Making Connections

When my son Philip was two years old, he specialized in carrying bags of stuff around in an old canvas bag. Sometimes it was filled with stuff he brought from home; sometimes he filled it with stuff he found in new places.

A closer look revealed that Philip liked to sort the stuff he was carrying. Sometimes he made piles of things that were the same or similar—one pile of children’s books and another one of toy animals. Sorting by sameness meant that he was also sorting by things that were different from each other—blocks were different from the toy animals. And Philip was also sorting by how things are connected with each—a big toy clown was the daddy clown and the small toy clown was the baby clown.  Little did I know it at the time, but this was the emergence of the skill of Making Connections.

Judy DeLoache of the University of Virginia has created a very clever experiment to study the emergence of Making Connections, specifically how children learn that one thing “stands for” or represents something else.

If you think about it, much of our knowledge as adults is based on symbolic representations and the skill emerges early. Learning that a photograph of the family dog represents the real dog is the first step in learning that the squiggles on a page (writing) stands for words and that the words stand for objects or concepts.  In the video, Judy DeLoache argues that there’s nothing more important for the development of children than to learn about how symbols represent other things or ideas.


Think about the last “aha” moment you had. Chances are that it involved seeing connections. Or think about a time when you were very creative. Chances are that it involved seeing usual connections. Making connections is a skill that we can develop and use throughout our lives.


I have shared my story about Philip and his early experiences in making connections. Please watch the video and then share your stories of how you have promoted this skill in your children. You can leave a comment below, or if you want us to post your story as a blog post, email us a story ( and include photos if you like! The stories that parents have been sharing on are very popular and they help us all learn.


Photo/image by: wakingphotolife / Flickr