From Language Development

The Toddler Has Menu, Is Reading

The Toddler and The Baby are in a coffee shop with Silly Mummy and Silly Daddy. The Toddler has picked up a menu, and she is ‘reading’ it: ‘It says “tea cup”.’ There’s a picture of a tea cup.
The Toddler reads on: ‘It says “Dear The Toddler”.’ Of course. Everything The Toddler reads says ‘Dear The Toddler’..
The Toddler has not finished: ‘Yes, it says “Dear The Toddler, here are some teacups”.’ Very logical.
‘Once upon time there was a magical fairy.’ Less logical.

(A bit of background here: The Toddler has seen balloons in the coffee shop. They are not hers.)
The Toddler breaks off from her reading to ask: ‘Can I have a balloon?’
Silly Mummy and Silly Daddy answer unanimously: ‘No!’
The Toddler gracefully accepts this answer, and returns to reading the menu: ‘Says “Dear The Toddler, here’s a balloon from Mummy and Daddy”.’ Cunning.
Of course, The Toddler does not know when to stop and proceeds to lay it on a little too thick: ‘Says “Dear The Toddler, hope you have a nice time, love Mummy and Daddy”.’

Adults Outwitted by a Toddler: 2

girl-951561_1920The great thing about children, of course, is that there is so much you can teach them.

The Toddler wants to do something: ‘Can me do that?’
The Toddler often mixes up me and I. Grandad tries to help her with her pronouns: ‘Can I do that?’
The Toddler misses Grandad’s point and answers what she believes to be his question: ‘No!’
No, Grandad, The Toddler wants to do that – you find your own activities. Grandad dealt with, The Toddler returns to her request: ‘Can me do that?’
Silly Mummy tries: ‘No, The Toddler, you say, “Can I do that?”‘
The Toddler is exasperated with people trying to muscle in on her territory: ‘No! Can me do that?’

 
The other great thing about children is how easy it is to manipulate them.

It is The Toddler’s bed time. She, however, is busy on the imaginary phone. Grandad, displaying great ingenuity, takes the ‘phone’ and listens, before saying, ‘Is there someone there who’s going to bed?’ The Toddler nods. Grandad holds out the ‘phone’: ‘I think this call is for you.’ Grandad readies himself for his phone call with The toddler about bed time.
The Toddler is not falling for this trick. She takes the ‘phone’ and (putting what she has learnt from Peppa Pig to good use) immediately and expertly changes the subject: ‘Hello? Fire Service? I’m stuck in the mud!’

 
Pronouns learnt: 0
Going to beds achieved: 0
Toddlers reasoned with: 0
Adults outwitted by a toddler: 2

Where’s The Baby’s Duck?

The Baby now has several words*, and excellent parroting (in the traditional sense of the word, not her previous attempt at ‘parroting‘, which was rather literal). She still favours ‘duck’, though. She is not giving up on ‘duck‘.

The Baby has gathered from The Toddler that it is extremely important to insistently say ‘mummy’ repeatedly before making any other statement, in order to ensure that Silly Mummy is very clear that she is being spoken to. The Baby will therefore present (hit) Silly Mummy with a book thusly: ‘Mummy, Mummy, book!’ The Baby also likes to comment on the time of day. At about 4:30pm, she will point at the window and declare: ‘Mummy, Mummy, dark!’ Of course, impressive though The Baby’s vocabulary may be, she often finds that following ‘Mummy, Mummy’ she does not know the word she intended to say. This is obviously embarrassing for The Baby, and may be behind her habit of plonking herself on the naughty step for no apparent reason.

Speaking of the naughty step, during one naughty step episode for The Toddler, The Baby took up a position standing right in front of her and just silently pointed at her. Probably she wanted to know what was going on, possibly she thought she had located The Toddler in hide and seek, amusingly it looked as though she had appointed herself to the role of Chief Naughty Step Shamer.

The Baby is a prolific nodder and head shaker. She will answer any question this way, as well as indicating her position on matters being discussed (not being discussed with her, of course, just discussions she feels like she should get involved in). Her answers to questions are usually quite accurate, actually. Though she does, on occasion, get a little bit over confident. ‘Love you, The Baby. Can you say “love you”?’ The Baby nods emphatically: ‘Bah boo!’ Nearly.

The Baby can identify body parts, but does not generally say them. She decided to make an exception for her belly button because it’s so funny: ‘Belly beeyupta! Belly beeyupta!’ Fits of giggles ensue. The Baby amuses herself.

The Baby also sings. She sits in her high chair repeating ‘boo bu boo bu, boo bu boo bu’ in a high pitched voice. Following initial concerns that she is broken, Silly Mummy realises she is singing Bibidi Babadi Bu (following The Toddler’s viewing of Cinderella that morning).

The Baby has quickly picked up key phrases: ‘Bic snack!’ (She can also say The Toddler’s name, which is important when she needs to identify the culprit in the inevitable theft of her requested biscuit snack.) The Baby is additionally able to request her ‘slunch’. Why she decided this was a significant word to learn early on remains a mystery, as slunch is rarely eaten. In fact, it is usually fed to the imaginary ducks, as The Baby launches it over the edge of the high chair, screaming, ‘Duck!’

Other important skills and words The Baby has learnt (from The Toddler) include making television demands. Impressively, she has picked up both the appropriate tone and the fact that you should always ask for exactly the same thing (Sarah and Duck in her case). She points at the television and says: ‘Muuum, duck!’ She has recently become very excited about Peppa Pig. This does not appear to be based on any particular love of the programme, but on the fact that she has just realised she can say ‘pig’. She will now watch entire episodes jabbing towards the screen and yelling (and signing), ‘Pig!’ Should she see Grandpa Dog, she will yell, ‘Dog!’ To be honest, when any of the other animals appear, she looks a bit confused and waits until she can yell ‘pig’ or ‘dog’ again. (A ‘dog’ is not to be confused with a ‘dog??’, which is a rocking horse.)

