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Toddler Language & Learning: Fall Edition

As we round the corner toward two, it feels like Cullen’s language and learning development has suddenly picked up with rapid speed.  I can’t keep track of what words he knows and doesn’t know now, as he’s constantly surprising me with identifications and commentary.  His dad and I try to encourage him by asking lots of open ended questions, and pressing for details about his day.  I’m amazed at how much his little memory holds already!

Being a stay at home parent, I feel responsibility that most of Cullen’s learning and skill development will happen on my watch.  And I try to be mindful of the fact that he needs me as both as parent and a teacher at this age.  So during our daily play and activities, I try to pick one new word for him to learn each day.  Whether it’s something from a book, something we see when we’re out, or something he hears from someone else — I’ll try to repeat it several times throughout the day, and give him a chance to say it back to me through questions.

His language started to pick up a lot this summer, and because of that, so many of his new words were very seasonally specific.  He learned things like: beach, sand, baseball cap, ball game, splash, lotion, blueberries, corn, watermelon, pool, bucket, and many more.  As we head into the next season, I’m realizing that opportunities for language development are all around us.  Here are some of the words I hope he’ll be using by the time we head into the holidays…

  • Leaves 1 of 14
    leaves

    Cullen learned "tree" and "flower" this summer, but we've never really had any reason to talk specifically about leaves until now.  As a bonus, we can also practice our colors by identifying things like orange, red, and brown as they begin to turn and fall.  I'm looking forward to a season of him finally outgrowing the desire to put all the leaves into his mouth!

  • Pumpkin 2 of 14
    pumpkin12

    One of my favorite memories from last fall was taking Cullen to the pumpkin patch.  I know we'll be seeing lots of pumpkins in the coming month, including putting a few out on our doorstep.  Maybe we'll get ambitious and even consider carving a few!

  • Rain 3 of 14
    rain

    Fall is when the rain starts to pick up a bit here in Seattle.  And even so it is still my favorite season!  It is just a part of life, and it will certainly be a part of Cullen's understand - and vocabulary - as he continues to grow up here.  Last year he would get cranky and frustrated if we were trapped indoors all day.  This year I hope he'll be able to understand the concepts of "rain" and "wet" -- and know that we have to stay inside for a while.  

  • Squash 4 of 14
    squash

    I think one of the reasons I love fall so much is that brings some of my favorite food.  I never seem to tire of plate after plate of roasted squash.  Acorn, spaghetti, or buttnernut -- doesn't matter, I love them all.  Here's hoping Cullen likes it as much as I do, and gobbles down plenty of colorful veggies this season.

  • Trick or treat 5 of 14
    trick-or-treat

    On Cullen's first Halloween, he was nine days old and we were deep in the throws of adjusting to life with a newborn.  I put a pumpkin hat on him, turned off our porch light, and avoided trick or treaters.  Last year was a whole other thing -- we had a walking, talking toddler in the world's cutest costume, and it was an absolute blast.  He trick or treated with a friend, and while he didn't eat the candy or do much other than reach out and take pieces from friendly neighbors, he still had a great time.  This year I'm expecting he'll be really into it.  I can't wait to hear him yell out, "trick or treat!"

  • Vest 6 of 14
    vest

    I have a pretty serious puffy vest addiction.  I personally have three, and I have to constantly stop myself from buying more.  So I have channeled my vest problem into a new outlet -- toddler outerwear.  I expect that by season's end, Cullen will be fully aware of how his "vests" are different from his raincoat and winter coat.

  • Boots 7 of 14
    boots2

    I'm going to get Cullen his first pair of rain boots this year.  I expect that given his energy levels, we'll be outside even when it's wet and dreary outside.  I'm not actually getting him a pair of Hunter's (adorable, but so crazy expensive), but I'm hoping I can find something equally adorable somewhere like Target.  Let's hope he's willing to wear them!

  • Chili and cornbread 8 of 14
    chili-cornbread

    When the temperature drops, I can't seem to get enough warm, hearty comfort food.  We make a ton of chili and soup during the fall months, and I'm hoping it will also serve as a good way to sneak plenty of veggies into my toddler.  He actually learned "more cornbread please!" last weekend when he begged for more pumpkin skillet cornbread that I made to go with our bean chili.  Too cute!

  • Cider 9 of 14
    cider1

    I don't know if it's just a natural part of his personality, or if it's because we ask him so many specific questions, but either way - Cullen loves details.  He is never satisfied to know that someone has a drink, but rather he wants to know what they are drinking.  I bought a big jug of apple cider last week, and I've been stealing little sips of it here and there for the past few days.  Last night Cullen pointed at me as I took a swig and said, "apple juice!"  I was shocked, since I have no idea where he learned that term (he's never really had any!).  I don't expect to give him too many sugary glasses, but we'll definitely treat him to a few cider cups here and there when we're feeling festive.

  • Coat and jacket 10 of 14
    coat

    Like I said before, so much of Cullen's language really blossomed this summer.  He knows words like shorts, baseball cap, shirt, and shoes.  But he hasn't really had an opportunity yet to learn things like jacket and coat - until now!

  • Coffee and tea 11 of 14
    coffee5

    Cullen is no stranger to coffee, and one of his favorite things is to get his own (usually empty) small cup whenever we go to coffee shops.  In his early days of reaching and grabbing, Casey and I referred to our mugs and coffee cups as "hot cups" since we wanted to emphasize that he was not supposed to touch them.  This seems to have stuck with him, and now he calls every mug, thermos, and teacup he sees "hot cup!"  And this being Seattle, we see a LOT of coffee cups.  Each time he says "hot cup" now, I agree with him but also make sure to tell him that it is coffee.  It has to click eventually, right?

  • Fire and hot 12 of 14
    fire-and-hot

    In similar thinking to telling Cullen that coffee is hot, I also want to make sure we are very careful about fireplace safety this fall.  At our old house we used our fireplace on an almost-daily basis, and we had a nice thick metal screen secured to the front that made it relatively easy to relax and not worry that Cullen was going to be burned.  I'm not sure if we'll use the fireplace at our new house or not, but I'm sure we'll encounter them here and there at friends' houses regardless.  It's important that he understand that hot things are dangerous to touch.

  • Pinecone 13 of 14
    iStock_000003955032XSmall

    This is one we've been working on already.  I pointed out the pinecones to Cullen a week or so ago on the playground.  A few days ago he brought me one and shouted, "pineapple!" -- so close buddy, so close.  

  • Acorn 14 of 14
    iStock_000014393650XSmall

    We've already checked this one off the list.  Our new favorite playground activity is collecting acorns and either handing them off to friends or filling up little pockets.  Again, it is so nice that he's grown out of the stage of wanting to EAT everything!

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