Learning Her Way

Owl is as determined as ever. Once she figures out how to do something, she will very rarely let me do it for her. I’m no longer allowed to zip her clothes. Zippers are HER territory. Now that she’s beginning to use a spoon, she fights me when I try to feed her. I estimate about 1% of the food reaches her mouth, but she’s practicing. Last week, she showed off her painting skills by covering her head in yogurt. Luckily, it was bath night, anyway. She’s been working really hard to master pulling shirts on by herself.  One night last week, while I was making dinner, she got my bathing suit out of the swim bag and managed to pull it over her head. She was wearing it like a cape when I turned around. I thought it was just a fluke that she managed to get it on, but after dinner, she put it on again. I guess pretty soon, I won’t be allowed to dress her anymore.

Her language skills are increasing daily. She now has about a dozen words and maybe 8 or so signs in her repertoire and is already starting to string two words together on occasion. She has also started inventing her own signs, which I find fascinating. The sign for yogurt, her favorite food, is a little complicated for a little one, so instead she’ll point to a food container and then sign “milk.” Yogurt is the milk that comes in a container. It makes complete sense. She also invented a sign for tickle. She gently scratches across her belly, curling her fingers. Every time we read about tickling in one of her books, or I talk about a character tickling someone or tickle her myself, she gets a mischievous grin and does her sign. She’s quite impressed with me that I figured out what she meant.

She’s also able to point out almost everything I ask her to in a book, whether it’s an animal, an object, or most colors. When we read a book we had never read before, I asked her to pick out various items on the pages. The only one she had trouble with was stars. She got all the animals, tree, water, flower, bug, sun, moon, boy, and girl. She’s gotten so good at that game that I decided to give her a challenge. We now play “where’s the mouse” when we read Goodnight Moon. It’s a pretty tiny mouse, and he’s in a different place every page, so it’s a tricky one. She memorized his locations in less than a week, so now I need to come up with a new challenge.

Another new skill is figuring out exactly how many times she needs to push the button on her interactive puppy to get to her favorite song. She isn’t stopping to listen to the other messages (“Can you give me a hug,” “you’re wonderful,” etc.), so she must have developed some internal counting process. She does tap the pages with her finger when we’re reading a counting book, so today I paid attention to how many times she taps her fingers as we were going through one of them. It was just a random number of times, so she’s not associating the counting sequence yet, but has figured out some way to keep track of how many times she has pushed the button.

Of course, all this determination has its down side, too. She is obsessed with pushing buttons on my laptop, but I don’t let her touch it. I figure if I let her play some, she’s going to just beat it to death, so I stick to my guns on that one. If it is within reach, she will automatically reach for it and try to force her way to it when I redirect her. Or, rather, when I try to redirect her. She is very focused and will not give up easily. She’ll hit and throw herself backwards with that frustrated toddler whine when she’s not allowed to do exactly what she wants at the moment she wants to do it. Her tantrums don’t last long–literally seconds before she’s on to something else. It’s still hard to be the big meanie who tells her she can’t do something. It’s part of the job, though, so I do it.

This week’s learning has been focused on emotions. We’ve been practicing happy and sad faces in the mirror and talking about what we can do to feel better when we’re sad. She already understands that snuggles and hugs are a good cure for sadness, so if I mimic a sad face and say, “MumMum’s sad,” she’ll instantly hug me. We’re working on the sign for “scared” so she can let me know when she’s uncomfortable, but that’s a hard one to teach when she isn’t actually feeling scared. I don’t want to scare her just to teach a sign, so we’ll have to continue with me making scared faces and wait for an opportunity to demonstrate when she’s feeling that way.

She hasn’t decided to walk yet. She has all the skills she needs to do it (balance, strength, coordination), so it really is just a decision at this point. She’s letting me help her walk instead of choosing to crawl more, so she’s building up her confidence to take those first few steps. She’ll do it in her own time, just like everything else. Once she figures out how much easier it will be to bring me books to read when she’s walking instead of crawling, she’ll be all over it.

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