Why Popsicles are good for your brain
and other ruminations on daily language skill-building
Sometimes its easy to forget that literacy and language skills aren’t just things that build as we read and write, but things that we, as language-using humans, are deepening constantly as we go about our days, often in much less bookish ways:
When we crack jokes and make bad puns: Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because it wasn’t peeling well. (Credit: my four-year-old nephew.)
When we compare something to another thing: I drank so much water last night I was like a port-a-potty truck. (Credit: my own four-year-old.)
When we name something with precision: osprey, allen wrench, reggaeton, pinky toe, chocolate mint chip.
When we articulate our feelings: I’m so frustrated and disappointed, I just want to go crawl in a hole.
When we put physical sensation into words: it’s a pinching feeling in my heel.
When we tell stories: Let me tell you about the time a grizzly bear….
When we make up silly little songs: Munch, munch, have some lunch!
When we talk about the highs and lows and notable moments of our days, synthesizing meaning out of the jumble of experience: I went swimming in the river, got to meet my friend’s baby, picked up a fish hook and accidentally hooked my pinky.
When we rhyme and alliterate and simply play with words: righty tighty, lefty loosey.
When we enjoy rhythms: to market to market to buy a fat hog.
When we follow associations: These pickled beets taste like California, which makes me think of college, and this environmental ed farm I visited with this one girl who had a nose ring, like my friend whose nose ring migrated, the doctor said possibly towards her brain, but it hasn’t hurt her yet and….
When we lay out arguments and deploy logic and other rhetoric to convince people of things: I should get a Popsicle because it’s hot and also it’s a Wednesday.
When we talk about our dreams, translating our interior worlds into sentences: I was on a train that had a zoo in one car….
When we reference things we’ve read: this forest reminds me of Mirkwood.
And when we listen to others and respond in conversation to their thoughts and feelings. I can see why you’d be sad about that. It doesn’t sound fair.
These, of course, are only some ways of relating to the world, of thinking. And the examples I’m giving are probably skewed towards my own very verbal mode of being and certainly don’t include all the ways people engage with language. I’m not here to discount spatial, visual, intuitive, mathematical, physical, emotional, culinary, social etc. etc. brilliances and ways of knowing, but to explore some of the ways verbal and linguistic thinking runs through our days.
So when it’s been days since someone has cracked open a book, and your kids are demanding Popsicles and singing annoying repetitive rhymes and making fart jokes and droning on about some weird dream, rest assured they are fully engaging their linguistic intelligence, summer vacation style. Celebrate with Popsicles all around.