The Baby can say ‘where’. She can also sign it. However, she seems to feel that, no matter what she is looking for, the phrase is: ‘Where’s duck?’ The Toddler is hiding (hiding = standing in the middle of the room pretending she is inconspicuous). The Baby is looking for her, though this would not be obvious from her commentary: ‘Where’s duck?’ Silly Mummy asks The Baby where the apple is, The Baby nods and obediently totters off in search of the apple: ‘Where’s duck?’ Silly Daddy has left the room and The Baby is looking for him: ‘Daddy! Daddy!’
Silly Mummy says, ‘Where’s Daddy?’
The Baby yells, ‘Daddy! Where’s duck?’ In all fairness to The Baby, it is possible she is simply from the Midlands (or Sheffield), where referring to everything as ‘duck’ is acceptable.

(*Some examples of The Baby’s favourite words, as you (didn’t) ask. She says ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘The Toddler’. Not actually ‘The Toddler’, of course: that would be weird. She says The Toddler’s name. She says ‘bath’ and ‘splash’ (usually together). ‘Ball’, and sometimes ‘throw’ and ‘catch’ (usually just before some kind of small missile hits Silly Mummy in the head). ‘Cat’, ‘dog’, ‘pig’, ‘duck’, ‘quack’, and ‘moo’. ‘Grapes’, ‘cheese’, ‘bic’, ‘snack’, and ‘lunch’ (well, ‘slunch’). ‘Ba boo’ (‘peekaboo’). ‘Dark’. ‘Book’. ‘Belly’.)

The Baby’s Five Most Important Words and Phrases (and How to Use Them)

The Baby has been chatty of late. She has identified the key words and phrases of the English language, and has been using them with gusto. Now, many of you may be surprised to learn what the most significant words and phrases in the English language, as set out below, actually are (particularly as one of them would appear to be French). Please do not be embarrassed: few are able to attain the lofty heights of The Baby’s grasp on linguistics. The correct frequency and proper usage for the word ‘duck’, for example, is understood by woefully few people. In an effort to re-educate, therefore, here are the words you need to know, and how you should be using them.

1. Cat
The Baby’s unrequited love affair with the cat continues. ‘Cat’ was probably her first clear word, after the usual ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. The Baby likes to make sure everyone is aware of the cat’s location at all times. She will jab her finger insistently in the cat’s direction and yell, ‘Cat! Cat!’ Should The Baby’s cat location services ever be specifically called upon with an actual query about where the cat is, The Baby is beside herself with glee: ‘Cat! Cat!’ The cat tries her best to be inconspicuous. Sorry, cat, like a tiny Liam Neeson: The Baby will look for you, she will find you, and she will point at you.

2. The Toddler
Of course, The Baby isn’t actually saying ‘The Toddler’. That would be weird. But she has started to say The Toddler’s real name. She first did this on an outing to the common, whilst The Toddler was running around and hiding behind trees. The Baby pointed at her: ‘The Toddler! The Toddler!’ It had come to The Baby’s attention that, like the cat, The Toddler was trying to hide. As with the cat, The Baby wasn’t having any of it. Never attempt to go incognito around The Baby. She will identify you. Loudly and repeatedly.

The Baby also likes to use her new word to request that The Toddler partake in her favourite game: peekaboo. She shouts, ‘The Toddler!’ The Toddler looks up. The Baby covers her eyes and giggles. The Baby repeats the process. Just a few times. The Toddler obligingly plays peekaboo. She was personally requested, after all.

3. Duck and quack
Presumably these words came from Sarah and Duck (the recent addition of ‘sayer duck’ to The Baby’s repertoire would seem to support this). Ducks occur to The Baby at random times, following which she will spend a pleasant fifteen or so minutes happily hollering, ‘Duck! Duck! Duck! Quack! Duck! Duck!’ As The Toddler has recently discovered the cupboard where the juggling balls are kept, and has taken to using them as missiles, The Baby’s love of chatting about ducks doubles as good safety advice.

4. Frere Jacques
The Toddler has been singing Frere Jacques a lot lately. Being a good, doting little sister, The Baby has therefore decided this is her favourite song. She bursts into ‘rehreh jacka’ at regular intervals, and is delighted when people join in. If people don’t join in, The baby offers light encouragement. Which is to say she relentlessly screeches, ‘Rehreh jacka! Rehreh jacka!’

5. Catch
When throwing and catching are taking place, The Baby likes to be involved. She likes to ensure that it is clear that she is involved by shouting ‘catch’ whenever anyone else says ‘catch’. It should be noted that, for all the shouting of ‘catch’, very little catching actually occurs. Though Baby can claim a better catching record than The Toddler – she has occasionally caught balls with her face, at least. The Baby’s reaction to being hit in the face with a ball? ‘Catch!’

Warning: Politically Incorrect Toddler Menace in the Vicinity!

Silly Mummy did not plan to write this post, due to concerns that it was not quite appropriate. Well, it probably is not quite appropriate; being, as it is, a tale of awfully (albeit entirely inadvertently) inappropriate behaviour from The Toddler. But then Silly Mummy thought: who doesn’t like to hear that a child who is not theirs has been showing up a parent who is not them?

So, The Toddler has a bad habit. Throwing food, you ask? No. (Waste food? What crazy talk is this?) Biting? No. (We have yet to reach that milestone.) Picking her nose, you say? No. (Well, yes actually, but that’s not what this is about. No, this is much worse). The Toddler has a habit of accidentally, entirely unwittingly, appearing a little bit, well, how shall we say this? Politically incorrect.

Yes, that’s right: we have a problem with being accidentally terribly un-pc. Silly Mummy is led to believe that other people’s toddlers embarrass them with public discussions about poo. Questions about the exact location from whence baby siblings came. A firm belief that they have located some amazing strawberry flavoured balloons next to the pregnancy testing kits in Boots. That sort of thing. The Toddler does none of these things. She simply comes out with perfectly innocent phrases and behaviours that sound, rather unfortunately, like racist slurs.

