Child Psychology- Chapter 6: Development of Language and Symbol Use
Child Psychology- Chapter 6: Development of Language and Symbol Use PSY 335
Popular in Psychology of Childhood
Dr. Rasheed Bahringer
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Popular in Psychlogy
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Chapter 6 Development of Language and Symbol Use What is Language Not merely words 0 are systems for representing our thoughts feelings and knowledge and for communicating them to other people 0 Writing 0 Speaking 0 Signs 0 Gestures Our ability to use symbols expands our cognitive and communicative power It frees us from the present enabling us to learn from the generations of people who preceded us and to contemplate the future Complex system of rules for combining different kinds of elements sounds are combined to form words words are combined to form sentences and sentences are combined to form narratives through the use of the nite set of words in our vocabulary we can put together an in nite number of sentences and express an in nite number of ideas Learning Objectives 1 2 3 Know what makes a symbol a symbol Explain the components of language development phonological semantic syntactic and pragmatic development Explain what s necessary for language learning including both biological and social prerequisites and why only humans achieve full edgedlanguage Describe the development of speech perception from infancy through to the 1st year of life Language Development Language comprehension always precedes language production By the age 510 most kids are as good at using language as adults are Language use requires which refers to understanding what others say or sign or write and which refers to actually speaking or signing or writing Infants and young children s ability to understand precedes their ability to produce The Components of Language through the use of the nite set of words in our vocabulary we can put together an in nite number of sentences and express an in nite number of ideas Step 1 in language learning the acquisition of knowledge about the sound system of a language are the units of sound in speech The elementary units of meaningful sound used to produce languages 0 Example Rake and lake differ by only one phoneme but the 2 words have different meanings to English speakers Different languages employ different sets of phonemes The phonemes that distinguish meaning in any one language overlap with but also differ from those in other languages 0 For example the sounds r and III are a single phoneme in Japanese and don t carry different meanings Also combinations of sounds that are common in 1 language may never occur in others Step 2 the learning of the system for expressing meaning in a language including word learning are the smallest units of meaning in a language composed of 1 or more phonemes Morphemes alone or in combination constitute words 0 Example The word dog contains one morpheme But the word dogs contains 2 morphemes one designating a familiar furry entity dog and the second indicating the plural 5 Step 3 the learning of the syntax of a language rules in a language that specify how words from different categories nouns verbs adjective and so on can be combined 0 For example in English the orderin which words can appear in a sentence is crucial quotLila ate the lobsterquot doesn t mean the same thing as quotThe lobster ate Lilaquot Other languages indicate which noun did the eating and which noun was eaten by adding morphemes like suf xes to the nouns 0 Step 4 the acquisition of knowledge about how language is used 0 A full understanding of the interaction with the stranger would necessitate having some knowledge of the cultural rules and contextual variations for using language 0 Use factors like the context and the speaker s emotional tone to read between the lines and to learn how to hold a conversation o knowledge about language including its properties and how it s used What is Required for Language 0 The 2 things required for language is a human brain and a human environment A Human Brain 0 Language is a speciesspeci c behavior only humans acquire language in the normal course of development 0 It s also speciesuniversal language learning is achieved by typically developing infants across the globe 0 Animals don t naturally develop anything approaching the complexity or generativity of human language even though they can communicate with one another 0 Research with primates 0 Vicki A couple raised a chimpanzee in their home with their kids to see if Vicki would learn to speak Although Vicki learned to comprehend some words and phrases she produced no recognizable words 0 Washoe and Koko Washoe a chimpanzee and Kashoe a gorilla were able to communicate with their human trainers and caretakers using manual signs Washoe could label a variety of objects and could make requests But these skills didn t count as language because there was no syntactic structure 0 Kanzi and Panbanisha The most successful signlearning nonhuman is Kanzi a great ape of the bonobo species Kanzi was able to communicate via special keyboard with a number of symbols His vocabulary increased from 6 words to more than 350 He can now answer questions make requests and offer comments He s also sensitive to word order Rico a border collie knew more than 200 words and could learn and remember new words using the same kinds of processes that toddlers use Alex an African Grey parrot learned to use and understand basic English utterances although his skills remained at a toddler level The most basic linguistic achievements of nonhuman animals come only after a great deal of concentrated human effort but human kids master the rudiments of their language with little explicit teaching While the most advanced nonhuman communicators do combine symbols their utterances show limited evidence of syntactic structure a de ning feature of language