Tagged Language development

Toddler Rules of Grammar (Toddler Lessons: Part Eight)

51551bc6f8ec618e2d4a16f583e4019fIt is Toddler Lessons: Part Eight, and we are learning the toddler rules of grammar.

 
1. Interjections

Interjections are good. Toddlers use them as much as possible. In order to add that element of intrigue and suspense, toddlers like to use certain interjections – ‘oh dear’ and ‘oops’, mostly – with no further clarification, leaving nearby adults desperately trying to work out what the toddler has done/broken.

 
2. Pronouns

Pronouns are an all or nothing deal in toddler grammar. Initially, they should not be used at all. However, once introduced into the vocabulary, it is entirely acceptable to construct entire sentences out of just pronouns: ‘Hello, Mummy. The Baby thought you were you, but you’re not you, you’re you.’ Anyone who tells you this is a risky and confusing strategy should be ignored.

 
3. Superlative Adjectives

In toddler grammar, all adjectives are superlative. Preferably, the superlative adjectives used should be words that are not entirely correct, at least in formal English, like ‘bestest’ and ‘favouritest’. In order to make the superlative even more superlative, it is good practice to also add ‘most’. It is a matter of personal choice, of course, but this is the most bestest way to do it.

 
4. Double Negatives

There is nothing wrong with a double negative. Indeed, if possible, negatives should be triple or even quadruple: ‘I don’t never want to not never take it back.’

 
5. Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb agreement is seldom reached in toddler grammar. In fact, as with all areas of toddler life, there is a fair amount of disagreement between subjects and verbs. The subject and the verb are probably having a fight about who was playing with the adjective first.

 
6. Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses can absolutely stand alone in toddler grammar: ‘Because of marmalade.’ There is really no need to bother with the part of the sentence that the clause was dependent on: people will work it out.

 
7. Conjunctions

It is, of course, a myth that a sentence cannot start with a conjunction. However, the toddler assertion that a sentence can end with a conjunction is more controversial: ‘Mummy, I was going to play with my bus, but.’ It is also perfectly permissible in toddler grammar to use conjunctions to join other conjunctions: ‘Mummy, when but but and and then so!’

 
8. Relative Clauses

In toddler grammar, defining relative clauses are avoided, as it just does not do to go around giving people essential information that they need in order to understand what is going on. Non-defining relative clauses, on the other hand, those providing information we just did not actually need, can go on for three years.

 
 

(Please Note: I apologise for any grammatical errors that may have appeared in this post about grammar. It was written by a toddler.)

 
 
You can see other posts in my Toddler Lessons series here

 
 

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

That’s Bonkers: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

baby-215867_1280It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature, and we’re a little bonkers (but all the best people are). This week, The Toddler would like you to stop fussing, while The Baby would like it to be known that this post is hers, not yours.

Here’s The Toddler:

1. On Silly Mummy, too fussy

The Toddler has decided to pour her water onto her toast to ‘cool it down’. Silly Mummy objects to this plan of action. The Toddler thinks Silly Mummy is overreacting: ‘Oh Mummy, stop fussing, Mummy! I always pour water.’ (She does not in fact always pour water on her toast. This idea has not been trialed before.)

2. On Silly Mummy’s suggestions, bonkers

Silly Mummy has made a suggestion that The Toddler has some doubts about. Doubts that she subtly voices: ‘That’s bonkers!’

3. On cleaning the bathroom

The Toddler likes Silly Mummy to do cleaning and tidying in the bathroom while she has a bath. She is in her bath: ‘Mummy, can you do the cleaning?’
Silly Mummy knows her place: ‘Yes, I’ll get right on to it.’
The Toddler nods, and picks up her duck: ‘And I’ll get right on to toys.’
Silly Mummy can’t help but feel that she has drawn the short straw here in the division of labour. Nonetheless, the cleaning and tidying is started. A short while later, Silly Mummy declares: ‘Right, I’ve finished the cleaning.’
The Toddler looks around: ‘You need to do it again.’

4. On being angry

Silly Mummy has told The Toddler she can’t do something, and The Toddler is not happy: ‘I’m very, very angry, and I’m going to throw Mummy away!’

5. On changing her mind

The Toddler has been asked to come to the bathroom. Halfway there, she changes her mind and suddenly stops, announcing: ‘I think not.’ With that, The Toddler marches back to the living room.

6. On making tea

The Toddler has made Silly Mummy a nice (*ahem*) cup of tea: ‘Mummy, I’ve just made you a cup of tea…and there’s a scrambled egg in it. But it’s a bit dirty.’

7. On being informed

Silly Mummy has asked The Toddler to see if The Baby wants to eat her dinner. The Toddler reports back: ‘She’s been formed into me, no.’ (Silly Mummy thinks that’s ‘informed me’.)

8. On her day, not good

The Toddler has received some bad news. She is not allowed to pour bath water all over the bathroom. She admonishes Silly Mummy, the bearer of this news: ‘I’m not having a good day with you, Mummy.’

9. On dealing with estate agents

The Toddler is ‘helping’ the estate agent who is at the house. By talking to him incessantly while he tries to get on with his job. Silly Mummy attempts to intervene: ‘The Toddler, can you go and watch Ben and Holly, please?’
The Toddler turns to Silly Mummy: ‘No, I’m just dealing with something. You watch Ben and Holly.’

10. On Abney and Teal, bonking

Silly Mummy enters the living room, to be confronted by The Toddler shouting, ‘Mummy, are they bonking? Are they bonking?’ Erm, what?! Hasty investigation from Silly Mummy establishes that The Toddler is talking about Abney and Teal on CBeebies. Who are bouncing. Bouncing.

 
The Baby’s Corner

The Baby has learnt the phrase ‘mine, not yours’ (Silly Mummy can’t imagine who she might have learnt that from). She is now in the toy aisle at the supermarket, chatting with other children. Okay, not chatting, exactly. More waiting until they touch a toy, and then pointing her finger at them and yelling: ‘Mine, not yours!’

 
 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

 
 

My Random Musings

Cardboard Panda: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

Time once more for the Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said, this week featuring The Baby’s Corner and, unexpectedly, a silent item.

Over to The Toddler:

1. On Silly Mummy, putting up with her

Silly Daddy does an office job, and so generally works regular Monday to Friday hours. However, he occasionally has to do some extra hours on a Saturday. So it is a Saturday, and Silly Daddy is at work. The Toddler and The Baby have been out with Silly Mummy. Heading home, The Toddler is asking whether Silly Daddy will be there. Silly Mummy explains that Silly Daddy won’t be back until dinner time, like during the week, concluding flippantly: ‘And you’ll have to put up with Mummy.’
The Toddler nods seriously: ‘Yes, like I normally do.’ How rude.

2. On farewells, rude

The Toddler’s farewells are becoming significantly less polite: ‘See you soon. Don’t have a lovely day.’

3. On Silly Daddy’s shoe

The Toddler has something important she needs to tell Silly Mummy. She makes sure she has Silly Mummy’s full attention for her urgent and riveting tale: ‘Mummy, Mummy, MUMMY…I had a lovely time walking on Daddy’s shoe. And he said, “Give it back”.’ She runs off. Apparently that’s it. Well, that’s…good to know.

