Monday, December 11, 2006

Getting up to mischief

Some time ago, I was warned of an important stage in a child's development. Just as there comes a time when she can stand up (and hence can suddenly reach things that much further off the floor), so there comes a time when she can both move chairs around the kitchen and climb up on them. Well yesterday, it happened, albeit in a small way, with her own miniature chair. I didn't understand what she was asking for, so she just went and got it herself. I haven't seen her quite manage to climb on a full-size kitchen chair yet, but she's come close, and she can certainly move them around. Now the kitchen's her oyster! It's a bit worrying.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reading matters

Last night, while passing through Bristol Airport, I picked up a copy of The Gruffalo's Child. I'm a big fan of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and Elizabeth's growing to like them too. She already enjoys The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, though she gets a bit scared when the dragon puts in an appearance. That's a general dragon thing; she's the same with David Melling's The Kiss that Missed.

Elizabeth was sick in the night, and the new book came in quite handy at half past five this morning. It was a useful distraction while I was changing a particularly unpleasant nappy. We then got half-way through reading it before she ran off to do something else. I had to finish it by myself. Sadly I have a bone to pick. Ms Donaldson and Mr Scheffler could learn a bit about optics: the shadow of a mouse cast in the light of a low moon might be a lot longer than the mouse itself, but it wouldn't be any wider!

Elizabeth's cousin Emily has a couple of other books by Donaldson and Scheffler. Emily's four now, and the books are probably targeted more at her age group than Elizabeth's 22 months, but the regular metre and clever rhyme scheme give the text a musical quality that can hold even a young child's attention. I like The Snail and the Whale (but be prepared to get involved in a serious discussion of environmental issues with older kids). I can't comment on The Smartest Giant in Town, but Helen reckons it's not as good as their others. Well they can't all be masterpieces.

Another favourite author is Mick Inkpen, who does his own illustrations. He has written a long list of titles involving Kipper or Wibbly Pig. The Kipper books are variable in length: on the basis of a very small sample set, I hypothesise that the shorter ones all include "(Little Kippers)" in their titles. Elizabeth's at an age now where those really aren't long enough. I suspect they may be dusted off again once she starts reading herself. On the basis of Beachmoles and Bellvine, it seems that his Blue Nose Island series are aimed at older kids.

One other author/illustrator I'd like to mention is Debi Gliori. She's perhaps best known for her Mr Bear series, though I have to say they're far from being her best work. Where Did That Baby Come From? is a charming (I wondered how far I'd get before using that word) title, particularly for a child who's just acquired a new sibling. We've just had Polar Bolero out of the local library, a wonderful book set in a bizarre world of dreams.

I must mention another of Debi Gliori's books. No Matter What would bring a tear to a glass eye, and could be a great source of comfort to even a young child affected by divorce or bereavement. She cleverly avoids limiting the applicability of the story by making both the (single) parent and the child of indeterminate sex. "Love, like starlight, never dies." Oh, I feel all metaphysical!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dawn chorus

During the working week, our alarm sounds at 0615, but we're used to Elizabeth waking up at 0600 precisely - and weekends are no different. Usually she starts the day with some gentle burbling, and only starts getting grumpy if she gets bored.

Sometimes, her burbling takes the form of what we've taken to calling "singing". And so it was on Saturday morning:

[descending scale] Da da, da da, da da, da;
[repeat scale] Da da, da da, da
da, kye.

Suddenly I realised, that's "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star"!
She's done it a couple of times since, and at breakfast on Monday I was able to make out the words "little star" as well. We've probably been a little remiss in singing nursery rhymes to her (though we sometimes play CDs in the car), but I guess the nursery have been teaching her.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Colour section

A couple of months ago, while on holiday, I tried to introduce Elizabeth to the concept of colour. For props, I had several tubs of Play-Doh in different colours, with some duplicates. I thought I'd keep it simple and use just two colours - blue and purple. I was particularly careful to avoid orange, since that would just be confusing - she knows what "orange" means, and she eats them all the time.

So, the conversation went something like this:

Daddy [indicating the tub lid] "This is blue,"
Daddy [indicating the tub contents] "and this is blue,"
Daddy [indicating a second tub lid] "and this is blue,"
Daddy [indicating a third tub lid] "and this is purple."
Daddy [indicating the third (purple) tub lid] "What's this?"
Elizabeth "Purple."
Daddy [indicating the first (blue) tub lid] "What's this?"
Elizabeth "Purple."

