HB is supine under the glass coffee table. She’s suction-cupped an arrow to the underside, tied a purple ribbon around it, shone a flashlight toward it, and is needling the eraser end of a pencil into a spot only she can see.
|HB puts the buddies in peril (request permission for use)|
She reaches her hand out toward me and says, “so-shu.”
I place a new tool in her hand.
A few more seconds of toil and then the hand is out again. “Mer-shoy,” she says.
I give her another tool, a wooden block. She presses it against the spot with one hand, pulls it away, inspects the work, then tries it again.
She hands back the Mershoy and opens her palm.
“Lik-trish,” she says.
I lay a purple plastic ring in her hand.
“No,” she says, “LIK-trish.”
“Sorry,” I say, and replace the purple bracelet with a pink one. She accepts the pink one and turns her attention back to the table.
She’s fixing it.
Charlie looks across it at me and shakes his head.
I say, “clearly this is a TICK-trish,” holding the purple. “She needed the LIK-trish.”
Our game of made up words for tools keeps us occupied for a while.
She is constructing a mechanism to repair an invisible crack in the glass coffee table. She works away, requesting tools by invented names. I give her an assortment of plastic rings, wooden blocks, a pencil, a drum stick, a post-it note that is losing its stickiness, half of a plastic egg, and an orange beaded Mardis Gras necklace.
I told you before about her collection of random things and how they take on new purpose and use in her imaginary play. That play has now extended to vocabulary.
The beautiful thing about her made-up vocabulary is that I only have to cooperate to encourage her. Pretend I know exactly what she means and she continues. Question or act confused and she feels deflated, unsure, rejected.
I always play along.
“Words that begin with N,” I coach, as we drive to school during “N” week.
“New,” she says.
“Next,” I say.
“Nest,” she says.
“Night,” I say, “like it’s dark and time to go to bed, it must be night.”
“Nub,” she says.
“Really? What’s a nub? You mean, like when you eat most of a carrot and all you have left is the nub?”
“No,” she says, “when you need to go somewhere and there’s a door and then you can’t go there.”
“Okay,” I say. “My turn. Nana.”
“That’s your mom’s mommy.”
“Right. Your turn.”
“What’s a nym?”
“When you have something and it’s a surprise and then you give it and say ‘surprise’ and that’s a nym.”
“Okay,” I say, “my turn.”
I’m sure there are educators who would say I am intentionally confusing her by enabling this imaginary play. But what I like about it is the way she rolls the sounds around her mouth before expelling them. She’s working through different endings on words until she falls on one she thinks sounds plausible.
I also remember my early writing days when I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe everything I’d seen. So I used ill-fitting words like “blot cloth” for an ace bandage and “oops tape” for that white medical tape they used to use to close wounds before liquid band aids.
So I encourage her imagination, even and especially into vocabulary because I think it is expanding her mind into the capabilities of language and expression.
The problem with an invented vocabulary is that we seldom remember the terms we’ve made up. So as she continues to ask for tools and I continue to hand them to her, we are renaming the blocks, the bracelets, and the drum stick with multiple nonsense syllables, unable to remember what we called them last time.
Which confuses the heck out of her daddy.
And which I think is fine. As long as the table gets fixed.
Experimenting can help us see possible outcomes and familiarize us with concepts like vocabulary and physics. When have you used a TRY approach to learn something?