How Children Understand Change: Reversibility, Transformation Thought & Static Thought

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Role of Play in Cognitive Development

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Cognitive Development
  • 0:59 Reversibility
  • 1:57 Static Reasoning
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Children think in very different ways than adults do. As they develop in early childhood, their reasoning about change also develops as they come to understand the world better. Watch this lesson for a closer look at how children think about change.

Cognitive Development

Fiona is a happy, healthy four-year-old. Every day, she's growing and changing. She used to be tiny, but now she's getting bigger all the time. In fact, her parents have to buy her new clothes often because she keeps growing out of them.

Growing and changing is a part of everyone's life. Children, in particular, develop quickly and dramatically. During early childhood, or the period of life between ages two and seven, a child almost seems to grow into a new person.

And it's not just physical. From the ages of two to seven, children make great strides in cognitive development, or growth in thinking skills. In particular, children begin to understand how things in the world change and grow, just as they do.

Let's look at two key ways that children look at change: understanding reversibility and the movement from static reasoning to transformative reasoning.


One of Fiona's favorite things to do is to count. She loves to count as high as she can. Since she's only four, that usually means that she counts to thirteen and then starts again at one. She can do that over and over, all day long!

One day, Fiona's mom (who was tired of hearing the same numbers in the same order over and over) told Fiona that she should count backwards. Fiona was confused. What could her mother mean? Counting went in one order, in one direction.

Reversibility is the idea that actions, thoughts, or things can be reversed. This is a key idea that develops in early childhood. To a two-year-old, things always happen in one direction. By the time she is seven, though, she understands that you can untie as well as tie a shoe or that you can count backwards from thirteen just as easily as you can count up from one.

Static Reasoning

Reversibility isn't the only change in thinking that Fiona and kids her age experience. Recently, she visited her grandmother's house. Her grandmother showed her a photo of a little girl who was about Fiona's age. 'That's your mommy,' said her grandmother.

Fiona couldn't believe it. Mommy is mommy; she's not a kid!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account