4. On herself, being the First Lady

It should be noted here that Silly Mummy often refers to The Toddler and The Baby as ‘ladies’. Also that The Toddler wants to come to the dinner table first. These facts, rather than an unusually sophisticated grasp on American politics for a two year old, probably explain her charging across the room announcing: ‘I’m the First Lady!’

5. On Kung Fu Panda

Silly Daddy has asked The Toddler if she’d like to watch Kung Fu Panda later. She is now very excited about the impending viewing of: ‘Cardboard Panda!’

6. On additional information, confusing

The Toddler’s explanations of her statements have progressed from adding nothing to adding contradiction and confusion: ‘When Grandma comes on Saturday, she doesn’t always come on Saturday.’

7. On road safety

The Toddler and The Baby are in the hallway, engaged in a game of imaginary outings. They’re mostly shopping. However, it does appear that The Toddler has somewhat misunderstood the principles of road safety: ‘Come on, The Baby, let’s get to the main road.’ The rule would be stay away from the main road, The Toddler, not aim for it.

8. On psychoanalysis

The Toddler has taken up impersonating Sigmund Freud this week, and now responds to most information with: ‘Hmm, interesting.’ (Sometimes she opts for outright sarcasm, and responds to everything with a very disingenuous: ‘That’s interesting.’)

9. On her sister, wanting her back

Silly Daddy has walked off with The Baby like he owns her, and The Toddler is not happy. She speaks to Silly Daddy firmly: ‘Daddy, can you bring The Baby back cos that’s my sister.’

10. On armed (with a Peppa Pig rolling pin) robbery

(This final item is admittedly not something The Toddler said, but is deserving of a mention nonetheless.)

 
The Baby is pushing around her little toy shopping trolley. The Toddler comes up behind her with a toy Peppa Pig rolling pin, and points it at The Baby’s back. She proceeds to take the trolley from The Baby. It is essentially a toddler stick up.

 
The Baby’s Corner

The Baby can say ‘Grandma’ (it was ‘Amama’, but now she has mastered ‘Grandma’). She cannot, however, say ‘Grandad’. She has solved this dilemma in the obvious manner: she calls Grandad ‘Grandma’. The Baby has seen a man at the till in the coffee shop. He reminds her of Grandad. As such, she is pointing at him whilst insistently yelling, ‘Grandma! Grandma!’ The man looks confused. Having paid, he goes to sit down (unsurprisingly, a long way from The Baby). The Baby is offended: ‘Where’s Grandma gone?’

 
 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

Where’s Daddy Gone: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time again for the Ten Funniest Things feature. This week, technically The Ten Funniest Things The Toddlers Said Last Week, as The Baby is putting in an appearance.

Silly Mummy presents The Toddler/The Baby:

1. On being Bruce Forsyth
The Toddler is talking to The Baby in the bath: ‘Haven’t you had a lovely time, The Baby?’ Yes, The Toddler is Bruce Forsyth.

2. On Little Red Riding Hood, not a shoplifter
The Toddler is pretending to be Little Red Riding Hood. Apparently, The Toddler’s Little Red Riding Hood has been suspected of shop lifting, and is keen to set the record straight. The Toddler puts a giant muslin on her head (as her hood, obviously), and marches off towards the door: ‘Hello, Grandma, I’ve got some food for you. I paid for it first.’

3. On what happens when the yoghurt is finished
The Toddler has finished her yogurt, and has a truly masterful grasp on all that entails: ‘All done now. No more eating it for me.’ (Gifted, you say? Why, thank you. It doesn’t seem presumptuous to say Mensa is being considered.)

4. On the pantomime
The Toddler has been having flashbacks again. This time to the pantomime she saw before Christmas: ‘When I was at pantomime, I saw Snow White. And Snow White was ill. And TV* was broken. And I clapped. And I said ‘boo’ to Evil Queen. And Evil Queen spun around. Woo. Mr Maker was her friend.’ Quite accurate, actually.

(*She means the magic mirror.)

 
5. On polite enquiries
Silly Mummy drops a bottle of shampoo in the bathroom. The Toddler, who has been raised extremely well, don’t you know, takes a (very) polite interest: ‘My darling, what did you do, darling?’

6. On the cat, not having a balloon
The Toddler has mastered the art of ‘because I said so’. The cat has been eyeing up her balloon, The Toddler is stern: ‘It’s my balloon, Cat. You can’t have it cos you can’t have it.’

7. On the monster, lost
The Toddler approaches Silly Mummy, looking sheepish: ‘Mummy, I’ve got a problem. I’ve lost the monster. Can you help me find him?’ Silly Mummy wasn’t actually aware that there was a monster, but it seems a reasonable request. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one monster can be considered a misfortune. Though, if she loses another, it will start to look like carelessness, and Silly Mummy will have to put her foot down.

8. On the best film for her
The Toddler is picking a film to watch. Silly Mummy says, ‘We’ve got How to Train Your Dragon, or shall we look for Kung Fu Panda?’
The Toddler knows what’s right for her: ‘No, I think dragon will be best for me.’

9. On giraffes, dog-like
The Baby likes to call all animals dogs at the moment. She presents Silly Mummy with a wooden giraffe: ‘Dog!’
Silly Mummy futilely corrects her: ‘Giraffe.’
‘Dog!’
‘Giraffe.’
‘Dog!’
‘Giraffe.’
‘Dog!’
‘Giraffe.’
The Baby decides to give Silly Mummy a break. She smiles sweetly: ‘Giraffe-dog!’

10. On Silly Daddy, leaving
Silly Daddy is off to work. The Baby has decided she is not in the mood for long goodbyes this morning. She is literally showing Silly Daddy the door. Standing in the entrance way she points: ‘Door! Daddy, door!’ Silly Daddy is still saying goodbye to The Toddler. The Baby impatiently waves goodbye: ‘Daddy, door!’ Silly Daddy finally leaves. As he shuts the door, The Baby turns to Silly Mummy, looking surprised: ‘Where’s Daddy gone?’ Well, he was unceremoniously booted out of the house, The Baby. By you.

 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

That’s Moron, Isn’t It: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature. This week Silly Mummy is to learn the difference between ducks and swans, not eat her plate until later, and say sorry to the TV. Must do better, Silly Mummy. The Toddler, on the other hand is on top form.

Here she is:

1. On apologies, to inanimate objects
Silly Mummy is engaged in an argument with the TV, which is behaving badly and disobeying the remote control. Silly Mummy admits defeat, but not graciously: ‘Stupid thing!’
The Toddler is scandalised: ‘You mustn’t say stupid! Say sorry to the TV!’

2. On swans, not ducks
The Toddler and The Baby are watching Stick Man. Silly Mummy is not, but out of the corner of her eye sees something that looks like ducklings, and says, ‘Ooh, look, The Baby: ducks!’
The Toddler, in her best condescending tone, declares, ‘Mummy, that’s a swan.’ She’s right, it is.

3. On rain on her car
The Silly Family are heading out in the car. A few minutes after leaving the house, The Toddler looks out of the window and identifies a problem: ‘I’ve got to go home. It’s a bit raining on my car!’

