Another Example of Leveling Up

This is borrowed from friends who have a three-year-old son.

“The formation of the human mind is amazing. Two months ago, (our son) couldn’t do one of the four puzzles he put together in ten minutes today. He couldn’t make a functional loop with his train pieces and he couldn’t tell a coherent knock knock joke. It’s like some key turned in his brain and now he gets patterns in a way he never understood them before.

Also, his counting is spot on and he’s gotten much better at comprehending quantity as related to numbers. It all makes me wanna go back and be a cognitive development scientist.

And for those who are wondering, the coherant knock knock joke was: “Knock knock! Who’s there? Poop! Poop who? Poop poopy bum bum!” This joke was delivered while on the toilet.”

Since he is still two months away from his fourth birthday, I wonder if we should call this level 46 …

Mentoring Systems and Social Learning

A number of online RPGs have implemented mentoring systems, primarily as a way to get experienced players to beg their nonplaying friends to spend money in game with them. These systems generally require a more experienced character to temporarily act weaker in order to run the same quests the less experienced one can survive. The mentor will generally get some experience, but not much.

In many ways, such systems are horribly unrealistic. We benefit from watching our friends utilize all their experiences, and learning from how they handle situations. However, with infants, it actually has surprising similarities. When I teach RPGBaby something, I do not expect her to handle it as well as I do (unless it is singing – she is already far better than am I). Much of a baby’s learning is social, via a process called, unsurprisingly, social learning.



Under the watchful gaze of her mentor


Social learning relies upon observation and imitation for the transference of skills and knowledge. However, the teacher can knowingly emphasize certain actions to help drive home the lesson. A classic example of this is with chimps, who can take years to develop the skill of banging sticks against nuts on rocks to break them open (the nuts, not the rocks). They generally learn the basics by watching their elders, and then experiment on their own for years until they get it right. However, their parents sometimes speed the process by leaving appropriate sticks nearby or even going through the motions in an exaggerated manner.

RPGBaby’s learning often happens in a similar manner, though a flailing foot in her first month of life taught me that she was already an expert nutcracker. Showing her how to feed herself followed a similar process. When we first gave her something other than milk, we initially did it with a spoon. She immediately wanted to feed herself, and the ensuing Pollack painting of scattered food was a wonder to behold.

However, when I picked up food off the high-chair tray and placed it in her mouth with my fingers, she got the concept quickly, especially since I fed myself that way before feeding her (not all them time – just to demonstrate to her). Picking up food between pointer finger and thumb became her preferred way of feeding herself, as well as great training in Dexterity.

Putting on shoes and socks is another great example. I was amazed one day when I saw her remove one of her socks and try to put it back on her feet. She got the concept if not the process, and it could only have been from watching us do it, as we had not tried to teach her.
Now I try to do it slowly and carefully so she can follow how it is done, and she is still trying. I wonder if there are good dolls out there that teach the dressing process.

Her First Four-Letter Word

There is lots written about the growth of language skills, but nothing beats seeing it in action. RPGBaby clearly understood words before she could say them, with her name getting quick recognition. “No” has yet to sink in, however. Speaking has come early, primarily in the form of nouns. While lots of sounds (and other things) come from that tiny mouth, I only count them as words if they are clearly applied to their correct subject, don’t get misapplied, and she uses them consistently. She is now up to four. Of course, “mama” and “dada” are not among them.

The first, at eight months, was “cat.” Yes, we have one dark cat, who has been a surprisingly good big brother for RPGBaby. She loves our cat, often signaling this affection by pulling his whiskers, yanking on his tail, or pounding on his flanks repeatedly in her manic version of petting. Our cat, who was a terror among other cats, sits patiently through it all, eventually moving off if it becomes too burdensome. Nary a swat, hiss or negative review on Twitter. Just a few dirty looks. RPGBaby took to pointing at him and calling him, “cat.”

Next was, not surprisingly, “dog.” RPGBaby often takes walks (well, gets pushed in a stroller) with a neighbor who has a very friendly white Bichon. RPGBaby learned to call him, “dog.” Then I took RPGBaby to a friend’s house where there is a dark dog even smaller than our cat. RPGBaby immediately took to calling him “cat,” and now any small four-legged animal is a “cat”.

Other words have also popped up. “Dat,” (that) accompanied by a pointing finger, is a general interrogatory we interpret as, “Pray tell, what is the official nomenclature of that at which I am currently pointing?” It is her most commonly used word.

“Cheese” appeared once, as did “Thank you.” She often says, “I la la” to her stuffed animals before giving them big kisses (or gnawing on them), so it might mean, “I love you,” or it may mean, “Your brains are mine.” Either way, these examples do not fit my above requirements.