Only the human brain acquires a communicative system with the complexity structure and generativity of language Brainlanguage relations Language processing involves a substantial degree of functional localization There are hemispheric differences in language functioning Language is primarily represented and controlled by the left hemisphere Lefthemisphere specialization emerges early in life lnfants use greater lefthemisphere activity when listening to speech but greater righthemisphere activity when listening nonspeech sounds But an exception to this occurs in the detection of pitch in speech which in infants as in adults tends to involve the right hemisphere ability to produce speech Full sentences are difficult so producing oneworded answers is easier speech comprehension Hard to form stuff that makes sense she knows smiling but she couldn t smile hard for her to comprehend Critical Period for Language Development the time during which language develops readily and after which sometime between age 5 and puberty language acquisition is more difficult and less successful There have been several reports of kids who barely develop language at all after being deprived of early linguistic experience 0 For example there was a girl named Genie who was discovered in appalling conditions in Los Angeles in 1970 Her parents kept her tied up and locked alone in a room from the age of 18 months until she was discovered at age 13 At the time of her rescue her development was stunted physically motorically and emotionally She could barely speak Adults who suffer brain damage are more likely to suffer permanent language impairment than are children Adults who learned a second language after puberty use different neural mechanisms to process that language than do adults who learned their second language from infancy Children are usually better language learners than adults This is because perceptual and memory limitations cause young kids to extract and store smaller chunks of the language than adults do Since the crucial building blocks of language tend to be small young learners limited cognitive abilities may facilitate the task of analyzing and learning language Bilingual Children and Adults is the ability to use 2 languages Increasing numbers of kids are developing bilingually Being bilingual improves aspects of cognitive functioning in childhood and beyond Bilingual infants can discriminate the speech sounds of their 2 languages at about the same pace that monolingual infants distinguish the sounds of their 1 language This might be because bilinguals attention to speech cues is heightened relative to that of monolinguals Bilingual kids are able to build 2 separate linguistic systems But when language mixing occurs it usually re ects a gap of knowledge in 1 language that the child is trying to ll in with the other Bilingual kids may appear to lag behind slightly in each of their languages because their vocabulary is distributed across 2 languages That is a bilingual kid may know how to express some concepts in 1 language but not the other The course and the rate of language development are similar for monolingual and bilingual kids Advantages of bilingualism Kids who are competent in 2 languages perform better within executive functioning and cognitive control than monolingual kids Bilingual kids show greater cognitive exibility in learning tasks There are some countries like the US that don t embrace bilingual education Kids in the US are communicated with and taught in English the goal being to help them become pro cient in English But another side recommends an approach that initially provides kids with instruction in basic subjects in their native language and gradually increases the amount of instruction provided in English Kids often fail to master basic subject matter when it s taught in a language they don t understand and when both languages are integrated in the classroom kids learn the 2nCI language more readily participate more actively and are less frustrated and bored This approach helps prevent situations where kids might become less pro cient in their original language as a result of being taught a 2nCI one in school A Human Environment Kids must also be exposed to other people using language Adequate experience hearing others talk is readily available in the environment of almost all kids around the world Most speech directed to infants occurs in the context of daily routines mealtimes diaper changes baths bedtimes and games Infants identify speech as something important early Newborns prefer listening to speech rather than to arti cial sounds Newborns prefer nonhuman primate vocalizations to nonspeech sounds and show no preference for speech over macaque vocalizations until 3 months of age These results suggest that infants auditory preferences are netuned through experience with human language during their earliest months Infantdirected speech In most cultures adults adopt a distinctive mode of speech when talking to babies and young kids and babies This is called One quality of IDS is the emotional tone It s suffused with affection Another characteristic is an exaggerated voice and facial expressions The voice is higher and slower There are extreme changes in intonation patterns with IDS Caregivers can use various pitch patterns of IDS to communicate important information to infants even when infants didn t know the meaning of the words uttered For example a word uttered with a sharp intonation indicates disapproval to the baby but a cooed warm sound indicates approval IDS aids infants language development It draws infants attention to speech itself IDS isn t universal In some cultures infants can t understand what s said to them there s no reason for caregivers to speak to them The Process of Language Acquisition Acquiring a language involves listening and speaking and requires both comprehending what other people communicate and producing