Thinking with toes and fingers

Four generations

four generations

What pleasure could be greater than spending time with four generations of family (see photo at left), as we did last weekend in Fort Worth? The twins, Caitlyn and Chloe provided all the entertainment one could want, far surpassing anything that might have been offered on TV or on some stage. They were in turn the most attentive audience, soaking in everything around them, including as you can see, Caitlyn exploring her own toes.

Chloe's fingers on the Mac keyboard

Chloe’s fingers on the Mac keyboard

We did venture on to YouTube to listen to some Raffi songs. This led to some “digital” explorations by the generation poised to supplant in not so many years the so-called digital natives of today. It’s not evident in this photo, but digital here includes toes as well as fingers.

The final photo shows Chloe studying the camera studying her.

Chloe, 7 mos.

Chloe, 7 mos.

For Chloe and Caitlyn, learning involves all the senses and all the body. They explore faces using their eyes, but also their noses and fingers. Things are as they look, but also as they smell and taste and feel.

Some people would claim that the girls don’t talk yet, but that’s only in the incredibly narrow sense of saying that they don’t speak standard English. Their world is actually suffused with communication; it’s a rich laboratory of experiments with sounds linked to ideas and feelings. They gently remind us that the adults among us who constrain their talk to formulaic utterances and language without feeling are the ones who don’t know how to talk.

It will not surprise some of you to hear that this reminds me of John Dewey, who says:

Upon this view, thinking, or knowledge-getting, is far from being the armchair thing it is often supposed to be. The reason it is not an armchair thing is that it is not an event going on exclusively within the cortex or the cortex and vocal organs. It involves the explorations by which relevant data are procured and the physical analyses by which they are refined and made precise; it comprises the readings by which information is got hold of, the words which are experimented with, and the calculations by which the significance of entertained conceptions or hypotheses is elaborated. Hands and feet, apparatus and appliances of all kinds are as much a part of it as changes in the brain. –pp. 13-14, John Dewey, Essays in experimental logic


Dewey, John (1916). Introduction to Essays in experimental logic (pp. 1-74). Chicago: University of Chicago.

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