Toddler Tales: Learning Words

One of the most amazing things to observe and enjoy is my toddler's language development.

His first word was "kak kak" (quack, quack) right after we moved, just before his first birthday. Our apartment is nestled into a swampland and we have the benefit of a "pond" right next door--thus the swift introduction of ducks and their sounds.

Over the last year he's been adding sounds and words to his repertoire--each one rewarded with excited voices, proud smiles, and clapped hands. Only recently, his vocabulary has exploded! He will say a new word that I've never heard him say before on a daily basis and impresses Mr. H & I with his new-and-improved copycat skills. It is absolutely amazing.

Since he & I spend almost all of our time together (which I count as one of my tip-top blessings), I have become an expert at noticing his new words and de-coding sounds. In addition, I am developing mad detective skills to coordinate the experiences with what he is saying.

Because sometimes it is a stretch--but taking the time to figure it out makes this whole language learning adventure even MORE fascinating.

A few recent examples
(I'm sure the only people who will care about this are language enthusiast and possibly the grandparents. This is definitely for my own record keeping purposes.
And for the record, J is 22 months old)

A-Collecting and verbalizing words much more quickly than before:

In a book we read last night If You Give A Pig A Pancake, he pointed to the lamp and said "laop". I told Trevor he might have thought it was a canteloupe given the melon-shaped base (because many times there is a picture that looks LIKE something else that gets confusing). So then Trevor pointed to the lamps in our living room and asked J what they were. Without skipping a beat he said "laop" for each one.

He knows lamp! The first time to say it; Mr. H & I exchanged glances of wonder. Another word added to his growing list. Wow!

It makes me wonder how many words are floating around in that darling little head just begging for an opportunity to be shared...

B-Relating the words with places & applying them:

A week or so ago we went through a car wash. He has let us know through no uncertain terms that he is terrified of going through the things (crying-screaming the entire time), so this time we talked it up BIG TIME.

"It's bath time! Bath time for the car. The car is dirty and needs a bath--look, we can get a bath right here! Let's take the car through the bath. Oh it will be so much fun! (etc.)" I guess going on and on and the very high pitched excitement in our voices worked because we made it through with only one worried glance.

Last night as we were leaving the grocery store, J was looking out the window and pointing he said "baf, baf" (bath). I thought--what would make him think of bath time right now and took a quick glance to the back seat to see if he had instantly been covered in mud or something. Thankfully he was just as clean as when he had been buckled in a minute before--but! We were driving BY a CARWASH.

He remembered the car getting a bath, and was pointing it out--"bath, bath!" It wasn't even the same car wash. Impressive.

C-Using commonly heard expressions in their appropriate context:

Another part of his newly explosive vocab is that I am learning the words that I use more than others. Sometime last week I was informed that I use the word "ALRIGHT" as an exclamatory word quite a bit (at least around my son).

Now, we get to hear it ALL the time...but it's always in context, and always with excitement in his voice, and always super-adorable.

After getting dressed: "Alright!"
Going outside: "Alright!"
Getting toys out to play: "Alright!"
Putting toys away: "Alright!"
Getting in the bathtub: "Alright!"
Going into a store: "Alright!"

*Also ever-expanding in their frequency: "Buh-Bye" (yesterday even to the water going down the drain in the bath tub) and "Hiiiiii" (to almost everyone he meets)

D- Using his growing collection of words to make his life easier

Letting me know what he wants: Waters, milk, pasta, gogo (yogurt), lope (cantaloupe), peas, cheese, bowl, spoon, fork
Letting me know what is/has/will happen: PeePee, Poop, Potty
Letting me know where he wants to be: Up, Down, Walk, Cars
...and the big one we're really working on is PLEASE.

E- Copying words/phrases with voice tone and inflection

1) When I am frustrated with him or feel sad about something that's going on, I'll start out my sentence with "Honey..." with a very distinct inflection--kind of an up and then down pitch.

He recently started to say "Honey..." with that EXACT voice inflection--copying that word for certain circumstances that are similar to those in which I have used it with him.

2) We've been taking pictures of the kid since he was just a minute old. At the beginning we didn't say much but over time you start to use words to encourage a smile or at least eye contact when you're snapping photos. And what's the most common word to use? CHEESE!

