A perception--action perspective on tool use development

Child Dev. 2000 Jan-Feb;71(1):137-44. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00127.


In this essay I argue for a new wave of research on tool use development. Advances in the literature on perception-action development hold important clues for how tool use unfolds in children. These advances suggest that tool use may be a more continuous developmental achievement than has been previously believed. On this view, tool use is rooted in the perception-action routines that infants employ to gain information about their environments. Although tools alter the properties of effector systems, children use tools to explore and change their environments, building on efforts that originate in infancy. Based on this approach, new research directions are suggested, including efforts designed to investigate the processes by which children detect and relate affordances between objects, coordinate spatial frames of reference, and incorporate early-appearing action patterns into instrumental behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*