After working on his pictures with chalk pastels, 2 year old W. said "I'm gonna punch a hole. With wire. For my Mama."
Punch a hole with wire? I wondered if I should hand him a hole-punch but instead just motioned to the shelf where they are kept.
W. grabbed the stapler and looked at me quizzically.
Of course! 'punch a hole with wire' must mean stapling! He must not know that word, I guessed.
Was he looking at me to give it to him? I said, "what is that?" and helped him put the paper in the slot of the stapler and press down.
He said "it's a climp."
"It's a clomp"
"It's a stick-through thing"
I thought it was so interesting that although W. didn't know the name of the thing he wanted (stapler), or the name of the thing it did (stapling), he did remember the function of the object (putting a piece of wire through a hole). I have read that there is debate about how children label and classify things, both in their minds, with language, and when sorting physical objects. Some psychologists think children classify by shape, or how the object looks, and some think the function of the object is more important in labeling and classification. This young child described the object he wanted solely by it's function.
ps. I did tell him the name of the stapler and we looked at it closely together, opening it up and turning it around to see al the parts.