intelligible speech Infants start out paying attention to what people say or sign Process of language acquisition 0 Speech perception Preparation for production First words Putting words together Conversational skills Later development OOOOO Speech Perception The 1st step in language learning is guring out the sounds of one s naUvelanguage This task begins in the womb as the fetuses have a preference for their mom s voice and the language they hear her speak The basis for this early learning is the characteristic rhythm tempo cadence melody and intonational patterns with which a languageisspoken Differences in prosody are responsible for why languages sound so different from one another Speech perception also involves distinguishing among the speech sounds that make a difference in a given language To learn English one must distinguish between bat and pat diland kill etc Categorical Perception of Speech Sounds is the perception of speech sounds as belonging to decrete categories is the length of time between when air passes through the lips and when the vocal cords start vibrating For example the VOT is shorter for b than for p The perception of continuum regarding b and p as 2 categories is a useful perceptual ability because it allows one to pay attention to sound differences that are meaningful in one s native language Infants draw the same sharp distinction between speech sounds In one study 1 and 4month olds sucked on a paci er hooked up to a computer The harder they sucked the more often they d hear repetitions of a single speech sound After hearing the same sound repeatedly they gradually sucked less habituation Then a new sound played If the sucking rate increased in response to the new sound the researchers inferred that the infants discriminated the new sound from the old one dishabituation The crucial factor in this study was the relation between the new and old sounds as in whether they were from the same or different phonemic categories For one group of infants the new sound was from a different category thus after habituation to a series of sounds that adults perceive as b sucking now produced a sound that adults identify asp For the 2nCI group the new sound was within the same category as the old one The new and old sounds differed equally in terms of VOT After habituating to b the infants increased their rate of sucking when the new sound came from a different phonemic category Habituation continued when the new sound was within the same category as the original one Researchers have thus concluded that perception of numerous speech sounds distinctions than adults do This phenomenon occurs because any given language uses only a subset of the large variety of phonemic categories that exist Adults don t perceive differences in speech sounds that aren t important in their native language but infants can This research reveals an ability that s innate in the sense that it is present at birth and experienceindependent because infants can discriminate between speech sounds they ve never heard before Being born able to distinguish speech sounds of any language is helpful to infants because they re able to learn any language around them The crucial role of early speech perception is re ected in a positive correlation between infants speechperception skills and their later language skills infants show categorical Infants also make more Developmental Changes in Speech Perception During the last months of their rst year infants increasingly home in on the speech sounds of their native languages and by 12 months of age they ve quotlostquot the ability to perceive the speech sounds that aren t part of it In other words their speech perception has become adultlike This perceptual narrowing is also occurs in ASL Thus perceptual narrowing isn t limited to speech Thus after about 8 months or so infants begin to specialize in their discrimination of speech sounds retaining their sensitivity to sounds in the native language they hear every day Word Segmentation Infants also discover words This is pretty hard because there aren t any spaces between them when talking is the process of discovering where words begin and end in uent speech an element of prosody is when the 1st syllable in twosyllable words is more likely to be stressed than the second syllable By 8 months of age Englishlearning infants expect stressed syllables to begin words and can use this information to pull words out of uentspeech the phenomenon that in any language certain sounds are more likely to appear together than are others Identifying regularities in speech sounds supports the learning of words lnfants as young as 4 12 months will listen longer to repetitions of their own name than to repetitions of a different but similar name Kids start out with the ability to make crucial distinctions among speech sounds but then narrow their focus to the sounds and sound patterns that make a difference in their native language Preparation for Production Language comprehension language production lnfants gain motor control over their vocalizations as they perform vocal gymnastics and make different sounds While their sound repertoire is expanding infants become more aware that their vocalizations elicit responses from others and begin to engage in dialogues of reciprocal oohing and aahing etc With improvement in their motor control of vocalization they imitate the sounds of their conversational partners Babeng Between 610 months babies begin to babble is the repetitive consonantvowel sequences quotpaquot quotbaquot quotmaquot or hand movements produced during the early phases of language development Native development exposure is a key component in the development ofbabeng Although deaf infants produce vocalizations similar to those of hearing babies until around 5 or 6 months of age their vocal babbling occurs very late and is quite limited But some deaf infants do quotbabblequot right on