Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Spoons are wonderful things. Not only are they useful and functional as food transporters (and as drumsticks), but they are also useful and functional in extending one’s reach. They can be used to knock objects off of tables that were formerly out of reach! They can be used to explore objects on top of the countertop that cannot even be seen. Spoons can be used to poke behind the couch, knock books off the bookshelf, bang pots on the stovetop, and reach otherwise unreachable items on the kitchen table.

Ryan may not be short by any means in terms of the height of most children his age, but he seems to be extremely aware that the world was designed to be explored by someone much taller than he. Spoons, however, have minimized this problem. He has a long-handled plastic mixing spoon that he plays with in the kitchen, and until recently it served mainly as a drumstick – he used it to bang on pots, pans, the colander, the doors of the kitchen cabinets, and the shins of unwary passers-by. But then he discovered that he can use it to extend his reach and explore all kinds of formerly unreachable places.

The kitchen counter, for example. He can’t see what’s on top of the counter when he’s right next to it, and he can’t reach past the very edge of the counter with his bare hands. But give him his long-handled spoon and, like the tentacle of a curious octopus, he uses it to poke and prod and feel his way across the countertop, poking at a squishy loaf of bread, banging on the wooden side of the breadbox, clanging on the rim of the sink.

The kitchen table is also deliciously in reach with spoon in hand. When he’s strapped into his high chair next to the table, his reach is frustratingly short – he can barely touch the edge of the tabletop. But add a spoon into the equation and he can flap the leaves of the flower arrangement on the center of the table, knock down the collection of birthday cards like so many dominos, and make the salt and pepper shakers roll across the table and onto the floor with a satisfying clunk.

The music room is another place that’s especially satisfying to explore with a spoon. All those low piano notes that are just out of reach are back in play when you have a spoon. Strumming the guitar with a spoon is a new and exciting experience. And the tower of CDs next to the stereo that used to be just beyond his fingertips can all be knocked over with one swipe of the spoon.

Like most children in this day and age, Ryan has a large collection of playthings that are technological wonders. He has a play phone with keys that light up and play music and read the alphabet to him, he has a wheeled zebra that sings and makes animal noises at the touch of a button, he has a plastic car with an elephant sitting in it that trumpets and zooms across the room. And he loves all those toys, and plays with them for hours. But when it comes right down to it, sometimes he’s just as happy to amuse himself with an old plastic spoon.

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