Tag Archives: language development

Say it with a song

Arthur is having a very musical week this week. More specifically, he is immersing himself in the world of song: he appears to be a sponge for the lyrics he hears, and is managing to reproduce them pretty accurately with very cute (and sometimes very amusing) results.


He’s always been into music – unsurprisingly perhaps given the gigs and festivals we’ve taken him to and the fact we love to listen to music at home. But this love for lyrics – or the ability to remember them anyway – is a fairly recent thing.

It started when ‘The You and Me Song’ came on the radio. Now I love this song, but I’d almost forgotten about it when Jo Whiley used it to begin her show. She often does that to me – spins a tune that returns me to the recesses of my record collection and has me hunting for my old CDs. I started singing along, and Arthur was quite taken with it too. And before I knew it he was singing ‘you and me always, and forever’ over and over again. I’d like to think it could be our theme tune.

Then, with a bit of a cultural shift, came ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. This one’s obviously been on his radar for a while, but he surprised me last weekend with an almost word and note perfect rendition of it – right up to the little boy who lives down the lane. I’m still impressed when I hear him sing it – which is good, because he sings it a lot.

The other thing he’s been doing is singing songs from the movies he’s been watching, and this is where it gets especially entertaining.

Like (I hope) most toddlers, he likes to boss me around, often telling me to ‘move it!’ if there is something in his way or otherwise not in exactly the right place. But this week, whenever he’s given me that order, it’s been like a little lightbulb has gone off in his brain, flashing up his favourite scene from Madagascar. And then, with a grin on his face, he launches into ‘I like to move it, move it, I like to move it, move it’. Seriously funny, though I’m not sure I should be laughing quite so much at my little tyrant.

This morning he had me in hysterics again. We were walking down the stairs in our pyjamas, me holding his hand as I am wont to do, and he began to sing ‘Let it go! Let it go!’. I responded in my usual gushing, proud mummy way – and he stopped, looked me very seriously, and said ‘let go’. I guess he didn’t want me to hold his hand after all.

I’m finding the development of Arthur’s language skills such a joy, and his ability to reproduce what he hears – and twist it to fit new situations – particularly fascinating. The fact that his current propensity for singing is turning our lives into one big musical is just an added bonus!

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.


My word of the week this week is musical.

The Reading Residence

On words, and perceptions of reality


I have been thinking a lot lately about how words shape reality.

It is true of course in my writing. As I immerse myself in the third draft of my novel I am increasingly aware of being engaged in a complex choreography of choosing just the right words to draw the reader along with the story I want them to believe.

I can also see it in Arthur’s emerging language – the distinctions and categorisations he is now able to make with his expanding vocabulary. It’s hard to be sure, but it feels like his world is expanding as his words do. There are not just birds any more, but seagulls and pigeons, peacocks and penguins. He is starting to recognise and label emotions too. To articulate happiness, fear and love. And – through those emotions perhaps – he is beginning to make judgements.

As adults, our judgements are inherent in so much of the language we use everyday, from ‘pretty’ girls to ‘naughty’ boys, from well meaning labels that can inadvertently limit someone’s concept of what they might be capable of to jokey insults laden with prejudice that can exclude whole groups of people on a whim.

That really bothers me, that labelling. But that’s a post for another time.

I think what’s unnerving me most at the moment is how words can be used to twist an otherwise secure reality into something else. I have realised that the protagonist in my novel is the victim of narcissistic abuse. Her experience is rooted to an extent in my own, and that of some of my closest friends. If you haven’t (and I hope you haven’t) fallen under the spell of a narcissist, their modus operandus is to make themselves invaluable to a person and then gradually undermine them and chip away at their self-esteem until their victim has no idea what is right or true any more. Almost all of this they do with words.

It is incredible how mere words, used judiciously, can plant seeds of doubt that cause the things you thought you knew to be true to collapse before your eyes. I don’t know if you’ve been watching Broadchurch, but watching Joe Miller’s defence lawyer rewrite history – to the extent that even viewers who had seen what had actually happened began to doubt whether it had – was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen on TV.