schedulethose who are regularly exposed to sign language They babble manually by producing repetitive hand movements As time progresses the babbling gradually takes on sounds rhythms and intonational patterns of the language the infants hear daily Early Interactions Before infants start speaking they display the beginnings of communicative competence the ability to communicate intentionally with another person The 1st indication of communicative competence is turntaking Learning to take turns is facilitated by parentinfant games like peekabo and quotgive and takequot In these dialogues the infant has the opportunity to alternate between an active and passive role These early interactions give infants practice in bidirectional communication providing infants with a scaffold to learn how to use language to converse with others When an adult labels an object for an infant just after the infant babbles the infants learning of the label is more greatly enhanced than when the labeling occurs in the absence of babbling These results suggest that babbling may serve as sign to the caregiver that the infant is attentive and ready to learn It s also practice for conversational turntaking Successful communication also requires intersubjectivity where 2 interacting partners share a mutual understanding The foundation of intersubjectivity is joint attention which is established by the parent s following the baby s lead looking at and commenting on whatever the infant is looking at Pointing will speci cally orient people to speci c information First Words When babies begin to segment words from their uent speech they re recognizing familiar patterns of sounds without attaching any meaning to them But then after a while they begin to recognize that words have meaning 5 months of age infants can pick out their own name out of background 78 months of age infants can recognize new words and remember them 0 Object babbu uses swimming The Problem of Reference Addressing the problem of reference is the 1st step for infants in acquiring the meanings of words in language and speech is the associating of words and meaning Figuring out which of the multitude of possible referents is the right one for a particular word is a complex issue If a kid hears someone say bunny in the presence of a rabbit how does the kid know whether this new word refers to the rabbit itself the tail or the whiskers Early Word Recognition lnfants begin to associate familiar words with their familiar referents early on Infants gradually understand the meaning of less frequently heard words with the pace of their vocabularybuilding varying from 1 child to another Infants understand more words than they can produce and more than their caregivers realize lnfants can understand what they re hearing Older infants can also use context to help them recognize words Older infants can also recognize familiar words even if they re mispronounced Early Word Production Most infants between 10 and 15 months of age begin to say some of the words they understand The words a child is able to say are referred to as the child s What counts as an infant s 1st word It can be any speci c utterance consistently used to refer to something or to express something Even with this loose criterion identi cation of an infant s earliest few words can be problematic But parents can still misconstrue their child s babbling as words For another early words may differ from their corresponding adult forms But for another parent early words may differ from their corresponding adult forms For example woof can refer to a dogboth to excitedly name the animal when it appeared in the neighbors yard and to wistfully request the dog s presence when it was absent Infants early word production is limited by their ability to pronounce words clearly enough that an adult can recognize them To make life easier for themselves infants adopt a variety of simpli cation strategies For example they leave out the difficult bits of words turning banana into quotnanaquot or they substitute easier sounds for hard tosay onesquotbubbaquot for brother quotwabbitquot for rabbit Sometimes infants rearrange parts of words to put an easier sound at the beginning of the word like quotpaskettiquot for spaghetti In the early productive vocabularies of kids learning English nouns predominate One reason may be that because nouns label entities whereas verbs represent correlations among entitiesthe meanings of nouns are easier to pick up from observation than are the meanings of verbs Also words that are easier to picture are easier for infants and toddlers to learn Also most middleclass American moms engage in a lot of objectlabeling for their kids as opposed to Japanese moms However Korean moms use more verbs than nouns the period when kids begin using the words in their small productive vocabulary one word at a time For example a child might say Drink to express the desire for a glass ofjuice What young infants want to talk about quickly outstrips the number of words in their limited vocabularies so they make the words they do know perform double duty One way they perform this is through overextension using a word in a broader context than is appropriate as when kids use dog for any 4 legged animal daddy for any man or hotfor any re ective metal Most overextensions represent an effort to communicate rather than a lack of knowledge Word Learning At around 18 months of age the learning rate appears to accelerate leading to what appears to be a quotvocabulary spurtquot Adults facilitate word learning by highlighting new words They use different methods to facilitate word learning the process of rapidly learning a new word simply from hearing the contrastive use of a familiar and the unfamiliar word For example a teacher presented 2 different color trays to a child One was red and the other one was an uncommon color the child wouldn t know by name The teacher then asked the child