The latest one that does, however, is her first four-letter word: “duck.” Despite early encounters with live ducks, she only uses it for rubber ducks or photos of them. This came as a complete surprise. I had no idea we had used the word often enough for her to associate it with anything, much less use it correctly.

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Any bets what her second four-letter word will be?

Applause for Sharing and Socks

In my last RPGDad post, I talked about how RPGBaby had suddenly leveled up in several areas (crawling, talking, separation anxiety – the good stuff). Most of her skill increases, however, follow a longer, slower more elaborate progression, and it is pretty delightful to watch.

Let’s use getting dressed as an example. Early on, like by month two or three, RPGBaby had figured out how to put her arms through the sleeves of her shirts. She even seems to take pleasure in doing so, though it may just be a reaction to her father’s relief at not having to wrestle her into another ridiculously cute onesie. Putting on socks, however, has not come as easily. (Link to video).

In her eighth month, I was very surprised to see her clearly trying to figure out how to put socks on. She pulled one off, studied it (by putting in her mouth), and then tried to out it back on her foot. When that didn’t work, she studied the sock again, studied the foot that still had a sock on it, and again tried to put the sock on her unclad foot. She would even closely compare the sock in her hand to the one on her foot. She did this several times, very clearly (and not just because I think she has an 18 Intelligence) trying to figure out how this sock thing worked, before finally being distracted by the cat.

Sharing is another one of those skills that RPGBaby is developing a bit at a time. She likes to be spoonfed her tasty peas, kale and amaranth concoction, but she also likes to play with the spoon. Give her the chance, and she is feeding herself, spoon flipping green stuff all over the walls, conducting invisible bands with it, and much more.

One fun activity for her is to pretend feed me with her spoon. After feeding her, I will hand the (mostly) empty spoon to her, and she will then try to feed me with it. Not infrequently, we will get into a game of handing it back and forth between us, with me thanking her when I get it it and she bouncing up and down with joy when she gets it. We have also taught older kids at the library this game, passing drooled-on blocks back and forth while the parents mindlessly chant “Thank you” and “You’re welcome,”

Now RPGBaby can add clapping to her repertoire of skills. This is one of those skills we forget has to be taught. Two weeks ago we went to an event at the library where the host encouraged the children to applaud. RPGBaby looked at the other children banging their hands together, but made no attempt to emulate them. Then, last week while we were playing, she sat up and started to silently clap. Realizing that this was more than a snarky response to RPGDad’s failure with a bubble blower, I showed her how to slam one’s hands together to make noise. She tried, but it stayed silent applause.

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Following her next sleep cycle, however, she was able to get a golf clap’s worth of volume out of her applause. Now she she can applaud like a pro, especially when RPGDad drops something or stubs his toe.

I wonder which skills she will surprise us with next?

Multiclass Baby

As a game designer, I have always preferred skill systems, where characters slowly progress in certain abilities, rather than a leveling system, where all of a sudden they gain a number of new powers. In watching RPGBaby develop, however, I have become more of a believer in the leveling process.

Her ability to stand up was a perfect example of this. One day in her seventh month I put her to sleep in a co-sleeper next to my desk and proceeded to pretend to get some work done. Suddenly I looked over, and, not only had she pulled herself into a sitting position, but she had grabbed the co-sleeper’s bars and pulled herself all the way to her feet. She stood there staring at me, rocking back and forth, contemplating a quick swan dive over the short bars to the barely carpeted floor below. Needless to say, co-sleeper time is now heavily monitored

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RPGBaby is now in her eighth month, and we have seen a number of firsts in this period. After revving her motor all through month seven, she suddenly made forward crawl momentum without immediately collapsing. One day she was unable to move forward. The next day she could go several feet. The day after that she was across the room and heading for the good Scotch. It is as if she just killed the number of kobolds she needed to get her first level in Crawl. I could hear the ding in the background (or that might’ve been me popping a blood vessel as I chased after her).

She also became a Level One Speaker in month 8, using “Kit Cat” (or “KiCa”) to refer to our cat and to nothing else. I think she will reach Level Two when other sounds also apply to only one thing. I do not mind that “Da Da” seems to apply to everything. She will point at me and say, “da da,” and then point to the bathroom and say, “dada.” I like to think that is art commentary, not a reflection of how long RPGDad stays in there.

It bothers me a little when she points to her Superman doll and says, “dada,” but that is only because Lois … I mean, RPGMom … refers to RPGBaby too often as her “Supergirl.”


Unfortunately, in month 8 she also gained Level One Separation Anxiety. I am glad to say that people who know me well believe it is not long before she gains Level One Embarrassed by Father, which will counterbalance some of that.

FYI, RPGBaby helped write this article. I was working on an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, and she quickly figured out that the keyboard had an impact on the screen. She began hitting the keys, but only watching the screen. Apparently Level One iPadding allows you to type, “tmoihmgnij.” Then again, so does Level One Internet Troll …