Telling Time and Conceptual Competence

For the past year or so, Nico’s expressive discussions of time have been emerging. He’ll be in the bath, I’ll ask him he’s done, and he’ll say no. “Two minutes,” I say. “Two minutes,” he repeats. If he wants more and I say, “10 minutes” he might say “15 minutes,” and we negotiate. In general, his grasp of numbers is clear.

He also likes digital clocks. He likes watching the numbers move. He likes countdowns on timers.

What wasn’t clear to me is whether he associated the passage of time on a clock to the “minutes” we discuss so often. I presumed he did. We always try to presume competence. But presumption is different than knowing.

Yesterday, I gave him his iPad right at 7. We leave at 7:30. I said, “20 minutes.” He pointed at the clock over the stove, said, “30 minutes,” and pointed again. I laughed and told him “30 minutes.

I love not only the demonstration of conceptual mastery, but that he deployed in resistance to my arbitrary exercise of authority. He got his 30 minutes.

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