to point to the chromium tray not the red one The child was provided with a contrast between a familiar term red and an unfamiliar one chromium From this contrast the young participants inferred which tray they were supposed to get and that the name of the color of that tray was chromium After this exposure to a novel word almost half of the children showed some knowledge of it 1 week later by correctly picking out chromium 0 Mutual exclusivity is the assumption that only one label can be applied to each object in early word learning 0 The Wholeobject assumption in which kids expect a novel word to refer to a whole object rather than to a part property action or other aspect of the object are aspects of the social context used for word learning 0 Infants use adults gazes or focus of attention as a cue to word meaning 0 Another pragmatic cue that kids use to draw inferences about a word s meaning is intentionalty Another way young children can infer the meaning of novel words is by taking cues from the in which the words are used 0 A grammatical category is a property of items within the grammar of a language it has a number of possible values which are normally mutually exclusive within a given category Children s interpretation of novel words applied to objects is particularly guided by the objects shape A shape bias is also evident in young children s spontaneous extension of familiar words to novel objects that are vaguely similar familiar entities o Crosssectional word learning is the repeated correspondence between words the child hears and objects the child observes in the world Through this process infants can narrow down the possible meanings of new words 0 Syntactic bootstrapping is the strategy of using the grammatical structure of whole sentences to gure out meaning Infants and young children have an ability to learn new words as object names Under some circumstances they re able to learn nonlinguistic labels for objects Infants between 13 and 18 months of age map an experimenter s gestures or nonverbal sounds onto novel objects just as readily as they map words By 20 to 26 months of age infants only accept words as names lnfants learn early that phonemes are more likely to carry meaning than other types of sounds Putting Words Together Combining words into sentences lets children express complex ideas First Sentences Most kids begin to combine words into simple sentences by the end of their 2nCI year But young kids know something about word combination before they produce any the term describing children s 1st sentences that is generally twoword utterances Twoworded sentences lack function words like a the in etc auxiliary verbs is was Will be etc and word endings indicating plurals possessive or verb tenses These sentences follow a consistent word order Once kids are capable of producing 4word sentences usually at around 2 12 years of age they begin to produce complex sentences containing more than one clause Learning Grammar Human languages are generative through the use of the nite set of words and morphemes individuals can create an in nite number of sentences and express an in nite number of ideas Young children are able to recognize the different grammar formations and can generalize them to novel words speech errors in which kids treat irregular forms of words as if they were regular For example a child could say mans instead of men or goed instead of went Parents play a role in their children s grammatical development One way parents help with their child s grammatical development is by lling in missing parts of their child s incomplete utterances Parents generally ignore wildly ungrammatical mistakes Parents are more likely to correct factual errors compared to grammatical errors Conversational Skills Much of young children s speech is directed to themselves than to another person Private speech of young kids is an important regulatory function kids talk to themselves as a strategy to organize their actions Gradually privatized speech is internalized as thought and kids become capable of mentally organizing their behavior so they no longer need to talk out loud to themselves A is a conversation between kids that involves a series of non sequiturs the content of each child s turn having little or nothing to do with what the other child has just said For most 3 year olds their conversations include occasional brief references to past events But 5 year olds produce descriptions of past events that have the form of a story Something that makes longer more coherent narratives possible is better understanding of the basic structure of stories Parents assist their kids in developing the abilities to produce coherent accounts of past events by providing scaffolding An effective way to structure children s conversations about the past is to ask them elaborative questions ones that will advance the story A crucial aspect of becoming a good conversational partner is the pragmatic development that allows children to understand how language is used to communicate Such understanding is essential with utterances that require listeners to go beyond the words they re hearing to grasp their actual meaning like instances of rhetorical questioning sarcasm irony and the use of hyperbole or understatement to make a point As kids become more able to control their tendency to assume their own perspective it becomes easier for them to take the perspective of a conversational partner Kids also learn to use information other than words to interpret meaning Later Development From 5 or 6 years of age onwards kids continue to develop language skills but with less accomplishments One consequence of children s more re ective language skills is their increasing appreciation of the multiple meanings of words which is responsible for the emergence of many puns riddles and jokes with which they have fun with and bother their parents They also are able to learn