Watching my son explore a starfish we found on the beach made me start thinking about a childs innate ability to learn and how their environment supports learning. Observing my nine month old carefully examine and attempt to eat the starfish, inspired me to write this random post about generalization (no starfish or babies were harmed during this adventure).

Generalization occurs when we use a learned skill in different settings. When children take something they know and apply it in various environments they learn, expand their cognitive abilities, boost their language skills, improve their flexibility, and increase their independence. Therefore, offering lots of opportunities for generalization is very beneficial to your child.

Some examples of generalization include:

  • knowing a zipper can zip a backpack, coat, or pants
  • buttons button shirts, pants, or coats
  • a toddler thinking a shoe dog toy can be worn on his/her foot
  • a baby calling anything that is round and rolls a ball
  • a baby splashing water in the tub, pool, dog bowl, or toilet-water splashes and is really fun!
  • bubbles in the bathtub and blowing bubbles-they are cool and they pop
  • relating a boat bath toy with boats on the water
  • toy cars have wheels and go, real cars too
  • the beach in Adam Gamble’s book Goodnight Beach is like the real beach

Children generalize concepts, ideas, and things. Fisher is beginning to generalize the concept of “no.” When he hears us say “no,” he stopsย  and looks and then continues doing what he’s not supposed to! We all generalize or relate new information to what we already know to allow us to make choices and decisions. Children just do it in an innocent, immature fashion. Children need repeated exposure to the same activity or concept to encourage generalization. It’s also important to reinforce the desired behavior when your child demonstrates it.

Reading with your baby is a great way to encourage generalization. Books offer fun pictures and print that baby generalizes outside of reading. Eric Carle’s book The Very Busy Spider is great for generalization of animals and animal sounds. Karen Katz’s book Where is Baby’s Belly Button? is great for body part generalization. Pretty much all picture books are excellent to encourage it. For example, pointing out a ball, balloon or flower in a book and then showing it to baby in other settings allows baby to generalize not only the object but the name and verbal production of the object. You are likely encouraging generalization without even realizing it. The more you talk to baby, demonstrate and show, the more opportunities for generalization and learning! While babies are naturally driven to learn, we can support and expand their skills by providing rich learning environments. So go and maximize your baby’s brainpower!

Hope everyone has a good weekend! Would love to know how you encourage generalization, do share!



My son is getting a pretty good grip on stars…. generalizationย at its finest! ๐Ÿ’™

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