Learnings from young children – little dinosaur

Early childhood specialist NADIA LUBOWSKI co-ordinates PRAESA’s Storyplay initiatives. Here she shares some observations about her baby’s language learning process.

One Sunday morning we had a family brunch together in Hout Bay at my mother’s place… as usual, some of us wanted to go home after eating, some of us had to go to work, and some of us wanted to stay and relax in the winter sun a little longer. My niece Amelie and nephew Tariq-Anree decided to stay with me and my little 7-month-old son, Anton Lucien aka Tonton. On our way home, Amelie and Tonton started conversing. The interaction consisted of “shouting” sounds that my niece began and he started copying. She laughed, he laughed. He was insistent on continuing talking, despite the conversation seeming to come to an end (more from my niece’s side). By the time we were approaching town, some of us were getting tired of the repetitive little shouting noises and so I started making a “ba” sound (which I knew he was able to do) to try and change the conversation topic that he was so keen on continuing. Children so often repeat, and repeat and repeat; he was still so enamoured by his little shouting noises. As we turned into our street at home (about 20 minutes after the initial conversation started, and about 10 minutes after we changed the topic to “ba”) he suddenly said “ba”.

Two weeks later…

It is bath time, and Tonton’s father is upstairs with him while I am gathering his sleeping clothes, when I hear them having a conversation. A little baby dinosaur was talking to his big daddy dinosaur telling him endless stories. He had started the same kind of “shouting” conversation with his father… Some giggling and laughing in between, but mostly very sophisticated little dinosaur “shouting” noises.

Next thing, Fred makes the “ba” sound and instantaneously Tonton mimics the sound. For the rest of the interaction they swapped between being little and big dinosaur and talking in “ba’s”.

As usual, I did not have the chance to record this interaction, but I was at the ready with my camera for the rest of the weekend.

We were walking up the road to have dinner with our friends… AND, the conversation continued

The fascinating thing is how Tonton is learning to converse. He is talking, engaging and communicating. The fact that he is understanding the cue to repeat a sound that is being used within that context is incredible.

I was searching through video footage and I found a video of him when he was six weeks old and I realised the start of him learning to talk to others started long before he was seven months old… he started talking to his cousin Amelie when he was only six weeks old. A glorious little interaction…

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