I’ve got a horrible cold at the moment, so I’ve not felt like doing much other than the bare essentials of getting through the day with the boys, but I thought writing this short post would cheer me up. We like to make cards where possible, which often means doing a photo collage online, getting it printed, and sticking it to some ready folded cards. For Mother’s Day this year, as we have done in previous years, I thought it would be nice for the boys and me to do some craft together.
I scoured our craft box and found some coloured paper, glue, mini pompoms, small foam shapes, and furry wires. I cut some flower shapes out of two colours of paper, one colour bigger than the other, and a pot for the flowers to sit in. Then the boys (mainly Andrew whilst Joel tipped the pompoms out the bag!) helped me stick it all together. First we assembled the flower heads with glue and finished them with a mini pompom in the middle. Then we stuck them with tape to the top of the furry wires which became stalks. The other end of the stalks then fastened to the card with tape, and we glued the pot over the top. To finish off we stuck some leaf shaped foam bits to the card on either side of the stalks.
And there you go, a simple but effective Mother’s Day card – we made two identical, one for each Granny/Grandma.
Each week Granny has one day that she doesn’t work, and since we’ve been staying with her and Grandad, she’s mainly been spending that day with us. A couple of times she’s helped us go and look at pre-schools (i.e. she’s looked after Joel whilst Andrew and I went in to have a look round), and most often we’ve been swimming because that’s something I can’t do on my own with 2 toddlers and we love a good swim. But as this week was half term, we figured that the pool would be much busier than the usual quiet parent and tots session, so we decided to visit a local National Trust property instead, especially as the weather was so nice and sunny.
We’d seen that there were welly walks advertised through the NT app at both Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton in the afternoon, but as the boys were due a nap in the afternoon, we headed off first thing in the morning to Baddesley Clinton, thinking that we could just do our own welly walk through the lovely grounds there. When we arrived it was lovely and quiet, and as we walked off around the outside of the house there was nobody else in sight.
The house is interesting because it is surrounded by a moat, and this fascinated Andrew, particularly as there were ducks swimming in it. There were also plenty of puddles to splash in on the path by the moat, so this satisfied the boys’ desire to get wet without resorting to jumping in the moat! We then continued on a path beyond the house, which took us around a lake surrounded by trees. It was so beautiful – the sun glistening on the water and the trees reflecting in the calm lake. We came to a few bridges too, across streams leading into/out of the lake, which the boys loved. They both did really well at walking, though Joel’s little legs didn’t quite make it all the way round before he wanted up onto my back.
Andrew collected a couple of sticks, as usual, and we came back round towards the house on the other side of it. There was a lovely patch of snow drops and the birds were out in full force, tweeting away in the tree-tops. With these and the sun, it really felt like a spring day compared to all the wet days we’ve had recently, though it was a bit nippy out of the sun.
As we walked through the more formal, walled bit of garden, Andrew was getting tired, so we spurred him on with the thought of a drink and snack in the tea room – it was only 10.30 by this point. You really can’t go wrong with home baked National Trust goodies. We shared a cupcake, gingerbread lady and shortbread biscuit between us; they went down well.
By the time we’d finished, the house was then open, so we headed across there to have a look around. The boys aren’t really old enough to appreciate much of it, but they enjoyed having a brief explore through the old rooms with uneven floors and interesting objects. There was an activity for kids – a welly hunt – so Andrew was tasked with spotting all the little pictures of wellies as we walked around. Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos inside as you’re not allowed to use flash and I was too busy holding hands with one of the boys. But I did just about capture them on camera in the last room where there was a dressing up box with period clothes in – they loved putting some hats on.
After this, we fed the ducks with some bread that another family gave us, and then we took another short walk down to the field at the front of the estate, to see the sheep and the tractor that was driving about. Andrew was also fascinated by what looked like a local electricity generator (I’m no expert, but there was one of those ‘danger of death’ signs that I associate with electricity) – in his words: “look Mummy, it’s a lightening, a lightening”!
By this time though, the boys were clearly very tired, and we knew that the car journey home and some lunch before nap would be a good idea at this point. There was just enough time to go back via the shop and claim our prize for counting the wellies in the house – a sticker for Andrew – and buy the usual bouncy ball souvenir, which Granny and Grandad always buy for them at a National Trust property.
It was a fantastic morning out in the fresh air and almost spring-like sunshine. The grounds and house were perfect for little legs to explore, and when we move to south Birmingham, this will be one of our local properties, so I’m sure we will be back many a time in the future.
Linking up with Coombe Mill’s fantastic Country Kids linky as usual – pop over there to read about others’ outdoor family fun.