4. On walking the plank
The Toddler is dressed in her pirate costume. She is waving her cutlass at The Baby. Silly Mummy makes a suggestion: ‘Tell The Baby to walk the plank, The Toddler.’
The Toddler turns to The Baby: ‘Do the plank walk, The Baby!’ That sounds more like some kind of group dance, doesn’t it?

5. On Silly Daddy, when he was a little girl
The Toddler is reflecting on her recollections of Silly Daddy’s younger days: ‘When Daddy was a little girl, he was very big.’

6. On drawing, contraptions for
The Toddler is doodling on her etch a sketch. She informs Silly Mummy: ‘I’m just doing some drawing. On my contraption.’ Contraption?? Where on earth did she learn that word?

7. On calling Grandma
The Toddler is conducting an imaginary phone call, and needs Silly Mummy to be quiet: ‘You shh. I’m talking on the phone to Grandma. She’s not here yet.’ The Toddler has instructions for ‘Grandma’: ‘You talk to The Baby.’ The Toddler holds out, well, nothing masquerading as a phone to The Baby. Who looks at the nothing in confusion, and doesn’t say anything. The Toddler takes back her ‘phone’: ‘I think The Baby is a bit shy, Grandma. What have you been doing, Grandma?’

8. On guided tours, of badness
The Baby (sometimes with The Toddler’s help) has taken up the helpful hobby of pulling all the DVDs off the DVD tower. The Toddler appears at the kitchen door while Silly Mummy is making dinner to report that The Baby is engaging in her hobby again. Silly Mummy comes to the living room to survey the carnage. The Toddler jumps in front of her: ‘Wait! I’m going to show you round!’ Silly Mummy joins The Toddler’s impromptu tour. Upon reaching the scene of the destruction, Tour Guide The Toddler points at the DVD pile on the floor, and prepares Silly Mummy for the worst: ‘This is bad.’

9. On saving your appetite
The Toddler is preparing plastic tea and toast. She hands Silly Mummy an empty plate while she goes off to make the plastic toast: ‘You can have your plate.’ She also has some instructions regarding the plate: ‘Don’t eat your plate now.’ Always good advice. She continues: ‘Eat your plate later.’ Ah, she’s just concerned that Silly Mummy will spoil her appetite if she starts eating plates now.

10. On Merida
The Toddler has been watching Brave. She quite likes it, but struggles with Merida’s name. Silly Mummy says, ‘There’s Merida – she’s playing hide and seek, isn’t she?’
The Toddler replies, ‘Yes, that’s…Moron, isn’t it?’

 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

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”.’

I heard About That: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

In this week’s Ten Funniest Things post, Pirate Ship The Toddler can be found boogying with a bogeyman, never wearing trousers, and keeping up with all the latest gossip.

Here she is:

1. On giving The Baby a kiss, without causing alarm
The Toddler doesn’t wish to alarm The Baby, but she is going to be showing her some affection. She approaches carefully, arms out: ‘It’s okay, The Baby, but I’m just going to give you a kiss.’

2. On Fungus the Bogeyman
The Toddler has been enjoying Fungus the Bogeyman lately. Possibly because she expects him to break into a spot of disco dancing at any moment: ‘Can I watch boogie boogie man?’

3. On her important work, The Baby sitting on
According to The Toddler, The Baby is doing her ‘busy work’. (Please note: this is playing with Silly Mummy’s top.) The Toddler feels that The Baby needs to know when it is time to step aside and let someone else take over: ‘It’s my turn to do important work!’ (Please note: this means play with Silly Mummy’s top herself.) The Toddler prepares herself to begin her work, but quickly spots a problem: ‘The Baby is sitting on my work!’ (Please note: the ‘work’ The Baby is sitting on is Silly Mummy.)

4. On being a pirate ship
The Toddler believes the word ‘pirate’ should always be followed by the word ‘ship’. She got a pirate costume for Christmas. She can now be heard asking: ‘Can I wear my pirate ship on, please? I’m Pirate Ship The Toddler.’

5. On Silly Daddy, recognising his achievements
Silly Daddy has finished his dinner, a task The Toddler feels he does not often get sufficient recognition for. She decides to rectify the situation with a little praise: ‘Well done, Daddy. You did that all on your own!’

6. On naughtiness
The Toddler’s sharp analytic mind has got right to the root causes of naughty behaviour: ‘I’m just being naughty because I’m not very good.’

7. On needing car keys, because of the wind
Grandma is preparing to leave. The Toddler, as usual, is asking questions:
‘Do you need your car keys?’
Grandma confirms that she does indeed need her car keys.
The Toddler nods wisely: ‘Yes, you do need your car keys. Because it’s windy.’ Well, quite. Grandma is normally willing to walk the 120 miles home. But not in this wind. That would be silly.

8. On her trousers, never wearing them again
The Toddler has removed her trousers. Silly Mummy has asked The Toddler to put them back on. The Toddler makes a bold claim: ‘I’ll never put my trousers back on. Never.’

9. On being The Little Old Lady Toddler
The Toddler is chatting with Silly Mummy, who happens to mention something The Toddler might like to do. The Little Old Lady Toddler replies: ‘Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it, dear?’

10. On hearing things
The Baby is having a nappy change. The Toddler is ‘assisting’ (running around with baby wipes), and having a bit of a gossip. The Toddler has not entirely grasped the concept of gossiping. She chatters away: ‘Did The Baby do a poo?’
‘Yes, The Toddler.’
‘Yes, I heard about that.’ The Toddler hears things. She moves and shakes. She’s on top of all the latest water cooler gossip. (It also just happened and she was right here.)

 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

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

Thank You for Having a Lovely Time: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

After a break, and now appearing on entirely random days of the week because, frankly, Silly Mummy is still not quite sure what day it is (normal service will probably be resumed around February), it is time once again for The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week (or, in this case, at some point in the past three weeks or so).

So, without further ado, here is The Toddler:

1. On going out, not very good at it
The Toddler is sitting at the table colouring, and apparently making plans for the rest of her day: ‘I go out. I go out in the snow.’ It’s not snowing, of course, but The Toddler has always liked to invent imaginary weather for her imaginary trips. She continues with her planning: ‘I need to put my boots on to go out in the snow.’ She appears to have this all in hand, except… ‘I don’t have a key.’ The Toddler is contrite in the face of her newly revealed going out inadequacies, and quickly steps aside for a more experienced go outer, turning to Silly Mummy: ‘Maybe you’d better go out – I’m not very good at it.’

2. On books, not today
The Toddler picks up a book and starts ‘reading’, before experiencing an abrupt change of mind: ‘No, I’m not going to read the book. Throw the book away. No books today.’ Flinging the book aside, she marches off.

3. On bidding visitors farewell
The Toddler has been attempting proper etiquette surrounding farewells to visitors, seeing Grandma off with: ‘Thank you for having a lovely time!’ She may have got a little confused. Presumably she meant ‘thank you for visiting’. Still, her version is sweet, if a little presumptuous.