Makka Pakka
So, The Toddler likes In the Night Garden. (Of course. A creature of indeterminate origin – apparently lost at sea for reasons that are never explained – turns up in a garden populated by a girl who likes to lift her skirt up, some other equally indeterminate creatures whose trousers inexplicably match their bums, and some very tiny wooden people with rather shady neighbours. What’s not to love? But this is beside the point.) Initially, The Toddler would talk about ‘Piggle’ and ‘Daisy’, but soon her interests progressed to Makka Pakka. Her speech, however, did not progress quite so rapidly to Makka Pakka. The actual word The Toddler used for Makka Pakka will not be written here. Suffice it to say, she ignored the ‘Makka’ element entirely, whilst for ‘Pakka’ employing the common toddler device of turning the end of all words into an ‘ee’ sound. This unfortunate version of Makka Pakka’s name would be loudly shouted whenever The Toddler saw anything to do with In the Night Garden. Cue avoidance of all shops selling In the Night Garden merchandise. It would also be shouted loudly whenever The Toddler thought about In the Night Garden. This could occur at any time. Cue avoidance of leaving the house. After a while, The Toddler progressed to saying the ‘Makka’ part. This did not vastly improve the situation. However, Silly Mummy is pleased to report that she did eventually learn to say ‘Pakka’. With an ‘a’. (Possibly due to Silly Mummy’s repeated sobbing of, ‘It’s Pakka! WITH AN A!’)

The hospital and the beard
This one goes back a bit further. (Yes, this has been a concerted and long running campaign by The Toddler to make Silly Mummy look really, really bad.) When Silly Mummy was towards the end of her pregnancy with The Baby, and The Toddler was about 13 or 14 months old (a new toddler, in fact), much time was spent waiting in the hospital for extra scans and Consultant appointments. On one particular occasion, the appointments were running very behind, and The Toddler and Silly Mummy had been in the Maternity Outpatients waiting room for many hours. The Toddler had spent most of that time running around the room meeting and greeting total strangers. She had smiled, waved, delivered random toys to random people, tried to eat someone else’s food…all the usual social niceties. She had appointed herself hostess of the waiting room, and she was mingling. Now, it should be noted that, at this time, The Toddler was going through a phase of being deeply upset by men with beards. This was particularly strange as Silly Daddy often had a beard, which she was fine with. However, any man with a beard who was not Daddy was unacceptable. Perhaps The Toddler felt beards were Daddy’s thing. It should also be noted that in the entire time that The Toddler and Silly Mummy were in that waiting room there was only one man with a beard present. Furthermore, in the entire time that The Toddler and Silly Mummy were in that waiting room, there was only one person who was not white present. Yes, they were the same person. Yes, the poor, unsuspecting man saw the friendly, smiley toddler tearing round the room, waving at everyone. Yes, he smiled and waved at her. Yes, she hid behind Silly Mummy and cried. Yes, every time. Slightly awkward. It was the beard. Silly Mummy knew it was the beard. It is unlikely anyone thought it was anything else. Nonetheless, the unfortunate coincidence did sow just a tiny bit of doubt as to what people might think. What is the appropriate protocol in such circumstances? Can one assume that everyone present will obviously conclude that The Toddler is simply upset by beards? Or is it polite to confirm, just for the avoidance of any doubt, that she is not being raised in the KKK?

John Brown’s Baby
Now, The Toddler really likes this song. You may know it: ‘John Brown’s baby has a cold upon his chest. John Brown’s baby has a cold upon his chest. John Brown’s baby has a cold upon his chest. So they rubbed it with camphorated oil.’ The Toddler can now sing most of this song. However, when she first became familiar with (read: Silly Mummy innocently – but ill-advisedly – taught her) the song, she remembered two specific words: ‘brown’ and ‘baby’. She would use these two words to ‘sing’ the song. She would also use them to make demands that the song be sung by Silly Mummy. Just to improve matters, The Toddler’s demands that anything be done were often phrased as, ‘Mummy, get me…’ And this is how Silly Mummy came to be walking through a crowded shopping mall, pushing a double buggy with a toddler in the front yelling, ‘Brown baby! Brown baby! Mummy, brown baby! MUMMY, GET ME BROWN BABY!’ It wasn’t ideal. There were looks.

So there you have it. Anyone can show up Mummy but, with a little extra effort, you can really make her look bad. Why stick with the cliched loud description of how stinky one’s bottom is, when you could be screaming a really offensive racial slur at a supermarket display of toys from a beloved children’s programme? Dare to be different, that’s The Toddler’s motto.

(So, should you ever come across a rather panicked looking lady with two small girls, apparently engaged in an extremely un-pc conversation/absolutely unacceptable discriminatory behaviour, we are terribly sorry! It is not how it looks/sounds.)

Don’t Mention the War

‘Mine’ is, of course, a favourite word of toddlers. Toddlers like to make it very clear that their belongings are theirs and no one else’s. Also that your belongings are theirs. Furthermore, that any item they happen to have found is, in fact, theirs. All of these ownership claims are succinctly voiced by a simple scream of ‘mine!’

The Toddler’s language development took a somewhat sinister turn one morning a few months ago, when she extended her use of ‘mine’ to situations where she meant ‘my’. Getting dressed in her bedroom, she waved her arms and pointed emphatically, bellowing, ‘Mine top! Mine socks! Mine trowies!’ It sounded, frankly, like she was holding a mini – and curiously clothing based – Nuremberg rally in the nursery. The Toddler, atop her changing table, gesticulated forcefully at the gathered crowds of Silly Mummy, and set out her ‘Mein Trowies’ manifesto.

The Toddler is a powerful orator but, fortunately for her wardrobe, she is a largely benevolent dictator. The Toddler has been known to oppress the odd hat; and does believe that shoes, pyjamas and bumble bee outfits are superior to other items of clothing. (Not worn together, of course. Possibly worn together. The Toddler would like to wear them together, please.) The occasional pair of trowies has been accused of desertion when they are, in fact, on her person: ‘Where’s The Toddler’s trowies? Where’s trowies gone?’
‘You’re wearing them.’
‘Yes.’

Nonetheless, few sartorial items have suffered under The Toddler’s rule. Trowies make for an innately more laid back manifesto than struggles. Would be despots: take note.

