Do young children use objects as symbols?

The article “Do young children use objects as symbols?” by Tomasello et al. (1999) discusses researchers assessment of  18-35 month old children’s symbolic skills without scaffolding by adult symbolic action models or verbal verbal scripts. In their studies, researchers sought to determine if children are as proficient with symbols as naturalistic observation of gesture and object play as previous research suggest. In addition, they questioned if children are as bad with gestural and object based symbols as alluded to by literature. To answer these questions the authors of the article developed two studies. In the first study three comprehension tasks were performed with gestures instead of objects. In the second study a three-phase production task was used by initially leaving a child to their own devices and then were given action models and verbal scripts that allowed for creative action. Through their studies researchers were able to conclude that children under two years old have symbolic skills with gestures but not with objects. In addition, at 26 months children have the ability to use an object as a symbol for another object. However, they had trouble when the given symbol had another conventional use.

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