A few weeks ago when we were at our local children’s centre at a group, the fire alarm went off. To be fair, it was very loud, and we hadn’t been warned so it wasn’t just a practice. Andrew was playing across the room from where Joel and I were sat, so I looked immediately over at him and he started to scream! So I rushed over to him, and as I did, a kind member of staff who was in the room offered to take Joel, who hadn’t batted an eyelid at the noise, and I picked up a howling Andrew with his hands over his ears. We filed out into the playground, of course without coats, so Andrew ended up wearing an adult denim jacket and Joel a blanket from a friend’s buggy that was outside. It turned out to be something like they’d burnt some toast in the kitchen, so it wasn’t too long before we filed back in again. Andrew calmed down after we’d got out of the building way from the noise. You may be wondering what’s so funny about that?
Well, ever since this incident, Andrew has managed to recount bits of this story at least once a day. He is now obsessed with spotting fire alarms in other buildings – “Look, Mummy, there’s a fire alarm! Fire alarm make a big loud noise. Andrew cried fire alarm. Andrew in playground outside.” He can spot them in places I didn’t even notice, like shops, cafes and other places we go to for groups. He’s of course noticed the one we have at home, and lets me know this at frequent intervals, just in case I did’t know we had one. This fire alarm observation skill started off quite cute to my mind, then turned into being rather funny; now I’d say we’ve reached the slightly annoying stage, when I find myself apologising to people we meet at groups who have to endure yet another rendition of his fire alarm story when he spots one for the umpteenth time!
The other obsession of Andrew’s at the moment is one that surfaces in the garden. A few weeks ago when Granny and Grandad came to visit, Grandad found a few of those flowers that you can blow on and the seeds fly away in the wind. Of course Andrew learnt the word for them, or so I thought, until earlier this week when we were in the garden where there were still quite a few left that he hadn’t picked with Grandad. As Andrew picked one himself, I asked him what it was, to which came the reply: “a sandyline”. Although I thought this was rather cute, I thought I’d better gently correct him, by saying “Yes well done, that nearly right, it’s a dandelion”, which he repeated back to me as “a Daddylion”. Again, he was winning me over in cuteness, but I replied similarly to the last time, and his third attempt was perfect.
Just like I think this picture is perfect! (Grandad took this one, it’s far too good to be one of my snaps)
I’ve been getting Andrew into helping me make simple cards recently. I bought a bargain bumper pack of plain white A6 cards with envelopes, and we’ve had a lot of fun together sticking things onto them. We made one for Granny’s birthday and Andrew and Joel’s cousin’s Baptism last month, and now Mothering Sunday is the occasion. I know it’s a bit late to use this idea now for a Mother’s day card, but I thought the daffodil design would work well for Easter too, so I’m sharing it on here. It’s not an amazing picture; I just about had chance to take one whilst still not feeling well earlier in the week before we had to get them in the post to arrive by today. Thankfully we made them just before the bug struck, and hopefully you get the idea from this picture.
It was very simple to make. The yellow petals are a ‘pinwheel’, which you make by cutting a square of card the size of the space you want to fill and cutting a slit from each of the four corners to almost the centre; you then fold alternate corners (there are now 8) into the centre and stick them down with double-sided tape. The orange middle bit is made from an egg box, by cutting out one egg holder and cutting a zigzag shape into it from the top; we then painted it orange and stuck it into the centre when dry, using double-sided tape. The stem is a green drinking straw cut to size and stuck on with double-sided tape. Obviously I did all the cutting, but Andrew was very happy to help stick and paint.
We made one for each mum – Granny and Grandma. We have heard that they like them, so that’s a success! I have been given my own live daffodil and a handmade card from my boys 🙂
For over a month now, Andrew has been saying his very first words. According to the NHS ‘Birth to Five’ book, which gives average ages that children tend to reach milestones of development, this is at the later end of average for starting to talk. But as Andrew was an early walker (just before his 1st birthday), I wasn’t expecting that he would talk particularly early, because it’s often the case that babies and toddlers are early at gaining some skills and later at gaining others compared to their typically-developing peers. It’s like their brains seem to concentrate on one big thing to the detriment of other big things, until the first thing is sorted and then other things get a look in. I’ll give you a run through of his first words, and add some notes to each of them, sometimes referring to ‘techie’ terms – ones that I’ve learned through studying phonetics/linguistics – but hopefully explaining them well enough in everyday words too.
His first word was ‘bye-bye’, which he says something more like ‘ba-ba’, with a short ‘a’ instead of the double vowel (or ‘diphthong’ in techie speak) that I and other British English speaking adults use. His vowel here is slowly becoming more like mine compared to when he first said the word. This is a very useful word that gets used every morning when he waves to Daddy and/or me as we go to work, plus on other occasions like when we leave a group.