Speaking for The Baby

This is a blog about children’s language. Specifically, my children’s language. Mostly The Toddler’s language, The Baby’s vocabulary currently consisting of ‘cat’. I have noticed something about The Toddler’s language (hey, it’s only taken forty odd blog posts about The Toddler’s language for me to notice something about it.) What I have noticed is this: the times when The Toddler chooses to speak for The Baby are quite interesting.

Mostly, you see, The Toddler does not speak for The Baby. Much of the time, she leaves The Baby to her own babbling, shouting or fussing devices. She appears to accept that this is what The Baby does, and does not intervene. Sometimes, The Toddler is interested in what The Baby is saying, and will join in with baby talk. Very occasionally, she will try to translate (which is to say, she will make it up). Other times, she pays no attention at all.

However, when The Baby’s noises show an emotion, particularly a negative one, The Toddler will usually get involved. She will report The Baby’s feelings to Mummy: ‘The Baby is sad.’ She will offer reassurance to The Baby: ‘Don’t worry, the Baby!’ She will be on hand to assist The Baby: ‘I’m coming, The Baby!’ She will try to cuddle and kiss The Baby. She will offer dummies, water and toys.

Most notably, when something is being done to The Baby that The Baby does not like (nasal aspiration, when needed, has never been popular), The Toddler will speak for her. She will be outspoken and very insistent: ‘No! Don’t do that! Stop doing that! The Baby doesn’t like that! Don’t do it!’

Likewise, when The Toddler believes The Baby wants or needs something, she will voice the need on The Baby’s behalf: ‘The Baby want more food. Get her more food, please.’

It appears that The Toddler recognises that The Baby does not have the words to tell people how she feels or what she needs (‘cat’, as it turns out, is not the most useful of words). The Toddler uses her words on The Baby’s behalf when she believes The Baby needs help.

What does this behaviour demonstrate? It suggests that The Toddler has some understanding of how important words can be as a means of expression. Certainly, it shows that The Toddler is able to recognise emotions in others, and has learnt some appropriate responses. Perhaps there is also empathy there. Maybe The Toddler is already showing an ability to empathise with her little sister. Probably a little. She has an innate human ability for empathy, and she is starting to learn to develop it. However, at her age, it seems unlikely her understanding of others has developed to the level of true empathy yet, not empathy as adults would understand or display it. One thing I believe The Toddler’s behaviour is absolutely indicative of, is how completely she has accepted The Baby. The Baby is hers, a part of the world The Toddler views as hers. The Toddler looks after what is hers, simply because it is hers. Perhaps, then, she is protecting her sister more than understanding her, at present. Or maybe it is a little of both.

Whatever the motivation, The Toddler instinctively speaks up for one who cannot speak for herself. Adults often develop inhibitions that prevent them from speaking out, even when they feel that they should; for a toddler, nothing stands in the way.

Soon, of course, The Baby will have her own words. She will speak for herself. However, I have no doubt that there will still be times when she will need her sister to speak up for her. Just as there will be times when she is needed to speak up for The Toddler. I hope that, no matter how old they are, my girls will always understand when the other needs them. I hope they will each always have the words to fight for their sister when she can’t do it for herself.

 
 
What do you think? Are two year olds capable of showing empathy? How do your children relate to each other? Do they protect each other?

Give The Baby Back Her Pigas!

Give the Baby Back Her PigasTechnically, The Toddler and The Baby each have their own toys. Nevertheless, The Toddler can often be found grabbing The Baby’s toys. Purely in the interests of showing The Baby how they work, of course. The Toddler will just be over here, hiding from The Baby, showing her how her toys work. Sometimes, she actually does show The Baby: ‘Look, The Baby! Look this one!’

The Toddler likes to present The Baby with her toys, even if she can be found taking them away five minutes later. Every morning, when Silly Mummy gets out toys for The Baby, The Toddler bounds over: ‘The Baby’s play toys! The Toddler take!’ Silly Mummy piles them into her arms, and she staggers off: ‘Take it! I got it!’ She drops them on the floor: ‘Here go, The Baby! Play toys!’

Meanwhile, The Baby can usually be found chewing The Toddler’s toys. The Toddler is mostly quite tolerant of this: ‘Are you playing, The Baby? The Baby put it in mouth, Mummy! Likes that one!’ She will give The Baby toys she knows The Baby likes: ‘Here, The Baby, have this one.’

Not the doctor’s kit, though. The Baby is not allowed to play with The Toddler’s doctor’s kit. The Toddler won’t stand for that: ‘No, The baby, can’t eat that one! The Toddler’s! The Baby can’t like it! Give it back!’ (This is fair enough, really. The first thing they teach in medical school is that you can’t eat the stethoscopes.)

The Baby feels it is time for a little toy possessiveness of her own. The Baby is on Silly Mummy’s lap. The Toddler has picked up The Baby’s musical bell shaker. It has come to The Baby’s attention that The Toddler has her musical bell shaker. She is bouncing and pointing excitedly. Silly Mummy says, ‘Yes, that’s yours, isn’t it? What’s The Toddler got?’
The Baby scours her vocabulary of no words for the right word (not an easy task). She jabs her finger in The Toddler’s direction, and yells, ‘Pigas!’
Indeed. Give The Baby back her pigas, The Toddler!

Toddler Time

Toddler TimeThe Toddler has become obsessed with time. She already had a long-standing clock obsession, but that was entirely unrelated to any interest in the time. No, The Toddler simply liked to point at clocks and watches, shout ‘tick tock’, and demand the singing of ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’.

The Toddler mastered the concept of specific, named times some, well, time ago. She knows ‘brekkie time’. This is the time when The Toddler eats her breakfast. She knows ‘din din time’. This is the time when The Toddler eats her dinner. She knows ‘lunchtime’. This is the entire period between ‘brekkie’ and ‘din din’, during which The Toddler will say in a hopeful voice every ten minutes, ‘Lunchtime, Mummy! The Toddler is wanting lunchtime. Lunchtime now, please, Mummy.’ In essence, until now, The Toddler has been aware of time as a food-related concept.

