For over a month I’ve found myself thinking of Ingrid as “almost two”. She is nowhere near two, of course. But my brain wants the calendar to be decimal, so seventeen or eighteen months get rounded to twenty months, which should be the same as two years. I’ve now trained myself to ignore the months and just think of her as “about a year and a half”. Today she is exactly a year and a half.

The past month has been strongly language-oriented. Ingrid’s vocabulary is growing daily. Most of it is passive – she understands but doesn’t say the word herself – but her active vocabularly is also growing by leaps and bounds. And while much of what she says is still hard to decipher because many words sound the same, her pronounciation is definitely clearer as well.

I think there was a release, a step change, when she figured out that Eric and I have different words for the same thing. I knew that she had passed that important point when, one day, she pointed at an apple and said “äpp-e” to Eric, then turned towards me and said “õuu”. There aren’t many words where she actively uses both languages like that – for most common things she understands both names, but only uses one of the words actively herself. Trains are always called “taa” (Swedish “tåg”), navels (which she for some reason finds very entertaining) are called “naba” in Estonian.

Her vocabulary mostly consists of nouns and some verbs (especially for important things such as eat, sleep, go out, stand and sit). I don’t think she’s grasped adjectives yet. She is especially good at body parts, food (fruit in particular), things found around the house, items of clothing, and lots and lots of animals. She can point out parrots and turtles and butterflies and zebras and lions so on and on and on. Cats and dogs and pigs are particular favourites. Cats and dogs because she has seen real ones, and pigs because of their sound. Eric does a great pig grunt imitation, which Ingrid finds fascinating. She tries to imitate it but cannot. So instead she points out every pig she sees. It’s impressive that she can grasp the abstract concept of “pigness” so well that she recognises even stylized pigs in logos, with just the snout and half a head visible.

Stockholm has a lot more cats and dogs than central London. I think Ingrid has seen more of each during the last week than during all of her year and a half in London. There are two cats in our house who tend to hang around outside, so we often run across them when we’re going out, and my in-laws have a pair of schnauzers, plus we tend to meet many dogs while we’re out. All this has meant a lot of close contact with both cats and dogs. Ingrid is still cautious around them, but she is far more comfortable being close to them than before (although not to the point of petting them yet).

The other thing Stockholm has more of is good playgrounds. Playgrounds in London tend to be quite small and sterile things: a small rubber-covered area with a swing, a few spring riders, and a slide or two. The swings, spring riders and slides are present here, too, but there are also sandboxes, and the whole playground is usually covered with coarse sand rather than rubber – and sand (plus a bucket and a shovel) can keep a child occupied far longer than a spring rider. Even more importantly, the playgrounds around here always have other children, whereas in East London I was often alone with Ingrid, so we’ve been spending a lot more time in playgrounds here.

Initially, climbing, sliding and swings were Ingrid’s favourite playground activities. The small playground which is closes to our house (100 metres away) only has “big girl” swings made out of old car tyres, and she has learned to use those, too. She knows that she needs to sit still without twisting, and hold on hard with both hands. She has also learned to slide down Swedish slides, where the metal slide part has a rippled texture which makes them more slippery and faster, and to land on all fours (rather than her face) when coming down the bigger ones.

Sand only became interesting a few weeks ago, when she got to borrow a shovel from another child. Which is why it’s so nice to meet other families at playgrounds – I hadn’t even thought of buying her a shovel!

I think we found sandboxes at just the right time – I believe she enjoys playing with a bucket and a shovel because she just recently mastered the use of spoons. She can now get food onto the spoon, and get the spoon into her mouth, without turning the spoon upside down on its way. It also turns out that she can pick the husk off a physalis fruit, and spit out the seeds from a grape.

Speaking of food… bread, cheese and fruit are still among her favourite foods, but meatballs has now been added to that list, and butter. She now licks the butter of her bread and would probably be happy to eat butter with a spoon if we let her. Her interest in cooked food is a bit unpredictable, but I think in general she prefers sweet and fatty food. We went to IKEA today and ate at their restaurant. Ingrid got a traditional kids’ meal of meatballs, potatoes, sauce and lingonberry jam. She ate the jam and the meatballs, licked the jam off a potato, and otherwise ignored the potatoes completely. (We had been wise enough to not take the ice cream also included in the kids’ meal.) But in general she is now suddenly eating much bigger portions. If I had to guess, I’d say that a month ago she got half her nutrition from breast milk, whereas now it’s a small fraction.

Other favourite toys and activities: reading picture books about animals; moving fridge magnets between the fridge and the steel hanging folder file; the marbles and pebbles that decorate a few of the potted plants in this apartment; looking into kitchen cupboards; putting a plastic bowl on her head as a hat; looking through a sieve; pointing out people’s navels; carrying large objects such as her Wheely Bug.