4. On invitations to her house
The Toddler, it would appear, is in fact a bit confused about many aspects of this saying goodbye to visitors business. During the same farewell to Grandma following her visit to what we all thought was The Toddler’s house, The Toddler says, ‘When you come back next time, you can visit my house.’ Does The Toddler have another house she’s hiding?

5. On storytelling
The Toddler has decided to tell The Baby a story. It’s quite good. Concise. Relatable. Clear conclusion. ‘Once upon a time there was a little The Baby called The Baby. And The End.’

6. On giving affection, bossily
The Toddler is attempting the bossiest display of sisterly affection ever: ‘Do cuddle, The Baby. Come here and do cuddle. Stand here for cuddle. Come and stand just here, and give me a cuddle.’

7. On being Silly Daddy’s fairy godmother
The Toddler has picked up a stick (magic wand) on the beach. She has also recently become obsessed with the live action version of Cinderella. This is probably connected to what she is doing with the stick: ‘I do magic wand trick. Put Daddy into a dress.’ Probably connected. Either way, Silly Daddy is now pretending to be suddenly wearing a fetching ballgown.

8. On scheduling an audience with herself
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are at the shops. Silly Mummy is trying to speak to The Toddler, who is not currently available for Silly Mummy, informing her: ‘You be quiet. I’m just going to talk to The Baby, then I’ll talk to you.’

9. On that time she chopped off her hand
The Toddler is chattering to herself: ‘…That time I chopped off my hand…And I was very sad because I needed to see the doctor.’ Well, all Silly Mummy is saying is that this must have happened on Silly Daddy’s watch.

10. On Silly Mummy’s food, getting away
Silly Mummy has put down her (empty) bowl on the table, and is helping The Baby to finish her food. Silly Daddy comes and clears away Silly Mummy’s bowl, to much consternation from The Toddler: ‘Mummy, your food’s getting away! Get it back!’

 

If you’d like to see further posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature, they can be found here.

R is for Hoppit: Talking Nonsense Since 2015 (a Review of Our Year)

I thought for the New Year (and in no way connected to not having actually written anything, a situation in itself in no way connected to having needed to watch A Christmas Carol and The Hogfather) I would do a quick review of R is for Hoppit’s 2015.

I say a review. That may be overstating things. Lists would probably be more accurate. Three lists, to be precise:

  • my top five most viewed posts of the year (well, since April – not existing January to April significantly reduced viewing figures for the blog in those months);

  • a pick of five of my personal favourite posts (that hadn’t already been included in most viewed); and

  • a selection of twenty five of The Toddler’s best quotes of the year taken from the Ten Funniest Things feature.

 
Most Viewed

1. Why Breast v Formula Should Not Be a Debate

2. Eight Times Having a Toddler Was Like Lord of the Flies

3. I’ll Tell You What, Mummy: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

4. Toddler Towers: Are All Toddlers Basil Fawlty?

5. Five and a Half Ways The Baby Is a Big Disappointment to The Toddler

 
Some Personal Favourites

1. How to (Not) Make Christmas Cards With a Toddler and a Baby

2. Trick or Treat (or Dog)

3. Only the Weak Are Cruel

4. Doctor Toddler Is Back and This Time She’s…a Hairdresser, Actually

5. Not Little Red Riding Toddler

 
The Best of the Ten Funniest Things Feature

1. Spinny armpits
The Toddler is waving a hoover attachment at Silly Mummy and yelling, ‘A spinny armpits!’ Yes, she means ‘expelliarmus’. Silly Mummy likes The Toddler’s version better. Perhaps JK Rowling would like to rewrite the Harry Potter books with spells by The Toddler? And hoover attachments as wands. The Students can all visit Mr Dyson instead of Mr Ollivander: ‘The lint tool chooses the wizard, Mr Potter.’

2. In my opinion, it’s not a cake
Silly Mummy is eating a muffin. The Toddler asks to try a piece. She looks at the muffin and says, ‘I think it’s a cake.’ Silly Mummy agrees that muffins are like cakes. The Toddler eats a bit and revises her original comment: ‘Well, in my opinion, it’s not a cake.’ This may well be the greatest thing she has ever said (in my opinion).

3. I don’t know thoughts
The Toddler is having trouble remembering the song she wants Silly Mummy to sing: ‘Can you sing…can you sing…can you sing…I don’t know thoughts!’ It is so annoying when you don’t know any thoughts, isn’t it? You know, when all the thoughts have just momentarily slipped your mind.

4. Tinkerbell The Toddler
Silly Mummy and The Toddler are watching a ferry sailing in. Silly Mummy is explaining that the boat has come from France. The Toddler has been a fan of announcing her name of late, so Silly Mummy tells her: ‘In France, instead of “I’m The Toddler” you say “je m’appelle The Toddler”. Can you say “je m’appelle The Toddler”?’
The Toddler nods: ‘Yes, tinkerbell The Toddler.’ So close.

5. Michael the dinosaur
The Toddler has a placemat with dinosaurs on it. Usually she puts her bowl on the placemat, eats her meals, and no more is said. However, The Toddler feels it is about time she had a bit more interaction with her placemat. She picks it up and addresses one of the dinosaurs: ‘Want a drink, Michael?’ (Michael?! Michael the Dinosaur?!) The Toddler proceeds to answer on behalf of Michael (Michael!) the Dinosaur: ‘Yes, thank you.’ Michael would like some water. He would also like everyone to stop calling him Michael. It’s ruining his street cred.*

(*Remember the velociraptor terrorising the people in the kitchen in Jurassic Park? Imagine if he’d been called Michael. Michael the Velociraptor would have been laughed out of that kitchen. Phil, the infamous Dinosaur Supervisor, might have got to keep his job.)

 
6. Stop thief
The Toddler has snatched a handful of The Baby’s lunch from the highchair. Silly Mummy says, ‘Don’t eat The Baby’s food, please. Give it back to her.’ The Toddler returns the food. Silly Mummy turns to The Baby: ‘The Baby, if The Toddler takes your food, say, “Stop thief!”‘ The Baby smiles. Two minutes later, The Toddler sidles over to the highchair, grabs another handful of The Baby’s food, and helpfully says, ‘Stop thief!’

7. Circus flashbacks
The Toddler is eating her dinner. She suddenly stops. She stares into the distance. She announces, ‘Went circus…With Grandma…And Daddy…Went clap, clap.’ She claps her hands. The Toddler returns to her dinner. The Toddler did go to the circus. With Grandma and Daddy. It was about a month ago. The Toddler is having circus flashbacks. You weren’t there, man! You don’t know!

8. The binoculars are not a camera
The Toddler is holding the binoculars from her little explorer set.
‘The Toddler’s camera!’
‘Binoculars, darling.’
‘Cheese!’
‘Those are binoculars, darling.’ The Toddler holds up the binoculars to the cat. They fail to take a picture of the cat.
‘Oh, The Toddler’s camera is broken!’
‘That’s because it’s binoculars, darling.’

9. I’ll go and sort it out
The Toddler has a new obsession with removing pyjamas from The Baby. The Baby is wandering the living room in her nappy. Silly Mummy says, ‘The Baby might be a bit cold now you’ve undressed her, The Toddler.’
The Toddler sets off after The Baby, ‘I’ll go and sort it out.’ Despite The Toddler’s air of calm competence, Silly Mummy can’t help but notice that she ‘sorts it out’ by commandeering The Baby’s ball. The Baby is still rather naked. And she now has no ball.

