It's interesting to see what categories kids apply to the world as they grow more sophisticated in their understanding. Of course distinguishing opposites is an important aspect of a child's learning: big and small, up and down, day and night..... BJ likes to ask, "Mom, what's the opposite of armadillo?" ("Pillow" is the correct answer, thanks to Richard Wilbur's Runaway Opposites.)
For some time now, a very important category for BJ has been whether or not something has teeth. Several times a day, I'm asked if a creature in question has teeth: "Do birds have teeth?" "Does a worm have teeth?"
What he usually seems to be asking is, Can this hurt me? As in, "Does a bee have teeth, Mommy?"
"Well, no, but they have a stinger."
"Does a snake have teeth, Mommy? Does a pet snake have teeth?"
I never expected that the presence or absence of teeth could become a lens through which you view the world. And honestly, it's revealing huge gaps in my dental knowledge of the animal kingdom. (Do ants have teeth? Well, no, I don't think so -- but they can bite ya!)
Sometimes he gets quite anxious about the whole teeth thing. We'll be reading Tiddler, and he'll blurt out, "Mommy, do fish have teeth?"
The teeth question while reading children's books is particularly challenging with Dr. Seuss, it turns out. I don't even know what to call some of these creatures, and I certainly don't have exhaustive data on their mouths! It has helped, a bit, to point out that he himself has teeth, and that doesn't necessarily mean that he's a menace. (Luckily, he's never been much of a biter, except for those few months when he was teething and still breastfeeding.) I also mention that Mommy and Daddy have teeth, too. (I keep BB out of the conversation, though, because she does show some tendencies towards biting. Alas!)
A few times now, he's asked if inanimate objects have teeth. "Does a car have teeth, Mommy?"
I have to say, I'm tempted to get him one of these:
and empower him to decide just what should and should not be able to bite!