Each stage of development requires that certain tasks are mastered. Piaget, a psychologist and father, observed his own children and identified the following milestones to be achieved in the baby years:
- Through the first two years in a baby’s life it is important to integrate perception and action. Babies learn how to use visual, auditive and tactile inputs to direct their grabbing and walking.
- During this period the baby starts to form the concept of object permanence. This refers to the fact that the child will keep on looking for a toy even if they cannot see it anymore.
- Children learn to imitate and copy others. This means that a child develops symbolic thought.
Piaget divided the first two years into 6 stages:
- Stage 1: The use of reflexes: This period is from birth to one month. Babies respond automatically to people, events and objects in their environment through crying, suckling or grabbing.
- Stage 2: Month 1 to 4: During this stage the infants learns how to use his inborn reflexes on the basis of experience. Reflexes turns into learned habits. The baby is primarly focused on his own body, but have the ability to when he accidentally discovers an action, to deliberately repeat it.The child starts to react to external stimuli and will turn his head in the direction of a sound. The baby starts to realize there are objects outside of himself.At this stage there is no sense of object permanence, if he cannot see a toy the toy does not exist anymore.
- Stage 3: Month 4 to 8: At this stage the baby starts incorporating external objects into his behaviour. If he drops his rattle and hear the sound, he will repeat the action by picking up the rattle and dropping it again.Object permanence develops to the level where he is able to recognize the object even if only part of it is revealed. If the toy is dropped he will look in the direction of where it fell and if his play with the toy is interrupted, he will return his attention to the toy again.The baby now starts imitating behaviours from others. These behaviours are however limited to his own observable body parts and actions that he has mastered before. He will not be able to imitate his mother’s facial expression, because he cannot see his own face.
- Stage 4: Month 8 to 12: The child now develops the skill to execute goal oriented behaviour. If for instance there is a bottle between him and his toy, he would be able to push the bottle out of the way and grab the toy. He combined two actions in order to achieve his goal.Object permanence developed to such an extent that he will search for an object that he cannot see. He wil go and search first in the place that he is used to retrieve it, even if he saw someone else placing it in a different spot. This is because he was not responsible for that action, and remembers his previous action.At this stage imitation has developed to the point where he is able to imitate actions like facial gestures.
- Stage 5: Month 12 to 18: This is a stage of discovery and experimentation. The child is able to walk and therefore comes into contact with a wider world. He is able to vary certain actions in order to observe different results. He will for instance drop a ball from different heights to see how the ball’s bounce is affected. Through this he learns that different objects have different qualities and properties.Regarding object permanence, a child is now able to search for a toy in the place he has seen it being moved to. The child is able now to imitate behaviours that does not form part of his own behaviour repertoire. The model has to be present in order for him to imitate behaviour.
- Stage 6: Month 18 to 24: Children start to develop complex solutions to problems through combining different actions that has been mastered in other contexts, to this particular problem. They master symbolic representation.They are now also able to copy or imitate behaviour that they have seen previously. This can be in the absence of the person they are imitating.
The period from birth to toddlerhood, shows immense development – from a child that can only use reflexes to interact, to a child that can solve problems on a concrete level.