Yoga – Expanding the Boundaries of Global Children’s Minds, Bodies and Vocabulary!!

Namaste!

Yoga brings to mind relaxing, serene and healthful thoughts. Although I am not a yogi, I felt compelled to introduce my children to yoga when they were just toddlers. They both took to it instantly at the age of two. They attended Elahi Yoga Studio for infants, toddlers and kids in NYC.  It was a fun and playful way for them to explore and exercise their minds and bodies. It was an environment in which they felt at home, played, imagined, learned, relaxed and were plain happy. They practiced their breathing and poses and learned to concentrate in the most natural, soothing and supportive setting. Thanks to the non-competiveness of yoga, they understood it was alright to make mistakes or not be able to keep a pose as long as their friends. It was all about fun and self-discovery. They quickly discovered that their bodies could easily do some poses and with practice, their bodies could do other more challenging poses. Ergo, self-discipline. With every new pose, their self-esteem was boosted and their self-confidence was increasingly evident.

Yoga was great for their minds and bodies, and in hindsight, I can say that yoga was a way for them to learn more about other languages and cultures and gain a broader understanding of the world they live in.

An added bonus: yoga helped them excel in other physical activities and sports.

Mind, Body and Family Fun:

The animated poses such as tree, dog, cobra, windmill and table helped them understand their own strength, flexibility, coordination as well as body awareness. They learned how to focus and concentrate at an early age. Yoga is a family-friendly activity and much fun can be had. If you are a yogi parent, you can enjoy your portable passion with your children everywhere you go. If you are merely a “spectator”, you can celebrate your child’s progress everywhere they go.

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Family Fun – Mother Daughter Yoga

Vocabulary in the Target Language

The  child-friendly names of all the poses lend themselves to a fun and interactive way to learn words in a target language. For example: cat, bridge, table, waterfall, butterfly, bird, tree, squirrel, hero, candle, frog, dog, windmill and airplane are all words in a toddler and pre-schooler’s vocabulary.  We practiced these poses regularly AND practiced the words for the poses in French, German and Spanish – and still had fun!!! This is an easy way to complement your children’s language acquisition and reinforce vocabulary!!

They also learned to say a few words in languages they did not know, such as the Hindi words “namaste” “om shanti” and “chaturanga” and the Persian word “elahi.” Learning words in a different language typically  motivates children to learn more words and to stay onboard their language endeavor!!

World Instruments:

The Singing Bowl was one51teCzagt8L._SY450_.jpg of their favorite instruments. when they went to Yoga. It is an intriguing instrument with an unusual sound that undoubtedly captures children’s attention. They learned that it originated in Tibet – which in turn, piqued their curiosity as to geography.   Available on Amazon.com31VS1EYiEHL._SY450_ (1).jpg

The Rain Stick sparked interest in geography as well.  I have had multiple opportunities to stop with my children and listen to an Andean group of musicians play at major NYC subway stations. My little ones were always able to quickly identify the Rain Stick as one of the musical group’s instruments. Making the connection between their Yoga class and the Andean music made the experience so much more memorable for them.  Also available on Amazon.com

Physical Activities and Sports 

Yoga became the precursor to Tae kwon do for my older child, while my younger child has expressed an interest in taking up Fencing. Both Tae kwon do and Fencing require, the flexibility, strength, concentration, balance and coordination they already bring to the table. I find it interesting how they both gravitated to activities that require the skills they have already keenly developed.

The physical flexibility that children develop while practicing yoga, allows them to endure the challenges to the various muscle groups involved in learning Tae kwon do, Fencing and Gymnastics. Yogi children will be aware of their bodies and understand how their muscle groups function which are key elements in physical activities and sports such as Martial Arts, Fencing and Gymnastics. Balance and coordination are fundamental in yoga as well as other physical activities and sports. Accordingly, the cute balancing poses yogi children proudly display as preschoolers actually promote the mental and physical poise necessary in future physical activities and sports.

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One proud yogi/martial artist!

It is said that yoga helps provide building blocks for the future. In fact, in our case, it did very early on in my children’s lives. I never imagined all of the exciting benefits yoga would offer my boys when I signed them up for their toddler yoga trial class!!!

My blog is dedicated to providing inspiration and resources to and for parents, caregivers and teachers when looking for ways to complement a child’s language learning. To read some of my many blog posts that discuss this topic, please click here, here , here and here.  My tips are applicable in any target language, so I welcome you to read the various tips I have provided for the various World Languages I blog about.  Enjoy!!

 

Namaste!

 

“S” is for Sports – The A to Z of Raising Global Citizens

I am very excited to be taking part in the A to Z  of Raising Global Citizens – a series that began on June 1st and will run through June 26th on a multicultural blog called: Creative World of Varya’s. 

My topic is Sports. There are many sports children can try out for fun or watch while learning about the world.  I have found that sitting down to watch the World Cup, The Olympics, Rugby, Golf and Tennis have always led to stimulating conversations with our sons about geography, flags, languages, government, even world economy. There are also sports you can seek out in your town, state or country that can be watched or played first-hand and can broaden your children’s horizons and help them become world citizens.

