Definition of Sensorimotor Stage of Development

The sensorimotor stage of development is a phase in Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory, which occurs from birth to around 2 years of age. During this stage, infants and toddlers primarily learn and develop through their senses (sensori-) and physical actions (-motor), gradually gaining a better understanding of the world around them.

Substages of Sensorimotor Stage

1. Reflexes (Birth to 1 month)

In the first substage, infants rely on inborn reflexes such as sucking, rooting, and grasping. These reflexes help them learn about their environment and initiate their interactions with caregivers.

2. Primary Circular Reactions (1 to 4 months)

During this substage, infants begin to repeat pleasurable actions that occur by chance, like sucking their thumb. They discover cause-and-effect relationships through their own actions and begin to understand that they have some control over the environment.

3. Secondary Circular Reactions (4 to 8 months)

At this point, infants become more interested in objects and people beyond their own bodies. They start to intentionally repeat actions to elicit a response or gain attention, such as shaking a rattle to hear the sound it makes.

4. Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions (8 to 12 months)

In this substage, infants begin to show goal-directed behavior and exhibit rudimentary problem-solving skills. They actively explore their surroundings and learn how to use different objects together to achieve a desired outcome, like pushing a chair to reach a toy on a table.

5. Tertiary Circular Reactions (12 to 18 months)

During this substage, toddlers start experimenting with trial-and-error methods to observe different outcomes. They explore new possibilities and engage in “little scientists” behaviors by conducting experiments to understand cause and effect relationships.

6. Mental Representations (18 to 24 months)

In the final substage, children develop the ability to form mental representations or internal mental images. They can use symbols, such as words or gestures, to represent objects or actions. This milestone marks the transition from the sensorimotor stage to the preoperational stage of cognitive development.