1 year, 8 months, 3 days old

Today Arwen bit into a hard biscuit and learnt the word “crunch”. Or she thinks she did. The problem here is her pronunciation – she can’t make the “cr” sound yet, so that just becomes “c”. She’s fine with “un”. She can’t make a “ch” either, so that becomes “t”. You can see the problem. As could the other people in the cafe where she bit into the biscuit this afternoon. As responsible parents, we obviously know that the best thing to do in this sort of situation is to ignore it – if you don’t react, a toddler will forget all about it and move on. So what we did was burst into hysterical laughter. Then burst into hysterical laughter again when she realised that saying it made us laugh so she repeated it louder. I don’t know how many times she’s said it in the cafe, in the car and at home since this afternoon, but I’m worryingly sure it was enough for me to have given myself a hernia. Apparently Minnie Mouse is a “crunch”. As is her toy train and her bath sponge. And her pronunciation of “fork” is pretty damn special too.

She loves to point out things when we’re out and about now, thankfully enjoying being outside more now than being at the “winnow!” It’s often when you’re out with her that you find out about words you had no idea she knew. A trip to a farm this week showed that she knows the word “cockerel”, for example. The first time she saw one, she said its name perfectly. After that, she insisted on referring to it as “cock-cock-cockerel” and laughing away to herself. She appears to have inherited her parents’ very grown up sense of humour.

It’s been nice this week to pop her in the carrier and go for a walk, with her pointing out “bird”, “dog”, “baby” “car” and so on. I like it, though the woman whose face she shoved her finger into as she shouted “people!” didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I did. And I had possibly the most tedious walk ever on Tuesday as it was bin day. So Arwen pointed out bins. Every one we walked past. I’ve never noticed how many bins are on our estate before, but I can tell you now, it’s about a thousand bajillion.

She also enjoys pointing things out when we’re in the car, and has never been as astonished by anything as when she saw a van on the back of a truck the other day. She didn’t even attempt to formulate words, just stared out of the window and pointed. From being in the car with her, I’ve learnt that she knows the word “tower”, which she’s learnt from looking at a picture of the Eiffel Tower (thank you Sophie the Giraffe!) and uses whenever she sees a church spire. But the best thing she’s said this week took me a while to work out. We were driving along a road that farm vehicles use, and there was a line of mud down the middle of the road. It took me a while to work out what she was saying as she pointed at the mud, but I finally realised it was “car poo”. You can’t fault the kid’s logic!

Oh and elsewhere, Arwen’s learnt to look surprised, grab her bum and say “Ooh, tump!” whenever she trumps, which is often, and always hilarious.

And here’s a little treat for you. Warning: not safe for work!

Winnow! Winnow!

1 year, 7 months, 26 days old

This week Arwen has discovered her new favourite hobby: people watching. I’m fine with this, as I think people are fascinating. The problem is that the only place Arwen can indulge in people watching when at home is the window. This week has mostly consisted, therefore, of Arwen shouting “winnow! winnow!” over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until I put her on the windowsill again and she points out what she can see. Unfortunately there’s not much to see on our road. There’s the occasional “car!” going past, sometimes “people!” and if you’re really extra lucky, a “dog!” So most of the trips to the “winnow! winnow!” involve pointing out “bird”, “door” and even more excitingly, “bin”. This is how we spend our days.

Her other new hobby is putting things on her head while saying “hat” and grinning her head off. We’ve had pencil cases, plates, tights, cups, t-shirts, bottle tops, nappies, duplo blocks, playstation controllers… once there was even a hat.

In terms of two word utterances, there hasn’t been much progress, except in the “go …” arena. Arwen has realised that you can put “go” in front of something to suggest its movement, and she’s really enjoying it. She’s a particular fan of “go back”. (I feel compelled to point out here that this is in a putting-toys-back-in-the-toy-box context rather than the Donald-Trump-send-all-the-dark-ones-back-and-build-a-wall sense.)

Oddly, she’s yet to discover “yes”, though she very much knows “no”. What this means is that if you ask Arwen a closed question, she automatically says “no”, no matter what the answer is. At first I thought this was just her recognising when she’s being asked a question from the speaker’s intonation and using “no” as a default answer, but it’s occurred to me that we ask her questions all the time, which she answers with a range of relevant responses. That means she recognises when a question requires a yes/no answer, and answers it with the only one of those responses she’s as yet able to say. Clever eh? Though quite annoying when she grabs her crotch, you ask her whether she wants to use the potty, she says “no”, you take that at face value and two minutes later, she’s wandering round wearing a stink that burns off your nostril hairs.