He will now mimic the exact higher-pitch tone and longer length of the word whenever we're taking photos or even if he SEES the camera lying around the house: "cheeeeese!"

Even better, his version is even HIGHER pitched so it's hilariously cute.

F- Explaining his actions with words

One of his newest fascinations includes all things CREEPY CRAWLY. Most all of them lump into the title of "bug" but some are more specifically recognized as "pi" (spiders). As spring is upon us, we are seeing a few of these outside friends inside our apartment--which thrills him to no end.

Last week I noticed he threw his blanket onto a spider and said "buh-bye pi" (bye bye spider). He took the blanket off and said pee-boo! (peek-a-boo)

And yesterday he saw a bug in the bathroom. I told him it was taking a nap (truth: it was dead). He went straightaway to his room and grabbed his blanket (which he just started to say--"binky"). He said "pi. binkie." (spider, blanket) and gently laid the blanket over the "sleeping spider". Of course! I had told him the bug was taking a nap.

The more words he can say, the more we understand his actions and learn more about his personality--what a thoughtful little guy!

G- The word switch

He has learned his words and associations over time and experience. Some words we have practiced and practiced and others (more recently) he just says out of the blue.

He has ONE word that he is convinced that we are wrong about.

Every orange he calls "apo" (apple)
We tell him EVERY time "it's an orange" but he stands firm: "apple!"

When I ask "do you want an orange?" he'll say "apo! apo!"
When I show him the CRAYOLA COLOR orange and say "this is the color orange"--he says "apo!"
When he is talking to his Grandmama & she says "orange" --he says "apo!"

It's the only thing he does that with and it's pretty funny to hear. We don't encourage it though, we ALWAYS reiterate "orange" whenever we get the chance.

He's not convinced.

...and if you've made it this far you must be as fascinated as I am by the awesomeness of my toddler...

Or rather, the awesomeness of our capacity to learn and the amazing development that takes place in each phase and age.

It's kind of inspiring, actually.

Any new words you've added to your vocab lately?


Anonymous said...

this is totally fascinating. they are such sponges and i can totally relate to this post as my little guy has really taken off with his vocabulary. my favorite phrase of his right now is "mawnmo tuck" (lawnmower stuck) since we park it in a corner and it won't move when he pushes it. i'm sure a lot of him putting two and two together is missed by me and i think it's great that you take the time and use every opportunity to teach your little guy. you really are NEVER missing a milestone! i know this comment is getting long.. but, just yesterday D taught C how to say "die! die!" as they were punching and beating a stuffed animal. Sigh. And, M taught C how to say "yucky" while sitting at the table for supper. Sigh.

It's Me - Jen E! said...

I made it all the way to the end because I LOVE toddler tales! Will talks non-stop...I think alot of that has to do with older siblings...so just think how much more advanced your next little one will be because of his big brother!

Will is determined that strawberries are 'boo-berries'. We correct him and he'll say it right....until the next time! More boo-berries pease.....

jennie b said...

I LOVE to watch language development in kids! I'm getting to see it first hand for the first time, and it's just amazing. Darren's language skills have recently hit a growth spurt as well, and it's just awesome. He's using more words, and starting to really chatter and babble, trying to incorporate his tongue when he talks. He even said, "I love you!" (iyuhyoo) yesterday! Talk about melting my heart! He's using more signs now too. I love watching his little hands talk.

Oh, how I wish we could get our boys together! I would love to see in person this amazing J that I hear so much about, and Darren would love to hang with such a big, cool kid. And you continue to amaze with your wonderful writing and documentation. I was just thinking how awesome it would be to do a baby (toddler!) update for the family like you do (J at Month X). But my family is stuck with me, and all they get are (now occasional) "Daily Dose of Darren" pics. :D Keep it up, we (linguists, grandparents, and Harper Family Fans)love it!

JNew said...

I loved reading this too because it brought back so many memories of when my little guys were learning to talk. One of my favorite stories is when we took our 18 month old to Olive Garden with us. When the server placed his sippy cup of milk (that he had just filled in the kitchens) in front of Frank and he said "Thank you," me, my husband, and the server all looked at each other in shock. Still makes me laugh.

Emily said...

I hear a lot of "mommommommom"...I don't know if it's directed at me or not, but it sure is sweet!