Friday, December 16, 2011

The Word of the Day

I suppose this entry is more aptly entitled, “The Phrase of the Day”, or perhaps still more aptly, “The Phrase of the Few Days”. I’ve noticed over the past several weeks that Ryan is beginning to pick up new phrases and work them to death over the first day or so that he learns them, then he moves on to another. The two big phrases he’s wrapped his mind around over the past couple of days have been, “I don’t know that” (which comes out “I don’t-a know that” because apparently he’s Italian) and “What’s that noise?”

Most of the time, he has the context and meaning correct, although the “I don’t know that” answer is sometimes given when he obviously does, in fact, “know that”. We’ve been practicing naming colors, and he rarely gets one wrong (not counting his favorite go-to answer, “pink”, which he gives to non-pink things just because he likes to say the word “pink”). So when I show him a green truck and ask him, “Is this truck yellow?”, he will sometimes answer, “I don’t know that.” But most often, he gives it as an answer when he really doesn’t know, like when I show him a new shape that he’s just learning (like a trapezoid or a hexagon) and ask him what it is. The funny thing is that I don’t recall using that phrase with him much – but what I DO recall is telling him, “You know that!” when he won’t answer or gives a silly answer. The fact that he has apparently learned the difference between knowing and not knowing is amazing to me.

I suspect that “What’s that noise” is my practice run for the “why” phase. He asks what the noise is when a truck drives past the house, or when the washing machine goes into its spin cycle, or when Katie cries, or when the heat kicks on and makes the baseboards click, or when a plane flies overhead. I love that he is beginning to explore his world by talking about it and asking about it and not just by experiencing it through looking and touching and tasting. It shows how much he’s thinking about everything around him and trying to understand and interpret it.

The best part of a toddler’s language development, in this parent’s opinion, is the window that it opens into the way he thinks. It’s fascinating to not only watch him figuring out how things work, but to hear him explaining the process to himself or to me. Plus, he can ask for things that he wants, like when he asked me to put a diaper on his teddy bear last night, or when he requests something specific to eat (usually pancakes – or cookies – or a candy cane), or when he wants help finding a particular toy in the toybox. Fortunately for me, his verbal skills have developed so quickly and so well, and he speaks so clearly, that so far we haven’t run into the frustration that most toddlers experience when their cognitive abilities outpace their verbal skills. I get to enjoy that peek inside his head without struggling to understand him, and he gets to share his excitement of learning without struggling to be understood.

I guess that means that my Phrase of the Day would be, “My kid is amazing!” But then again, that’s pretty much going to be my Phrase of the Next Few Decades.

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