“What’s that?” is almost two-year-old Grayson’s favorite sentence. He’s in that precarious place of trying to pinpoint what makes something different and how items are related. I cannot remember this phase myself, but I’d imagine (based on his behavior) that this is a fairly exciting and frustrating time in his life.
The process of defining the world fulfills a basic human need and way of thinking: to categorize. While classifying what something is or is not helps individuals to develop a sense of understanding, it can also lead to simple and incorrect conclusions about nearly anything. (In fact, some researchers believe that the fundamental source of prejudice is not an ideology, but rather our need to categorize.)
It has taken me a long time (probably too long) to shake the comfort of knowing that resides in dichotomies and appreciate the complicated nature of our everyday lives. And because of this all (albeit at the risk of confusing my child), I intentionally create situations that require thinking. Hence the “What’s that?” Plus, it’s far more interesting to be uncertain.
This past weekend, our purple carrots wanted in on the “thinking” action. Their tall green tops reached to the sky, seeming almost as if they were willingly volunteering to be ripped out of their soft, soil bed by a merciless toddler.
For Grayson, this dig was like searching for buried treasure—except, he was actually making quite a killing. Pulling up lush tops, brushing off the soil, and throwing the carrots into the bucket appeared to be a task that was right up his alley. After nearly every successful extraction, he’d ask, “What’s that?”
I’d respond, “It’s a carrot.”
I filled a Tubtrug of water, which we used to rinse off the carrots and then dry them. Then I brought out a basket filled with similar, yet somewhat different carrot-ish objects—certainly not like the ones from our garden. And some of them, you couldn’t even eat.
Grayson didn’t quite know what to make of this. He did know that he wanted to go through the basket. I added some of the carrots that we dug up to the basket. As he explored its contents, he’d ask, “What’s that?”
I’d respond, “It’s a carrot.”
He began sorting to his particular liking; color, size, and texture were all factors that he weighed into consideration when determining the appropriate pile. I started questioning him, adding adjectives to aid in his sorting process.
While there wasn’t a clear “ah-ha” moment, it was evident (by his growing, not-as-particular pile) that Grayson’s definition of what a carrot was no longer rested just on the purple carrot from the garden.
About our Guest Blogger; Nichole Rothaupt is mom, wife, writer, and seasoned, nonprofit professional with expertise in communications, ecommerce, and management. Learn more about what she’s up to by checking out her LinkedIn and the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging – an organization that provides the support and guidance that inspires individuals to embrace aging with confidence.