One of my very favorite things ever is watching how my five (nearly six) nieces figure out language. Another is watching how they invent games.
Not long ago, without explaining to anyone what they were doing, they started rolling around a sparkly ball with two-year-old Henrietta, and then snatching it away at the last second when she tried to grab it. Contrary to what you might think, she found this hilarious. She added her own flourishes and, between laughter, finally gasped out: “great game!”
And this surprised me for two reasons: one, she knew they’d just made up their own game, despite the fact that nobody had told her that’s what it was. She didn’t mind having her own toy snatched away because she knew it was a game. A funny game. A game of reaction time and ingenuity. Probably because once she actually asked for the ball, it was handed to her with a perfectly straight face.
But secondly, she was linguistically adept enough to express her opinion like the adults around her. Same grammar, same vocabulary. Only a slight blurring of the “r” sound.
Games and language challenges both harken back to this kind of childlike wonder. The curiosity and delight of expression; the curiosity and delight of a novel pastime invented just for the fun of it.