Parenting a toddler is so much better than parenting a baby. More challenging, tiring and difficult, yes, but certainly a whole lot more fun too.
I absolutely adore this stage. Toddlerhood seems like a tricky time for these Littles. They’re figuring so much out every day, mastering so many new things, and at the same time their bodies are packed with this physical energy that is just bursting out of them. I understand more than ever why it is so important to be aware of this as a developmental necessity.
This is such a physical stage of her life. She has learnt so many new things with her body in the past couple of months. How to throw. How to sometimes catch. How to go down slides on her own. How to draw circles and dots and lines. How to climb everything. How to do somersaults and how to jump. I love watching her do these things. Far from making me want to restrain her or quieten her down somehow, it often reminds me to be a bit freer in my movements too. To dance a lot more, to run around with her.
She is also at this fascinating stage where her language is kicking off, and many of the baby signs she has used for over a year are being accompanied by a word. This is one of the best things I have seen yet, as a Mama. Her Ava speak gets clearer every day, and her love for naming things is apparent and wonderful to witness. We walk around and she points at everything she sees – the trees (‘Tees!’) all of the colours she has learnt (‘Why! Bue! Geen!’) and then, at least five times a day, she asks for either Emi or Mia (two of her favourite people right now), both words as clear as a bell.
I wonder now how much longer she will use all her signs. I realise I’ve never spoken much about our babysigning, but only because it has always fitted in with out day to day lives so seamlessly that I forgot it was a ‘thing’ at all. I can’t imagine not signing with any future children now. I have loved watching Ava pick up signs for so many things, and at such a young age be able to ask for more apple or blueberries or that she was tired or hungry.
I recall Ava figuring out the pincer grip at 3 months old, which was quite early, according to my health visitor. This was what started us babysigning. Perhaps her seeming dexterity is why she enjoyed being able to use her hands to communicate things early on, and now my guess would be that learning all those signs has aided in her ability to do quite intricate things with her hands now. And of course, it seems to have only encouraged her to find other ways to communicate too – speaking, singing, dancing, all of which she loves.
I would have happily gone to babysigning classes with her, but it never worked out for one reason or another, and thinking about it now, I really quite like that we just did it going along, in a somewhat haphazard way. I don’t remember doing it very consistently until she was about 6 months old and, all of a sudden, began signing for things I had done only a handful of times over the preceeding 3 months. This was exactly the encouragement I needed that she wanted to learn, and from there we incorporated many signs into our daily life.
Nowadays, she signs almost every song she knows (and her singing voice and tone? Oh my…enough to make a Mama’s heart sing on its own) Just this bedtime, I asked her what songs she wanted to me to sing. Her response was ‘Dough A Dee’…which is the ‘Doe a Deer’ song from the Sound of Music she rather loves, and she signed the first few verses so beautifully, even whilst nursing and falling asleep)
The way we learnt signing together fits in so wonderfully with our idea of unschooling that I would not have had it any other way. We learnt together, because we both wanted to, and it was always so much fun. Ava is a far better Signer than I am, and I often have to ask her what the sign for something or other is if I have forgotten. (She’s patient with me…she doesn’t seem to mind repeating it). And we learnt naturally, without attending lessons or putting time aside for it – we learnt through living and through necessity.
I just met a lovely lady at the Natural Nurturing Network group I go to who runs TinyTalk in York for babies, and I quite fancy taking Ava along to her classes to enjoy some signing and some babies. Ava seems to be hitting a stage where she is quite enthralled by babies. She gets to spend a lot of time around one baby in particular, baby Pixie, who Ava is smitten with, and seeing them together? Oh boy, it’s just about too much for me.
Pixie is so happy all the time, and Ava just adores her, giving her kisses, patting her, and letting Pixie pull her hair and face should she wish. If I needed convincing at all that I want more children, seeing Ava and Pixie together would be enough to tip me right over the edge. Every time she hangs out with a baby now, Ava is quite keen to get involved, and it is truly one of the best things in the world to see her act so kindly, sharing her most treasured blueberries and chocolate, and being so friendly with these extra Littles. I do believe she would make quite an amazing big sister (with just the right amount of care and love and bossiness that a big sister needs)