Do young children use objects as symbols?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Much of young children's symbolic play is heavily scaffolded by adult symbolic action models, which children may imitate, and by adult verbal scripts. The current studies attempted to evaluate 18-35-month-old children's symbolic skills in the absence of such scaffolding. In a study of symbol comprehension, children were tested for their ability to comprehend an adult's use of either a replica object or an associated gesture to communicate which object in an array she wanted. In a study of symbol production, children were given some objects that afforded symbolic manipulations, but without adult symbolic action models or verbal scripts. The results of the two studies converged to suggest that children below 2 years of age have symbolic skills with gestures, but not with objects. It was also found that while children at 26 months were able to use an object as a symbol for another object, they had difficulties when the symbol had another conventional use (e.g. a drinking cup used as a hat). The findings are discussed in terms of DeLoache's dual representation model, and a modification of that model is proposed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tomasello, M; Striano, T; Rochat, P

Published Date

  • November 1, 1999

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 563 - 584

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0261-510X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1348/026151099165483

Citation Source

  • Scopus