- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2003

It’s easy to get spoiled with baby’s milestones. In the past several months, the Little Viking, now 14 months old, has made several giant developmental leaps: crawling, walking, climbing and saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada.’

In the past month, however, his development seems more subtle. He’s walking better, babbling more and climbing higher, but there hasn’t been a distinct milestone. Unless, of course, increased interactivity could be considered a milestone.

The Little Viking used to play only on his terms, focusing on a toy for a few minutes and then going on to the next, never very concerned about what people in his surroundings were doing.

Recently, however, he has started playing not only with inanimate toys, but also with people, mostly his father and me. We sit down on the floor and roll a ball back and forth. The Little Viking seems to delight in this game, smiling from ear to ear.

It only lasts for a little while, though. The attention span of a 14-month-old is about a minute, and once something else — a toy or Loke, the dog — has caught his eye, our ball-rolling game is over.

One of these attention-grabbing toys is Thomas the Tank Engine, a plastic train the size of an adult fist on wheels. As with the ball, we roll Thomas back and forth between us. Thomas requires that you push his head down to make the wheels spin forward. The Little Viking has just discovered this feature and is very excited about it and, we think, proud of his new ability.

This game, too, lasts just 60 seconds or so until he discovers his mega blocks, kind of supersized Legos. The Little Viking has figured out that these blocks actually stick together if you press them together tightly. Fun, fun, fun.

Our little guy is also learning to follow directions on a very basic level. If we hide a ball and say, “Where’s the yellow ball?” he’ll look for the yellow ball. If we tell him, “Get your truck,” he’ll get his truck; and if we say “Give me five,” he does.

But for some reason, the little guy doesn’t seem to understand “Don’t poke Loke in the face” and “Don’t throw your food on the floor.”

Another fun interactive game is chasing one another. If we say “I’m gonna come get you,” the Little Viking scrambles — walking or crawling — as fast as he can to get away even if the outcome is a given: We’re gonna catch him.

Eating and food preparation also can be interactive. The Little Viking knows how to open the fridge, and if we point to a cup of yogurt or a jar of peas, he may actually oblige us and grab it and hand it to us.

Now that the Little Viking can feed himself pretty well, he shares his delicacies, fish, peas and bananas with us whether we’re interested or not.

Suddenly, a tiny hand is in our faces, prodding. “Take this half-mushed banana. I am giving it to you,” the Little Viking seems to say. Trying to suppress a gag reflex, we oblige. After all, sharing is a great trait that should be encouraged, half-mushed banana from a dirty hand or not.

When the food is devoured and it’s time for cleanup, our 14-month-old helps to the best of his ability, helping Mommy or Daddy put his dishes in the dishwasher and then closing the door.

Reading books also can be interactive. We read, and he turns the pages. If we’re reading books he knows well, such as certain Elmo and Maisy books, he even succeeds in turning the pages at the right time.

But one type of interaction we adults are so fond of, namely verbal communication, the Little Viking isn’t too keen on yet.

He has a few favorite words and expressions, however, which he uses all the time. One of them is “all done,” which he uses both appropriately — after dinner, for example — and inappropriately, in the middle of his bath, when his hair is still full of suds.

We’re looking forward to more words but have heard that some children who are very focused on their mobility may be late speakers. The Little Viking could be in this category.

In any case, he seems in no rush, and maybe we shouldn’t fault him. After all, so many people can’t seem to stop talking once they have started, and maybe he doesn’t want to add to the constant chatter.

Jokes aside, as the Swedish expression goes, it’ll be wondrous once the Little Viking starts expressing himself verbally.

We’re looking forward to the “night-nights” and “bye-byes” and of course can’t wait for the monumental “I love you.”

Gabriella Boston is a features writer for The Washington Times. She and her husband welcomed their “Little Viking” in May 2002. Send e-mail to gboston@washingtontimes.com.

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