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How do young infants experience the world around them? How similar or different are infants’ experiences from adults’ experiences of similar situations? How do infants progress from relatively sparse knowledge and expectations early in life to much more elaborate knowledge and expectations even just several months later?
We know that very early in life (before 4 to 5 months of age), much of infants’ learning is visually-based. As they develop the ability to reach for objects independently, they can explore objects that are of particular interest to them—a new skill that must be important for their learning. Through this transition to independent reaching and exploration, infants go a long way toward forming their own understandings of the objects around them. Towards the end of the first year of life, infants begin manipulating one object relative to another and this skill sets the stage for infants to begin using objects instrumentally: using one object to create changes in other objects. This new ability opens up many opportunities for infants to learn about using tools.
In this book, research investigating infants’ learning about objects is described. Early in the book, basic aspects of how infants’ visual exploration of objects allows them to create new knowledge about objects and object categories is explained. Later in the book, infants’ visual and manual learning about hand-held tools and how these tools can be used to achieve goals is described. Woven throughout the book is a focus on active learning and development, which results in infants making important contributions to their own learning about objects.