Archive for the ‘Paternal Thoughts’ Category

Happy Halloween Pootle!

(For the uninitiated, this is Q Pootle 5, the Little Monkey’s alien de jour.)

Little Monkey vs. Watermelon

Music: Hidden Agenda by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Dance, my little puppet, dance!

As a child I never moved house, and, in fact, the Monkeyshines grandma still lives in that same house. So, the lack of purges required when moving, allied with hoarding tendencies, means that many of my treasured childhood toys and books remain stashed away in cupboards and under beds. It has been fun, now that the Little Monkey is getting older, to drag these out and see what he makes of them.

The Postman Pat View-Master 3D was surprisingly popular; he didn’t really understand the narrative, or how it worked, but was entranced by the images. I thought that the funny little bird puppet would be a bit confusing, and he was a little perplexed at first; but was delighted when it started pecking his feet. He got the hang of it himself quite quickly, although shortly after the following video was filmed I had to spend 20 minutes untangling the wires after the bird did some particularly vigorous dancing…

An Aldeburgh Holiday

Castles made of sand

Holidays on the English coast were a staple of my childhood summers, and Mrs. Monkeyshines’ too; she went to the beaches of the south-west, and I to those of the south-east (and we both went to the Isle of Wight). So we were both looking forward to our week with the Little Monkey on the Suffolk coast, at Aldeburgh; which was where the Monkeyshines Grandma went as a child…

"It's a bunny!"

Although, despite having fun at the beach with moats, and throwing pebble after pebble into the sea, the Little Monkey’s highlight was probably the visit to the farm. He literally ran round all day, scarcely believing that so many amazing things (trains and tractors, animals and slides) could all be in one place. Two years of stroking the cat have trained him well, and he petted everything from a chick to a donkey.

The beginnings of an expensive hobby?

He showed a clear natural talent as a horseman (well, as a ponyboy, I suppose, but that sounds a bit like a derogatory term for a centaur); and then went gleefully down the slide in the soft-play area dozens of times. Subsequent days out at Framlingham castle and the Latitude festival were excellent fun, but I don’t think they quite reached the giddy heights of the farm…

The ballpool of a hundred slides

A Two-Year Old Little Monkey

Last year we had fish and chips at the seaside, and fruit for tea, to celebrate the Little Monkey’s first birthday. This year it was a party in the garden with a Thomas the Tank Engine cake…

It’s a Little Monkey’s world

The Little Monkey is a talkative young simian, and I thought it’d be interesting to use his vocabulary to reflect on his interests, on the eve of his second birthday. I only consider words that he says, rather than those I judge him to understand; and I include words where his pronunciation might only be comprehensible to Mrs. Monkeyshines and I. Writing down all the words that he knows would be tedious in the extreme, so I picked a subset of words beginning with certain letters. As a scientist, I know this skews the results in an unpredictable way, but since this blog isn’t peer-reviewed, I think I can get away with it. There are just over 100 words in the corpus, which is not enough to draw firm conclusions, but I shall do so anyway…

I expected the list to be dominated by nouns, and it is (75%), but I didn’t realise the Little Monkey knew so many verbs (17%); the remaining portion is a small set of adjectives, adverbs, and exclamations. Many of the nouns don’t fall into neat categories, but some do, and highlight what constitutes the Little Monkey’s sphere of interest. 17% are items of food (fruit: 4%), and 13% are household objects; clothes, body-parts, and colours all register too, albeit with low percentages due to the small sample size.

A twitcher-in-training?

‘People’ (9%) and places (4%) account for another chunk of words. ‘People’ is in quotes because he doesn’t have any friends whose name begins with the chosen letters, but he does know a bunch of fictional characters’ names. A couple are from books, one is the elephant on his changing mat, but most are from TV programmes.

Children’s TV and books are crammed with different animals, and it’s no surprise that they make up 12% of his vocabulary; perhaps more unexpected is that half of those are different types of bird. If he becomes a renowned ornithologist in later life, we’ll be able to say it all started here…

A Smart Little Monkey

Suited and booted

Fruited and booted

Little Monkey Memories

Sporting a natty chapeau (nothing to do with memory, but who doesn't like a nice hat?)

The Little Monkey oftens catches Mrs. Monkey-shines and I by surprise with the things that he remembers. I don’t really have a frame of reference, so I don’t know if he’s unusually good, or if all children are like him. I guess it might seem surprising because you think of people not remembering things from their early childhood; but when you stop and think, it’s obvious that all sorts of memory skills are needed for language acquisition, developing life skills, social skills and so on.

Anyway, it impresses us that the Little Monkey mentions library books that he read months previously, although reading them dozens of times probably helps. If the mood strikes him he can rattle off the whole of ‘This Little Piggy’ or ‘Row Row Your Boat’ (the crocodile variant, including a scream), although you probably need to be familiar with his idiomatic, first-syllable-only, speech to recognise the songs. But I guess most startling is when he remembers things that we don’t, like when he hears a song and says “we sang that at the li-li [library]”, and I rack my brains to recall the lady singing it several weeks before. He has also (at least partly) memorised the playlist of his favourite Jo Jingles CDs, and on returning to the car after a day out he will sometimes tell you what song will be next when you get in and turn on the ignition, having remembered the song that was playing when he got out of the car earlier…

The Gravitational Pull of Thomas the Tank Engine

When the Little Monkey was littler, I was a bit reticent to get him Thomas the Tank Engine books and paraphernalia. I had the impression it was annoyingly twee, and I didn’t relish the idea of being beholden to a marketing juggernaut. But gradually the books crept in, some of them a bit rubbs, others not so; and the boy enjoyed the stories with his eponymous engine, so I decided not to stand, literally and figuratively, in the trains’ path…

For those who aren’t conversant with the ‘Little Monkey’ dialect, he’s telling us that “Toby’s got cow catchers, sideplates, and a coach called Henrietta”. The boy knows his stuff…

A Glimpse of the Rarely Sighted “Boxheaded Little Monkey”

Everyone tells you that children love nothing more than a good cardboard box. They’re completely right.

Music written by Tom Cusack.