The Daily Life of the Mind
The 1-year-old toddler is a very different creature from the sitting infant of but a few months earlier. A toddler is poised to enter the cultural community in a way that the infant could not have done earlier. Mastery of the dynamic triadic frame of interaction means that toddlers are capable of joining a group engaged in some activity. At the outset he or she is, of course, only a marginal group member. The toddler can do little to further the interests of the group and serves mostly to distract others. If the toddler does not want to be constrained or punished in some way, he or she will have to learn to shape personal activities so that they at least parallel those of others and don't cross up any members of the group. His or her caregivers need to promote either this parallel style of action or find fragments of tasks that can be accomplished--or at least not ruined.
All these considerations--what toddlers will do, where they will go, what they will mess up--emerge as a function of their mastery of locomotion and triadic interaction. It is at this juncture in children's development that their caregivers must not make just persons out of them, but proper persons:--persons who fit an established set of standards of the local group. Toddlers must begin to take their places among the ranks of those around them who collectively obtain and use values and meanings.
Few societies expect toddlers to make noticeable contributions to the group's appropriation of resources, but all cultures expect toddlers to begin to appreciate that these activities are going on around them on a daily basis and to begin to acquire some of the skills involved in those daily tasks. Our society ("modern, Westernized" urban culture) is a conspicuous exception to this rule in not expecting toddlers to inhabit the fringes of our work sites ( Rogoff, 1990). Nor do we expect children as young as 3 years of age to begin to play a meaningful role in the family's economic life--something that has probably been the norm in virtually all other societies ( Morelli, Rogoff, Oppenheim, & Goldsmith, 1992; Rogoff et al., 1993).
Because cognitive psychology emerged within our Westernized urban culture, most students of cognitive development have assumed that learning is a correlative of teaching and that it occurs only in special places and at special times (e.g., in schools). The pre- school years are often thought to be just that--a period in which children begin to acquire certain basic abstract skills such as language, categorizing, and memory ( Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993). It is assumed that these aptitudes will be refined and given concrete application through some form of schooling.