Using the new words she is learning, she labels her ideas with names. This allows her to plan more complex actions, combining two or more related ideas. At two and a half, for example, the child spies a favorite toy that is up too high to reach. She Calles out to mother, then points and says” want it” when mother arrives. The child has identifies a need, formed an idea of the solution to that need, combined the idea with her concept of mother, then put her ideas into words. She was, in short, used her mind to solve a problem. When the child tells you she is scared, happy or mad, she is summarizing all that she has felt and observed about those emotion. With experience, her understanding will be greatly refined, but by the simple act of applying the correct label to her feelings, she has acquired a powerful tool for organizing her emotional life.
The use of language is the most obvious way that a child reveals newfound conceptual abilities. But different children arrive at this stage with different tools as their disposal. Some children first show their use of ideas through fantasies and pretend play. Earlier, the child learned that you draw with a crayon and drink from the cup. Not she makes these objects part of her make believe games. Her toy bear sits with her in front of the coloring book and is allotted a share of the crayons. Later the child offers the bear a sip from her empty cup. She is showing the ability to use ideas. When the child lavishes care or affection on the toy animal, she has evidently abstracted her own need for care and formed an idea about love.