His second recognisable word was ‘ball’, which he says something more like ‘buh’, with no ‘l’ and a short vowel instead of the long vowel that adults use. But it clearly refers to ‘ball’, one of his favourite toys to play with wherever he is (including in the park when older kids are trying to have a game of football…) – I can tell because he consistently points to balls and says ‘buh’. He generally likes the sound ‘b’, as his ‘buh’ has now extended to also mean ‘balloon’ (which to be fair is pretty similar to a ball in shape) and ‘bird’. Again he will consistently point to these things and say ‘buh’, as well as using the sign (as in sign language) when he points to bird.
The next few words came about the same time; I can’t really say in which particular order. The word he now says the most on a daily basis must be ‘car’, which he says with a consonant produced slightly further back in the mouth than adults do – what I would call a ‘uvular plosive’ (instead of a ‘velar plosive’), so it sounds a bit like the ‘guttural’ sounds we associate with French ‘r’ sounds or Swiss German or Arabic. Over time this will become more English-sounding, and in the meantime I think it’s great that he can naturally use sounds that native English-speaking adults find hard to produce because they don’t use them in English. He points and says the word ‘car’ constantly as we walk anywhere next to roads, as he plays with his toy garage, and as we read books featuring cars. In fact he says car for pretty much any vehicle with wheels! Buses, lorries, vans – all cars in Andrew’s world. Bikes or motorbikes don’t seem to get this treatment, but he doesn’t consistently come out with anything else for these. Of course I encourage him when he says ‘car’, and then I go on to specify what it is if it’s not actually a car. One day he’ll figure this all out, but for now this ‘overextension’ (as is the techie term) is a normal part of language development. The classic example is when children use the word ‘dog’ to mean any four-legged, furry animal. This phenomenon happens across languages, not just in English, so it seems to be a general part of language acquisition, though researchers haven’t quite figured out exactly why it happens. It does show, however, that children initially categorise objects rather than simply label them, and then work towards being more specific in their initial categories.
Another word that he uses a lot is ‘shoes’. He says this as something like ‘shuhz’, so you hear mainly the two consonant ‘sh’ and ‘z’ sounds (what I would call ‘fricatives’) with a very short kind of non-descript vowel in the middle (a high central vowel that adults don’t use in English). This word is very useful for him, because he uses ‘shoes’ as a signal to let us know that he wants to go out – he brings them to us, repeating the word ‘shoes’ several times until we put them on, and then goes and stands by the front door to show that he wants to go out. Of course this isn’t always appropriate (like when I’m still in my pyjamas having got him sorted but not myself!), but he does love putting his shoes on and going out. In fact he also likes putting our shoes on and attempting to walk around constantly repeating the word ‘shoes’…. not always successfully in the case of my 2-inch-heeled mules!
Two little but powerful words he likes to use are ‘yeah’ and ‘no’. He seems to use ‘yeah’ for everything from everyday questions like ‘shall we get you dressed?’ (not his favourite activity) to questions about things he’s really excited about, like’ would you like to go to the park?’. Both his ‘yeah’ and his ‘no’ are now very adult-like, though ‘no’ started of as something more like ‘doh’, in which the vowel was pretty accurate, but the consonant wasn’t very nasal. I knew he meant ‘no’ though, because it was always accompanied by a shake of the head and usually happened just after I’ve said no to him!
One of his most recent additions was flower – he came out with this at my cousin’s wedding after several people were pointing the pretty flowers out to him, and ever since he’s been able to point them out himself. His version doesn’t sound exactly like flower, it’s more like ‘wa-wa’, but it’s obvious that this is what he means as he points to one.
Although animal sounds aren’t technically words, I would like to quickly mention that his favourite animals to point out are ‘cow’, ‘dog’ and ‘duck’ – which he calls ‘moo’ (somewhere between ‘moo’ and ‘boo’ actually), ‘urh urh’ (trying to say ‘woof woof’ but actually sounding more like a real bark than ‘woof’!) and ‘quack’ (more like ‘kack’). His productions of cow and duck (‘moo/boo’ and ‘kack’) are always accompanied by the sign language for each, which interestingly are also quite approximate compared to those that I make with my hands. I must write a post specifically on babysigning one day (I keep saying that and never get around to it….) For some reason he seems less bothered about making the dog sign with his bark. Although he doesn’t seem to overextend the word dog (as in the example I gave above), he does seem to overextend the word ‘moo’ – generally it refers to cows (we see them quite often on the fields near us), but he’s also used it for horse (which I think he’s just about picking up the sign for now, so using ‘moo’ less often) and elephant! So it seems it can apply to any big mammal.