Repeat with "blue" and "purple" interchanged.

Fast-forward two months, and she still thinks Play-Doh is called "purple". So yesterday I tried again, this time with three colours, and emphasising the idea of colour as a modifier: "This is blue Play-Doh, and this is purple Play-Doh, and this is green Play-Doh." But she was still convinced that they were all called "purple".

Today we were visiting Gran's, and she was playing with a pair of shoes. Not just any pair of shoes, though. These were plastic toy "glass slipper" type shoes, which Elizabeth, without prompting, and correctly, described as "purple". By Jove, I think she's got it!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Just growing

All of my few previous posts have marked specific events in Elizabeth's development - the first word, first steps, that kind of thing. Her progress in the past couple of months has been dramatic, but in a slow, relentless kind of way - there have been few occasions that I could point to as the first of anything.

Her vocabulary has expanded enormously, but you have to know her well to be able to discriminate between some words. "Daddy" is almost indistinguishable from "dirty"; "Mummy" is indistinguishable from "monkey". Last week, her first attempt (that I've heard) at pronouncing her own name came out as "Izabizef".

She's becoming very independent, and determined to do things for herself. Last week, after a nappy change at her Gran's house, she spent half an hour trying to put her trousers on, and screaming bloody murder if anybody tried to help. A couple of days later, she was equally determined to put her own nappy on. And last night, Helen cooked up an excellent stir-fry for us all, and Elizabeth wanted chopsticks. As luck would have it, we recently picked up a big bag of those chopsticks that come in pairs cut from a single piece of wood, to be broken apart before use. We gave her a new pair, still stuck together, and she proved surprisingly adept at using them as a fork, scooping up noodles and spearing chicken pieces.

Over the past couple of months Elizabeth's been playing with a couple of what the Early Learning Centre calls "liftout puzzles". My sister Elaine had given us a few of these things (or do I mean lent, with Poppy getting older and another on the way). Elizabeth's getting good at them, so good that I thought we ought to try her on a new one. So I nipped upstairs and got one that she'd never seen before (unless they have the same one at nursery). She took all of the pieces out and put them back in again, without hesitation. So I went upstairs and got the last one - but took all of the pieces out before she saw it. This one was a lot more difficult because all of the pieces were small, similar and nearly symmetric, but even so, and unseen, she rapidly put about 3/4 of them in place before she lost interest.

We've been to Finlaystone a couple of times recently. Elizabeth loves the swings and the chutes, the forts and pirate ship, and the little obstacles, like the 4-inch wide beams set a foot or two off the ground with occasional steps up or down. Of course, she needs a bit of hand-holding to negotiate some of these hazards, but she could do them all day, and doesn't ever want to stop.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Many steps

Elizabeth has been able to walk for a couple of months now - she just hasn't believed it herself. Hold her hand and she can walk without any trouble at all. During our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, she had her first walk outdoors with reins on, and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the car after half an hour in the pouring rain. Recently, it's often been possible to let the reins go slack and she'll quite happily keep her own balance. But she won't walk without them.

Until today. This afternoon, Helen stood Elizabeth with her back to an armchair and I knelt on the floor six feet away. After a bit of encouragement, she took about four steps towards me, stopped, turned around and walked back to the armchair. She did that twice.

I backed off to the far end of the room, about ten feet away. A bit more coaxing and again she walked half way then turned back. That must be more difficult than walking in a straight line.

Finally, at the fourth attempt, she walked the ten feet from one end of the rug to the other. After many congratulatory cuddles, I put her down and she walked back. She then spent ten minutes walking to and fro across the room, until Helen went to the kitchen to make some tea. Elizabeth followed her. Now she just walks, as if she's been doing it for months.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The next step

I'm getting even worse at this blogging thing, but at least in the past month or so, I've had the excuse that we've been at my parents' house while our new extension was being built. And it was at my parents' house that Elizabeth managed her latest achievement. It was a Sunday afternoon, three weeks ago. I was sitting, legs crossed and Elizabeth was standing leaning against my leg. She worked her way down to my foot and stood, with one outstretched hand on my foot, for a while. Then she let go, stood for a second or so, and took two steps forward to a coffee table.

Three weeks later and she hasn't walked again since.