November 09, 2006

Time and space make no sense

Posted by Xun  |  1 comment

Time and space do not make sense for little children, at least not for Emma. What is Monday, Tuesday or any other weekdays? It only takes meaning in the song "Monday string beans, Tuesday Roast beef ..."

She is so young she does not have a clue about the passing of months or years. Well, change of seasons is different, because in fall she gets to crunch or collect beautiful leaves and in winter she can go out to make a snow baby. Still, only the present occupies her. She forgets spring when it is summer and forgets winter when it's fall. And the concepts of four seasons are still very much muddled in her head. (She is a little muddle-headed. She juggles imaginary and real things. E.g., she had a little scratch in her arm. Asked her how, she said "a ladybug bit her")

What is yesterday? Yesterday is anything in the past. Emma uses the word "yesterday" frequently. She tells me that so-and-so gave her a high-five yesterday, while actually it happened half a year ago (we went to see a clown perform tricks, after he was done, he surveyed and walked around the audience, and he gave Emma a high-five). She would say "mommy bought me mittens and hats yesterday", but in fact I bought those in the morning. She does have a firm grasp of the concept "now". She would demand, I want to go out NOW. I want the cookies NOW.

What is space? Who knows? What is Chicago or China (the two places we sometimes mentioned to her)? She is totally clueless. She would say, Mommy, let's buy a donut in Chicago; Chicago is in China, or China is in Chicago; we will drive airplanes to China, we'll go home in China, etc., etc.

I wonder what a children's educator or psychologist like Jean Piaget would say about this kind of "little girl talk". But it is as interesting as "a typical Piaget dialogue".

Piaget: What makes the wind?
Julia: The trees.

P: How do you know?

J: I saw them waving their arms.

P: How does that make the wind?

J (waving her hand in front of his face): Like this. Only they are bigger. And there are lots of trees.

P: What makes the wind on the ocean?

J: It blows there from the land. No. It's the waves...

From thousands of such dialogues and interactions with young people, Piaget concluded that behind children's "cute and seemingly illogical utterances were thought processes that had their own kind of order and their own special logic." (Times)

That is why he is so great.

But I, even though I possess the basic adults logic and knowledge, I know Mondays and Tuesdays, I am clueless, probably more clueless than Emma, about the inner working of her brain, I have no idea about her logic and thinking. And I have long stopped growing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
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JGS said...

My Okapis are always saying, "A yong, yong time ago" which could've been last year or yesterday. I never really thought about how complicated time really is yet how pervasive it is in our lives. "Thursday is Thanksgiving." Well, when is Thursday. How often does Thanksgiving happen? How long does it last? It is phenomenal to watch how they try to process and internalize what they know about time. I just wish I could come up with a better way to help them undestand.

I have a hard time believing you've stopped growing. Maybe in height, but not your mind.

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