Tonight is the school picnic!
Stella: You mean it's tomorrow now?
Stella: Oh! So that means that M is going to be at school!
Yes she is!
Stella: Every single tomorrow M is going to be in my class. But not every single today!
What's a 4 year old to do with concepts contained in words like today and tomorrow? How is Stella supposed to make sense of the fact that her dear friend, M, was not in school on the first day she arrived this year? Clearly, she will work at it until she has a theory that can suffice to explain it all.
Isn't this just what we all do-- no matter how old we are?
I am reading Alison Gopnik's beautiful book, The Philosophical Baby right now. Devouring it is more apt. In it, she ties childhood and adulthood together. She argues the importance of childhood to adulthood, but also the parallels of process and reason. For example, children create wild pretend scenarios using elements of everything and anything they have discovered and encountered so that they can make sense of it, mix it up, and understand it even more. Adults create and consume fiction for the same reasons. How many of us have developed an understanding of some element of the human condition with more depth and empathy through fiction than through any other means? The differences between childhood and adulthood amount to experience, responsibility, and perceptions of reality.
Our young selves get to freely explore both this world, and all the possible...worlds, without worrying about which of those worlds will actually turn out to be inhabitable. We adults are the ones who have to figure out whether we want to move into one of those possible worlds, and how to drag all our furniture in there too.
So what kind of elements of possiblity do we want to provide children with, so they have as much practice as possible with developing worlds before furniture begins to accumulate and need storage space?