For more than 45 years, parents around the world have entrusted Gymboree Play & Music to support several areas of early development in children ages zero to five. Although we are known for our play-based classes, our value proposition goes far beyond “play” allowing families to present children with unique opportunities to cultivate deep personal knowledge, solve problems and develop real-world skillsets. Our decision as a brand to support learning around the ways children think, explore their environments and ultimately figure things out, sets us apart from other children’s educational companies.
At our core, we believe children must be agents in their own learning. This belief was shared with Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, whose theory around cognitive development underpins the trends we see in current-day approaches to childhood education. Essentially, his work highlights the ways in which children acquire knowledge, and how their intelligence evolves over time. Piaget’s theory states that cognitive development occurs in four stages which are:
Sensorimotor stage: birth to 18-24 months
Preoperational stage: 2 to 7 years
Concrete Operational stage: 7 to 11 years
Formal Operational stage: ages 12 and up
The Sensorimotor phase extends from birth to approximately 2 years. This period of rapid cognitive growth in babies is where they develop an understanding of the world through their senses (seeing, hearing) along with their motor actions (reaching, touching). During the sensorimotor stage, babies learn two things. Firstly, they learn that objects exist, and secondarily, they learn that motion or events can occur in their immediate space, independent of their actions, or object permanence.
Although his theory states that all children go through the stages in the same order, their individual development is ultimately determined by biological maturation and interaction with their specific environment. And since each child’s development is qualitatively different from the other stages, each stage involves a different type of intelligence based on what they are independently exposed to.
In our Babies, Crawlers, and Walkers classes, children interact with tactile balls, mirrors, scarves, and bubbles. They play with instruments, hear lullabies, music and hear their parents singing. The rhymes, chants, and routines presented in our classes also support language development, memory, and communication skills. By exposing your child to our play-based learning environment from an early age, you support their maturation in this phase of cognitive development.
The next phase is the Preoperational stage which begins around age two and lasts until approximately age seven. During this development, children are thinking at a symbolic level, and they are not yet using cognitive operations. A good way to remember this stage is pre (before) operations, essentially meaning the period of time before children can use logic or transform, combine, or separate ideas.
Another characteristic of this stage is that children also become increasingly adept at understanding symbolism which becomes more obvious to parents who can observe children playing out scenarios through pretend play. This is where role-playing also becomes more important and children start to mimic roles like mommy, daddy, astronaut, pilot, or teacher.
Our Explorers, Play Lab, and Family Play are ideal for this stage of development. Each of these classes challenges young minds to imagine outcomes and play through scenarios. Play Lab in particular, which encourages STEAM-based learning, introduces engineering and experimentation which provide children with the tools for creative problem-solving.
After the Preoperational stage, is the Concrete Operational stage. This developmental period starts around seven to eleven years of age. It is characterized by the development of organized and rational thinking. We’d like to point out here that although our classes are only available to children up to 5 years old, consistent involvement in classes like ours can set children up to make the most out of this phase of learning.
Piaget actually considered this stage as a pivotal turning point in a child’s cognitive development, marking the beginning of logical or operational thought. By now, it is believed that children are now mature enough to use logical thought or operations (like rules for example) but can only apply logic to physical objects.
And lastly, is the Formal operational stage where adolescents gain the ability to think in an abstract manner by manipulating ideas in their head, without any dependence on concrete manipulation. This is just a fancy way of saying that children can start to do more difficult mathematical calculations, think creatively, use abstract reasoning, and even imagine the outcome of particular circumstances.
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