(Incidentally, whilst on the topic of lunchtime, Silly Mummy’s greatest achievement as a mother? Convincing The Toddler that ‘lunchtime tidy up’ is not only an actual thing, but an actual fun thing. Silly Mummy announces it is lunchtime tidy up time, and The Toddler excitedly runs around the room picking up toys. Take that, Super Nanny. Silly Mummy expects to receive the Nobel Prize in Toddlers any day now…)

The Toddler also knows some time-related words. There is ‘soon’. The Toddler understands that ‘soon’ means lunchtime will be in exactly one second, and should therefore be immediately mentioned again to Silly Mummy. There is ‘later’, which means lunchtime will be in three seconds and, to be safe, should probably be immediately mentioned again to Silly Mummy. ‘Tomorrow’ is a word The Toddler knows denotes, ‘Ooh, brekkie!’ Then, of course, there is ‘now’. Now is often used when The Toddler is being asked to do something. She is aware it means do it so slowly it is not done until tomorrow: ‘Ooh, brekkie!’

These have been The Toddler’s dabblings in the concept of time. Until now. The new obsession. What time it actually is. So The Toddler now likes to ask about random times. Constantly.
‘What’s times it?’
‘It’s 7:20.’
‘Oh, okay, fine…What’s times it now?’
‘7:21.’
‘Oh, okay, fine.’ The Toddler wanders away. She reappears.
‘Mummy, what’s time now?’ Silly Mummy has been telling The Toddler the actual time, though fully aware that the answer ‘hippo blue sausage’ would also be met with a nod and an ‘okay, fine’.

Despite not having any clue what the numbers mean, The Toddler has evidently picked up on the fact that Silly Mummy’s answers to what time it is do frequently involve the use of numbers. It is lunchtime. The Toddler has been asking for lunchtime all morning. Therefore, Silly Mummy expects a yell of ‘lunchtime’ when she asks The Toddler, ‘Do you know what time it is?’
Instead, The Toddler pauses, ‘Er…yes. Time 1,2,3…7?’

The Toddler Alphabet

Toddler AlphabetAn A-Z of The Toddler’s favourite, funniest and most misunderstood words.

A is for ‘Armpit’

By which The Toddler means ‘open it’. Present opening on The Toddler’s second birthday had so many armpits it needed deodorant: ‘Daddy, armpit! Armpit, daddy! Daddy, help – armpit!’

B is for ‘Back soon!’

Bedtime now frequently involves: ‘Night night, Mummy. Back soon!’ No, The Toddler is not telling Silly Mummy to come back soon – she is informing Silly Mummy that she herself will be back soon. In about 12 hours, to be precise. Other ‘back soon’ situations include:
‘Bye bye, Mummy, back soon!’
‘Sweetheart, you’ve gone to the playpen. I’m sitting next to the playpen.’
‘Yes. Back soon!’

C is for ‘Cuggle’ and ‘Come on!’

The Toddler loves cuddles. Several times a day she doles out ‘cuggle…aaahh’ to each person present in turn. There is a good chance The Toddler believes ‘cuddleaaahh’ is actually the word.

Since The Baby learnt to crawl, it has gradually dawned on The Toddler that she can take The Baby everywhere. Thus, several times a day, The Toddler can be found marching purposefully to nowhere in particular calling, ‘Come on, The Baby! Quick quick!’ Should The Baby fail to follow, The Toddler will return and try to pick her up. The Baby will give The Toddler a look of polite bemusement, and remain stubbornly planted on her bum.

D is for ‘Dropit’ and ‘Don’t’

‘Dropit’ has a dual meaning. Firstly, the obvious ‘dropped it’. This is often accompanied by ‘oh dear me’ (see also O), ‘oops’, ‘uh oh’ and ‘sorry’ (see also S). Secondly, the less obvious ‘threw it and everyone saw me, but dropped it is much more innocent’. This is also usually accompanied by the likes of ‘oops’ and ‘sorry’ (in order to maintain the ‘dropped it’ story).

‘Don’t’ is a nice variation on ‘no’ (see also N). It is most commonly shouted whilst The Toddler is doing something we don’t do, in order to demonstrate that she is aware that we don’t do it. Also, when The Baby is misbehaving. The Baby literally laughs in the face of ‘don’t’.

E is for ‘End’

The Toddler takes skipping to the end of books to the extreme: ‘Each Peach Pear Plum…The End…Take it away!’ (http://risforhoppit.uk/reading/)

F is for ‘Five Little Monkeys’ and ‘Find it’

‘Five Little Monkeys’ (‘Five Little Monkeys…Bouncy Bed…Fall down…Bump head…Mum call doctor said…NO more monkey bouncy on the BED!’) is a favourite song. The Toddler launches into it at random several times most days (and when faced with a doctor. (http://risforhoppit.uk/five-little-monkeys/))

The Toddler is a big fan of finding any missing item immediately. Not herself, of course: The Toddler’s role is mainly to issue instructions and oversee. This involves shouting, ‘Mummy, find it!’ Missing items may include Grandma. Mummy (putting down phone): ‘Grandma’s not in at the moment.’
The Toddler: ‘Mummy, find her!’

G is for ‘Gruffalo’

The Toddler is able to provide a concise summary of ‘The Gruffalo’: ‘Gruffalo! Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? The end!’ (See also E)

H is for ‘Hoppit’ and ‘Hoover’

‘Hoppit’ is, of course, ‘rabbit’ (see also R). No word yet on whether talking too much is ‘hoppiting on’.

‘Hoover’ is the solution to all ‘messy’. Therefore, The Toddler can be found during dirty nappy changes suggesting, ‘Ooh, messy – hoover!’

I is for ‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy’ and ‘In here! Put it in here!’

The Toddler is now a sophisticated lady about town, who responds to enquiries about her health and general well-being with, ‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy.’

‘In here! Put it in here!’ is important for such standard, reasonable requests as putting The Toddler’s raisins in her magnifying glass.

J is for ‘Jump’

‘Jump’ requires very little explanation. Jumping is, as all toddlers know, the primary method of getting from one place to another.

