age two, simple multiple word sentences that involve subjects and predicates.

By the age of four the average child has close to a 2,000-word vocabulary but reasoning is approached more through perception than with logic. A child cannot reason abstract thought without instruction, such as a deflated ball being the same size as a similar one that is inflated. Thinking is more about compartmentalizing objects into similar groups (separating toy cars from toy trucks), but not being able to identify groups (cars) from their parent class (vehicles).

Logical reasoning doesn't occur until later, sometime around the age of seven, where thoughts can be organized into coherent observations about physical objects, for example a child may be able to grasp that a tall, slim glass can hold the same amount of water as a short, wide glass, but abstract or hypothetical processes have yet to develop.

It's around this stage that children begin to experience a shift in reasoning beyond the ego and where logical operators begin to develop, things like the realization that others may have differing perspectives than their own or they understand the fundamentals of taking turns when playing a game. Simple deductive reasoning with multiple points of view can be employed. By age 11 the ability to hypothesize and formulate abstract reasoning develops in most children.

Typically when discussing intellectual development in children, though, you're referring to the years from birth to about eight years old. It's encouraged for parents to stimulate their children with visual learning apparatuses to promote and sustain healthy development during these years, which is what we are all about at We Come To Learn with our educational games. Of course, children are going to progress at different rates, but the milestones are similar overall and Piaget's stages are predictable in nearly every child.