One of my greatest joys as a parent is watching my daughter better understand the world around her. When she was an infant, we got a lot of laughs watching her reach baby milestones, like discovering cause-and-effect relationships (“Whoa – this button makes music every time I press it!”) or realizing the baby in the mirror is alive and she controls it (“Watch what happens when I pat my head – she does too!”).
Now, at 2 years old, Cate is reaching new milestones, such as recognizing animals that she’s only previously seen in books, and discovering the moon and stars in the night sky, which she then connects with part of her favorite story, Go, Dog Go! (“Now it is night. Night is not a time for play…”).
As she grows older, the number of questions associated with these magical moments increases as she attempts to grasp what she’s experiencing. She then determines where this new information fits in with what she already knows. And while there are times when I feel like I’m too busy to explain a new phenomenon or answer the same questions over and over and over again − “Yes, that is a house.” “No, it’s not Grandma’s house.” “Yes, it’s just somebody’s house.” − I am usually pretty quick to remind myself how special these moments are, as well as how important it is to nurture her curiosity and excitement for learning.
Recently, Cate spotted squirrels running along the fence around our backyard and jumping into a nearby tree. She was very excited about these cute, new animals she’d discovered, so I stopped what I was doing and started telling her how they were likely looking for nuts and berries to eat. Then we practiced making squirrel sounds (which we decided, looks and sounds like a squirrel nibbling on an acorn).
A few weeks later, as we were walking our dog, Cate stopped to pick up a berry on the sidewalk and asked me what it was. I explained it was a berry that had fallen from the tree above us. As she looked up at the tree with berries on its branches and then back to all of the berries that had fallen to the ground below, she got that “Aha!” look in her eyes and asked, “For the squirrels?”
It was a connection that I didn’t see coming, and I was almost as proud of her as she was of herself in that moment. As you can imagine, we spent the rest of the walk confirming that she was holding a berry, which had fallen from the tree and could quite possibly be a yummy snack for a squirrel.
So, from one clueless parent to another, I encourage you to try not to miss opportunities to engage with your child and see the world through her eyes. Engage in positive parenting by showing them how to sway like the trees in the wind or making the “boom-boom” sound of thunder as a storm rolls in. Offer fun facts about the cow you spotted in a field on a road trip, and you may be surprised how funny it is that your toddler’s favorite “joke” is asking if different family members eat grass, too.