K is for ‘Keep’

As in: ‘Nooo! Me keep! Me keep a Mummy’s phone!’ Or (when Silly Mummy comes to remove The Toddler’s bib following lunch): ‘Keep a bib…yoghurt?’ (See also Y)

L is for ‘Love you’ and ‘Look’

The Toddler is selective about ‘love you’. Mostly she loves The Baby.
Silly Mummy: ‘Night night. Love you. Can you say love you?’
The Toddler: ‘Love The Baby!’
Daddy: ‘Do you love Mummy too?’
The Toddler: ‘No! Love The Baby!’
Silly Mummy: ‘Okay then! Night night. Love you.’
The Toddler: ‘…Love Mummy’.

As for ‘look’, well, everyone must look at all times. No exceptions. Even if you’re a cat: ‘Jump! Look, Cat – jump! Jump, jump, jump! Look, Cat!’ The cat does not look. A pause. ‘Look, Mummy!’

M is for ‘More gain’ and ‘Mine’

The Toddler hasn’t taken up creating motivational slogans. She means ‘more again!’ She likes to make doubly clear that the activity in question will be repeated.

‘Mine’ is a word used to denote raisin possession.

N is for ‘No’

Variations include ‘nooey’, a special version of ‘no’ reserved for when The Toddler is ramping up to a full blown tantrum for reasons unknown. ‘Nooey’ is to be screeched in response to any request that The Toddler do anything, particularly if the activity she is being asked to undertake is something she was begging to do only moments before.

O is for ‘Oh dear me’

As in: ‘Dropit! Oh dear me!’

P is for ‘Pease’ and ‘Peekaboo’

‘Pease’ is a powerful word created for the purpose of obtaining more raisins.

‘Peekaboo’ is a game that involves throwing various items over The Baby’s head and seeing if she removes them. If she does, The Toddler shouts ‘peekaboo’ and claps. If she does not, The Toddler pretends to know nothing about why The Baby is patiently sitting under a box/muslin.

Q is for ‘Quack’
(Singing) ‘Sarah and duck: quack!’ (Someone spent a long time on that theme tune!)

R is for ‘Hoppit’ (of course) and ‘Raisys’

As it would take too long to explain here, for anyone wondering why R is for hoppit, thinking Silly Mummy’s spelling is atrocious, or just realising that they have automatically corrected to ‘rabbit’ in their head, please see here: http://risforhoppit.uk/r-is-for-hoppit/

Harmonious Toddler-Mummy relations are based almost entirely upon complex raisin treaties. The currency is also raisins. The exchange rate varies, but usually it is roughly one box of raisins to one agreement to get in the pushchair so we can actually go home.

S is for ‘Sorry’ and ‘Sit down here!’

Many of The Toddler’s ‘sorrys’ are for things other people have done. To this day, it is not known whether The Toddler (a) frequently apologises when she was not at fault, or (b) just likes to inform others of the apology she feels they should be giving. Silly Mummy accidentally bumps into The Toddler. The Toddler exclaims, ‘Sorry, Mummy!’ Is she apologising for her arm selfishly minding its own business in the space where Silly Mummy’s knee evidently wanted to be, or is she informing Silly Mummy that Silly Mummy should be sorry? Silly Mummy just does not know. The Toddler is either the sweetest, most accommodating child ever, or a master of sarcasm.

‘Sit down here’ is a command frequently employed to compel random confused strangers, in various unlikely locations, to sit down in a very specific place in order that The Toddler can serve them imaginary ‘cake and carrot’ (no, she does not mean ‘carrot cake’). It is likely the cake and carrot will be ‘hot’. The stranger will therefore be blown on. The cat and The Baby are also frequent recipients of the ‘sit down here’ command. The cat and The Baby deal with the command in an identical fashion: they sit down somewhere else. (Not together. The Baby is in love with the cat. The cat does not feel the same way. It’s awkward.)

T is for ‘Tick tock’ and ‘Tea cup’

The Toddler is obsessed with ‘tick tock’ – and all things clock related – to the extent that Silly Mummy suspects she might be Captain Hook. Silly Mummy blames ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’. Which Grandma introduced. Silly Mummy blames Grandma.

The Toddler is also obsessed with tea, tea cups and ‘Tea for Two’. Which Grandma introduced. Silly Mummy blames Grandma. Cafes cannot be passed without The Toddler yelling ‘tea cup’, and insisting on going in so she can make Silly Mummy drink tea.

U is for ‘Up’

‘Up there!’ This is where The Toddler knows all the fun stuff is kept.

V is for ‘Bus’

Well, ‘van’, but van is too subtle a distinction for The Toddler. Everything is a car or a bus.

W is for ‘What’s that?’, ‘Where is it?’, ‘Who’s this?’ and ‘Wake up!’

What, where, who: The Toddler’s favourite questions. No one expects The Toddler Inquisition.

The Toddler likes to pretend to be asleep. She has learnt to do pretend snoring. When she is quite sure everyone is convinced she is asleep (despite the fact that her eyes are open, she is standing up and she is giggling), she bounces around and screams, ‘Wake up!’

X is for

Well, x-actly nothing. The Toddler does not yet know ‘xylophone’.

Y is for ‘Yoghurt’

The Toddler loves yoghurt. The Toddler knows to phrase requests carefully. The magic word when asking for raisins may be ‘please’, but the magic word when asking for yoghurt is clearly ‘spoon’. (http://risforhoppit.uk/yoghurt-spoon/) A toddler has to be practical.

Z is for ‘Stripey Horse’

‘Zebra, darling.’

I’m Okay, Thanks: Developing Language

I'm Okay ThanksThe other day, as The Toddler carefully (& oh so inexplicably) arranged her tea set in front of the stair gate in the hallway, Silly Mummy called to her from the living room, ‘How’re you doing, The Toddler?’ Her little voice replied, ‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy.’ This may be the most grown up thing Silly Mummy has heard her say, and highlights just how far her language has developed in a few short months.

The Toddler is now 25 months old. Though she said a few words before, the vast majority of her spoken vocabulary has been acquired since she was around 18 months old. In just 7 months she has learnt hundreds of words, sentence structure, questions, answers, names, sounds, time frames, contrasting words, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, negatives. The list goes on. This just goes to show the difference between acquiring a language as a toddler and acquiring one at a later stage. After 7 months of learning to speak English, The Toddler knows a multitude of words, she can discuss her activities, ask questions, answer questions, give descriptions and be funny. By contrast, after 5 years of being a straight A French student, Silly Mummy can probably find out where the bank is. Silly Mummy’s best chance of being funny in French would be walking in the wrong direction having misunderstood where the bank is. (It is now clear that Silly Mummy is utterly pathetic, and The Toddler should be writing this blog about Silly Mummy’s attempts to communicate!)