An old friend, one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, is going through something akin to this currently. He is at risk of losing access to his children entirely unless he can convince the courts that his words are worth more than those of his estranged wife, that his truth is more valid than hers.

Most of us, I hope, will not be so calculated in the way we use words to manipulate reality. Not unless the reality we are weaving is accepted to be fictional by all concerned. But I wonder how conscious we are about the need to speak the truth – and if we’re not, to be honest about how what we say is clouded by opinion.

It is easy to forget sometimes, whilst simply recounting an event or expressing a point of view, that every single word we choose – consciously or otherwise – will alter the message we are communicating.

As a writer the limitless possibilities are undeniably exciting. But as a human being – and especially as a parent – I find it just a teensy bit scary. The potential for getting it wrong is sometimes almost enough to make me not want to say anything at all.


But we most definitely need to choose our words carefully, in what we write and what we say. Who knows whose perception of reality might be depending on it?




Word of the Week: Sing


I don’t know whether Arthur’s just been infected by the festive spirit, or whether his memory and his linguistic skills have reached the perfect level to let the lyrics flow, but suddenly this week Arthur seems to be taking any opportunity to break into song.

There has been more music playing than usual (though we’re usually a pretty musical household anyway) and with Christmas coming his Music with Mummy classes have been especially good fun. And he’s just been amazing me with his ability to remember not only the words, but also the gist of the rhythm and the melody.

I have to admit I’m generally pretty impressed with Arthur’s words. His vocabulary and syntax are improving every day, and it is now entirely possible to have a conversation with him if the topic tickles his fancy. I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages to try to record this fascinating stage in his development, and have resolutely failed so far. So I might just record for posterity the lyrics he’s been singing for us this week.

We’ve had, almost word perfectly, ‘twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are’, inspired I think by our sparkly Christmas tree. One of his very first words was ‘star’ actually, about this time last year. Amazing to think how far he’s come.

Continuing the festive vibe there’s been ‘jingle bells jingle bells… all the way’, a slightly curtailed version which reminds me of his birthday greeting which until recently he shortened to ‘happy to you’ – actually a rather lovely sentiment really. The economy is also reminiscent of his re-telling of ‘this little piggy’, in which all the pigs get roast beef.

Then, from Music with Mummy, there’s the pudding song – sung to the tune of ‘wind the bobbin up’, possibly his first favourite song now I come to think of it. We get ‘stir the pudding, stir the pudding, mix, mix, chop chop chop’, though sometimes he skips the mixing for the chopping. He tends to skim past the next bit to get to ‘lick the spoon it does taste nice’. Too much baking with Daddy methinks…

And whilst on the subject of Daddy, I got back from a governors meeting last night to be welcomed by Arthur singing ‘you’re so money, honey’. I think I may need to monitor them a little more closely!

There are others, but just typing these little snapshots makes me smile so thank you for indulging me. I love that Arthur loves music, and I’m looking forward to continuing to hear him find his beautiful voice over the weeks and months to come.



The Reading Residence


Word of the Week: Chatterbox


Of all the things that continue to amaze me every day about my gorgeous son, his developing language skills are possibly the most exciting. This week in particular he has been chatting away to anyone who will listen – very cute, and fascinating to be getting more of an insight into what’s going on inside that head of his!

I’ve lost count of the number of words he now knows – from octopus to helicopter, from banana to hedgehog. He’s a fantastic mimic, and seems to only need to hear the name for something once before he’ll remember it for next time. What’s particularly interesting at the moment though is how he uses those words, combining them with others to express his wants and needs or explain things to us. He’ll happily engage in conversation about what he’s been up to during the day, making our family dinners when Leigh gets home after a long day’s work increasingly entertaining.

He was being particularly chatty with his London grandparents on Skype the other evening, and it’s lovely to see him beginning to want to share his experiences with them – and to be able to put them into words.

