One word that proves kids love language as much as they love dessert.
Every child understands the power of language to make things happen. For years now, I've measured the success of my poems and songs for kids by how much they say "More!" or "Do it again!" after listening. I call such poems and songs "desserts," because kids like them enough to ask for more, and just as excitedly as they might ask for more cake or ice cream––or more blueberries. A case in point: My neighbor Uriel, a delightful 18-month-old who's learning three languages. I saw him and his mama recently while I was power-walking in the neighborhood. I learned that Uriel had recently discovered, at a party, that he could get the adults around him to give him all the blueberries he wanted, just by saying "More!" As his mama and I were talking, I could see that little Uriel was listening. And his eyes were fixated on my mouth. He was putting much study into my every word and facial expression. He was looking for familiar words . . . looking for meaning behind those words. Young children are truly language sponges. His mama stops now to recite and act out with him a poem she’s written. In English. He giggles and wiggles to all that familiarity. That done, Uriel's glance now turns back to my face. What is Ms. Babs’ mouth saying? He watches. He listens. Like an icon for thought
, his every muscle spells determination, his mind searching . . . searching for familiarity, searching for meaning. I begin to recite and sing one of my poems, called "My Bones" that invites interactive play as a child or group and I name body parts and point to them. Uriel's expression changes. He’s got it, I think to myself. He's got the words I’m chanting. Proven true as Uriel now points to body parts with me. A slight smile as he touches his nose. A full-fledged grin. “Nose!” he exclaims. “More!” His mama and I laugh in the shared knowledge that Uriel’s gotten the meaning. We watch his excitement. "More!" he repeats. His mama warns that I’ve started something. That he'll never let me stop. Wow! A stream-of-consciousness bursts forth . . . and this one, like Uriel's request, can't be stopped. First, I share how I’d just finished blogging about this exact behavior Uriel has just demonstrated. “That’s what happens!” I exclaim, as though I'm witnessing this behavior for the very first time. Oh, but it is
the first time with this child and this parent. “That's what happens," I continue, excitedly, "when we offer a child a dessert. The child always asks for more.” My words prompt his mama’s confirmation that Uriel really does love words. Then, referencing dessert, she continues . . . to tell how much Uriel also loves blueberries. Seems that, at a recent social gathering, Uriel had kept saying, “More!” to get folks there to give him more blueberries. Well, no one could resist this toddler’s confidence in his power with language. He could speak to get a need met. Now, said his mother, everyone had marveled at how Uriel worked his audience. He would said, “More!” And he would get more. Okay, you may already know where this story ended: Uriel said, “More!” And he got more. Unfortunately, more and more of an upset stomach the next day. The end of Uriel's blueberry story reminded me of this poem, which I then recited:
Baby Brother He sucks and sucks and wets his diaper. Then he grunts and needs a wiper. So it goes with Baby Brother– In one end and out the other. © 1996 Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz from Don’t Go Out in Your Underwear! © 1997 Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz
Mama got it all, of course. However, as one might expect, young Uriel’s gaze pointed to my mouth, my eyes, my face. “More!” he said. Uriel wanted more dessert. “Okay," said his mama. "But not of the blueberry type, thank you."
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