05 December 2008

HEE haw

Why are very young children expected to know what noises animals make? If I have a kid who only knows four words, why would I want any of them to be moo or oink?


Joy said...

Yep. My 3-year-old labels everything and reads at a 1st-grade level, but won't have a conversation with me. Thank you, Einstein Syndrome.

With this next kid, I don't think I'll teach her letters and numbers and colors and shapes and animal sounds. She'll inevitably absorb it from her two big sisters, and I'm curious to see what would happen if I wasn't such a control freak.

Pam said...

Thanks, Rebekah, for this affirmation! I have never appreciated folks asking my kids "what does the cow say?" and being surprised to be greeted with a blank stare from said child. And then the person looks to me for an explanantion of why my little child has been deprived of this 'neccessary' education.

I, on the other hand, think of this as putting a child through his 'tricks', much like one does to show off what a newly trained dog has learned. While I have mellowed enough that I no longer feel obligated to teach these things for the sake of others' enjoyment/satisfaction, nor to explain away this perceived lack, I do still smile and nod, admiringly, when others have their children do their 'tricks' for my approval.

You know, not to offend the weaker brother, as it were.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Oh, I don't know, I don't think it's all that bad. I think the interest people have in children making animal sounds is based on a simple linguistic truth. Animal sounds are much simpler phonetic constructs than actual words. Consider the fact that animals make them. ;-)

Many children tend to associate an animal with the animal's sound before they associate it with its name. This may simply be because it is easier for them to say. That said, associating and articulating a sound with a particular thing is an important literacy milestone (reached around 12-18 months) - and this labeling is an important part of child development. Remember Helen Keller's linguistics took off dramatically when she first learned to label water. The interest in labeling is what ultimately begins developing our vocabulary.

Remember also that this was one of Adam's first tasks, and God was quite interested to hear what Adam's label would be for each one of the animals He had created.

I believe the simplicity of animal sounds is why books with animal sounds for the words are produced. It gives parents the ability to do sound/picture associations (labeling) with the child using simple animal sounds - somewhat earlier than they can enunciate the more difficult phonetics of animal names.

I doubt making animal sounds is a necessary thing, but I'm not sure if any studies have been done on the actual developmental value of this activity. Maybe it is helpful, maybe not. But I really doubt that it is harmful. Regardless, I thought this little explanation of the phenomenon might help (a tad) to ease your discomfort with the fascination people obviously have with hearing children make animal sounds.

I have no doubt that some of that fascination also tends to come with the "cute" way that children tend to make some of these sounds. I still look back with fond memories at the way some of my children made particular animal sounds. My oldest said "kak" when she played with her rubber ducky in the tub.

It's fun for kids to make animal sounds and adds to the fun and laughter my children have with their younger siblings. My three year old and seven year old still LOVE to play dog and cat with each other and communicate using meows and woofs. Stupid? Yes. Harmful? I don't think so. Fun? Absolutely! Not just for them, but to watch. It's a "hoot" ;-)

Rebekah said...


Pam said...

hee hee, this is actually kinda funny.

Erich, personally my beef is nothing of the "why" of the fascination itself, but more to do with the ability of a child to recite animal sounds, letters, or colors, etc, etc, being seen (albeit inadvertently) as a measure of a child's intelligence. Or my parenting... there have been some for whom it IS this kind of measurement... like when they feel sorry for my 'poor children' because they don't have all the 'stuff' other kids in smaller families with two employes parents have. As though I am less of a parent for not being able to provide these so-thought to be "neccesities."

HA, sometimes I don't even bother trying to explain that it's not a matter of not affording *whatever* but a parental choice. And when I have bothered, I can tell some still disapprove. Not that it changes my parenting, but it is annoying.

Bear in mind, this all comes from a person who has a beef with Toys for Tots. So if that offends you, then please forget everything I just said.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I understand what you mean. People can be cruel without even meaning to be.

Blogversary said...

My daughter is so good at howling, that once in a drive-thru she was doing this while I was ordering the lady asked where my dog was when I pulled up.

I am actually kind of embarrassed to say...because my daughter knows a few dozen animals sounds, and I hate going to the zoo. So, it is not me encouraging her. :)

Pam said...

Oh, Blogversary, that's really funny. I have on more than one occasion wondered what all the bank tellers have heard from the kids in the vehicle. I didn't think they had the speaker on all the time, till one day the kids were asking for suckers, and I said I don't ask for them, either they give them or they don't. One child took orders from the rest and specified to me from the back seat-- and I mean two seats behind me, that we need six red and one yellow. I said, son I am not going to tell the lady THAT.

But wouldn't you know, when the tube came back, it contained six red and one yellow lollipops. It was nice, but pretty unnerving to the mom who sometimes says things at the drive-up that I really wouldn't want the bank employees to hear. Needless to say, I'm a lot more quiet these days when we go to the bank.