Friday, April 20, 2012

A Is Like B

I love seeing my son make connections between things. It amazes me how all of a sudden he figures out how something works, or the pattern that its shape makes, or how it relates to something else. Just this morning, he made a bunch of observations that something was like something else. He was bringing his folding stepstool over to the counter and he looked through the open square at the top and said with delight, “Hey! This looks like a window!” Then as the two of us sat at the kitchen table eating our breakfast, he told me, “This is just like a restaurant!” And then he noticed a bouquet of flowers in a vase on the table and announced, “Those flowers look like an umbrella.” When you think about those observations, they’re pretty profound for a 2-1/2 year old mind.

Think about it: a window is made of glass, has panes in it, and is usually in the middle of a wall. But he was able to grasp the main points of it: it’s square and you can look through it. Therefore, even though his ladder had no glass, no panes, and no surrounding wall, he still could see that it had a big square hole that he could look through, which made it like a window. A restaurant is a place you go to that has a lot of people and tables where someone brings you your food. But it’s also a place where you sit at the table with your family to eat. So even with no waitress, no menus, no strangers at other tables, and no drive to get there, he recognized the commonalities. But the bouquet/umbrella connection was the most impressive to me. After all, an umbrella is made of fabric, it has a skinny handle, it’s used outdoors, and it’s nearly always being carried by someone. But it’s also wider and flared at the top, over a narrower base, so the vase of flowers, despite being indoors and sitting on a table, certainly fit that general shape description. What an abstract connection for a small mind to make!

I swear, I can practically see his brain forging new synapses. Every day – every hour, practically – he says or does something to show that he’s just learned a new relationship between objects, or he’s figured out how two objects can be used for the same purpose, or he understands what a word means in a different context than he’s ever heard it before. If I learned things as quickly as he’s learning them right now, I’d be smarter than Einstein by next Tuesday. The human brain is an amazing thing in any context, but in the developmental stage of the first few years of life, it’s absolutely – well, mind blowing.

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