My 6 year old’s favourite word is poo. Followed closely by wee, bum and fart.
Not only does she delight in weaving these words into every conversation, she also makes up songs containing those words, and those words only. She writes them in her handwriting practising notepad, she makes labels for her soft toys re-naming them Poo Poo the Tiger, Chocolate Bum the Puppy and the Wee Wee Bunny.
My kinder friends have discreetly removed sticky notes from the backside of my jeans, which declare to the world that mummy is a fart breath.
My first reaction to this fledging obsession was to crack down. “Please don’t be rude. Try and think about how it makes people feel when you say that they appear to have flatulence of the mouth.”
With a baffled frown she went back to watching How to Train a Dragon on her iPad, and it dawned on me that I’d effectively told her that I’d prefer her to be a passive consumer of the gogglebox than actively take part in practising spelling, handwriting and storytelling.
Perhaps I could steer this interest in words towards a more genteel output. Something that affected my sensibilities less. Although why I had developed sensibilities after all this time was anybody’s guess. So we picked a book she liked and chose some of the best words, wrote them down and thought of some rhyming words.
We started with ‘Mutt’ (from Tom Watson’s legendary Stick Dog books):
- Me: Gut
- 6yo: Nut (starts to smirk)
- Me: Shut
- 6yo: BUTT! (explodes into delighted cackling and starts prancing round the room wiggling her bottom)
Seconds away from another weary reprimand, I had a change of heart and joined in instead.
Trying to forget that the curtains were open and window at the front of the house overlooks a well-used pavement, I stuck out my derrière and took up the chant.
“My butt, my butt, my bottom-burping butt!” we sang as we strutted round the coffee table.
An hour later we’d thought of several more vaguely offensive alternatives to butt, spelled them out, joined up the letters and figured out that a capital B looks very much like a person’s backside and is therefore our favourite letter in the alphabet.
Fun is so important to learning. Not my version of fun though. To achieve active engagement in learning outside the structured environment of the classroom we have to let kids take risks, with words in this instance, without fear of failure or reprimand. My oddly Victorian disapproval of the things that make my daughter bellow with joy only widened the gap between her enjoyment and mine. Letting go of my autopilot response to the ‘naughty’ words allowed us both to immerse ourselves in the experience and the learning was so much richer for it.