10. We are not a stinker
The Toddler has a new identity. As Queen Victoria. She has done a poo and Silly Mummy says, ‘I think you’re a stinker.’
The Toddler replies with the royal we: ‘We are not a stinker, are we?’ Silly Mummy believes we are a stinker, but we are certainly not amused. (See what we did there?)

11. I’m not a Hufflepuff
The Toddler appears to quite like Harry Potter, though Silly Mummy had assumed she did not take that much in. Silly Mummy assumed wrong. The Toddler is roaring and huffing, leading Silly Mummy to ask, ‘Are you the big bad wolf? Do you huff and puff?’
The Toddler gives Silly Mummy a disparaging look, ‘No, I’m not a Hufflepuff.’ There you go: taken it all in, right down to knowing which house is, frankly, a bit rubbish. Any allegation of being a Hufflepuff (or even something that sounds a little bit like it) will be firmly denied by The Toddler and her people (The Baby).

12. Are you talking about me
The Baby is babbling to herself. The Toddler goes over and sticks her face right in The Baby’s: ‘What you saying, The Baby? Are you talking about me, The Baby?’ Well, as they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean The Baby’s not talking about you.

13. I remember cheese
Silly Mummy asks The Toddler if she would like some cheese with her lunch. The Toddler replies, ‘Oh, cheese. I remember cheese.’ Ah, yes, my old chum cheese. I remember him well. Fought together in the war, you know. Wonder what old cheese is up to now. Jolly good.

14. It’s my yoghurt
The Toddler has just finished eating toast for lunch. She says, ‘Yoghurt, please.’ Silly Mummy fetches a yoghurt. The Toddler looks at it: ‘It’s strawberry.’ It’s banana. The Toddler thinks all yoghurts are strawberry.
Silly Mummy says, ‘It’s banana.’
‘Oh nana.’ The Toddler starts eating.
‘It’s not very nice.’ She eats another mouthful.
‘It’s not very nice.’ Another mouthful.
‘It’s not very nice.’ Another mouthful.
‘It’s not very nice.’ The Toddler is giving mixed messages.
Silly Mummy asks, ‘Can I try it, if you don’t like it?’
‘No. It’s my yoghurt.’

15. Shoo
Silly Mummy, Grandad, The Toddler and The Baby are out with the double buggy. A couple of women want to pass. The Silly Party moves over slightly to make room. All very courteous…but, wait! The Toddler wants to say something. Does she want to say ‘hello’, perhaps? ‘Nice to meet you’? ‘No, no: after you’? ‘Please do go past us, we’re a little slow’? No. The Toddler turns to the passing ladies: ‘Shoo! Shoo! Get away! Get away!’ The Toddler, ladies and gentlemen: so charming, such manners.

16. Just let me do the walking
The Baby is practising her new skill of walking, tottering across the living room unassisted, before falling down. Silly Mummy claps and praises The Baby. The Toddler appears. Clearly something is going on here. The clapping is a sure sign of something going on, and The Toddler is going to find out what it is.
‘What’s The Baby doing, Mummy?’
‘She was walking, darling.’
The Toddler considers this information, and turns to The Baby: ‘Just let me do the walking.’ That’s right, The Baby, step aside and leave it to the experts, this is not amateur hour.

17. Safety first
The Toddler and The Baby are playing. The Toddler has decided to ensure that all the appropriate regulations are being followed. She makes The Baby aware of the priorities: ‘Safety first, The Baby.’ The Baby looks at her soft, squishy ball in confusion, and flings it in a safety conscious manner at The Toddler’s head.

18. Look, Daddy, a clock
The Silly Family are going swimming. Silly Daddy is getting tickets. The Toddler has spotted something she wants Silly Daddy to see: ‘Look, Daddy, a clock!’ Except she’s not yelling ‘clock’. She never says ‘clock’. She always misses the ‘l’. Usually, the context makes her meaning clear. Usually, she can only mean ‘clock’. But this is the swimming pool, no assumptions should be made. A quick check of surroundings is warranted. Everyone is dressed. There is a clock on the wall. All is well.

19. Cut it off now
The Toddler is stroking Mummy’s hair: ‘This nice. Like it…Cut it off now?’ Well, that escalated quickly.

20. Toddler Frankenstein
The Toddler has recently been given a toy doctor’s kit. She picks it up and extracts the scissors and the tweezers. She approaches Daddy, sitting on the sofa: ‘Daddy, go to sleep.’
Daddy is understandably suspicious: ‘Why does Daddy have to go to sleep?’
The Toddler puts on a reassuring voice and slightly psychotic expression: ‘Daddy, sleep. Go to sleep, please.’ There is now a stand-off. The Toddler, still brandishing medical implements, continues to insist that Daddy just go to sleep, no questions asked. Daddy is sensibly remaining awake. There will be no experiments on Daddy today. But one day, Daddy will fall asleep and, when that day comes, Toddler Frankenstein will be waiting. With her tweezers.

21. It’s just my bottom
The Toddler asks, ‘What’s that noisy?’
Silly Mummy isn’t sure what noise she means: ‘What noise? Do you mean the tumble drier?’
The Toddler has resolved the issue for herself: ‘Oh no, Mummy, it’s just my bottom!’

22. Conversations with PA systems
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are in the supermarket, passing the travelator. Someone gets onto the travelator, and it starts giving its automated instructions: ‘Stand still and hold onto the hand rail.’ The Toddler is not one to miss out on a conversation, whether it involves her or not: ‘Right, I’m standing still. Standing still now.’ She’s actually sitting in the pushchair. Apparently she is expecting further input from the travelator. She reaffirms: ‘I’m standing still.’ The travelator is a bit rude and fails to acknowledge The Toddler’s compliance with its instructions. However, the PA system steps up to the mark to fill the conversational void: ‘Welcome to the store.’
‘Thank you,’ says The Toddler.

23. I’m being quiet
Everyone is being quiet. This includes The Toddler, who wishes it to be known that she is participating in the being quiet. Into the, well, quiet, The Toddler hollers: ‘I’M BEING QUIET!’

24. I resent to you The Baby
The Toddler currently enjoys being presented to society. She requires Silly Mummy to announce: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…’ She will accept being presented in a number of ways: ‘the Lady The Toddler’, ‘the Right Honourable Pickle’, ‘Dame The Toddler’, ‘the Evil Queen’. In response to each, The Toddler giggles and gives an elaborate bow. She does not like to be introduced as ‘the naughty crocodile’. The Toddler also enjoys making announcements to present others (The Baby, mostly) to society. She often misses the ‘p’ off ‘present’, amusingly resulting in a lot of rather formal begrudging coming from The Toddler: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I resent to you The Baby!’

25. It is her bottom
The Toddler is in a dark corridor with ultraviolet lights at the aquarium. She is excited by everyone’s white items of clothing glowing. Grandma attempts to show her how the buttons on the front of Auntie’s coat are glowing: ‘Look at Auntie’s buttons, The Toddler.’
The Toddler inexplicably disappears around the back of Auntie, where she closely inspects Auntie’s backside: ‘Oh yes, there’s her bottom. It is her bottom.’ You may have misheard, The Toddler.

