We went for a hike in the woods near our house this weekend. Sunboy asked why some trees had colored marks on them. He was referring to the colored trail markers painted on trees to reassure hikers that they have not lost the trail. I have explained the purpose of the trail markers to him in the past. This time, I asked him to think logically about the purpose of the marks and see if he could determine the reason himself.
Sunboy: “I don’t know.”
Me: “You don’t have to know. You can THINK and figure it out!”
Sunboy: “But I can’t!”
Me: “Sure you can. Let’s take it one step at a time. How did the marks get on the trees?”
Sunboy: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Did an elephant put them there?”
Me: “How do you know it wasn’t an elephant that marked the tree?”
Sunboy: “Because there aren’t elephants that live around here.”
Me: “So, you’re saying that the marks would have had to be put on the trees by something that is local to this area, or the trees just have the marks naturally. Is that right?”
Sunboy: “Yes. People put the marks on the trees.”
Me: “OK. That seems logical. Why did people put marks on trees in the woods?”
Sunboy: “I don’t know. My brain is going to blast!”
Me: (ignoring the potential for impending brain blasting) “Do you think it took a short time or a long time to put marks on all of those trees?”
Sunboy: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Pretend you have a can of paint and your job is to put marks on all of those trees. Would it take you a short time or a long time to do it?”
Sunboy: “A long time.”
Me: “So, if a person took a long time to put paint spots on trees throughout the woods, they must have thought it was important to do so. Why might paint spots be important in the woods?”
Sunboy: “The paint spots tell people what trail they’re on so they don’t get lost!”
Me: “Yes! You didn’t know the answer but you figured it out using logic. You can figure out a lot of things using logic.”
Sunboy had been pretty frustrated with me during this exchange; it wasn’t the first time I’ve made his brain blast with having him think through a question. It’s a good exercise for him, and as a lover of logic I enjoy thinking through a question with him.
Later on the hike, we saw a muddy area with bicycle tracks running through it. I commented on how it looked like there had been a round elephant rolling through the mud. My husband said he thought it was the sign of a round okapi. Sunboy laughed at us and said he could look up at the treetops and see an opening through which the rain came down to create the muddy area. Not bad logic for a five-year old.