“I spy, with my little eye, something coloured white!”

Mtoto takes a strong interest in everything. What’s going on around him, how things work and what things are, are all of interest. Since he hadn’t learned letters and spelling yet, but does know colours, we have adapted the old children’s game of I Spy.

Traditionally, the person calling out the start chooses something that they can see and calls out what letter it begins with, such as “I spy with with my little eye, something beginning with C”. Then the other players have to guess the object. The first person to guess the object starts off the next round by choosing something that they can see.

In our version, the person calling out the start chooses something they can see and calls out the colour, such as “I spy with my little eye, something coloured red”. The other players get to make one call each, so L might say “rug” and I say “boots”. Then Mtoto can call out something. If what he’s seen has already been called out, he can look for something else that is the same colour and call it. Then we go round the group taking it in turns to call things out until we run out of things to say. Playing like this, we can teach Mtoto new words if we see something that he might not have known. We’re also re-affirming things that he does know and praising him for all the different connections he can make between things and their colours.

Like the original I Spy game it can be played anywhere and with any number of people. We often play while travelling or if we want to keep Mtoto’s attention somewhere, such as at a dining table, when he might otherwise want to drag us off to play before we’ve finished eating – the day L invented it, we were in a long queue in an administrative building in Geneva and needed Mtoto to stay with us. It also helps Mtoto to engage with, and learn about, his surroundings.