Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Look Who's Talking

Listen to the kid. This morning while helping out at my child's second-grade class, I found proof that indeed, children are the smartest beings on the planet. 
From the time of their birth, even without speech, babies have been trying to tell us something. Out this month is a documentary film called "Babies," produced by a company called Focus Features. This visually stunning film simultaneously follows four babies around the world--from Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. Check out the trailer.

Mothers can tell, just by the pitch, intensity or general type of their cries, if they are asking for food, need a change of diapers, want to be held, or perhaps just want somebody to 'talk to.' The capability for language is the most amazing thing, effectively putting humans at the top of the biological hierarchy. Undisputedly, a child's first word ranks right up there with getting a driver's license, and maybe even college graduation.

The wait for those first intelligible words seem to take forever. Then, when they do start talking, there is that large chunk of time, in between the ages of two and eight, when it seems all they ever do is talk. I have tried conversations with eight-year olds and they are pretty much one-sided. I can hardly get a word in, and to be quite honest, I often find myself speechless because what comes out of their mouths are either just too funny, too silly, or surprisingly insightful and profound that I find myself at a loss for words.

So here's the proof. I copied these off a writing exercise from my daughter's second grade class. I therefore conclude that very young kids are smarter than we think, more profound than they look and know more than they let on. They do think about many other important things, just as grown-ups do.

I pretend . . . to be the boss of my brother.
I feel . . . really, really mad at my brother.
I worry . . . that my teacher will get fired.
I understand . . . that I have to be nice to my brother.
I say . . . that God is real!
I dream . . . I can get $100,000
I hear . . . ice cream sing. (That explains it).
I pretend . . . I am playing in an MLB world series
I worry . . . that my grandpa is going to die.
I understand . . . I can only have two pieces of candy a day.
I say . . . that pirates are real. (If they only knew).
I dream . . . about candy. (Me too).
I want . . . $1,000,000.  (Me too).
I worry . . . that my Mom or Dad will crash.
I understand . . . that you can't get everything you want.
I hope . . . to go to college.
I wonder . . . if Santa is real?
I feel . . . like my brother is my servant.
I worry . . . that I will die.
I try . . . to stay alive.
I hope . . . I can stay home from school.
I see . . . an imaginary In-N-Out Burger in my backyard.
I wonder . . . how old I'm going to live to.
I worry . . . if my kids will be healthy.
I hope . . . I will be 16 soon. (Uh-oh).
I say . . . my life is perfect.
I try . . . to make the world a better place.
I hope . . . I have fun forever.
I want . . . my great-grandfather back.
I hear . . . a buzzing noise in complete silence.
I understand . . . that art has no right or wrong.
I try . . . to keep my sister happy.
I worry . . . that I'm going to miss my family when I go to college.
I understand . . . how people feel when they are left out.
I understand . . . that Dad has to work a lot.
I hope . . . I will have a good life.
I worry . . . that my parents will die.
I hope . . . I will never die.
I worry . . . about the people in Haiti.
I try . . . to be a better person.
I hope . . . that people find a cure for cancer.

Where would we be without children? And, while the 'Babies' film proves that the 'journey of humanity' is a simple and universal one (be it a bare mud house in Namibia or a well-appointed San Francisco apartment), when you've got the resources it helps to create the best learning and stimulating environment in children's spaces. A space for them to live and grow.

Take a cue from preschool and elementary school classrooms. 
Educational and creative out-of the-box wall coverings and murals stimulate imagination.
Photo credit left and above:

  • Choose colors, themes and things that bring out the child's unique personality.
  • Have closets and storage that are well-organized and accessible, so they can find their things easily.
  • Hooks, hooks, hooks. Jackets, bags, caps and just about anything else can be hung instead of ending up on the floor.
  • An extra chair or bench for visiting friends to sit on.
  • Comfortable bedding they can't wait to get into each night!
  • Don't limit yourself to what you think of as "kids colors" or materials. Elegant palettes can reflect a child's personality too, as can unique treatments, such as plastering or painted bead board.
  • Well-constructed beds, desks and dressers will last for years and cost you less in the long run. Plus, you can bequeath that furniture to your kids when they move to their own homes.

Don't limit yourself to what you think of as "kids colors" or materials. Elegant palettes can reflect a child's personality too.
Right: Design by Jonathan Adler at
Below: Cameron Counter Cabinet Base Storage System, $1,430, 

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