Another interesting thing I’ve realised this week is why she says “mortuh” instead of “water” despite being able to make a “w” sound. We always ask whether she wants “some water” and I think we just say it so quickly, she doesn’t separate the two words properly, thus hearing “mortuh”. If you’re ever in any doubt as to whether she can pronounce a “w”, just give her a glimpse of a pair of wellies, as the mere suggestion that she’ll imminently be able to splash around in puddles elicits a quite deafening cry of “weddies!!!” She also makes a distinct sound whenever she sees a puddle to splash in, but the excitement is so great and the noise so spectacular, it’s impossible to transcribe in mere letters.

It turns out at the moment that the best place to find out the new words Arwen knows is sitting on the floor in the bathroom while she’s on the potty before going to bed. As she’s not allowed to look at a book when she should be getting ready to go to sleep, she gets chatty. She’ll suddenly point to her neck and say “neck”, a word you don’t remember ever saying in front of her before. This week I put a towel over her legs as they were cold, and she said “tow” as she touched it. I had no idea she knew that word. I knew she knows “cold” though, as she says it quite often, always hunching her shoulders as though shivering when she says it. She also knows “hot”, which is always whispered and said with her hands to her mouth as though blowing on them to cool them down. I quite like this sitting and finding out which new words she knows in the faint orange glow of the night light. It’s even funnier when she trumps and looks both surprised and amused at the same time. It almost makes the trauma of putting her to bed worth it. (I sit giving her milk. “Potty!” I take her into the bathroom and put her on the potty. “More milk!” I take her back into her bedroom to give her more milk. “Potty!” I take her into the bathroom again and put her on the potty. “Bed!” I take her into her bedroom and go to put her in bed. “Potty!” Ad infinitum.)

Oh, and we’ve had a new food word this week that finally isn’t “cheese”, “cake” or “cookie”. The fact that Arwen can now say “gape” [grape] with some excitement suggests that we do occasionally feed her something with nutritional value. Even if it is quite sugary.

Word Spurt (bleurgh!)

1 year, 7 months, 19 days old

So the experts were right – after hitting 50 words, Arwen has definitely had a word spurt (bleurgh!) We’re now realising that she listens to everything we say and is happy to repeat what she hears, so we need to start being really careful with what we say around her. In the past couple of months she’s repeated “damn”, “gay” and “tit”, but as “gay” appeared when we were listening to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, we’re blaming Judy Garland for that being the first word she said on Christmas morning.

This week Arwen’s started learning colours, via the medium of traffic lights. I found out she’d been paying attention to what we say while driving on Thursday when from out of nowhere she suddenly shouted “RED!” at the top of her voice as we approached the lights, causing me to nearly crash into Winwick Church. And now every time she sees a green light, she shouts “Go GOOO!!!!!” as loud as she can. She also enjoys seeing the green man when crossing a road, but instead of saying anything when he appears, she just gives him a little clap. She makes her own fun.

She’s clearly learning from songs, too. Having recently become familiar with Incy Wincy Spider, she’s spent the past few days putting her fingers together in a bizarrely complicated diamond pattern, grinning her head off and saying “pider”. Repeatedly. This afternoon she managed to do it for about 20 miles of the M6.

Her food words are increasing, but not in a way that reflects well on us as parents. It’s got to the point now that if we refer to “the c word”, we actually mean “cookie”, which you can’t say around Arwen as if she hears it, she’ll begin to forcefully demand baked goods. This is entirely her dad’s fault as dry January has led to him baking pretty much non-stop since the start of the year. She’s a big fan of “cake” too. She also now knows “bell” for Babybel, so spends roughly half her day demanding that I fetch her some waxy cheese. And will refuse to eat it in roughly 50% of the instances when I give in and get her some. Ace. But in happier food-word-news, she uses “tea” when she wants her evening meal. Because she’s a northerner and understands what meals are actually called.

My favourite thing she’s said this week is “peeboo beep”. Now this may sound like a load of nonsense, but put in context, it was genuinely brilliant. Arwen loves to say “beep” when she presses a button, especially her belly button (so much so that we started calling it her belly beeper) and she can’t quite make “peekaboo” yet, so “peeboo” is her take on the classic. The phrase “peeboo beep” came about when she pulled up her pyjama top to reveal her belly button, and wanted me to notice it. Not knowing how to say “hey, look at this weird outy thing I’ve got going on”, she instead used “peeboo”, the only word she knows for an instance when you reveal something (saying “peekaboo” when you come out from hiding) along with “beep”, her word for her belly button. What seemed like nonsense was actually an ingenious way to get me to recognise that she was showing me her belly button, using her very limited vocabulary. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: toddlers may walk like tiny, hilariously drunk people, but they’re flippin’ clever. (And we’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that she has an outy.)

