Monday, January 17, 2011

Does a Spoon Have a Taste?

These days I am spending time with a 22 month old a couple of days a week. My life as an editor and feature writing provides me with flexibility in my schedule to commit to spending a few hours a week nannying. It is a favorite part of my week.

Last week I presented spooning to Julia. I care for her in her home, so I use what I can find in the cupboards. After I gave her an initial presentation and just before she did the work herself, she did something that caused me to question the whys of her behavior. With the two bowls before her, one filled with dried kidney beans, she lifted the spoon, hesitated, looked at me with a questioning silent expression and then licked the empty spoon. When she was finished licking it, she looked at the spoon for a moment as if accessing her recently taken in data and then began her spooning work.

Is it a leap to abstraction for a toddler to understand that a spoon or other utensil is not the source of flavor? That the flavor solely comes from what is put on the spoon? So, if we accept that children are sensorial beings and that the act of tasting something is not simply to satisfy hunger but also used as a method of gathering information like temperature and texture, and if we accept that most of the time a spoon delivers data and content - food, why then dismiss or attempt to discourage a child from using their instinctual behavior which is based on prior knowledge? A child, a toddler, licks an empty spoon before using it to evaluate whether it is the spoon itself that always provides some type of taste or other sensorial data. Does a spoon have a taste? So - again my question - is it a leap for a child to understand an empty spoon has no flavor? Too, is it not also significant that a tool be used appropriately. If all of the child's prior experiences with a spoon is as its use to deliver food - is it then a leap to understand that it may also be used to transfer quantities - which is what spooning is - without first licking the spoon?

To me, this is also somewhat of a mathematical act - the coupling of a spoon with food - addition. Spoon + Food = Taste

Working with one child at a time is an enormous luxury - but I do get carried away with my Montessori minds loves that about me!


dawn-ie said...

I think your web site is fantastic. I would like to let you know that dried kidney beans are toxic and we are not to use them in my nursery.Before eating them dried ones must be soak for quite a few hours.
I Will comment more positivley in future but for now i will carry on reading! Dawn

Jennifer said...

Perhaps Julia was familiar with a spoon only as something to put in her mouth -- not as a "tool" for transferring things elsewhere? Just an idea for why she may have licked it. Also, for some people (like me), metal spoons *do* have a taste -- a bad one. Some days I find this so offensive, I have to eat from plastic utensils. So, Julia may truly have been tasting the spoon. Or she may simply have been putting it in her mouth as she may have put just about anything in her mouth. :) All ideas for whatever they're worth...