 
 
So, that was 2015 from R is for Hoppit. Talking nonsense, mostly, but at least we had fun. Happy New Year to all.

Cake: Just Like That

The Toddler likes to do magic. Very, very mundane magic. She brandishes her imaginary wand at Silly Mummy: ‘Close your eyes!’ Silly Mummy closes her eyes. Nothing happens. There is silence. Silly Mummy wonders if The Toddler is still there. Silly Mummy peeks. The Toddler is still there. She is building anticipation for her amazing feat of magic. She waves her wand again: ‘Open your eyes!’ Bit of an anti-climax. Less a feat of magic, more a feat of bossiness. Still, Silly Mummy has apparently earned a reward for her participation: ‘You can have cake now. I’ll get you cake.’

Silly Mummy is looking forward to her cake. However, it seems The Toddler may have been a little hasty in her offer: ‘I haven’t made cake yet.’ At least she has a solution: ‘I’ll make it.’

The Toddler puts down her wand, and starts piling random items from her toy tea set and toy cookery set on to the sideboard. She knocks them over by accident: ‘I’ve knocked your cake over now.’ Oh dear. The Toddler appears to feel the cake has not been harmed, however. She picks everything up and continues her imaginary cake preparation.

The Baby wanders over and knocks the same items off the sideboard as The Toddler did moments before. The Toddler spies a perfect opportunity to pass the blame for the cake delays: ‘You can’t have your cake now because of The Baby.’

The Toddler relents and decides she will serve the cake anyway. She starts rooting through her things, and reappears victorious: ‘I’ve found one knife now. I’ve just got to chop. Be careful. Here you go, Mummy.’ The Toddler holds out a plastic plate full of imaginary cake to Silly Mummy. Silly Mummy thanks her, and reaches out to take the cake.

The Toddler snatches the plate away: ‘You can’t have it yet.’ She walks off with the plate, and knocks over more of her toy cooking equipment. She decides this is the final straw: ‘Never mind, I’m not making it now. The Baby is cleaning it away.’ Silly Mummy looks at The Baby. She is certainly doing something with the imaginary cake and toy cooking equipment. Throwing it would be Silly Mummy’s description, but if The Toddler says she’s cleaning up…

The Toddler provides a final firm confirmation that Silly Mummy will not be receiving cake: ‘No, you can’t have it.’ Well, Silly Mummy is not sure this was worth opening her eyes for. Not that Silly Mummy chose to open her eyes. It was magic, of course.

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’.)

You Know The Rules: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

Time once more for the Ten Funniest Things feature, this week guest starring Michael the Dinosaur.

Michael would like the present The Toddler:

1. On dinosaurs, ridiculously named
The Toddler has a placemat with dinosaurs on it. Usually she puts her bowl on the placemat, eats her meals, and no more is said. However, The Toddler feels it is about time she had a bit more interaction with her placemat. She picks it up and addresses one of the dinosaurs: ‘Want a drink, Michael?’ (Michael?! Michael the Dinosaur?!) The Toddler proceeds to answer on behalf of Michael (Michael!) the Dinosaur: ‘Yes, thank you.’ Michael would like some water. He would also like everyone to stop calling him Michael. It’s ruining his street cred.*

(*Remember the velociraptor terrorising the people in the kitchen in Jurassic Park? Imagine if he’d been called Michael. Michael the Velociraptor would have been laughed out of that kitchen. Phil, the infamous Dinosaur Supervisor, might have got to keep his job.)

 
2. On drawings of faces, showing appropriate concern for them
The Toddler has been practising drawing. And empathising. She likes to draw (with help, of course) faces with different expressions. And then empathise with them, apparently. Silly Mummy says, ‘Shall we draw a sad face?’ Silly Mummy helps The Toddler to draw a sad face. The Toddler studies it with a concerned expression: ‘Oh no, that poor boy!’

3. On birthdays, not sharing
The Toddler has been informed that it is Granny’s birthday. This makes her a little irate. She has just realised that it is, in fact, her birthday too (it is not). She is rather indignant at the cheek of Granny, who apparently expects to share The Toddler’s not birthday: ‘No, it’s my birthday! Granny go away!* That’s a bad thing to do!’ There you have it: the brass neck of some people, swanning around, having birthdays like it’s a perfectly acceptable way to behave!

(*It should be noted that Granny is not even present. The Toddler has simply been told in passing that, somewhere out there, Granny is having her birthday. The Toddler is not one to overreact.)

 
4. On salmon, he’s in the car
The Toddler is eating salmon. Silly Mummy says, ‘Salmon’s nice, isn’t it?’
The Toddler quite agrees: ‘Yes, salmon’s in the car, isn’t he?’ Um…The Toddler may have confused the fish salmon with the name Simon. As you do.

5. On herself, needing discipline
The Toddler may be naughty, but at least she is self aware. She announces: ‘Yes, I do need Nanny McPhee.’

6. On raisins, imaginary chocolate
The Toddler has finally taken imaginary play to its logical conclusion – believing her food is covered in chocolate when it is not. Silly Mummy has given The Toddler a tub with some normal raisins in it. For some reason (it’s called optimism), The Toddler is convinced the raisins are chocolate raisins. She peers into the tub: ‘It’s got choccy raisins in it. I like choccy raisins.’ Silly Mummy expects an upset when The Toddler realises there are no chocolate raisins. Instead, The Toddler points at the raisins. She has apparently managed to locate the non-existent chocolate raisins: ‘There’s choccy raisins!’ She happily eats them.

7. On songs, not learning new ones
Grandma is making the mistake of trying to teach The Toddler a new song. The Toddler does not believe in new songs. Songs are only songs if The Toddler knows them. It’s a mystery how The Toddler learnt any songs at all. She is not learning this one. She is shouting over Grandma’s stubborn singing: ‘I can’t sing that one! I don’t know that one! No, Grandma, that’s not fair!’

8. On nannying
The Toddler is holding her broomstick up over her head and carrying her doctor’s kit. She marches through the living room, declaring, ‘I’m going to see the childrens.’ Yes, she’s impersonating Mary Poppins, with a broomstick as an umbrella and a doctor’s kit in place of the carpet bag. Now, who would like to leave their ‘childrens’ in the competent and responsible hands of Toddler Poppins?

9. On knowing the rules
The Toddler is trying to hit the cat with a broomstick, and has been told off. She understands the situation and the need for swift disciplinary measures. Yes indeed: Silly Mummy is being very badly behaved and must be stopped. The Toddler acts promptly, informing Silly Mummy: ‘You know the rules!* Go on naughty step! That’s naughty from you!’

(*Apparently, there is a rule that Silly Mummy is not to tell The Toddler to stop trying to hit the cat with a broomstick. Silly Daddy must have approved that rule.)

