Sunday, September 21, 2003

The Mind of a Child

My son David, age 5, brought me his latest book tonight. He likes to "write" "books". We take 8 or 10 sheets of paper and staple them to create the book. He cannot write, but he illustrates each page and then tells me the story. In some books I write down what he says. In other books, we let the pictures stand alone.

The book he brought tonight had a new feature -- a title page. I've never seen him create his own title page. Here is what it looks like:

I asked him the obvious question, "What is the title?" He carefully pointed out each "word" in the third a fourth lines, "The title is, 'How My Drill And Dominoes Beat the Best World Record.'" I know that makes no sense to you, but I won't even begin to explain what it means because it would take ten minutes. In the world David and I share, though, it makes sense. If you've ever had a five-year-old, you know what I am talking about.

Pointing to the first two lines I then asked the second obvious question, "What happened up here?" His answer: "I messed that all up. It doesn't say the right thing." To which the only possible response is, "Oh."

The thing about kids is that they are absolutely amazing. Even at age 1, even before they can talk, they are their own people. They have their own goals, their own desires, their own mental frameworks that they construct, then tear down and rebuild as they learn. With each of my children I can remember little scenes from their development as conscious beings. For example, with Johny (age 17 months now), there was a sunny day and we were out playing in the driveway. He took my finger and pulled me over to the tailgate of the van. He said, "Da!" pointing at the tailgate. "Da?" I asked. "Da!" I opened the tailgate, since that was the only obvious thing that "Da" could mean. He pointed at his sippy cup on the floor of the van and said "Da!" I handed him his sippy cup. He drank. He handed it back to me. He went back to playing. Think about everything happening in that little scene - needs assessment, goal formation, tool use, memory, planning, implementation, language, communication, trust... Kids just blown me away.

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