1. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    Realistic age for a talking child

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Bjørnar Munkerud, May 26, 2014.

    I've recently begun visualising a particular scene from what will be the end of the novel I'm currently writing. I hit a wall when I realised I don't really know too much about when children begin to walk and talk etc. I hope you can enlighten me a bit on this topic.

    In this scene there needs to be a specific verbal exchange between a young girl and her aunt's boyfriend (she lives with them as both her parents are dead) one day when the two are on their way home after attending a funeral. The girl notices the man's eyes change colour, something she's never seen before and didn't think could happen, and asks him why his eyes changed colour. The man doesn't know and asks her something along the lines of "Did they really? When did this happen?" and the girl replies that she thinks it must have happened only a few minutes earlier. The man the whips out a mirror, confirms that his eyes have changed colour and then bring the girl over to a couple of other people in the vicinity to see if their eyes changed colour too.

    How old does the girl have to be for this to be realistic (I wonder mostly because this is important in calculating when it's realistic that her parents died)? She needs to walk by herself, talk and understand questions and answers, be fit to attend a funeral and not freak out too much when she sees a person's eye colour change (or maybe that last one is freakier the older you are ... ?). I might as well mention that they both have magical powers (not that the girl can use them for anything useful yet), but that has little to no bearing on how quickly she grows up.

    Feel free to ask me additional questions if you have any. And you're also welcome to only comment on specific elements you know something about or think are unrealistic instead of considering all the factors. Thanks in advance. :)
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can get that info with a bit of googling...

    i have 7 children, 19 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and would say she'd have to be at least 4, to notice a change in eye color and say something about it...
     
  3. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    Thanks! :) I'll have a look 'round.
     
  4. Xueqin-II
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    Xueqin-II Member

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    With my experiences in helping raise children, they often aren't too receptive at about 4 down. My little cousin, as I remember, often could not speak a full sentence until she was about four and a half, this said, she was a slow starter. I'd say that, for girls, the age you're looking for to function in such a way of speaking and acting would be about five to six. With a five year old, they can speak rather fluently, depending on the child. They also tend to have their full motor functions.

    With a child's trauma, they can take it a few ways, but if it's recent that the parents died I doubt she would outwardly care much about his eye color change, unless she had some understanding to what it meant. This is my thought.

    Hope that helped.
     
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  5. !ndigo
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    !ndigo Member

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    Hi,
    Based solely on the conversation you described I'd guess your child is at minimum 4 years old but probably closer to 5 or 6.

    The language development timeline goes something like this:

    ~5/6 months: they babble and make "talking" sounds but no words.
    ~1 year: says a few words and can understand some of what you say.
    ~2 years: speaks in very short, often grammatically incorrect, sentences, repetitive speech (wat Dowa noo, wat Dowa!= I'm watching Dora the Explorer now), understands and follows directions from adults. Its often hard for outsiders to understand kids at this age due to the lingering "accent" from babyhood. Knows what "NO" means and uses it frequently to get their way
    ~3 years: speaks in simple multi word entrances, still often grammatically incorrect (I goed... I eated...) sometimes mixes up gender pronouns. Knows the vocabulary for nearly all objects they encounter, still unclear on more conceptual vocabulary. starts to pronounce the more difficult letters like K G T D. Favorite words are "Why?" and "No".
    ~4 years: knows how to form questions (who what where...) can tell about their day. Has the attention span to hold a conversation with other children and adults. Speaks easily without the more babyish features.
    ~5 years: complex full sentences, usually grammatically correct save for irregular verbs and such. Understands what rhymes are, Understands and pays attention to nearly everything said by adults even when not directed at the child.

    With regards to the physical aspects you mentions: most kids can walk on their own by the time they are a year old and can do stairs/bikes/rough terrain by age 2, so you shouldn't have any trouble with that in your story.

    These are mainly based off my own observation of kids so I wouldn't take them as hard and fast rules. If you want a good medical timeline of development http://www.parentingcounts.org/information/timeline/ breaks milestones down by age and category.

    Also, I've seen kids of all ages at funerals so I'd imagine it would be more of a personal choice for the family based on how well the child knew the deceased, how the person died, the family's religion, and if a babysitter was available or not.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My son began speaking in sentences when he was two and a half. And he definitely noticed certain things like the fact money came out of a bank machine.

    "Get some money?"

    When I told him we'd left his blanket at home he answered, "Go home get it."

    Those were his first sentences. By three he might have noticed someone's eye color changed and said so. Be careful how you write it, give the kid a child's voice and vocabulary.
     
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  7. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the insight. :) I should have mentioned, BTW, that her father died before she was born and her mother died in childbirth while having her and she's been living with her aunt and her boyfirend ever since.
     
  8. Xueqin-II
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    Xueqin-II Member

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    Oh, okay. There shouldn't be a problem then. Glad I could help.
     
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  9. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    My niece is 3. She can form complex sentences and questions but with incorrect grammar. She also has trouble sounding out consonants and some letter combinations like "th". Even though she may know how to respond, it's hard to understand her a lot of the time.
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of things can come into play to affect the child's emotional and intellectual development. In my family, exceptional is the norm and most of the children were speaking coherently and in full, albeit short, sentences at age 2 - 2 and a half.

    One little darling's step granddad, upon the first meeting commented that he had a better conversation with the three year old than he usually got out of adults. The particular three y.o. was particularly precocious and reading words and simple sentences before the age of four. Fully comprehending the concept of different letters making different sounds, he would often deliberately misspell his name when asked how to spell it, then giggle as though he had made the funniest joke in the world when slipping in the wrong letter on the end. Easily bored, he apparently was looking for a little excitement in the repetitive request to, "Spell your name for xxx, Kyle," and was merely trying to stir things up a bit. (Twenty years later, he still does!)

    But, anyway, as I said at the outset, a lot depends on what the child has been exposed to. If there is not a lot of adult interaction, the child will likely develop more slowly and four or so might be an acceptable age for the behavior you are looking for. If there is a lot of interaction, you might cut a year and a half or two from that age. However, if the child was old enough to fully comprehend her parents' deaths, that, too, could have some effect on her development, either accelerating or slowing it down.
     
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