 
10. On pandas, wearing them
The Toddler has a couple of items of clothing with pandas on them, which she loves (and is keen to ensure no one tries to steal). However, it appears that she may have become confused as to what pandas actually are. It seems she may believe they themselves are some kind of clothing. Silly Mummy is looking at pictures of the new baby pandas born in China. The Toddler wanders over and peers at the pictures: ‘Oh pandas! Can I put them on?’ No wonder pandas are endangered. Their food has little nutrition, they don’t mate, toddlers are wearing them…

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 9: That’s Not Fair
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits
Week 19: Clock
Week 21: Woof

Woof: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature, and this week there is also a word (literally) from William Wallace, sorry, The Baby.

First, Silly Mummy gives you The Toddler:

1. On ears, not safe
Silly Mummy touches The Toddler’s ear, apparently a more dangerous activity than it appears, as The Toddler yells, ‘Don’t touch it! It’s not safe!’ She does not expand upon exactly why her ear is not safe.

2. On the Tooth Fairy
The Baby is very insistently offering The Toddler a leaflet that came through the door and is now The Baby’s most prized possession. The Toddler is ignoring her eager little sister, so Silly Mummy explains that The Baby would like The Toddler to take her leaflet because she is trying to be nice. The Toddler catches on and takes the leaflet: ‘You give that to me? Thank you, The Baby.’ As is usually the way with small children, of course, The Baby only wanted to loan her prized possession to The Toddler. She is now looking hopefully at The Toddler. Silly Mummy asks The Toddler if she would like to give the leaflet back to The Baby now. The Toddler would not: ‘Not going to have it back. It’s my Tooth Fairy.’ Of course it is. Bloody Peppa Pig and her Tooth Fairy letters.

3. On Mary Poppins, summarising
The Toddler has just got to the end of Mary Poppins (again). As Mary flies off with her umbrella, The Toddler summarises the situation: ‘Mary Poppins she’s got to go and see more children. She’s got to go and fly a kite with her bag.’ Yes, that seems to about cover the end of Mary Poppins, if not correct kite flying techniques.

4. On Labyrinth, also summarising
Other films The Toddler has a perfect grasp of include Labyrinth (which Silly Daddy is inexplicably convinced any two year old would want to see): ‘Where’s the baby? We can’t find it!’ David Bowie appears, The Toddler exclaims: ‘What’s that?’

5. On distrac…fluff
Silly Mummy and The Toddler are engaged in a serious conversation, not that Silly Mummy can remember what it is about, as The Toddler seems to have led the discussion firmly down the path labelled distraction: ‘And then…Oh a bit of fluff there. Just a bit of fluff. It’s there. I get rid of it. It’s gone now.’ (As is everyone’s train of thought.)

6. On porridge, apologising for
The Toddler has been asking Silly Mummy for porridge. Silly Mummy is about to make The Toddler some food, and seeks to confirm whether porridge is still desired: ‘Do you still want to have porridge?’
The Toddler appears to feel Silly Mummy’s question implies porridge making is a particularly onerous task: ‘Yes, I do. Sorry about that. I’ll get it myself then.’

7. On her name
The Toddler is misbehaving. Silly Mummy informs her she is a little monster. The Toddler knows Silly Mummy gets confused, and patiently corrects her: ‘I’m not a monster, I’m The Toddler!’

8. On saying ‘woof’
The Toddler is saying ‘woof’. For no particular reason. This is a little odd. She’s also giving a running commentary about the fact that she is saying ‘woof’. This is more than a little odd. ‘Woof. I say woof to The Baby. I’ll say woof to you. Woof. Do you like woof, The Baby?’

9. On kettles, boring
Silly Mummy is asking The Baby to fetch her various items (to see what words The Baby understands, not because The Baby is Silly Mummy’s slave). Silly Mummy asks The Baby if she can find the kettle from the toy tea set. The Toddler has an objection and interjects: ‘You can’t have the kettle – it’s very boring.’

10. On sharing
The Toddler has been rooting around in the games cupboard she is not supposed to go in. Playing cards are now all over the floor. Silly Mummy is picking them up. The Toddler is protesting Silly Mummy’s seizure of ‘her’ property. Silly Mummy points out: ‘Those are Mummy’s cards.’
The Toddler is feeling generous: ‘I’ll share them with you.’

 
 
A word (just the one) from The Baby
The Baby has broken into the restricted (for toddlers and baby toddlers) dining area. She is very pleased with herself. She dodges Silly Mummy and manages to grab a pen before she is apprehended. As Silly Mummy approaches her, The Baby waves her pen in the air, Braveheart style, and issues her war cry: ‘Booooooop!’ You can take The Baby’s pen, but you’ll never take her bop! (In all fairness, ‘bop’ is a more rational war cry than the one William Wallace uses in that film. I’d go so far as to suggest that the course of Scottish history could have been very different had the Scots waved their pens and yelled ‘bop’ at the army of Edward I.)

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 2: I’ll Tell You What, Mummy
Week 12: Undone, Everyone
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits
Week 20: You’re a Good Winner

Two Year Development Reviews: Do They Work?

I’ve been considering writing about the two year development reviews carried out by Health Visitors for quite some time. (In fact, The Toddler’s second birthday and her review were right around the time I first started blogging, six months ago.)

I have to admit at the start that there were no concerns raised at The Toddler’s review, which may make this seem an odd post. I hope people will see what I am getting at, even though I have no reason at all to be personally disgruntled (and I am not, I might add, despite what the pronoun jokes may suggest). It is just that, despite the unproblematic review we happened to have, I couldn’t help but feel that the process was pretty flawed and, in fact, kind of unnecessary.*

Now, I absolutely see the value in carrying out checks in order to try to pick up real problems in a child’s development (or families who may be struggling) early. That makes sense. There is a long gap between birth and school, and of course identifying any problems within that period could lead to better management and treatments for children.

My issue is not with the idea of reviewing children, it is with the method used. The checklists/questionnaires, the little tests, giving parents a score for their children. Does it really need to be done this way?

It seems to me that, where there are actually concerning developmental delays or behavioural issues, a trained professional should be able to identify that by simply watching the child during the meeting, and having a casual talk with parents. Is it necessary to be quizzing parents with what can feel like test questions? Keeping scores for two year olds? I’m sure there would be some children felt to be borderline as to whether there is cause for concern. But, presumably, some children are borderline on the scored system too. Those children could simply be monitored with further checks, surely? I would guess that is probably pretty much what happens anyway.

I wonder how accurate this scored system really is. A lot relies on reporting by the parents. Is it truthful? I am sure many people can work out the answer the Health Visitor is looking for – how many give that regardless? I expect I would be told in answer to this that the Health Visitor can get a reasonable idea if the parents are exaggerating the child’s progress from what they observe of the child. Indeed. So why don’t they just do that? Remove the pressure of making parents feel like they are being tested.