the meaning of new words from hearing them de ned Theoretical Issues in Language Development The human brain falls on the side of nature while the human experience falls on the side of nurture Chomsky and the Nativist View In the 19505 B F Skinner wrote a book titled Verbal Behavior in which he presented a behaviorist theory of language development Behaviorists believed that development is a function of learning through reinforcement and punishment of overt behavior Skinner argued that parents teach kids to speak by means of the same kinds of reinforcement technique that are used to train animals to perform novel behaviors Noam Chomsky countered Skinner by discussing the reasons why language can t be learned through the processes of reinforcement and punishment One key reason is the fact that we can understand and produce sentences that we have never heard before generativity lf languagelearning proceeds by means of reinforcement and punishment how could we know that a sentence like quotColorless green ideas sleep furiouslyquot is a grammatical English sentence whereas quotGreen sleep colorless furiously ideasquot is not Similarly how could kids produce words they ve never heard before like wented or mouses The explanation of this must be that we know details about the structure of our native language that we haven t taughtfacts that are unobservable and thus impossible to reinforcecontrary to Skinner s proposal Chomsky proposed that humans are born with a a set of highly abstract unconscious rules that are common to all languages Chomsky believed that the underlying structures of the world s languages are fundamentally similar His nativist views also provide the explanation for why most kids learn language with rapidity while nonhumans don t Ongoing Debates in Language Development The ways in which various accounts handle these facts differ along 2 key dimensions The rst dimension is the degree to which these explanations lie within the child nature versus within the environment nurture The second dimension pertains to the child s contributions Did the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying language learning evolve solely to support language learning domainspeci c or are they used for learning many different kinds of things domaingeneral With respect to the rst dimension different theorists have said that there are universals in children s environments Parents all over should communicate about certain things with their kids and these things are likely to be re ected in the language that kids learn Accounts focused on social interaction maintain that everything about language development is in uenced by its communicative function These are interactionist views Kids are motivated to interact with others Kids slowly discover the underlying regularities in language and its use by paying attention to the multitude of clues available in the language they hear the social context and intentions of the speaker The sounds infants make when babbling and the rate at which they produce them can be in uenced by parental reinforcement With respect to the second dimension the cognitive abilities that support language development are speci c to language Modularity hypothesis is the idea that the human brain contains an innate selfcontained language module that is separate from other aspects of cognitive functioning Innate specialpurpose modules have been proposed to underlie a variety of functions like perception spatial skills and social understanding An alternative view suggests that the learning mechanisms underlying language development are general These language abilities aren t restricted to language learning ie musical notes shapes human actions cognitive function is a type of informationprocessing approach that emphasizes the simultaneous activity of numerous interconnected processing units There are computer simulations of various aspects of cognitive development including language acquisition The software learns from experience slowly strengthening certain connections among units in ways that mimic kids developmental progress Connectionist accounts have achieved success regarding modeling speci c aspects of language development Connectionism have been criticized regarding the features built into the models and how well the input provided to them matches the input received by real kids Non Linguistic Symbols and Development Humans have created other kinds of symbols to communicate with one another Mastering the symbol systems important in one s culture is a crucial developmental task for all kids Using Symbols as Information Symbols must provide vital information Dual representation is the artifact that must be represented mentally in 2 ways at the same time as a real object and as a symbol for something other than itself Very young kids have difficulty with dual representation If a kid believes the experimenter s claims about the shrinking machine then in the child s mind the model simply is the room Thus there s no symbolic relation between the 2 spaces and no need for dual representation Increasing ability to achieve dual representation enables kids to discover the abstract nature of various symbolic artifacts Drawing When young kids start making marks on paper their focus is mostly on the activity per se with no attempt to produce recognizable images At around 3 or 4 years of age most kids begin trying to draw pictures of something they try to produce representational art Exposure to representational symbols affects the age at which kids begin to produce them lnitially kids artistic impulses outstrip their motor and planning capabilities The most common subject for kids is the human gure Simplifying drawings To produce these simple shapes the kid must plan the drawing and must spatially coordinate the individual elements Eventually some kids become highly skilled at representing the relations among the multiple elements in their pictures