Not so long ago, we would show The Toddler animals, tell her their names, ask her if she knew what they were. She knew a few. ‘Duck’, mostly. Ducks are very important. The other day, she held up a Lego sheep: ‘Ooh, baa! Sheep. Baa. Look, Mummy: baa. Sheep. Like in farm. Where farm?’ She looked for her toy farm, ‘There it is!’

The Toddler has learnt possession. ‘Mine’, obviously. They ALL know ‘mine’. But ‘socks’, ‘din din’, ‘tea’, ‘play toy’ have become ‘The Toddler’s socks’, ‘Daddy’s din din’, ‘Mummy’s tea’, ‘The Baby’s play toy.’ In fact, ‘The Toddler’s socks’ are now often ‘my socks’.

The Toddler’s first question word was ‘where’. She remains a big fan of ‘where’, due to its close connections to hide and seek and peekaboo. ‘Who’ (‘Who is THIS?’) is vital to conducting any Toddler Inquisition, and The Toddler, as we know, enjoys a good inquisition. (http://risforhoppit.uk/who-is-this/) The Toddler’s current firm favourite question is: ‘What’s that?’. The vague pointing in a general direction that usually accompanies this question can cause the conversation to go on for some time, whilst every object in the area is pointed out and named, only to be met with, ‘No. What’s THAT?’ Silly Mummy’s favourite question is the inimitable: ‘What noisy is that sound?’ We have yet to get to the infamous ‘why’, but we see it on the horizon, marching ever nearer with undeserved confidence.

Silly Mummy is interested to see that The Toddler is not learning by repetition alone. This is clear from the evolution of her ‘where’ questions. Initially, if anything was missing or hidden, she would say, ‘Where gone?’ Now, she usually says, ‘Where is it gone?’ This is not repetition. We know from the error in it. We say, ‘Where has it gone?’ The Toddler is not parroting our words, or she would also say, ‘Where has it gone?’ Rather, she has learnt that more goes into the structure of the sentence than ‘where gone’. She is not yet clear about how to choose or conjugate a verb. She makes the assumption that, because you would say ‘where is it’, the appropriate word for her sentence should be ‘is’. Clearly, The Toddler learns individual words by copying and repetition, but she is working out how to use them by more than mere parroting of our language. She is collecting information, drawing conclusions, making her own decisions. It is amazing to Silly Mummy that, faced with what must be an overwhelming volume of new data, The Toddler is able to process and use it so competently. Of course, the look of glee on her face when she realises she has used the right words, and communicated successfully, demonstrates what motivates her.

The Toddler likes to use all the words she knows conveying a specific meaning at once. When she wants something to continue, she does not just say ‘more’ or ‘again’, she says ‘more again’. Nappies that don’t need changing are ‘clean dry’. The brilliant ‘what noisy is that sound’ neatly demonstrates both The Toddler’s love of synonyms, and her construction of sentences she has not copied from adults. Again, the sentence is not quite right, but the logic she has used is clear.

A particularly sweet aspect of The Toddler’s developing language has been her emulation of things she hears Silly Mummy say to The Baby. The Toddler has heard Silly Mummy call to the crying baby, ‘Coming, The Baby!’ Whenever The Toddler is in a different room to The Baby and hears her cry she now yells, ‘Coming, The Baby!’ She repeats Silly Mummy’s warnings to The Baby, sometimes days after originally given: ‘No, The Baby. Don’t. The Baby can’t eat.’ In the interest of balance, she is also careful to copy Silly Mummy’s praise of The Baby: ‘Good Girl, The Baby!’ When The Toddler first began using ‘and’, The Baby was her most frequent ‘and’ item. She was very emphatic about it: ‘Mummy, Daddy AND The Baby.’

The Toddler has recently started to use comparisons, qualifications, time frames and relative locations. She tries to fit her cup in a holder that is too small and declares that the cup is ‘bigger’. Silly Mummy tells her it is not lunch time yet, and she responds, ‘No – later.’ She sees cakes in the background on the TV and says, ‘Cakes! Look! Cakes – at the back!’

Still, for all this remarkable progress, what strikes Silly Mummy the most are these new little grown up responses (‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy.’). This is mostly because these phrases represent The Toddler moving away from using only the words absolutely vital to convey her meaning. It is partly, undeniably, because they are funny. The Toddler asks where The Baby’s toys are. Silly Mummy reminds her we have not got them out yet as we have been out all day. The Toddler replies, ‘Ok. Fine.’ The Toddler drops something and says, ‘Oh dear me.’ The Toddler asks Silly Mummy to get something. Silly Mummy queries, ‘This?’ The Toddler responds, ‘Yes, please. Sure.’ Silly Mummy giggles. The Toddler smiles indulgently: Silly Mummy is easily amused.

Reading

ReadingThe Toddler has taken up reading. Which is to say she has taken up turning the pages of books, whilst narrating a combination of what she can see in the pictures & what she remembers of the story. ‘Baby…1,2,3…Bed…Sleep…Wake up…Peepo…Dog…Peepo…Grandma…
Glasses…Hat…Peepo…The end!’

The Toddler’s current favourite book is ‘The Gruffalo’. The Toddler loves ‘The Gruffalo’. Literally. She spends much of her time with her face inside the book saying, ‘Kiss a Gruffalo!’ The Toddler no longer gets out of bed until she has looked at ‘The Gruffalo’.

One day, when The Toddler is getting up, she asks to have both ‘The Gruffalo’ and The Baby in the bed with her. Silly Mummy warns The Toddler that The Baby will try to eat ‘The Gruffalo’ if she gets hold of it. The Toddler explains the situation to The Baby: ‘No, The Baby. No eat. This: Gruffalo! Read!’ The Baby understands. She puts ‘The Gruffalo’ in her mouth. The Toddler now follows every request for ‘The Gruffalo’ with, ‘The Baby can’t eat book!’ The Baby knows this is inaccurate. There are no books she ‘can’t’ eat. There are merely books people have been careless enough to leave in her reach, and books they have not.