This week also was host to Arwen’s first three word utterance, which combined probably her favourite three words. She knows that when she says “poo” she gets put on the potty (a fact she very much takes advantage of at bedtime) and, much in the manner of her father, likes to spend potty time having a nice little read. When I told her she couldn’t have a book on the potty the other night when she’d decided she desperately needed to use it just as I was about to put her into bed, she said in an utterly dejected voice “no book poo”. I think she’s still scarred by the event.

One last thing: this week she’s also learnt both “med-in” and “calpol”, which she says with worrying frequency. I don’t know whether this is due to teething or an early indication of an addiction. I’ll keep you posted.

50 Words

1 year, 7 months, 13 days old

So here’s the thing: I have a 19 month old daughter called Arwen, and she’s hilarious. Every day she does something new that makes us laugh out loud, and I’ve often thought about writing a blog about her, but needed an angle and couldn’t come up with one. Then inspiration struck (and by that, I mean my mum had an idea) – why not write about her language?

As a former English teacher, I’ve been fascinated by child language acquisition for a long time. By the time children start school, they know thousands of words (studies have shown that a typical five year old knows around 5000 words), tons of grammatical rules (that’s the actual figure – look it up!) and how precisely to use language to get across their meaning in the most accurate way possible. And the most incredible thing about it is that they do all of it without being formally taught. Yes, we point things out to them and say what they are, but when we point to a picture of a dog and say “dog”, then the child points to an actual dog and says “dog”, they’re making that leap from picture to reality all by themselves. And that’s amazing.

I’ve started writing this blog now because Arwen recently hit her 50 words milestone. I’ve been keeping a record, because I’m just that interesting. This is the point at which her vocabulary will start to expand rapidly, as after 50 words, many children have what some linguists refer to as a “word spurt” (bleurgh!) She’s also just left the holophrastic stage of language acquisition (when a child learns their first, simple words) and entered the two word stage. The self explanatory stage, if you will.

So what were Arwen’s first words? Well, her first word was “bye” when she was 10 months, 25 days old (told you I kept a record.) She said “bye” in three different, appropriate contexts over the course of a week, and I got really excited. Then she stopped bothering with it, and gave up on words altogether, until she discovered “no” a couple of months later. And then the fun started. And by “fun”, I mean the realisation that she could refuse anything offered to her and express her disdain for everything. Ever. This also coincided with her decision to never allow a spoon near her face again and only eat food she could hold in her hands. It was great. Though at least it meant she learnt her third word – “nana” – and she’s never been low on potassium since.

I’m not going to list all 50 words (though I could – I’ve not only written them in a book, I’ve also typed them up with an explanation of the contexts in which she said them and a record of exactly how she pronounced them, transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, because that’s how fun former English teachers are) but I thought I’d go through some of her favourites.

I’d love to say her favourite words are “please”, “thank you” and “just non-fat, steamed broccoli for me, Mummy”, but in reality, they’re “no”, “poo” and “bum”. And “poo” is always accompanied by a grab of her crotch, which made a young couple (who definitely didn’t have kids and just don’t know!) snigger to themselves in the beautiful surroundings of Ordsall Hall this afternoon. She’s also a fan of “back”, which she says when putting her toys and books away. I thought this was great and told loads of people about it, only to be repeatedly told that children who like to tidy up when they’re little without fail grow up to become subjects of Britain’s Biggest Hoarders.

I love the facts that she loves books (“book” is word no. 15 on her list, fact fans!) and my heart melted a little when she said “Mog” (word no. 34!) while picking up her copy of Mog the Forgetful Cat, as that was always a favourite of mine. But the books she inevitably wants to read whenever we have visitors are I Need a Wee, which she’ll bring over to a potential reader, shouting “WEEEEE!!!!” until it gets read, and Noisy Bottoms, a sound effects book with various animal fart noise buttons that she likes to press while making a face like Kenneth Williams hearing Barbara Windsor make a reference to jugs.

But I digress. As she continues her word spurt (bleurgh!) I’ll continue to note her words and phrases down, adding the context where necessary. It might seem odd that she knew the word “teeth” at 17 months for instance, but put in the context of the fact that after breakfast I always tell her that we’re going upstairs to brush teeth, do poops and get dressed (there’s a song of my own composition that goes with it. And actions.) it’s not really surprising that every morning she goes upstairs muttering “tee, poo” to herself.

And as for her entering the two word stage, you may be wondering what her first two word utterance was: “No Mummy”. Brilliant.


Things My Daughter Says is, as the name suggests, all about my daughter Arwen and the things she says. Having been fascinated by how children learn language for a long time (ex-English teachers are like that) I started writing this blog when Arwen was 19 months old, noting down all the entertaining things she comes out with. And she comes out with a lot.

New blogs go up every Sunday evening, but you can also follow what she’s up to on Twitter @DaughterThings