Concept Checking


Gravity is a concept, right?

Last week I posted about how Thomas had learnt the concept of himself as an independent person. He did this by proudly pointing to himself when I asked him who had scribbled all over the window in blue crayon.

When I was doing my MA in Linguistics, one of the lecturers claimed that the first conept we learn as babies is that of in and out.  He said we learn that by putting things into our mouths and then taking them out again.  It certainly seems a plausible hypothesis.  Thomas has learnt and relearnt that concept a million times as one of his favourite pastimes is to put stuff in a box and then take it out and put it in again and take it out again, ad infinitum.  It can be strangely relaxing to watch him do this.

Under the sofa

One of the first things I was aware of Thomas learning was the concept of ‘under’.  When he had just started to crawl he liked to roll a small little yellow ball under the sofa.  I would be waiting behind the sofa to get the ball and roll it back to him.  One of the sights that I will never forget is him positioning himslef so that he could see with one eye under the sofa to see where the ball was and actually realising that he had seen me.

I spy a ball and an eye

I spy a ball… and a baby

Up, up and away

I remember being in the UK last November and his nana was at the upstairs window calling down to me and Thomas.  I tried to get him to look up at the window to see her, but he just was having any of it.  He looked all around him and below him, but couldn’t or wouldn’t look up.  If I threw a ball at him he would track the movement, but if I threw it up in the air above him he would just look dumbfuonded when it disappeared and then utterly surprised when it fell in front of him.

A few months ago he noticed trees and lamp posts and started to look up.  He still gets moments when he looks at trees and the wires that run acorss the streets here in Curitiba nd he just stops as if he is gobsmacked by how something could be up there.

Size matters

It seems that Thomas is currently getting his head around the idea of something being too big or too small.  He has a toy petrol station that has a road going into it an around it.  One part of the toy is a a car wash with two sponges on either side and a sign across the top.  Cars over a certain size won’t fit through this gap which caused a lot of problems in the early days as he tried to force big cars through it.  Nowadays he will pick up a big car, look at it and then at the petrol station and then sadly shake hs head and say ‘no’.

Is the truck too big for the car wash, or the car wash too small for the truck?

Is the truck too big for the car wash, or the car wash too small for the truck?

These few concepts are obviously not the only ones Thomas has learnt (see below).  Instead they are the ones I have enjoyed watching him learn.  Are there any conepts that you remember watching your child learn?

Extra reading:

Infants Grasp Gravity with Innate Sense of Physics –

Babies understand numbers as abstract concepts –

Getting Around Curitiba: Pavements

I like walking.  Give me the chance to walk or drive or get the bus and I’ll walk almost every time.  I walk a lot in Curitiba, but very few other people do.  Here follows a bit of a rant, but it’s all true, I even have photos to back it up.

Curitba’s streets are not paved with gold.  At times it seems that they are more paved with holes than anything else which means that walking around the city can be a challenge.  You will need a good pair of walking shoes, or at the very least a comfortable pair of trainers.  Forget those heels, ladies.  And as for walking around with a pushchair; not a chance!

Traditional Streets

The authroities here in Curitiba seem to thing that the material you use for paving your streets gives the city some sort of identity.  Traditionally they used these square blocks of stone that were the bane of many a pedestrian’s life.  They are uneven at the best of times, and at the worst you could easily break your ankle on them.  After a short while one of the blocks would become loose and allow water under it.  If you stepped on the block at the wrong angle a shotof water would fly up all over your clean white trousers.

Sometimes, for some unfathomable reason, one of the blocks would be upside down, so that the not-so-flat part was on the bottom and the really-unflat part was on the top.  Why?  How?

And then after a few more weeks some of the blocks would just be missing completely and so you would need 4×4 to get around the pavements.


A not very flat pavement.

The grey brick road

So the prefeitura (council), in its infinite wisdom decided to introduce a new type of block that would be flatter (yay) and easier to maintain (double yay).  Here is a picture of a pavement that was laid about 3 months ago.

What Do You Know About Brazilians?

Flag of Brazil Português: Bandeira do Brasil E...

Flag of Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I wanted to tell you about Brazilians and what they are like I could spend ages talking about their likes and dislikes, their politics, history and culture, how they spend their free time and what they spend their money on. It would take ages and would probably leave you not much wider than you were before.

