Skip to content

Teaching a toddler — Mental Models[FT-2]

Published: (3 min read)
Share this post on:

This is the second part in as many as possible in my Feynman Technique series. Click here for part 1.

I was initially thinking of writing about Mental Models in general, but, I spent most of that post defining what a mental model is.

I spent quite a bit of time reading and understanding it myself, so, I decided to do this instead. Seemed more interesting.

Just FYI, a great collection of mental models and a good explanation of them can be found on FarnamStreetBlog

The catch here, is that I have to come up with an explanation that a five year old can understand.

Mental Models

Here’s one way to think about it.

Say you go to your kitchen cabinet and you’re looking at the different types of cups over there.

You look at the different cups and you notice that they’re of different shapes and sizes, they have different colors, have different patterns on them.

You’ve noticed that there’s only one type of cup that’s used for drinking tea, one that’s used when guests arrive, and others for different occasions.

You obviously hope that no one ever asks you to bring the cups out ( you’re afraid of breaking them ) but, you know which one to take out based on what the occasion is.

The cups themselves don’t have it written on them that they’re meant for any particular occasion, you’ve just figured out that one type of cup is meant for one type of occasion ( or maybe more )

So when someone asks you to bring the tea cups, you tell them you’re afraid you’ll break them, but, you also know which ones to bring.

Now, you go to your friends place, they have a cabinet there too.

They ask your friend to get the cups and you decide to help your friend out.

You get to the cabinet and you already know which one the tea cup is.

That’s you using a mental model.

That’s your way of looking at the world, figuring out what is what and making sense of it.

The only world that matters to you when you’re figuring this out is the world of cabinets and cups. In this world you have a way of figuring out what cup is used for what based on your understanding of the occasion.

You wouldn’t use a tea cup to drink orange juice, that’s just silly.

This is your own mental model. This is your way of thinking about the world of cabinets filled with cups.

You can apply this to anything in life. The more models you have, the better sense you can make of life.

I decided this time out to try to figure out the actual simplest example I could think of that was just about complex enough.

The tone is also more geared towards an actual five year old.

This is the simplest explanation and example I could come up with for a fairly difficult abstract topic.

Would love to hear any comments/criticism/feedback, I’m just trying to improve here.

Thank you for reading