I don't know if that's a term, but that's what popped into my head. The last few weeks have been developmentally explosive, with Michael exhibiting all sorts of new play behaviors, skills, etc. I'm using the term "functional transference" to describe his ability to use objects in a new way or to use an object for a function for which he saw another object being used. Got it? Here's some examples.
Example 1: I was roasting a chicken one night and I guess I had the oven too high because things got a little sputtery and smoky. The smoke alarm in the kitchen went off, scaring Michael out of his high chair. I rescued the chicken and waved my oven mitt at the smoke alarm to turn it off. Later that night, Michael grabbed a dishtowel and started waving it at the smoke alarm! First off, it was freaking adorable. Secondly, he saw me use an oven mitt, not a towel, but he realized that a towel could perform the same function. Even now he'll reach for a towel or oven mitt to wave at the smoke alarm. For some reason, it really amazed me that he substituted the towel for the oven mitt.
Example 2: I use those little packages of baby hand and face wipes quite often, especially when we're out. Michael doesn't like getting his face and hands cleaned (he prefers to hang on to the meal he had so much fun playing with!), but sometimes he'll grab the wipes on his own and start rubbing them on his head (he does get food on his head ALOT and the wipes work better than just water). Of course, he's just imitating me and expressing his independence that he can clean his own head. Well one day in DH's office, Michael grabbed the wipes and started wiping the floor! Now he sees me sweep the floor and loves it--in fact, I bought him his own tiny broom and dustpan so he can pitch in when I sweep--so he understands that the broom and dustpan are for cleaning, but he also knows that the wipes are for cleaning, so he just tried them out on the floor. How smart is that?
Example 3: I bought Michael a drum that came with other musical instruments inside. He loves shakey-shakey toys. Instead of using the drumsticks to beat on the drum, he removes the lid and stirs. He's always playing with the pot and pan cabinet, and I usually hand him a large Oxo utensil so he can imitate me while I'm cooking. I just didn't think he would do that with a drum and drumstick. Completely different objects but he just sees the drum as a big pot.
Example 4: Anything with a handle can be used to brush mommy's hair. Anything.
Michael's memory has astounded me these last couple of months. He remembers everything and he makes sure to let me know very enthusiastically when he recognizes something. Obviously, his memory allows this functional transference to occur because he remembers performing tasks and he remembers what objects perform what tasks and he's able to link similar tasks or similar objects. Maybe it's just me, but I find this ability fascinating and am having so much fun watching what he's going to do next!