As their communication skills snowball to the point that we're having conversations more sophisticated than most of the ones I had in high school, I'm getting much more access to what's going on in their heads. They say hilarious stuff (at least I find it hilarious) constantly, as you know if you follow me on Twitter. (Recent example: We were driving and a van pulled up behind us. I heard a voice from the back seat: "That car is chasing us! That car is chasing us!" "Why is the car chasing us?" I asked. "It wants to tickle our car!" the voice answered.) Sometimes they do stuff that's calculated to get a laugh, and that's hilarious too, even if the joke doesn't work, because it demonstrates what they think is funny, or what they think I'll think is funny.
I'm not sure how it came about--maybe I introduced the idea to them in my quest to peer into their consciousnesses--but they have started talking about what they're thinking about. Butterbean will be gazing into the middle distance and I'll ask her what she's doing.
"Mmmm...just...thinking," she'll say.
"What are you thinking about?" I'll ask.
"Watching Dora," she'll answer, about 80% of the time. *
So I think it's safe to say that they understand, more or less, what "thinking" means.
Talking about dreaming is a little trickier. I'm sure they have dreams, of course. They wake up gibbering in the middle of the night, and sometimes I try to get them to talk about their dreams, just out of curiosity. I don't press it though, because mostly I want them to go back to sleep.
But they have a lot of books (have I mentioned that they love books?) that feature characters going to sleep and having dreams. This is usually represented by the good ol' thought bubble, which they haven't quite gotten their heads around yet. They're kind of attached to the idea that it represents a physical presence in the scene, and they have all kinds of questions when they encounter that particular kids' book convention.
I try to answer their questions about the the dream bubble by talking about real dreams. I explain them as "what you think about when you're asleep." And when they ask about dreams in general, I use examples from books: "You know, like when the pigeon falls asleep and dreams about a hotdog party..."
A couple days ago, they were pretending to take naps (which is about as close as they come to actual napping nowadays), and they started saying that they were dreaming. They pointed up above their heads and exclaimed that they could see the dreams up there. They've done that routine a number of times since then. I caught it on video yesterday:
I've always been amazed by how easy it is for kids to understand what's being represented in books. Elephants are drawn a thousand different ways, and yet kids almost always recognize them as elephants. It's equally fascinating (and gratifying, since I'm a fan of books) to see them applying, or even misapplying, what they know from books to what they're trying to understand about the real world.
*We still don't have an actual TV, but they watch some kids' programming on the iPad, and they watch Dora at the Kids' Club (daycare) at the gym, where I've been taking them a couple times a week.