Imagination

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were.  But without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan

Destination: Imagination

Destination: Imagination (Wikipedia)

One of the joys of being a parent (and there has to some sort of valid reason for putting up with the sleepless nights, non-existent social life and gross financial costs) is getting to watch up close how your child develops step by step from that small bundle of joy into, eventually, an adult.  I am particularly lucky in that respect as my job allows me lots of flexibility so I can take an active part in his development and even write about it here.

One of the things I recently wrote about was how Mr. T’s language skills are developing in that he can now make jokes and play with his language.  This language development shows his increased capacity to imagine other possibilities and to make them seem ‘real’.  But it is not just in his language that Mr. T is exercising his imagination, it is also in his actions and his games as well.

Dogs

Crawling!

Woof woof or au au? (devaburger)

One of the ways in which Mr. T demonstrates his increasing capacity to imagine different worlds is when we play our dogs game.  I usually initiate this game by crawling around on all fours barking like an angry dog.  Mr. T will sometimes join me and we crawl around the floor with him in front barking.  The interesting thing here is that he barks in Portuguese, saying ‘au au‘ and I bark in English saying ‘woof woof’.

The other possibility is that Mr. T will run away from me giggling and shouting ‘sai au au!‘ (‘get off woof woof!’).  He runs into our bedroom and hops up onto the bed laughing all the time and waiting for me, or the au au, to arrive. As soon as I crawl in growling and barking his giggles hit a new pitch of delight as he tries to get past me and run into the living room.  I then have to hunt him down agin in the living room whereupon he runs to the bedroom again.  And again…and again.

My poor knees.

Trains

I may have mentioned once or twice before that Mr. T has an obsession with all things mechanical and vehicular; cars, lorries, planes and trains will all keep him entertained for hours.  The other day I noticed that he had put his chairs in row, one behind the other.

I was just about to put them back around his table when he shouted at me to stop.  He came up to the chairs and told me they were a ‘wee wee choo choo’ or train.  He then showed me that I had to sit on the back seat while he sat on the front one a ‘drove’ us around the room.

Colouring in

English: The process of making kimono

A long way to go before we colour in like this (Wikipedia)

Mr. T is so obsessed with cars, trains and busses and whatnot that he will often demand you draw him a picture of a blue bus or a mommy car.  It is no longer enough to just draw the bus, though, we also then have to draw passengers in all of the windows.  Once we have done this, Mr. T will proceed to tell you who is sitting in each window.

Interacting with books

He also does this with some of the books that we read to him.  For example in his book Amazing Planes he names all of the passengers or the pilots or the cabin crew as people he knows from our families.

He will also interact with books by pretending to eat or drink any food that he can see, or even giving it to mamãe or daddy to eat.

Not Unique

I know that this is a stage that every child goes through and I am not claiming that our son is unique.  It is pretty amazing to think though that only a few months ago he almost never showed any examples of his imagination running wild.

Who knows what worlds he will be able to visit in the future.  All I know is that I must do everything possible to ensure that he doesn’t have to stay in this one all the time.

Chasing Birds

Chasing Pigeons

Sneaking up on them doesn’t work either (satakieli)

We’ve all done it.  Who doesn’t like to chase birds?  When you’re walking through a park or a town square you see a group of likely looking birds and you can’t resist just steaming over there and trying to catch one.  You never succeed, but you still try.

Pigeons are the worst for this because they let you get so close and then just as you are about to grab them off they fly.  And they fly off as a flock spreading their dust and feathers everywhere.

By the way, I hate pigeons.  Please don’t feed them.  They are just rats with wings.  Although they are better than sea gulls.  If sea gulls all behaved like Johnathan Livingstone I wouldn’t have a problem with them.  But they don’t.  Instead they make a bloody awful noise and an even worse mess.  And one of them once stole my ice cream.

Anyway, I digress.

