8 Cognitive Development in Early Childhood

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast Piaget and Vygotsky’s beliefs about cognitive development.

  2. Explain the role of information processing in cognitive development.

  3. Discuss how preschool-aged children understand their worlds.

  4. Put cognitive and language milestones into the order in which they appear in typically developing children.

  5. Discuss how early child education supports development and how our understanding of development influence education.

  6. Describe autism spectrum disorder, including characteristics and possible interventions.

Early childhood is a time of pretending, blending fact and fiction, and learning to think of the world using language. As young children move away from needing to touch, feel, and hear about the world toward learning some basic principles about how the world works, they hold some pretty interesting initial ideas. For example, while adults have no concerns with taking a bath, a child of three might genuinely worry about being sucked down the drain.299

A child in a bathtub.^[[Image](https://www.flickr.com/photos/igcameron/26553679416) by [Ian Cameron](https://www.flickr.com/photos/igcameron/) is licensed under [CC BY 2.0](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)]

Figure 8.1: A child in a bathtub.300

A child might protest if told that something will happen “tomorrow” but be willing to accept an explanation that an event will occur “today after we sleep.” Or the young child may ask, “How long are we staying? From here to here?” while pointing to two points on a table. Concepts such as tomorrow, time, size and distance are not easy to grasp at this young age. Understanding size, time, distance, fact and fiction are all tasks that are part of cognitive development in the preschool years.301