On toddlers and the spontaneous generation of novel vocabulary

Toddlers are an author’s best friend. If you’re ever stuck in a rut and need some help, pay close attention to a kid trying to grapple with the intricacies of learning a spoken language. They will inevitably toss in extra vowels and consonants, clip words short, duplicate sections, or improvise sounds that are more manageable for their developing mind-lip interface.

I think every parent has had the pleasure of being called “Mapa” or “Pama” at some point or other. My boy is fascinated by crocodiles thanks to Dora the Explorer. He trundles around the living room yelling “Crokoli, crokoli!” and roaring his head off. Today, my kid invented a novel mashup of ketchup and mustard. “Kestard, moustchup!” I’m not quite certain why he was going on about condiments, since it wasn’t mealtime, but his little mind was bubbling away trying to figure things out. I keep my ear trained to his vocal experiments, and from time to time can come away with a wonderful nugget that will serve as the setting, character, or event for a future story.

This may not be too useful a feature for non-fiction authors. In fact, such re-interpretations of any language is probably going to lead to deleterious effects on your writing by osmotic transference so having kids is probably not a great career move. Thankfully, mine will doubtless continue to enhance my efforts to produce engaging works of fantasy and science-fiction.

Thanks kiddo!

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On expanding your toddler’s vocabulary – You know you got it right when…

Monstres: A great kids’ book.

A few weeks ago, we bought a gorgeously-illustrated story for our toddler. Monstres from Édition Nathan is a wonderful story of a little boy embarking on a quest to find the ingredients needed to brew a potion to heal an ailing dragon. Since it’s a kid’s book, I won’t go on any longer since I’ve already covered a significant portion of the plot as it stands.

It caught my wife’s eye at the book store and I have to admit that I think I spend more time taking in the brilliant illustrations than my son does — and he looks at it a lot. The book depicts a wide menagerie of fantasy monsters in a cartoony style reminiscent of what a Pixar movie would look like in 2D. It has been a great opportunity to plant the seed of wonder in my boy’s mind.

Yesterday, I managed to get him to babble on about dinosaurs, trolls, ogres, krakens, dragons, and skeletons (not all depicted in the book, but what the heck, it’s always good to get some value added for bedtime stories.) Today we started working on goblin. Not bad considering he still has a while to go before he makes it to three years of age.

The best part about it all is that though the book tries to create some dramatic tension by making some of the monsters adversaries, others are allies. Best of all, a little kid can overcome the mightiest of mythical beasts. My wife and I aren’t presenting any of these creatures as something to be afraid of, so there have been no issues with nightmares, and hopefully it will prime him to be receptive to diversity as he grows up. It incidentally blends in with the general concept of the book I’m in the process of writing, so it is nice to see the concept pop up elsewhere.

If I end up writing about my son the basket case at some point down the line, or decides that wearing elf ears to work is an acceptable fashion choice, I guess you’ll be able to point to this as a potential cause. Sheesh, parents can never win!