Listen to the charming chatter of young children to get a glimpse through their window on the world:
Here was one child's interpretation of the first Thanksgiving: "The Pilgrims wroted a letter with a feather to let the Indians know they were coming."
Also, a cornucopia is a "cannon for shooting out pumpkins." ... "Turkeys have belly buttons." ... Some of us are "thankful for Barbie dolls." ... "The Pledge of Allegiance was written by George Washington."
Preschoolers often ascribe blame -- or extra powers -- to animals: "I think a squirrel threw that acorn at you." ... "Bats have headlights to see at night."
Language is acquired during a critical period from ages 2 to 6, research shows, as typically developing children absorb a massive number of sentences and phrases. Adults need to beware: Kids learn by listening to them, and often repeat what they hear. "You're not listening berry well." ... "I don't want to hear that anymore." ... "Clean up this mess!"
Through their talking during play, kids learn to negotiate, problem-solve and communicate: "Only one person can be Ariel the Mermaid Princess." ... "I will be the mommy and you be the baby." "No. I do not want to be the baby. I want to be the mommy." ... "I was a monster. Now I'm a good guy."
Pretending also helps little ones sort out feelings of separation: "I am going to a meeting far, far away." ... "You don't live with your mommy? Why not?" ... "My mommy's coming. She's trying to find a parking lot."
And on the mystery of learning: "I did not know I know how to make circles." ... "The hardest thing about reading is you have to sound out the whole word. You can't just look at the first letter and know what it is." ... "I spelled a new word. Nobody knows my word."
Kids have their own interpretations of their day-to-day lives: "I'm going to the store to buy a shovel and put it in the freezer so it can be like Jell-O." ... While sorting leftover Halloween candy to give to U.S. soldiers through a school program, a big sister explains that a soldier "is somebody who fights." Her sister's response: "I will give my candy to my friend. She likes to fight a lot, so she must be a soldier."
Whether through made-up bedtime stories, books or rhymes, remember that children love repetition. One toddler's beloved story night after night involves her and her friends marching in a street parade with instruments and batons on their way to see the dinosaur exhibit.
Kids need adults to read, talk and listen to them each day.
Get your kids talking with their grandparents during upcoming visits. The national Legacy Project, in partnership with the nonprofit Generations United in Washington, D.C., is running the annual Listen to a Life Essay Contest in which grandchildren interview grandparents and write down their stories. The contest runs through March 30. Go to www.legacyproject.org.
Reach Betsy Flagler at 704-236-9510.