Making Sense of the World

I’ve been working hard to listen to my kids. We’ve been going through a spell of demanding, angry tones, and big emotions. I’ve been trying to be more present. To give them more…even when I’m not sure how much more I can give…

In listening to them this past weekend, I got to thinking about how they’re all using their words to make sense of the world, in vastly different ways.

Rose is just learning to communicate using her words and it’s remarkable how that happens. For the longest time, she had mastered “no” as a response to anything. “Do you want to go to bed?”


“Do you want a cookie?”


Recently, she’s begun to figure out yes. It’s so fun to watch her think of her response and deliberately think about how to shake her head to say “yes.”

While sledding this weekend, it was clear that Rose did not like the ride down the snowy hill. She preferred her feet on dry ground. When I asked her if she wanted to come down the hill with me again, she responded, “No, I not want to.” She’s making big leaps in communicating her opinions.

Adi on the other hand, is experimenting with language she has overheard, trying words on for herself. The other night, she was working on a book called “Love Animals.” She recently learned to spell the word love and is using it every chance she gets. She was sprawled out on the bathroom floor as I bathed her sisters. “This is the cat page,” she told me. “I don’t know how to draw a cat.”

As I saw her about to lose her cool, I asked for a piece of paper, rinsing the shampoo I had been scrubbing into curls. As I dried my hands, I reached for a marker and began to model drawing a cat.

“You forgot the whispers,” Adi stated.

“The whispers?” I asked as I watched her draw whiskers onto her own cat drawing.

Then there is Wren, who I often have to do a double take with when I hear some of the things coming out of her mouth. Literally is one of her new favorite words.

A few days ago, out of nowhere, Wren’s voice rang out from the living room, “Are dogs a thing?”

“Huh?” I asked my mind searching for context. Then I remembered some recent homework assignments having to do with parts of speech. “Are you wondering if dogs are a noun? Like person, place, or thing?” I asked, in awe of how she was trying to categorize objects into this new system she was discovering.

“Yes,” she said joining me in the kitchen, a signal that she really wanted to talk about this- to understand.

These little minds are growing so fast. It’s so fun to get little glimpses into how they’re processing the world around them.



14 thoughts on “Making Sense of the World

  1. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, but language development is absolutely fascinating to me. And you have three live samples right under your own roof! I love that you are paying such close attention and noticing so much about them! Listening that closely is hard work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have great insight into your children’s language development. They are lucky to have you gently pushing their ability to communicate with natural conversation that starts with them. Thanks for sharing a quick picture of your girls.

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  3. “Whispers”! Such a neat snapshot back to those ages! Our making sense of the world through words has been sounding a bit different at 13…it becomes a tool for navigating audience and stance.

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  4. Jess- love this. Linda Darling-Hammond shared some research last week that said that the number of words kids hear is not the biggest factor in growing neural pathways in the brain. The number of turns in conversation is the biggest grower of those pathways. It sounds like you have built a life where they are taking so many turns. Way to go mama!

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  5. I love the way kids communicate. I love their words “whispers” and where did Wren get “literally” from?
    I wrote about listening today. You are really present and listening to your children. That’s a wonderful thing.


  6. It’s so interesting that you are observing your three girls at different stages of language development – and becoming so adept at interpreting what they mean. I love your daughter’s question; “What are dogs?” At first I thought she was asking from a philosophical point of view (being into the word “literal”) – how great that you put two and two together to know she was asking about parts of speech.
    The piece you have written is one to share with them when they are older. They will love it!!
    (My granddaughter is almost two, and uses the word “no” for many different purposes – so funny.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s amazing what we learn about little minds and learning from watching our own babies, isn’t it? I love how you’ve captured such distinct snapshots of how your girls are developing language and making sense of the world!

    Liked by 1 person

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