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In the car after daycare, I asked my son what he’d done that day at “school”.

Z: Touch ice! Cold!
me: Oh, it was cold, not hot?
Z: Yes!
me: Was the ice smooth or bumpy?
Z: Bumpy.
me: Was it hard or soft?
Z: Soft.
me: Was it wet or dry?
Z: Hmm.. dry.
me: Was it white or black?
Z: Black
me: Was it green or purple?
Z: Green! hee hee hee.

Parents, knowingly or not, encourage qualitative observations from really early ages. Using the traditional five senses, little kids figure out a lot of things. They leave (sticky) handprints everywhere. They put everything in their mouths. They ask about noises and things through the window, and most will let you know if you smell funny.

But how much is parroting back things the parent says, how much is actually their answer/thought/opinion, and how much is choosing the best option from a multiple choice “test”? Clearly, my son knew that ice wasn’t green, and he picked a color because were the only choices I gave him. Is this science? Is it merely word play? He mostly responded with which ever word I used last.

And some of his word choices aren’t accurate. I wasn’t in the room, but I’m pretty sure the ice was not dry. Perhaps he didn’t notice that his hands were wet because they were (more immediately) cold. He’s only had 2.5 years on this planet, so I’m not worried about it. Instead, I try to think about how his choices might actually be correct in his mind: Ice does sort of squish away when you touch it, so it’s sorta soft. It might have broken into little pieces, so it could have been bumpy.

But I’m not convinced that any of it (or many similar conversations) are bad or unworthy of having this talk again and again. At minimum, it’s exposing him to more words, and more words means more brain activity. He’s also hearing (learning?) something about opposites, physical characteristics of objects, and assigning those characteristics to the object he’s touching. He’s also getting some memory recall practice and general social interaction with me.

Not so bad for a car-ride.

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