In fact the sociability of his speech is something I’ve noticed increasing day by day. For a while he’d happily chat away to me when it was just us at home during the day, but other people – especially strangers – would comment on how quiet he was. But now he’ll chat to anyone who’ll listen – the man who came to fix our oven on Monday had trouble actually settling down to work as every time my back was turned Arthur had toddled over to tell him about something else he felt he had to share.

It’s not just people Arthur’s chatting to either. I absolutely love catching him having conversations with his toys – whether it’s his dump truck or his penguins. Even better than that are the conversations he’s started enacting between them, another important step in his discovery of imaginative play.

He’s begun to really pick up the less essential nuances of conversation too, which is where things get super cute. He’ll ‘ummm’ and ‘ahhh’ as he’s trying to think of the right thing to say, has started adding on ‘see you in a bit’ to his goodbyes and is even beginning to maybe see the point of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – though I won’t hold my breath on that one.

It is incredible to watch, but I’m under no illusion that Arthur’s special in all this. I know that what I’m witnessing is just the normal development of language that is going on as I type in homes up and down the country, throughout the world. And yet actually that is even more humbling. All these little powerhouses of potential beginning to venture out of themselves into the big wide world of verbal communication, absorbing all the words around them and digesting them and manipulating them to fit the messages they want to put across. Amazing really – I can’t wait to hear what he comes out with next!


The Reading Residence

Word of the Week: mouse


More specifically, the Big Bad Mouse who, along with the Gruffalo himself has captured Arthur’s imagination big time this week.

He’s loved the books since he was tiny, but only in as much as he generally loves books. Then for his first birthday back in December he was given a copy of ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ on DVD. He enjoyed it, but was not all that interested in sitting still to watch anything for very long.

But now that’s all changed. I put the film on one day last week when I was trying to get things done, and he was absolutely entranced. Since then he’s asked for it every day – “big bad mouse” and “gruffalo”. Up until recently I’ve not been super keen on lots of screen time. We’ve not watched any kids TV – though Arthur does love watching music performances which we definitely haven’t discouraged. But watching him watching these stories come to life I feel like there’s a whole new world opening up to him.

His concentration is definitely getting a workout – he’ll happily sit for half an hour, fully engaged and calling out when he sees the characters he’s come to love. His vocabulary’s developing too – there are lots of things that are influencing that at the moment of course, but we were all pretty impressed when he came out with “he’s down by the lake, eating gruffalo cake”.

I’m still wary of Arthur spending too much of his day in front of the TV, but I think I may need to relax my guard a little. Filmmaking is storytelling after all, and the more I look the more I realise there are so many stories and films out there for us to explore!



The Reading Residence

Word of the Week: Happy

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


I’m finding Arthur’s language development particularly fascinating at the moment. He’s adding new concrete nouns to his vocabulary everyday, delighted to be able to name things in the world around him. But he’s also beginning to use more abstract words. ‘Love’ was the first one: initially it was his name for a heart, and it still is, but he’s also started to associate it with cuddles and family, even this week linking it together with our names to say ‘love daddy’, ‘love mama’ and mimicking us when we say ‘I love you’. Which we say a lot!

His first adjective was ‘pretty’. He pointed at me when he said it that first time, and has since been using it to describe flowers and the sea and a picture he painted. Then this week he said ‘happy’ – an adjective but also an emotion. And I think he knows what it means. He says it when he’s doing something he loves, often follows it with ‘yeaaaah’, and has begun to precede it with his name. Out of all the considerable cuteness of the words he’s come out with so far, ‘Artur happy’ has to be the most heart-melting of all.

And we certainly have plenty to be happy about! The sun is shining, we’re getting to go swimming outside almost every day, and yesterday Leigh finished his third year of medical school so we have a whole long student summer to look forward to as a family.

We have an epically long to do list to tackle, making up for how hectic things have been whilst Leigh’s been studying. But for the next ten weeks, rather than padding around the house saying his name and looking longingly at the phone in the hope that it will ring and he will hear his voice, Arthur will be able to hang out with his daddy. And that makes him very happy.



The Reading Residence