10 December 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
I’ve been blogging most recently about the pregnancy, and Coco and I picking up the cello. Let’s bring a little attention back to our second – and soon to be middle – child. (As I write this, I’m realising that the more kids you have, the more you have to juggle your resources to give them an equal amount of time and attention – even on this blog!)
Back in January this year, I wrote about the sudden leap in Coco’s language development when she turned two and a half.
At the end of the same entry, I noted that Claire (9 months) had started babbling, largely incomprehensively, except for “Mamamamamama” whenever she wanted my attention.
Well, another 9 months on, Claire has achieved, at 18 months, what Coco managed to do at 30 months. Claire also mastered walking at 12 months – much earlier than Coco did. At 19 months now, that girl mercilessly makes us chase her as she SPRINTS through the house (usually in the buff – but that’s another story for another day.)
Yes, we shouldn’t be comparing the girls’ development progress and milestones. But the speed at which Claire has caught up with her older sister has taken everyone by surprise. It’s hard not to be astounded when this BABY announces “My pyjamas are hanging there!” or asks “Mummy, can you help me please?” out of the blue!
I attribute her development to the close age gap (19 months) between the girls, which makes it easier for Claire to emulate Coco’s speech and actions. It’s not as if Coco’s 5 years old and talking about the solar system (haha, just maybe!) when Claire has barely learnt how to mutter “mummy”. Essentially, whatever 3 year-old Coco can do, this 1.5 year-old copycat wants to – and CAN – do too.
Also, Claire started tagging along for music class when she was 3 months old (admittedly because the class fees were waived for her back then). Constantly listening to a repertoire of nursery rhymes and songs – be it in class, by family members at home, on CDs or on the iPad – has also had an amazing effect on her speaking ability. She started reciting rhymes and singing songs before she could speak – which means that she started speaking in full sentences at the onset without even realising it, and without us deliberately teaching her how to construct a sentence. Of course, there are times when her sentences are incomplete or grammatically wrong, and we still have to patiently go about correcting her again and again.
Since I had shared some of Coco’s most memorable quotes in her first months of speaking, I have to make a record of Claire’s language achievements on this blog too – just to be fair!
(This is going to be a long entry. Indulge me, will you? 🙂 )
Claire the Complainant
Claire has realised that one of the advantages of picking up speech quickly is that she can COMPLAIN about what she perceives as suffering (on her end) and unfair treatment. And boy, can this girl COMPLAIN – complete with pitiful hurt expression, pursed lips and accusatory finger-pointing. No doubt, she picked this up from her dramatic older sister.
“Che Che said ‘NO NO NO NO NO!!!’ Che Che said ‘Go away! Don’t disturb me!’”
“Daddy pulled yoouuuuuuuuuuu!!! (she still occasionally mixes up her pronouns) “Daddy pulled my leg!!!!!”
“How about me?! HOW ABOUT ME?!” (when she sees Coco getting something that she doesn’t – even if it’s medicine.)
She even makes it a point to complain to the correct person. She was rolling on the floor in protest one night when she realised that she was being ignored. She promptly got up, scuttled over to me on her plump little legs, threw herself onto the floor where I could definitely see her and continued her complaint session in front of a more sympathetic audience. What can I say – her plan worked.
Claire the Interrogator
“Hello mummy. Where is daddy? What is daddy doing?”
“Whose bottle is this?”
“What happened? What happened to Lani?” (her toy car)
“Mummy, are you coming?”
Claire the Tell Tale
“Uncle Ronald did it.” (when asked who made the mess on the table)
“Mummy took it.” (when asked where did her bottle go)
“Che Che tore this book. Che Che naughty. Claire good.”
(For the record, all the above offences were by non-other than Claire herself.)
Claire the Hustler
“I need money. Can I have money?”
“I want biscuits, I want biscuits! I like biscuits! Can I have biscuits?”
“I don’t like this song. I want Let It Go. Let it goooo… let it goooo…” (and she actually sings in tune!)
“I want to watch cartoons. I want to watch Mickey Mouse”, after which she’d proudly announce to one and all “I am watching cartoons.”
“This is mummy’s cello. I want to play the cello.” (imagine a 1 year-old knowing what a cello is!)
“I don’t want this. I want something else.”
Claire the Achiever
“I did it, mummy, I did it!”
“I chose it!”
“I saw it!”
Claire – Lover of Long Words
“Vitamin. Caterpillar. Salami. Lollipop. Screwdriver. Dinosaur. Helicopter. Computer mouse. Skidamarink. Knick-knack-paddy-whack.”
“Look! A COCONUT tree! A BANANA tree! A MANGO tree!” (and by golly, she can really tell the trees apart. My dad must have been conducting botany lessons on their walks around the neighbourhood!)
Claire the Admirer
“Uncle Ronald! Hello Uncle Ronald! Hi! Hi! Uncle Ronald! Hello Uncle Ronald! Hi Uncle Ronald” (blatantly ignoring my sister while she gushes on and on about Ronald!)
Claire the True Blue Singaporean
“I’m okay. Not painful lah.”
Claire isn’t as proficient in Mandarin as Coco is because Coco spent a good part of her first 18 months under my aunt’s care where my aunt would converse with her fully in Mandarin. On the other hand, since my mum retired last year, she has been Claire’s main caregiver while I’m at work and speaks only English with Claire. So it’s a good thing that Claire has been picking up some Mandarin since starting school in October and can utter short phrases like “Po po lai le” (grandma is here), “lao shi” (teacher) and “an jing” (quiet). But whatever proficiency she lacks in Mandarin, she makes up for it by being able to sing ‘Burung Kakatua’ entirely in MALAY!
I believe that being immersed in an environment where conversation is constantly taking place is the key to Claire’s rapid speech development. Even though she doesn’t display any obvious interest in what we’re saying, she’s listening ALL THE TIME and absorbing information like a sponge be it words, songs or musical tunes. We are amazed at how she effortlessly switches between the Twinkle Variations, which Dannie has been practising every night on the piano (a round of applause for the dude’s effort, please!) and me on the cello. If we sing the tune to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a “dudududu du du” rhythm, she’ll follow through with the same. If we start with “doo doo, doo doo”, she’ll finish up the song in the same rhythm. I don’t even think she consciously does it.
So, do all younger siblings learn and develop much faster than the first because they aspire to be just like their sibling? Is it because they have the advantage of having a mini-model whom they can easily copy and learn from?
Feel free to leave a note to share your experience and tell us what you think!