Several childhood development theories have shaped the field of psychology and education. Piaget’s cognitive development theory is certainly one of the best known. According to the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), a child develops through four successive stages from birth to 16 years of age.
The stages of Piaget’s cognitive development theory
The first of these, the sensorimotor stage (from birth to about 2 years old) is marked by the development of the child’s sensory and motor skills. The second, the preoperational stage (from ages 2 to 7), sees the child become capable of thinking in symbolic terms, through the development of language, in particular. During the third stage, the concrete operational stage (from ages 7 to 11), the child begins to conceptualize, create logical reasoning, and use operations such as classifying and ordering. In the fourth stage, the formal operational stage (from ages 11 to 16), the child develops reasoning on abstract concepts. Thus, from ages 2 to 7, children learn to represent things based on words or symbols: they draw what’s around them, a piece of fabric becomes a cape, a carton is transformed into a pirate ship, and more.
This symbolism applies to all senses, including hearing. Symbolism is a very important aspect of music. For example, a composer could use the orchestra’s intensity to create a loud volume level to represent the outbreak of a storm. Several parameters of musical language call on the imagination and evoke a reality built in our minds.
Activities for the preoperational stage
In the Music section of our website, you’ll find pieces representing animals, such as The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns, Les abeilles piquantes (Stinging Bees) by André Mathieu or White Squirrel by Julie Spencer. Listen to a piece with your children, telling them what the piece is supposed to represent (e.g. a bee). Ask them why the music makes them think of this animal (e.g. fast rhythm, high-pitched sounds) and what it does during the different parts of the piece (e.g. flying, stinging).
To explore further, you can also have your children listen to a musical excerpt and ask them to tell you the story of the music. They will surely surprise you by creating a fantastic tale full of twists and turns! This musical activity is adapted to Piaget’s preoperational stage: by awakening children to listen to musical characteristics and associating them with characters, it will stimulate your children’s symbolic thinking.
Are you curious? Do you want to help your child benefit from the positive aspects of music? Try the Mazaam app free of charge and discover the benefits of the basics of music right away.
Piaget, J. (1964). Part I: Cognitive development in children: Piaget development and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 2 (3), 176–186. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.3660020306.
You’re curious and you want to help children benefit from the positive aspects of music? Mazaam offers two solutions: