How we need to keep growing up

Modern societies are very interested in tracking how children grow up. Twentieth-century psychology, beginning with the work of the Swiss clinician Jean Piaget, pioneered an approach to child development which meticulously identified and labelled every principal stage an average infant might go through on the developmental journey of its earliest years.

Thanks to this work, we now know that at six months, a child will be able to sit up on its own, pick up a small object (such as a raisin) using a thumb and forefinger and recognise its own image in a mirror, though it will most likely take another three months before it can drink from a cup on its own and understand simple requests. By two, it will start to say ‘I’ and ‘you’ and it will probably be able to put on a hat by itself. Around four, one can expect it to use sentences several words long and quite possibly invent an imaginary friend (an achievement that belongs to what Piaget called the Symbolic Function Substage). Between the ages of four and seven, children enter what Piaget termed the Intuitive Thought Substage, in which they begin to grasp abstract concepts but have difficulty holding on to distinctions, typically making mistakes around the use of ‘less than’ and ‘more than’...

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