Tagged Language

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!’

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?

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.’

Jam

JamThe Toddler is looking for jam. The Toddler has made tea and toast with her toy breakfast set. She now needs the jam. Probably for the toast, but who can be sure? She has regularly served people egg in their tea cups, and her favourite imaginary food offering is ‘carrot and cake’. (I would love to pretend The Toddler is very sophisticated and offers people imaginary carrot cake. I would, however, be lying. It is not carrot cake. It is carrot AND cake.) So, anyway, The Toddler needs jam. Probably for the toast, but possibly to spread on eggs or stir into tea.

Now, I must point out at this juncture that there is no jam. The Toddler’s breakfast set includes bread, croissants, eggs, spoons, knives, plates, cups, a kettle and a toaster, but no jam. The jam is entirely imaginary. This seems to be somewhat impeding the search. It is very difficult to find objects that are both hidden and non-existent.

The Toddler wanders around the room, providing jam-related commentary: ‘Where jam? Here? No. Here? No. Of course…The Toddler’s spoon!’ Briefly thought the jam had been located there? So did Silly Mummy but, no, it was the spoon. Of course! Unaware we had also been hunting for a spoon? Join the club. The spoon is reunited with its tea cup, but the imaginary jam remains AWOL. ‘More jam!’ More? Apparently there has already been jam. It must be around here somewhere then. ‘Where jam?’

Silly Mummy has a brainwave. Silly Mummy lifts up a cushion and holds out an imaginary jar: ‘Here it is! It was behind the cushion.’ The Toddler shakes her head. She is not fooled. Whatever imaginary substance is in that imaginary jar, it is not imaginary jam. Furthermore, the imaginary jar of the unidentified imaginary substance, which Silly Mummy made up on a whim just seconds ago, belongs behind that cushion! The Toddler takes the rejected imaginary jar and puts it back behind the cushion.

The jam is still missing. ‘Where jam? Think! Where’s it gone?’ The Toddler sees her tea cups and is briefly distracted: ‘Tea for two!’ Briefly. ‘Looky jam. Where?’ The Toddler looks in her box of books: ‘No!’ She looks in her box of cuddly toys: ‘No! Look, Mummy, Daddy! Got dina!’ She waves around her stuffed dinosaur, jam apparently forgotten. The dinosaur is harder to spread on toast, but more tangible than imaginary lost jam. Swings and roundabouts.

The Toddler is still rifling through the cuddly toys: ‘Look! Rhino! Look! Horse big neck!’
‘Giraffe, sweetheart.’
‘Oh, yes, giraffe. Tall giraffe. Bouncy giraffe. What sound makey giraffe?’
‘It…Well, it…It makes…Erm…Daddy? Anything to add?’
Daddy jumps right in with, ‘Er…’
Silly Mummy knows just what to say: ‘Weren’t you looking for jam, darling?’
‘No. What noisy giraffe make?’
Several minutes of parental googling later and we know the answer: they don’t (well, the babies occasionally moo).

ABCs

ABCThe Toddler likes the alphabet at the moment. The alphabet is the new numbers. She repeats to herself, ‘A…B…C…A…B…C.’ Occasionally, she throws in ‘D’.

The ABC song is on the TV. The Toddler is watching and bouncing along. Silly Mummy says, ‘Are you doing your ABCs?’ The Toddler stops what she is doing and looks at Silly Mummy. She puts on her best humouring Silly Mummy voice and replies, ‘No: CBeebies!’ Silly Mummy.

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.

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.

R Is for Hoppit

R is for HoppitThe Toddler loves rabbits. The Toddler has had several words for rabbits. The first word for rabbit was ‘mouse’. Clearly, she was confused as to what a rabbit is. (Her cuddly donkey is currently living a double life as a ‘Cow! Moo!’)

Mouse confusion cleared up, we discussed rabbits. Rabbits, of course, are one of those awkward animals. What noise does a rabbit make? We need the noise. How do we teach children animal names? ‘Cat. Cats say “meow”. Dog. Dogs say “woof”. Sheep. Sheep say “baa”. Rabbit. Rabbits say…oh.’ We need the noise! Never mind. We have it covered: rabbits hop! Hop little bunny, hop, hop, hop! So The Toddler called rabbits ‘hops’. She enjoyed hopping like a hop.

Then The Toddler noticed that other people were calling the hops ‘rabbits’. She decided this should not be ignored. Rabbit should be incorporated into hop. She called them ‘hoppits’. It became immediately clear to us all that rabbits are, of course, hoppits. Why are we not all calling rabbits hoppits? We should all be calling them hoppits. The terrible error that has led to hoppits being wrongly referred to as rabbits all this time should be immediately rectified.

Sadly, The Toddler’s flashcards refused to conform to this name change. They stubbornly maintained that rabbits are, in fact, called rabbits. R is for rabbit. The Toddler enjoys the flashcards.
‘H is for?’
‘Hat!’
‘M is for?’
‘Man!’
‘A is for?’
‘Apple!’
‘R is for?’
‘Hoppit!’
‘Rabbit. R is for rabbit. What is r for?’
‘Hoppit!’

The Toddler can now say ‘rabbit’. She humours the less progressive among us (and her flashcards), employing the traditional terminology when necessary to avoid confusion. In private, however, she continues the crusade. The dream will become reality. ‘Hoppit’ will enter the Oxford Dictionary. One day, r will be for hoppit!