Mr. T has just found out that he can chase birds.  We were in Jardim Botanico here in Curitiba last Wednesday and he noticed a bird hopping around on the grass.  He started to follow the bird and it kept hopping away, always keeping about 3 metres between itself and the toddler stumbling after it giggling with his hands spread open.  Eventually the bird got bored and flew off, much to the surprise of the toddler.

We went back to the same park the following Sunday and, it being a gorgeous day, it was absolutely heaving.  This meant that there were lots of other kids slightly older than Mr. T running around and up to all kinds of mischief.  Mr. found a group of pigeons and started to walk up to them, arms wide open looking for a hug from the friendly little flying vermin.  All of a sudden two other boys, about 4 years old, came bowling down the hill shouting at the pigeons who promptly flew off to land about 10 metres away.  The boys change direction and ran full pelt at the pigeons and, not surprisingly, they flew off again.

Mr. T was gobsmacked.  He just stood there, apparently replaying in his mind what had just happened.  After a minute or so he reached a decision, looked around for the pigeons and toddled of towards them, but this time with much more intent and not really looking for a hug.  He is still too slow for the wily old pigeons who are used to such behaviour and could easily outmaneuver him, so he was getting a bit despondent at the lack of flying action until the two bigger boys came back and set them all off into the air again.

This went on for about 30 minutes.

Lots of good exercise for Mr. T, who went to bed very easily that night.  i think e is also going to be perfecting his technique of bird chasing in future visits to the parks around Curitiba.

I am not sure what the pigeons made of it, but frankly I don’t really care.

Pigeon Dance

Get the little bleeders! (John O Dyer)

The Wonders of a Baby’s Universe

Baby scientistI gave up studying physics at school when I was 14.  It was just too difficult and I was much more interested in humanities to bother with all those formulas and everything.  Today, I think it was one of the worst decisions of my life as I love reading about quantum physics, The Hadron collider and the Higgs boson.

And then there is anything with Brian Cox in it, which is just brilliant!

When Mr. T was still a small baby I read an article somewhere about how we are born with an innate understanding of physics.  I am not quite sure how that assertion could really be tested, but I have made a few of my own observations.

Baby Quantum Leap

I don’t pretend to understand quantum physics, but I think I get the gist of it, more or less.  I would never be able to explain it satisfactorily but I know it’s got something to do with cats in boxes.

When Mr. T was only a few months old I was convinced he had a perfect understanding of quantum physics because he never seemed to be phased by things just appearing or disappearing seemingly at random.  One second his favourite toy would be sitting next to him, then the next second it would have disappeared, and then only a few seconds later it would re-appear.  Everyone else knew that I was stealing it, but he had no idea.

He was also quite happy with something being in two places at the same time.  He was interested in mirrors, but never really disconcerted about there being two daddys or two Winnie the Poohs at the same time.

The Speed of Sound v The Speed of Light

This is one that he is still battling to get to grips with.  He has quite a thing about all types of machine, including the planes that he can see flying past our 19th floor window.  He will often hear the plane and run to the window to wave at it, but when he looks at where it should be it is never there.  We know that the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, but he hasn’t quite figured that out yet, and so spends a couple of seconds scanning the sky trying to find it.

Light

Light can also travel in circles (@Doug88888)

Light Travels in Straight Lines

Ok, so I know that light doesn’t necessarily travel in a straight line.  If we accept that the universe is not flat due to Einstein’s theories then it light can travel in a curved line, depending in the shape of the local universe.  I also know that light is a wave (but it also isn’t) so perhaps a straight line isn’t exactly the best description.

But for a two-year-old light travels in straight line.  We have been learning this by constantly being shocked at shadows.  If we are walking in the park on a sunny day Mr. T will sometimes suddenly stop and shout at me point to the ground.  After a second or two of wondering what he has found I realise he is pointing to his shadow and then we have some fun waving and jumping around to make our shadows move.

Unfortunately, he has also done this at bed time.  The other night I was trying to get him to sleep when he just sat bolt upright in bed and shouted ‘daddy!’ and pointed at the wall.  Again it took me a few seconds to figure out what he had seen, but then I realised that the dim nightlight we have in hs room was casting my shadow on the wall and if I moved just a fraction the shadow moved a mile.