Alternatively, I could point you in the direction of this brilliant blog called What I Know About Brazilians. It is written by Manuel Schneider, a German who lived in Brazil for a while, including in Curitiba, the city I live in. It is funny, insightful and, to my eyes at least, mostly true.

I have shared it on Facebook with my Brazilian friends and used it with a number of students and the feedback has always been positive.  A few people have even remarked about how it takes the eyes of a foreigner to tell you something about your own country.  There are one or two things that I might take issue with, but i’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself.

The Loudest Roar


I like this book.  It is a simple story of a little mischievous lion called Clovis who likes to cause havoc with his roar.  Clovis has the loudest roar in the jungle and he is very proud of it.  He likes to wait until the other animals in are quietly going about their busy when…all of a sudden ‘there’s Clovis’ scaring them all half to death with his roar.  The result is all manner of animals from parrots to wlderbeests and elephants being too afraid to do anything.

Of course, the other animals are non too happy at the prospect of some deafening rorar when they least expect it from little Clovis.  So they all get together to teach Clovis a lesson; one that he is not happy to learn but accepts it anyway.  Well, more or less.

It is a simple and well told story by Thomas Taylor who also did the great, colourful illustrations.  Most kids will love the fact that they can imiate to the roar of the tiger and the noise of the animlas.  They will also have fun pointing to the differnt animals as they appear in the book.  It should be a huge hit with any kid from around 1-3.

Except it isn’t a hit at all with Thomas and I can’t figure out why.  Thomas loves making animal noises, and this book has loads.  He loves colourful pictures with lots of different things to point at for me to name, and this has got them by the dozen.  And yet, for some reason, he has never been a fan ; I might like this book, but Thomas doesn’t.

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was kid the best writers, for me anyway, were Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.  Roald Dahl is still up there in my imaginary Top 10 List of favourite writers ever, but I don’t think I’ll even bother introducing Thomas to Enid Blyton.  Instead, I am wondering if Julia Donaldson will enter my son’s future list of all time great writers; we certainly have enough of her books around the house to give him a push in that direction.

The Gruffalo is such a famous book now that there isn’t much more that I can say that hasn’t been said by a million writers far better than me.  Instead, I am going to talk about its role so far in Thomas’ short life.

My first encounter with the story was through the BBC animated film of the book that stars Robbie Coltrane and Helena Bonham Carter, among other great actors.  It is a wonderful short film, full of charm and wit as well as being beautifully and lovingly produced.  The only surprise is that it didn’t win the Oscar for that year. (The Lost Thing won instead.  I mean, it’s cool and deep and meaningful and everything.  But better than The Gruffalo?  But then again, what does Oscar know about anything?  He also rewarded Titanic with 145 times and it was one of the worst films ever).

When we found out my wife was pregnant, one of the first things we got was a board version of the book which is suitable for the many tests a baby can put a book through.  It was one of the first books I ever read to a Thomas; I even read it to him before he was actually born.  I love using different voices for the different characters, including a Cockney fox, a snake who hisses all of the letter ‘s’ sounds and an owl who hoots everything.  My favourite, though is the Gruffalo himself, although if I have to read it too often his gravelly voice kills my throat.

Both my wife and myself have now read the book so often that we almost don’t need the book anymore.  Thomas still loves it and the wonderful animation from Alex Scheffler.  Whenever he see the Gruffalo tries to imitate my growl and always wants me to rush to the pages with the big hairy monster on them.  He now has the sequel book and film, The Gruffalo’s Child (he got a bit scared by the film so we have only seen it once so far), as well as Gruffalo pyjamas and a wooly Gruffalo hat.  We have another version of the book which is bigger but not a lot more delicate.  This one is kept on a high shelf so that he can’t destroy it, but the board book is kept down on ground level and happily shows signs of being well-loved.

We have a lot of other books by Julia Donaldson, which I hope to write about later.  If I had to recommend just one book for any new parents, though, it would be this one (closely followed by Dear Zoo).

Related articles

The Gruffalo:

Maryam’s Pick of the Day – The Gruffalo:

The Gruffalo Official Site:

BBC’s The Gruffalo:

Dear Zoo: (I got the inspiration to write about what a book means to my family, rather than the book itself, from this site).