Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Reasoning Power of a Two Year Old

“Kde that??” (Where is that?)


“Kde circle?” (Where is the CD I was holding?)

“Dieťa. Uvažuj logicky. Kde si ho mala naposledy? Preberme to od začiatku.” (Child. Consider it logically. Where did you have it last? Let’s start at the beginning.)

She thought for a moment, then stiffened in realization and ran to the hallway straight to where she had stowed it in the storage compartment of her stroller.

This was about a year ago: K was 21 months old at the time. I was laughing at my husband for pulling out his uncle’s old “consider logically, retrace your steps” approach on a little child, but he (and his uncle) were right: even at less than 2 years old, K was capable of thinking and remembering more than I gave her credit for.

You’d think that would have taught me my lesson, but it didn’t. I still regularly underestimate my daughter’s abilities, as I imagine a lot of parents do. Especially now, at 2 ½, it is more effective to actually explain something than to just power through and weather the screaming. She has enough language and cognitive ability now to understand the why of something, if it is explained the right way.

For example, on one of our trips to Prague several months ago we gave K a new backpack to take on the plane for her things. She adored it and felt so important! When we got nearer to security, Apo and I started looking at each other uneasily: no way was she going to surrender that bag without a fight! I picked her up and showed her the scanners and the people in front of us. "Everyone has to put their bag on the belt," I explained. "I'll put my bag there, Apo will put his, and look, those ladies are putting their things there too." She looked thoughtful and nodded, and when it was our turn a few minutes later, she took off her backpack and placed it on the belt herself! I didn't think it would work, but it did. I don’t know why it took us so long to catch on before that! We were still in the mindset that she is a baby who won’t understand.

We are slowly moving into explanation and reasoning territory, which is terribly exciting for us parents. A few months ago, a trip to the zoo was like a big game of Spot the Animal. “There,” she pointed, and walked right on. If she didn’t see the animal, a tree or a rock was just as good. Now she can stop with us and watch the animals play, and we can explain what they are doing and why. Simple natural processes are starting to make sense to her: bees like to fly around the flowers, and sometimes they sting your finger. Birds hatch from eggs and like to fly in the sky. Red means stop, green means go. Simple things, but so exciting to discover for the first time!

K will sit still for a whole story now instead of wandering off in the middle (usually…). She is even starting to show she understands the stories by retelling them to herself while flipping through the book. She invents elaborate backstories for minor pictures in a book, like the boy on one page who is running to his mama because his finger is hurt because it got stung by a bee and his mama kisses it better and then the boy goes to play football.

I just love the thought processes caused by an active mind with a limited knowledge of the world. When K’s forehead is hot, she makes me blow on it, because that is what you do with hot things. Or earlier this week I wasn’t feeling well, so Apo and I both had to remind K several times not to jump/lean/sit on Mama’s tummy, because it hurt. She gave me a kiss on the mouth and on the stomach to make it feel better, and immediately asked, “Is it better?” I said it was. The next time Apo got onto K about jumping on me, she said indignantly, “No, it’s better! I kiss. [Turning to me, putting her hand on my arm, kissing me again] Is it better?” I had to admit that her reasoning was sound. “See?” she turned back to her father. “It’s good.”

Of course, she also tries to wear her doll’s clothes and today insisted that she had no pockets, only “vreckos” (vrecko is pocket, plus English plural), so I’m not signing her up for genius school yet. She just has the ordinary genius of all two year olds, and I love to watch it in action.


  1. Sounds just like Beli. I have also realized that talking to her and explaining goes much better than using the "because I said so". I love when I ask her a question and her reply is a simple, "uhmm".meaning ok. TO me that means she understands.

  2. Two year olds are fun, aren't they? Yours is gorgeous. :)

  3. A lovely, observant essay! I am so enjoying being the parent of a 2.5-year-old too.



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