I’m not quite sure why, but he often makes a sound like ‘ts’ when pointing at things that he can’t yet say the word for. As he points, I of course say the word of the object he’s pointing at, and one day he’ll have heard it enough times and be able to produce the right sounds to say it himself. Generally he likes making sounds like ‘sh’ and ‘ssss’ (what I’d call ‘fricatives’ in techie speak) all over the place, when I can’t always tell if there’s something specific he’s trying to refer to.
For anyone who remembers me writing about trilingual adventures before, here’s an update on where I’m at with introducing French and German as well as English. I’m still saying three words (one in each language) to him as we sit and read through books or point out things around the house or when we’re out and about. More recently I’ve decided to have two ‘French’ days and two ‘German’ days a week when I’m with him all day (I’m at work for the other 2.5 days), when I speak the relevant language to him when it’s just the two of us. So today is a ‘German’ day, and as we’ve walked to the shops and to groups, I’ve talked to him in German, pointing out things along the way, or making general small talk (as you do, talking to your toddler who can’t talk back, much!) Lunch was ‘Mittagessen’ and I’ve changed his ‘Windel’ instead of nappy etc. So far he’s only producing English words (or words that sound like English words). BUT, he clearly understands a lot in French and German, given how he reacts when I talk to him in either language. For example, when I ask him ‘Wo ist das Auto?’ or ‘Ou est-elle, la voiture?’ (‘Where’s the car?’), he’ll point and say ‘car’ in answer to my question. Amazing! He does this with various things, not just cars. It’s so fascinating to see the fact that he’s picking up more than one language without even thinking about it.
This leads on to an interesting point about language acquisition: the fact that he can understand a lot more (in English) than he can currently say. I’m finding that I can say some quite complicated sentences, for example give him instructions to do something like bring me his ball or put his sun hat back on, and he consistently does what I ask of him. If Tom and I are talking between us, not directly with him, and we happen to mention in passing something that he recognises, he’ll react to the word he’s heard in our speech, for example if we mentioned a dog, he’ll suddenly woof, even though we weren’t really aware he was listening to us. This has made me realise that I have to be careful now what I say. I hope that in general what I say is suitable for a toddler to hear and make sense of, but we all have days when we react and say something we wish we hadn’t – that’s the kind of thing I can just tell he’ll now pick up instantly!
I think I’ll leave this account of Andrew’s language acquisition journey here for now, but of course there’ll be much more to share over the coming months and years. You can probably tell, given my background in linguistics, that I find this all fascinating. Since Andrew was a baby, I’ve been recording him ‘talking’ – obviously this started of with baby sounds like gurgling and cooing, then babbling, and now some actual words (although capturing words on the recording is pretty difficult, because he’s aware of the recorder and then doesn’t produce them on cue like he would if it was just the two of us playing together – Observer’s Paradox, as Labov would say). These recordings are all waiting for me to sift through them and do anything specific with them – one day, if I ever get time to do that kind of thing. For now, just writing about what’s going on is interesting enough in my opinion.
I know it’s a bit late, but I couldn’t publish this until I knew our mums had seen their cards because they actually read the blog! This was just a quick idea that I came up with quite last minute as we’d had a busy weekend last week and I suddenly realised we needed to post something by midweek so they would get there. After the success of our footprint angel cards at Christmas, I thought I’d use Andrew’s hand prints this time. Except we didn’t have the energy to get the paint out, because since Christmas he’s become even more wriggly and strong, so keeping him from putting paint soaked hands into mouth would be more of a task than I wanted on a weekday morning. Instead I chose to draw around his hands, which remarkably he let me do without too much persuasion – I think he was interested in the soft feel of the foamy paper I used.
One left hand outline and one right hand outline were achieved, and formed the outline of a flower head. I then cut a stem, some leaves and a middle bit (which I guess represents the stigma/style/stamens according to Wikipedia) out of some different textured papers. This flower was then stuck onto a card made from two strips of thick brown card, held together with bright pink ribbon.
We hope they brightened our mums’ days, their second Mothering Sunday as Granny and Grandma!
Incidentally, I like using the term ‘Mothering Sunday’ instead of ‘Mothers’ Day’. It dates back earlier than the modern name for the day, to when people traditionally visited their ‘mother’ church on that Sunday. This was a local big church or a cathedral, and a special service was held for this, the 4th Sunday in Lent (that’s why Mothering Sunday moves around each year, in line with Easter). My reason for liking ‘Mothering Sunday’ is because it reminds me that being a mum is a job, it involves constant actions and ‘doings’, which can be described together as ‘mothering’. This gets lost in the term ‘Mothers’ Day’. I only appreciated this since being a mum myself, and now I appreciate my own mum’s (and Grandmas’ and mum-in-law’s) mothering even more.