The magna doodle started out as a relatively benign toy in our household. Its purpose was to introduce the Dumpling to drawing without giving me the anxiety of having to scrub crayons off the walls. Although the most I could get out of her were a bunch of scribbles, I would also take turns doodling to keep her engaged. I turned my sketches into a game where I would ask her to name or pick out the correct animal, object, or letter on the board. The ever changing artwork and the interaction kept her interested and bringing me the magna doodle has become part of her daily play.
Everything changed one day when jigg sketched a “rabbit”. I commented that it looked nothing like what it’s supposed to be and drew my version next to his. He obviously disagreed, so we turned to the Dumpling for the tie breaker. I showed her the board and asked her to find the rabbit. Without hesitation, she pointed to mine.
jigg cried foul and claimed that I had more practice. There was only one thing left to do whenever we have a trivial disagreement – we took our case to Facebook. I posted the below picture and asked our friends to decide: who drew the better bunny? The consensus was that jigg’s looked like a rat.
Then came the rematch and then another. What started out as an educational exercise for the Dumpling somehow morphed into an ongoing doodle war between jigg and me. The rules are simple: jigg and I each have half the board to draw the same animal that we take turns selecting (the Dumpling currently can correctly identify 30+ animals, so we have a sizable pool to pick from). We then present our work and ask her to point out the animal. Whichever one she selects first is the winner.
As the Dumpling assessed our work, it was interesting for jigg and me to analyze her thought process. At 20 months, she is able to pick up certain physical traits unique to specific animals even if they’re poorly drawn: cats have pointy ears and whiskers; crabs have claws; fish have fins; etc. Although her speech is still limited (we were told that speech development for children growing up in bilingual households take a bit longer), she displays her understanding by identifying an animal in one of three ways depending on what is easier for her to vocalize – by its English or Chinese name, or the sound the animal makes. It’s assuring to know that she can connect the same thing in multiple forms. For example, she understands that “moo”, “cow,” and “ngau” (Chinese for cow) are associated with cow, but she can only say “moo” and “ngau”.
The Dumpling also turned out to be a fair and honest judge in our doodle wars. Sometimes she would just stare and stare and wouldn’t be able to find the animal she was supposed to be looking for. In that case, it means that jigg and my drawings both suck.
To be honest, my art skills are probably slightly better than average at best. Even though jigg is currently ahead in the doodle wars, it makes me happy when my daughter picks mine. That means she [sometimes] “gets me”.