Children at age 2-7 years old are on the preoperational stage of cognitive development and they have preoperational thinking. This stage and thinking are described by the famous psychologist, J. Piaget. Therefore, this article about 9 features of preoperational thinking is actually an explanation of J. Piaget theory. It will help you to better understand children at age 2-7 years, what they think about the world and how they observe it.
1. Egocentrism as the main feature of preoperational thinking
Egocentrism is the core of all other features of children’s preoperational thinking. It is the non-differentiation of the subjective (what is in the child’s mind) and the objective (what really exists). For children at age 2-7 years, the world is like they see it, not what it really and objectively is. Children think that their subjective truth is the only possible and only right. Therefore, it’s difficult for a child to put him/herself in the position of another subject, to realize that other people may think differently. Also, children’s knowledge about the world depends on observation. For example, on the question why is the moon moving, a child concludes that it moves to follow him/her.
Do you know that children at age 2-7 years have the idea that other people can read their thoughts? That is realism. one more feature of preoperational thinking. It means that inner experiences have characteristics of external, physical reality. I will explain it by presenting children’s beliefs about thoughts, dreams, and names.
At the preoperational stage, children believe that they think by the mouth or voice. Then follows the period when children believe that they are thinking of mouth or a voice in the head. Finally, when children overcome preoperational thinking, they start to understand that thoughts are a phenomenon that isn’t observable directly.
Children don’t make difference between sleep and reality at the preoperational stage. In the stage of deep realism, children think that dreams come from the outside. For example, when a child with preoperational thinking dream mom and dad, he/she think that mom and dad make that dream. If a child dreams forest, the child thinks that the dream comes from the forest and that the dream is in the forest. Also, at this stage, children believe that people can see dreams. Gradually, children move from the stage of complete realism into a phase of relaxed realism. In the end, children realize that sleep is an internal phenomenon and that their dreams are only in their head.
Similarly, children at age 2 to 7 years think that the name is a physical and unchangeable feature of the object that signifies. They are convinced that names exist from the beginning of the subject. Also, they think that the name can’t be changed and if the name is changed, the subject will changes itself. The illustration below explains nominal realism as a feature of children’s preoperational thinking.
Animism means that certain non-living objects and phenomena have the features of living beings. With younger children at this age, almost everything can be alive. In the beginning, children consider alive all objects that have some function for a man. For example, a child claims that the lamp is alive while it is lit or that the sun is alive because it shines. Then the child finds that only moving objects, such as cars, are alive. After, they consider living only those objects that move independently, either alone or in appearances, such as the sun and the moon. That’s why children with preoperational thinking often believe that the moon and the sun follow them while walking.
Children first met things that people make and generally apply that to all objects and phenomena. The result of that is one more feature of children’s operational thinking called artificialism. It is the belief that natural objects and phenomena have been made by humans. The sky was coloured by people… The sun was a fire that the people burned in the sky… People put a tap into the sky to rain… Compared to rural children, these perceptions are more common in children from cities. Also, artificialism is more common in children from technologically developed cultures in comparison with children from primitive cultures.
Syncretism means making a connection with contradictory elements. At the preoperational stage, children connect all with everything according to subjective and perceptual data. Thus arise children’s thoughts that the sun is in the sky because it is yellow, that the cloud has come out of the chimney,… Also, many similar phenomena they considered as the same. For example, the shadow is part of the night.
Children cannot establish implicit and causal relations at the preoperational stage. They make relations between things or phenomena based on their closeness or similarity. For example, if you ask a child with preoperational thinking, why he/she fell off a bike, the child will not tell you the cause, but the child may tell you that he/she fell because he/she broke the arm.
Children often expressed this feature in drawings. For example, when they want to draw a car, they draw wheels, windows, doors, and other elements separate.
7. The absence of relational thinking
This feature means the difficulty to understand relational courts. At the preoperational stage, children don’t understand attributes as relational, but absolute. Thus, higher and lower is just high and low for them. So the saying Samantha is fatter than Emma, the children will realize that Samantha is fat and Emma is thin.
This can be explained by the children’s thinking about right and left, too. The younger children think that the right and left hands are just names for hands. On average, at the age of 6 years, they begin to understand left and right on their body. About 8 years of age, they understand left and right on the other person.
This is one more feature of children’s preoperational thinking. Children from 2 to 7 years old often think about natural phenomena through their ultimate purpose. For example, they think that the river flows to get into the sea or the sunset is to fall night.
9. Insensitivity to contradictions
At the preoperational stage, children often give statements that are mutually contradictory. So, a child will say that the stone sinks because it’s great, and the tree doesn’t sink because it’s large. The most common causes of this feature are oblivion, primitive understandings, and egocentrism at the same time. Simply, children make conclusions on what they see and don’t on what really is.
Above all, it’s not that kid’s preoperational thinking means less experience and knowledge in relation to adult’ thinking only. Their preoperational thinking is also quality different from adult’ thinking. Moreover, it is different in a different stage of cognitive development. We should know how and what average child think at a specific age if we want to raise the child properly. But, remember, every child is an individual for yourself. So, it’s most important to observe and listen to a child.