The topic of this study is to generate knowledge about children’s understandingof graphical symbols. These forms of knowledge are prevalent in contemporarysocieties, for example, in the form of letters, numbers, road signs, maps, andcomputer icons. More specifically, in this thesis is scrutinized in detail howchildren develop symbolic skills and how this can be supported througheducational activities. The theoretical basis of the study is variation theory(Marton & Tsui, 2004). This theory conceptualizes learning in terms ofdifferentiation and integration. Two empirical studies are reported. The first isabout two children, Olle and Lasse, who both are in the age span four to fiveyears. How these children handle graphical symbols in the form of producingsigns that they put up in their homes are followed over time. Hence, thechildren’s own make and use of symbols in their everyday life are studied. In thesecond empirical study, the findings from the first study and theoretical insightfrom variation theory are orchestrated in a preschool center with two teachersand twelve children, to see if these principles can be functional in supportingchildren’s development of symbolic understanding. Both studies are based onvideo data. The findings are that a particular pattern of variation entitled,‘contrast’ is functional in developing such insight, while another pattern ofvariation entitled, ‘induction’ is not. In addition, meta-communication is arguedto be important not only for the researcher to gain access to the child’sunderstanding but also to the child’s development as such. The theoreticaldistinction made by Vygotsky between ‘pseudo concepts’ and ‘concepts (proper)’is used to discuss the findings.