Look, mummy, look!

Many of the children who fall behind with language development have immense problems with drawing inferences: from events, from pictures, from conversation and especially from text when they get to that stage.

It is delightful to observe children who do not have such problems commenting on things they see around them. The ‘comment’ might only be to point or look amazed, but very young children can be quick to appreciate there’s something ‘not quite right’. The little boy I saw pointing and telling his mum to look appeared to be about 3. What he had noticed as striking was a narrow, hilly street – looking like any other, with pavements and a roadway between – but half way down the Council had erected two posts in the roadway to stop it being used by cars. The child didn’t attempt to verbalise this quirky sight but he was clearly very satisfied by his mother understanding what he found surprising and making a suitable comment to acknowledge the oddity and explain the reason for it. He had inferred (at some level) that roads – to be any good as roads – should not have permanent obstructions blocking them.

I loved the look of astonishment on the face of an even younger child – no more than a toddler – in the park. He had made his way towards a shiny toy car, apparently left in the middle of the grass. He stretched out a finger tentatively to stroke it when all of a sudden it took off and drove at speed out of range! Why was he so amazed? Because, one assumes, he had already internalised the fact that toy cars should not move of their own accord. The young couple with the remote control who had been watching him with good humour laughed and made the car zoom around some more. Once the toddler had seen the couple and the ‘magic box’, he no longer seemed at all surprised.   He couldn’t have said what it was, but he seemed to accept there was an explanation after all.

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