Published on January 23rd, 2014 | by Kate Joranson


Kate Joranson on the Toddler “Why?!” Stage

I haven’t been writing as much lately, in my journal or on my blog. It’s curious, since I’m immersed in language these days. My daughter’s sentences are getting longer, her brain bursting with language, ideas, and questions. We’ve officially entered the “why?” stage. Or, more accurately, the “why?!!” stage.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between my writing/thinking and her talking. When I’m away from her, I have no brain power for language. I was thinking about this while I was making dinner tonight, and she was painting quietly at the kitchen table – an activity that curiously, must include tiny marshmallows. I was startled by the silence, and by my own thoughts bubbling up


Lately she’s been using “listen” when one might normally say “speak”, or “read aloud.” She’ll say, “let’s listen this!” when she’s trying to convince me to read her a book, or when she senses my attention is drifting while I’m reading her a book for the 100th time. I’ll never forget when she was particularly frustrated with my husband, and she commanded, “Dad! Open your boca and let’s listen this!”

For her, “read” and “listen” are synonymous.

She’s not wrong when she says “let’s listen this, Mom.” As I read aloud, I’m listening to my own voice for sure. I remember the very first time I read a bedtime book aloud to her. She was probably 5 or 6 months old. She loved it. I was so aware that I was reading aloud that I almost couldn’t focus. I was aware of my voice in a way I hadn’t been before. I’ve read aloud to plenty of young people before, but this was different.

I love that her egocentric toddler world has triggered all these thoughts for me.
If she is listening, we all must be.

As she acquires more and more language, my husband and I have appreciated her desire to categorize the world. She applies her current vocabulary to new objects and experiences, making for fresh and entertaining shared moments. Her clever word combinations and substitutions coax us out of our inner worlds and make us more aware of our own sensory experiences.

We sit together, her on my lap, eating breakfast quietly for a moment, staring into space. She says “let’s hear your talk” because she wants to hear the sound of my voice, and I’m hearing it now, too.

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About the Author

Kate Joranson studied art at the University of Wisconsin, earned her MFA at Ohio State University, and an MLIS at the University of Pittsburgh. As both a librarian and an artist, she enjoys the accidental nature of looking for one thing, and finding something else. Since becoming a parent, much of her work has grown from the activities she shares with her 2 year old daughter. Evidence of their work can be found on their front steps, kitchen floor, studio desk, her lap, a large ottoman, and other horizontal surfaces. Blog:

2 Responses to Kate Joranson on the Toddler “Why?!” Stage

  1. Victoria says:

    I read an article on how in recent years the act of reading out loud to our children has diminished. There were a few statistics in there about the age of technology hindering one on one time with our children. One of the things in the article that stuck out was how our children deserve to be read to, and not just read to, but how we are obligated to make the story come alive and engage them.
    I get tired of my own voice by nightfall, but I agree that it is inspiring to notice their appreciation for our voices. Thank you for the reminder to listen!

    • Kate says:

      Thanks, Victoria. Sounds like a great article. Making the story come alive takes extra energy I don’t always have, and when I can get it together and be a little more present, its much more fun to chat about the story and get swept up in what she’s noticing.

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