I have a child who learns how to match blocks and gets them through shaped holes on a toy box. When a block is not aligned to the hole, I need to tell them to "twiddle/tilt/turn/etc" the block a bit right or left so the block would get into the hole.

Is "twiddle the block a bit right/left" correct?

Whether or not, what would native speakers usually tell the child in idiomatic phrases or words in case the:

  1. child is a toddler
  2. child is a preteen-assuming the preteen would play with the toddler, and so you need to communicate with both.

Ideally I think the parent should use both parentese and everyday language with focus on the age appropriate language. Regardless of parenting, I would like to learn the language of all age groups if possible.

Sample Picture of Toy in Question enter image description here

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    To teach a child, I wouldn't use an idiom. I'd use the correct English words. – Chenmunka Jul 19 '16 at 11:02
  • Thanks for the note @Chenmunka I'll update the post to reflect what I want – learner Jul 19 '16 at 11:04
  • I would use turn it or twist (turn/twist the block so it goes in*) for either age group; I'd never use twiddle or jiggle here. I don't know if I've ever used twiddle outside of twiddle one's thumbs. – Alan Carmack Jul 19 '16 at 22:21
  • I'm not super comfortable with wiggle or jiggle. At least to me, they suggest that something has been inserted into another thing, but it just needs a little extra motion to go through. This is not the case with these toys, as they fit nicely. Once a piece enters, it either slides easily through, or it is stuck, which is the point. If you have to wiggle or jiggle the block, then you've inserted it in the wrong way or in the wrong slot. But that's how I take it. I could be on the wrong side of it. – Em. Jul 20 '16 at 7:54
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    This is typically called a shape sorter toy (in AmE). I poked around on YouTube to see if I could find any examples of parents telling their children in English to twist/turn/wiggle etc. the blocks, but in most of them they were just telling the child the name of the shape and the color (and sometimes helping them find the right shaped hole) and letting the kids fiddle with the blocks until they went in. – ColleenV Jul 20 '16 at 11:09

'Twiddle' is OK but 'Jiggle' might be better - for me, twiddling is a rotational movement, to twiddle ones fingers is to move two fingers on opposing hands around eachother in a circular motion, to twiddle a knob (for example to tune a radio) is to turn it with a circular motion of the finger. 'Jiggling' is more of an oscillation, as you said "a bit right or left".

For an older child, they might 'ease' the blocks into the hole - meaning not to force them. For more accomplished block pushers, they might 'slip' the block in.

  • Thanks grateful. Jiggle, ease into, slip in- I know all of them but they are not in my active vocabulary, and do not know how to use some of them well. Great answer. – learner Jul 19 '16 at 11:29
  • Pleased to help! – grateful Jul 19 '16 at 11:42
  • I'd be tempted to use rotate, as in: Rotate the block so it lines up with the hole. That might sound a bit too scientific for some, though. – J.R. Jul 19 '16 at 16:19

I would use "match"

Match the shape of the block with the hole.

And then you could use

Wiggle it around until it goes through.

"Wiggle" will be a term most toddlers will be familiar with from other contexts.

  1. turn
    a. To cause to move around an axis or center; cause to rotate or revolve

It's such a basic word that I would expect a child to understand. I would tell the child to turn it a "little this way" or a "little that way". You could coach the child and tell them to turn it to the left, right, up, down, or whatever combination you like. It's certainly idiomatic.

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