How the Piaget Stages Affect Musical Development

The Piaget Stages are very important to know for anyone in the education field. Not being informed about childhood development may lead you to one of the two: introducing concepts too soon or holding back your student. The stages are different for everyone depending on the quality of teaching, enrichment and the age started. 

1. Sensorimotor - Exploration & Exposure (0-2 years) 

During the first stage of a child's life, they learn by using their senses to interact with their surroundings. Music at this age is simply just exposure and experience. Exposing them to different melodies, rhythms, cultures instruments and emotions. Children this young still have a strong attachment bond and are most responsive to their caregivers voice. Programs for this age such as music together  invite both the caregiver and child to participate. At this stage they are only subconsciously discovering what music sounds like and how it makes them move. It is very special because this is where you can see music in it's most natural, innate, human state. They use their sense of touch to understand what different instruments feel like and what the result is when interacting with it in different ways. This stage is all about curiosity and is for you to simply provide musical enrichment and to observe - NOT to reenforce any expectations, corrections or pressures. 

Activity Guidelines 

• Listening to music and dancing 

• using new instruments like sticks, bells, shakers, maraca's, tambourines, bongos etc. 

Concept Goals 

• Different things make different sounds 

• I can make music with my body 

• Music if fun and makes me feel happy 


2. Preoperational - Matching Experience to Words & Symbols (2 - 7 years) 

At this stage, children can understand symbols to represent concrete objects. You can begin introducing words and symbols to match the things they already have experienced. One thing that I have learnt this year is the format "prepare, present, practice". The intention is to allow them to experience the concept before you introduce it. For example if I was teaching a lesson on the quarter note, I would sing/say and clap a fun rhyme or song, have them create and interact and then present the word & symbol. Rather than, presenting the word and symbol first. 

Activity Guidelines 

• Rhymes and Folk songs 

• Choreographed Dances 

• Arranging physical objects to represent musical patterns 

• Listening to music and drawing 

• Echoing/repeating after you 

• Games 

• Simple workbook activities 

• Flash Cards 

• Guided creation 


• can identify rhythmic symbols 

• can identify basic dynamic symbols 

• Possibly beginning to sight read easy, short songs 

• Familiar with solfeggio 


3. Concrete Operational - Applying Concrete Concepts (7 - 11 years) 

The student can apply logic to concrete objects. This means they begin to make connections and can apply the all the concepts they have learnt so far at a more advanced level. 

Activity Guidelines 

• Listening Logs 

• Observing notations 

• Learning moderate 1 - 2 page songs 

• Worksheets 

• Games 

• Less guided creation 


• can perform rhythmically 

• can perform dynamics 

• can sight read simple short/medium length songs 


4. Formal Operational - Understanding With Out Representation (12 - Adulthood) 

At this stage people begin to understand abstract ideas with out concrete representation. For example love is an abstract concept that is described many ways but has no solid answer. People decide for themselves what love is. Music in a way, is like that. Music is not seen, the power to bring forth music into existence lies in the mind of the human and they decide for themselves what it is. A true musician can absorb every aspect to a song and knows how to create what they hear. I believe the end goal as a music teacher is not just to teach songs and skills. It is to train them in critical thinking, to encourage them to act on their inspiration, to give them a treasure chest of musical tools they can use for the rest of their life, to teach them the emotion, the heart beat behind it all, the beauty, the history, the expression - how those things already exist with in them, and finding them is all worth it. 

Activity Guidelines 

• Extensive Listening Logs 

• Learning challenging 4 - 8 page songs 

• Advanced/Abstract Composing 

• Genre Studies 

• Interesting projects 

• Sight reading drills 

• Advanced theory 


• Frequent Audiation 

• Creating 

• Predictive Instincts 

• Can Improvise 

• Confident performer 

• Connected to local music community

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