Active Experimentation/Pre-Symbolic

12-18 months

Children are now actively exploring their world and learning more about it through motor coordination, planning and experimentation. They discover ways to solve problems through trial and error and they start using their first true words.

Cognitive and Communication Milestones

  • Able to immediately imitate unfamiliar actions with unfamiliar objects, including words and intonation
  • Discovering new ways for problem solving new situations through trial and error
  • Object permanence becomes more advanced
    • Find a sequentially hidden object when it is revealed (e.g., the object is in view as it moves from one cloth to another)
    • Find object removed from a box
  • Beginning to understand that objects have functions (e.g., cup is used for drinking)
  • Initiate and respond to joint attention within simple "dialogs"
  • Follow simple commands
  • Respond to name
  • Identify familiar objects, body parts, people
  • Follow simple one step commands (get the ball, put the ball on the table)
  • First words emerging for: familiar objects (ball), people (mama), actions (go)
  • Make requests using gestures and/or words
  • Can inhibit certain behaviors and shift to new response sets, but impulsive behaviors reflect immature attentional system, distractibility, and undeveloped inhibitory control


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