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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Toddler Talk With a Baby Whisperer

Previously published a couple of years ago on (and removed from) Persona Paper.

Understanding our little ones sometimes takes a little imagination. When my kids were young, they didn’t always pronounce their words correctly, so I had to take the words in context to figure out their meanings. My youngest daughter carried around a cloth diaper, but couldn’t pronounce the word, “diaper,” for instance, but when she asked for a “yepper,” I knew what she meant. 

However, I had to leave a dictionary for my mom once:

Yepper – Diaper
Sow – Pacifier
Yoke – Milk
Yo Yoke – More milk.

Yes, I am the baby whisperer, who can figure out what children are saying. I just have to pay close attention to what’s going on around them. One little girl, who came to my house for the first time while I provided daycare, said something that left me a little stumped – “Mahtimihaab?” 

With no context on which to base the comment, and with no personal experience with her until that day, I finally said, “Show me.” (Those two little words have helped me to understand the ramblings of babies and toddlers for decades, by the way.) Kayla grabbed my hand and brought me to her purse. What was it about the word, “purse” that sounded similar to mahtimihaab? I wondered. Nothing. But then she held up her purse and said, “Teemihaab,” and I figured it out! Before you read the next sentence, can you figure out what that word means? 

Well, if you said that Mahtimihaab meant, “Want to see what I have?” you were right. And if you figured out that, “Temihaab,” meant, “See what I have?” you just might be a baby whisperer too.

OK, here’s another one. Yesterday, when I was playing Barbies with my 2-year-old granddaughter while her brother and sister played something else, she pulled from her box of Barbies and Barbie doll clothing, a barrette that still had a clump of Barbie hair stuck to it.

After this brief tutorial on how to understand toddler talk, I’ll bet I won’t even have to tell you the meaning of the word she spoke. Can you figure out what, “Assasussing!” means? Go ahead. Sound it out. You’ll get it. Who knows? Maybe this post just helped you to become a baby whisperer too! 

How well do you think you did? Still don’t have it figured out? OK, I’ll tell you. It means, “that’s disgusting!”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Imagination and Monsters – How to Teach Children the Wonders of Imagination: An Imagination Game

Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network August 2, 2010

"Remember when we were living in the castle, and the monster grabbed me, and wouldn't let me go?" my grandson asked me.

As one who is enchanted by dreams and castles, I couldn't help but want to interpret my grandson's dream. As I usually do, I started asking questions.

"Why wouldn't the monster let you go?"

"I don't know."

"What did the monster look like?"

"You - don't you remember?"

So much for interpretation. I HAD put him in the corner the other day for misbehaving. Was that why he perceived me as a monster? Because I had raised my voice and put him and his sister in two separate corners for mistreating each other?

Or was it the scary movie they had watched that same day? Though the movie was somewhat benign as far as "scary" goes, perhaps to a child Ghostbusters truly is frightening. Maybe the old librarian, with her see-through body and her ability to warp into a monster, had scared him.

Or worse, maybe he thought I looked like the old librarian, and since she turned into a monster, he was afraid I might too.

This episode immediately triggered in me a desire to explain imagination with an Imagination Game. I wanted to explain that monsters in movies were "imagined" into being through ideas that somebody thought into existence. I wanted to show my grandchildren what it was like to create images using only their minds.

So Audrey (five and a half), Nolan (three), and I (age unspecified) sat down at the table for a game of imagination - a What if game.

Audrey, because she was older, came up with her own ideas. Nolan, using bits and pieces from what Audrey and I had concocted, showed us that he understood the concept of imagination quite well, though all of his imaginations, because of the first What if, included ants:

What if ants had human heads and wore clothes?
What if cars had centipede legs instead of wheels?
What if ants could drive cars?
What if people had legs coming out of their heads where ears should be?
What if people could walk on their ears?
What if people drove ants instead of cars?
What if people had wings and could fly?
What if bugs had human hair and human eyes?
What if ants had cars?
What if all you had to do was think about being somewhere and you could instantly be there?
What if people could sit on clouds?
What if cars looked like ants?
The more odd the combination, the more fun we had. The longer we played the Imagination Game, the more we laughed.
The Imagination Game was so much fun, in fact, that we played it again with their ant - I mean, aunt (one of my daughters) the following day.
Playing an Imagination Game requires only one thing - an imagination. But it also necessitates coming up with ideas. Though the process might be difficult for some people at first, with a little practice, anyone can easily come up with fun - and funny - ideas.
Innovative, inventive, and creative minds use this type of method for coming up with inventions, new concepts, and remedies. Why not have fun with it?
Here's how to get those creative juices flowing and to gather ideas for playing an Imagination Game: Look around. Choose two items, any two items. What do those items have in common? What makes them different? How can you combine them into one unique item or ability?
Need an example? Well right now, for instance, I see a brand new bottle of laundry detergent (that I forgot to put in the laundry room) and a magazine.
What if we could throw magazines and laundry detergent into the washing machine, and, when we switched laundry from the washer to the dryer, discovered a brand new wardrobe filled with all the clothes that appeared on the pages of the magazine, freshly clean?
Here's another idea: A giant photo of my son in his Dress Blues sits on my dresser. Draped over his photo are my necklaces. What if he walked out of the photo and handed me the necklace he had purchased for me years ago?
Imagination has no limits. And playing an Imagination Game is one of the most creative activities you can play. I'm hoping the next time they see something scary on TV or at the movies, my grandchildren will remember how imagination played a role in developing frightening images, including monsters.
When we finished the game, I asked Nolan, "Do you think the reason the monster wouldn't let you go was because she loved you, she was trying to protect you, and she wanted to hug you?"
He gave the idea serious consideration, nodded, and said, "Yes."
I straightened my crown, cleaned the castle, and got rid of the monster hiding under my grandson's bed.

image courtesy of

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