The Toddler offers her reading services to those in need. She sits in bed with ‘The Gruffalo’ and teddy Binker. The Toddler announces, ‘Bink sad.’ She puts a blanket over Binker’s feet: ‘Tuck in. There – better. Read a Bink.’ She picks up ‘The Gruffalo’. She opens it. She pauses. She wonders if Binker needs to learn to look after himself. She closes ‘The Gruffalo’ and flings ‘James and the Giant Peach’ at Binker: ‘Bink, read this one, Bink.’ Binker looks at the book. He does not open it. He is too sad. The Toddler relents and opens ‘The Gruffalo’ again. Binker settles in for the story. He is not disappointed: ‘Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? LUNCH OVER!’

The Toddler wants to ensure she is well read. She therefore reluctantly puts aside ‘The Gruffalo’ and picks up ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. Also known as ‘Purple Book’ and ‘George Story’, Daddy sometimes reads this book to The Toddler at bedtime. The Toddler turns the pages. She tells her abridged version of the story: ‘No, George. Stop it, George. Naughty George!’ Silly Mummy considers that this is actually a reasonable summary of the book. The Toddler may have a career writing blurbs ahead of her. (Assuming her first vocation of Planning Officer does not work out. The Toddler is a natural. All duplo constructions erected without the appropriate permissions are immediately demolished. Furthermore, should The Toddler see anyone contemplating starting a duplo construction without planning permission, she is on site immediately with a cease and desist order. Well, more of a snatch and yell ‘NO’ order, really, but the effect is the same. I digress.)

Some of The Toddler’s abridged versions of her books are more abridged than others. The Toddler brings ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ to Silly Mummy: ‘Mummy – read! Pea Pear Pum – read! Sit down there!’ Silly Mummy dutifully sits down there, opens the book and prepares to read.
‘No!’ The Toddler snatches the book away, ‘Me read!’
‘You want to read it yourself?’
‘Yes!’ The Toddler opens the book to the first page. She says, ‘Ee Pea Pear Pum.’ It is a good start. We are all very excited to learn what happens next in the thrilling story we feel sure awaits us. The Toddler turns to the very last page. She announces, ‘End!’ She slams the book shut. ‘All gone! Take away!’

Really, this reading lark is awfully easy. The title and the end are the important things. After all, it is clear to The Toddler that if the book has been both started and finished, it stands to reason that the book has been completed. Everything in the middle is very much optional. The Toddler wonders why people complain about how difficult it is to finish ‘War and Peace’. Do they not know where the ‘end’ page is?

Baby Signing

Baby SigningWe have done some signing with The Toddler. We didn’t go to any of the various signing classes that are around, but Silly Mummy took a course and we have a couple of DVDs. We used signs for basic words (‘milk’, ‘bath’, ‘more’, ‘nappy’) from a very young age, though The Toddler showed little interest until she was around a year old. At that point, she started watching the DVDs and she became obsessed.

Of course, Silly Mummy heard the usual mix of contradictory views when it came to the benefits of signing with babies and toddlers. Those who love it and maintain it helps babies communicate, those who believe it is a silly fad, those who are adamant it can actually delay the development of spoken language. Silly Mummy dismissed the latter objections as unlikely, in her opinion. Silly Mummy took the view that the way sign language is used for babies is a very basic form of Makaton, which is designed to help people to communicate and aid speech development. Therefore, Silly Mummy considered it unlikely to be harmful. Silly Mummy thought that at worst it would have no impact at all, at best it would be fun and might help The Toddler communicate. We gave it a go.

Our experience of signing with The Toddler has been positive. The Toddler loved her signing DVDs, even when she had shown no interest in watching any other TV programmes. She learnt a lot of signs very quickly, and merrily started to use them to communicate what she wanted. ‘More food’, mostly. As her spoken language started to develop, she used signs and speech. Some words she would only say, some she would only sign, many she both spoke and signed.

The signs seemed to help The Toddler to learn to enjoy language, and why not? She got to wave her arms around. Toddlers like to wave their arms around. The signs seemed to give The Toddler confidence. She had learnt signs for words, successfully communicated that way, been praised. She happily progressed to trying to say the words. The signs provided her with an additional method of communicating. If she could not say the word properly, she would use the sign too and we would usually understand her. She continued to succeed; her confidence continued to grow.

The example that comes to mind is the hippos. The Toddler had a hippo phase. Hippos are funny. She wanted to talk about hippos. Now, hippos are not the most ubiquitous of animals around these parts. Hippos do not play as big a part in daily life as The Toddler briefly believed they did. During that bath at the start of The Toddler’s Hippo Phase, Silly Mummy is not sure hippo would ever have come to mind when she began insistently shouting, ‘Hip! Hip! Hip!’ Silly Mummy looked confused. Silly Mummy made some suggestions. These were wrong. The Toddler tried again, this time with signs. ‘Ah! Hippo?’
‘Yes! Hip! Hip!’ (It turned out The Toddler believed her turtle was a hippo. That took a little longer to resolve.)

This Silly Mummy would therefore respectfully suggest that the benefits of signing with babies and toddlers can be summarised as follows. If you find yourself talking to a toddler about hippos, it is really helpful to know you are talking about hippos. Baby signing can help you to know when you are talking about hippos.

The Toddler, at nearly two, has a very large vocabulary. She talks in simple sentences. She still uses some of the signs she particularly likes. She is a good communicator. She can usually make herself understood. The Toddler understands that signs, gestures and context can be used to make your meaning clearer. Like any toddler, she has tantrums sometimes when she does not get her way, or when she is overwhelmed. However, her tantrums are never because she is frustrated at not being understood, or because she feels unable to communicate what she wants. The Toddler is a confident, relaxed and prolific speaker. Some of that is probably her natural personality, but Silly Mummy thinks the signs helped. They have certainly been fun for her.