Aside from the accuracy of parents’ self reporting, there is the question of whether the little tasks and tests the toddlers are asked to complete at the review really serve any useful purpose. I have an example. One item The Toddler was marked down on was in the fine motor skills category, because she failed to thread beads on to a string for the Health Visitor. Now, I am not suggesting that The Toddler was capable of doing this. It may very well be that she could not do it; she had certainly never tried before. What interested me was that it was marked that she could not do it, and was therefore lacking in that aspect of fine motor skills, but the test did not actually show that. The test established that she did not do it, but not whether she could do it. You see, she had never tried before and she did not try then. She felt that there were more fun activities she could do with the beads and the string, and she entirely ignored the Health Visitor’s instructions. So was that a test of fine motor skills? Or was it a test of how willing toddlers are to follow instructions? This made me wonder. That happened to be the one thing The Toddler refused to comply with on the day, and it was not a big deal, but how many people’s children refuse to complete lots of the tests? We all know the answer to how willing toddlers are to follow instructions is not very. Do all children who don’t carry out the tasks get marked as lacking the skill being tested, regardless of whether that was demonstrated one way or the other?

Then there is the list itself, and the way it is scored. The checklist/questionnaire appears to represent a fairly arbitrary selection from the multitude of things a toddler might be able to do, as indeed you would expect if you tried to make a checklist to summarise the multitude of things a toddler might be able to do. Furthermore, there seemed to me little consistency between list items in terms of relative difficulty. For example, one item relates to combining two words together, another to using pronouns, rather than names, most of the time. I don’t consider those to be close to the same level of difficulty, or particularly likely to be seen at the same stage of development. To use The Toddler as an example, she was using two words together from about 20-21 months old. By the review at 24 months old, she was speaking in sentences of five-six words. At that time, she was using pronouns about 50% of the time and names the other 50% of the time (if anyone is interested, she was also therefore marked down in this area). By about 27 months, she was using pronouns nearly all the time. I do not dispute that some children may be using pronouns fully by two, though I think those children would be in a minority. However, I would expect any child who can properly use pronouns to also be able to speak in fairly complex sentences, far in advance of two word pairings. Therefore, if the checklist expects children to be able to use pronouns, should it not expect them to be able to speak in multi-word sentences too? This is why I say it is arbitrary and inconsistent. It is a very mixed selection of things most children could do at two years and things few would be able to. Which is okay in a sense, but makes it difficult to judge the meaning of the scoring. Even if the way the scores are viewed is designed to take account of the different levels of difficulty in the list items (dealt with further below), and even if it is not expected that an average child could do all of the tasks, it is hard to escape the impression given that the child was expected to be able to do all of the tasks.

What of situations where the child is able to perform tasks beyond those allowed for on the list. There is no provision for extra points for tasks the child could perform over and above those on the checklist. Whilst I am quite sure it is not the intention, I couldn’t help but feel that this creates an air of negativity. In effect, any area of ‘failure’ (even if it is for a task of a clearly higher level of difficulty than others) is highlighted by receiving zero points, but there is no corresponding system of crediting achievements over and above those listed. How then can you truly say you are assessing a child’s development? Surely you need to assess all areas where there has been progress, as well as areas where there may have been less progress? Is it really okay to highlight to potentially anxious parents that their child is not using pronouns (I am planning to really do this pronouns point to death) all the time (though probably most are not at two), but give no mention to how good their sentences are because that is not on the list? (For that matter, why are the pronouns (told you: to death) getting a mention at all? Is it likely that children not using pronouns at two are going to spend their life talking about themselves in the third person?)

Parents are subsequently given a copy of the checklist and the scores. There is no context to the scores, no explanation given. Perhaps the discrepancy in difficulty levels of the tasks is balanced by the way that the scores are viewed. So that, for example, 30/60 is actually the average score, and, say, 45/60 would be above average. Therefore, the points lost on items that would be clearly developmentally advanced do not prevent the child’s score from reflecting their appropriate level. I do not know if this is the case, though. Of course, the Health Visitor will have said if there is concern, no concern, the child performs above average, etc. However, I doubt that stops people from wondering about the score. Wondering if 35/60 is average? Low? Is 60/60 well above average? Or are the children supposed to get close to full marks? Who knows? Why give people scores without any context? What is the point?

Then there are the averages used to make these lists, to determine where points are given or taken away. Is any account taken of common differences between boys and girls, for example? Are different assessments used? Maybe, but I did not get the impression this was so. How would a single set of criteria based on the averaged development of two year olds allow for common gender differences? There are exceptions, of course, but boys tend to be very physical in their play and communication, girls much more vocal. If all children are being assessed against an averaged criteria, does this review tend to show a lot of boys as below average in language development, and many girls above average? Are more parents of boys therefore told there may be some language delay? I do not know if this is the case, but I do wonder. In truth, what is actually shown if you compare typical boys’ language to typical girls’ language is not developmental delays versus developmental advances, but simply developmental differences.

I should just say here, that I have no doubt that most Health Visitors actually administer these assessments in a sensible and pragmatic way. I am sure that they look beyond the scores in reaching their views on development. I am sure they recognise the limitations of the system, and issues such as developmental differences between genders as well. However, I don’t think that changes the fact that having scored lists creates comparison and competition. I don’t think it changes the fact that maybe, in ensuring that children are monitored and reviewed, we have gone just a little bit too far. A little bit too far into making everyone worry about and compare every little aspect of children’s development.

Of course, I am sure that these checklists/questionnaires, and the tasks set to the children, are not supposed to be referred to as tests. I am sure that the official line is that the scores aid the Health Visitors, and are nothing for parents to be concerned with. But this is my point: if you score them, people will always see them as a form of test or assessment. If you present people with scores, they will always worry, analyse and compare them. If we are not testing two year olds, why have the lists, tasks and test-like elements? And if we are testing two year olds, why on earth are we testing two year olds?

So, whilst there is clear value in identifying children with real difficulties, in order to provide the support needed at the earliest opportunity, I simply wonder if this is really the best way to be doing it. Is assessing two year olds against arbitrary criteria necessary? Is there a risk that this system is causing a disproportionate level of concern about minor developmental differences or delays, that are likely to even out of their own accord by school age? (Has anyone ever really needed to give thought to the percentage of pronoun use employed by a two year old??)

Does the mere act of providing parents with a checklist, a score for their children, risk causing unnecessary worry, putting pressure on parents and children, and fostering a culture of competitive parenting that is not healthy? We already carry out formal testing of very young children in schools. Social media is already full of competitive parents displaying rose tinted accounts of their children’s behaviour and achievements. There is enough anxiety for parents. There is enough pressure and competition. We do not need to be looking to highlight and record areas of ‘failure’ in two year olds, surely (and, indeed, I doubt that is the aim of the system, but it is implicit in the method used). We do not need to be comparing children to other children, let alone some invented ‘average’ child.

Perhaps most would not agree with me, but I would much rather see simple chats and observations carried out, with no lists and no scoring. Following which, any children about whom there is real cause for concern are referred for appropriate support, and everyone else is simply told there are no concerns and their child is doing fine. Not how fine their child is doing in comparison with other children. Not anything to worry about nor anything to brag about. Nothing about bloody pronouns.** Two year olds don’t care if they can say 50 more words than Susan next door. When children start school, no one can tell who walked at one and who was closer to two. Children develop at different rates. In most cases, can we not simply allow them to do so, and enjoy watching it happen?

(*It should be noted, of course, that I can only base my observations and opinions on the way our review was conducted, which may not be the same as everyone’s experiences.
**I am not as upset about the pronouns as it may appear, it just struck me as quite a good example of the possibly unnecessary elements of the process.)