You can imagine how long it took me to get him to sleep that night.

Ballistics

Trajectory_for_changing_launch_angle

If vovó is standing at 400, what angle do I need to hit her? (Wikipedia)

Ok, so Mr. T isn’t playing with guns yet, or even catapults.  Instead he has a far better weapon to play with: a hose pipe attached to a tap.

My dad first introduced him to the wonderful world of water-based artillery when we were back in the UK.  To start with the effect was just a very wet grandson, but then he found out that by positioning the hose pipe at the right angle he could wet his granddad as well.

Over the last weekend Mr. T proved he hadn’t forgotten these lessons when he was at his great-granddad’s house back here in Curitiba.  This time the target was his vovó.  Mr. T experimented with different angles and heights, but couldn’t quite reach his objective.  After a few minutes of checking and re-checking his experiments he suddenly hit on a great idea and walked forward a couple of metres.

Now his vovó was well within range.  Unfortunately for him she had been watching the experiments with great interest and decided to move out of harm’s way just before the theory could be proven.

Physics for Dads

As I mentioned above, I love reading stuff about the origins of the universe or watching something with Brian Cox in it.  But over the last couple of years I have learned to look again at the magnificence of life and the universe through my son’s eyes as he sees everything for the first time.

And that is truly brilliant.

By the way… if I have got any of the physics wrong in this blog (or if indeed I have got anything wrong, not just the physics) feel free to let me know in the comments.  Be nice, though.

A Big Hand to the Birthday Boy

white dog sleeping on pavement

I know exactly how he feels (epSos.de)

Some people say that the time flies by when you have kids, but I have to disagree.  It is two years today since Mr. T was born but sometimes it feels more like 5 than just the two.  A lack of sleep, me time and beer will do that to anyone, I reckon.

During the last few days I have been reminiscing about the last couple of years, about the things we have all learned, the good times and the bad times (there have been plenty of both) and how much things have changed.  Sometimes these memories have been set off by looking at pictures, or talking about the changes.  Occasionally they happen completely out of the blue because of something Mr.T has done.

Yesterday morning he was busy moving two small identical chairs around.  His objective was to move them so that Chair A would be in the place that Chair B was in, and Chair B would then be in the place that Chair A originally occupied.  I have absolutely no idea why he wanted to so this, but he set about the task with quite some gusto.  I had never quite considered the immense logistics involved in such an operation to a two-year old; he had to deal with an uneven floor surface, intermediate positions for both chairs, weight and balance issues when holding the chairs, getting his feet out of the way of the chairs…

Much better this way around

Much better this way around

Eventually he managed to get the chairs where he wanted them and he stood back, gave them another look just to check everything was satisfactory and then give himself, or the chairs, a quick round of applause.  That was when the memory came bursting in.

He can’t have been much older than 5 or 6 months and we were in our flat changing his nappy.  My wife had designed a cool little changing table in the wardrobe that could be hidden with the door when we weren’t using it.  it was safe because there was next to no chance of him rolling off, organised (as only my wife can be) with everything near to hand and also had funky little pictures around to keep our bundle of joy occupied.

The pictures didn’t always work, so if I was around I would also try to distract from the job at hand.  On this particular occasion I was clapping my hands and saying ‘clap, clap, clap’ to get his attention.  He started trying to copy me and then I just stopped clapping but continued to say ‘clap, clap, clap’.  He looked at me strangely for a second and then clapped.  I loved it, but wasn’t convinced he was reacting to my words so I said ‘clap, clap, clap’ again and he immediately clapped his hands.

I think it was seeing me do the action while saying the words, plus my response to his claps that motivated him to do it again.  After that he often clapped when I asked him to, and then that evolved into clapping things he liked until today when he claps himself for a job well done.

So I hope you will join me in giving a big hand to Mr. T on reaching the very so important milestone of 2 years of age.

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Concept Checking

Gravity

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 – livescience.com

Babies understand numbers as abstract concepts – newscientist.com