Polo

One of my family’s favorite summer spectator sports is Polo.  Don’t get me wrong, although Polo may sound intimidating and more like a sport for the jet-setting type, I am happy to report that  there are plenty of public polo grounds and State Parks which welcome the general public and go as far as educating and encouraging hands-on fun for children.  There are many aspects about Polo that captivate children’s attention. Let’s start with the most obvious: it involves horses (Polo Ponies) a ball and mallet, and it is played outdoors. How can you go wrong? Polo is also fun, fast and exciting. In the U.S.A., in my experience, most Polo teams typically include at least one international member. This fact usually sparks conversation about other countries and languages. A great historical tidbit you could include when introducing Polo to your children is the fact that Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Polo is a fantastic way to expand your child’s knowledge of the world and discover yet another fun and exciting sport.

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End of the Match High Fives at “Polo in the Park”, Bethpage State Park

If you like to expose your children to unconventional sights and experiences while on holiday, I recommend attending a Polo match during your travels. Polo is an international sport played in at least 80 countries around the world. A list of playing countries can be viewed on the Federation of International Polo website.

My husband and I took our boys to see a polo match in Argentina. Everybody knows that Argentina is famous for soccer (fútbol), but Polo is another very popular sport in Argentina. It has a long history there. The game arrived in the 1800s with British settlers in the Argentine pampas. Argentina has since become internationally renowned in the sport, making it the perfect place to take in a match. It is a family-friendly event and attracts locals as well as European royalty. We purchased tickets at the gate for about $25.00 per person and saw an amazing match with some of the best players in the world. Campo Argentino de Polo in downtown Buenos Aires is the most important Polo Stadium in the world.  Their high Polo season is mid October to mid December.

Croquet

Croquet is believed to have been first played by thirteenth century French peasants who used crudely fashioned mallets to whack wooden balls through hoops made of willow branches.The hoops are often called “wickets” in the U.S.A. It is a much more accessible sport for children to try at home or in their  home town at a picnic or while on holiday. Our family enjoys croquet when we are on summer holidays as it does not involve running, getting winded or perspiring  (in other words, it is a “parent-friendly” sport to play with your children). One of the fun things about croquet is that it pops up throughout the year when we read new books or watch certain movies. Croquet always seems to be in the background of a museum painting, or an illustration in a book or a movie. My boys tend to catch these “croquet cameos” regularly. It is a wonderful way for them to feel like members of the global world we live in. If they play croquet at home and later observe others in different parts of the world playing croquet – albeit in books, art or movies, then, unconsciously they begin to  feel like global citizens who share interests with the rest of the world!

Croquet sets can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and on Amazon for a variety of prices.

Bocce

Bocce is also a ball sport played at many American backyard picnics. This sport shares a common ancestry with the ancient games played in the Roman Empire. Bocce was developed into its present form in Italy and it is played around Europe and also overseas – including Australia, North America, and South America and other places that received Italian migration.

The sport is also very popular on the eastern side of the Adriatic, especially in Croatia, Montenegro and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Southern France where the sport has taken on different names.

Bocce is still played regularly in many New York City neighborhood parks by the descendants of the original Italian immigrants. My sons used to stop and watch the senior Bocce players for a good 20 minutes at our local park before making their way to the playground. It was always a treat for them to watch the Italian members of the community play Bocce.

CampItalia, a summer camp in Long Island, NY, conducts an Italian language and culture program that includes Bocce as one of their many outdoor activities. The kids always enjoy this part of their day.  They have tons of fun and learn a little more about the world they live in as they become world citizens.

A fun-filled game of Bocce at CampItalia, Long Island, NY

A fun-filled game of Bocce at CampItalia, Long Island, NY

Remember to seek out sports such as these in your communities or while on holiday. It will most likely enrich your day and overall travel experience.

Which sports do your global children enjoy?

Buon divertimento!!

Global mini
In these Series 24 bloggers of Multicultural Kid Blogs Community got together to share ideas and tips on Raising Global Citizens. Follow us from June 1st to June 26th as we share a letter of the alphabet and an idea associated with it over at Raising Global Citizen Series page!
Creative World of Varya = Bilingual Avenue = The European Mama = Melibelle in = Smart Tinker = Good To Be Mom = Marie’s Pastiche = Third Culture Mama = Tiny Tapping Toes = All Done Monkey = Russian Step By Step = Multilingual Parenting = In The Playroom = Rue Du Belvedere = Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes = La Cité des Vents = Faith Seeker Kids = World Languages = The Piri-Piri Lexicon = Healthy Child, Global Mind = Mama Smiles = The Art Curator for Kids = Words n Needles = Multicultural Kitchen

Italian Culture for Global Children – Carnevale, Easter and other Holidays and Events

You may have noticed from reading my posts, that although I have spent time researching and procuring books and innovative materials to help support my children’s interest in languages, I am also a firm believer in regularly immersing them in cultural activities. I strongly believe that language learning should be relevant for children. You can make their language acquisition relevant by engaging them in fun, interactive activities and giving them the opportunity to practice their “new” words and expressions during different times of the year and in varied environments. You should also provide them with historical background and a framework to help them remember their “new” words more easily.

Columbus Day

Columbus Day Parade

One way to go about this undertaking is to keep your finger on the pulse of annual cultural events that take place around certain holidays or during certain seasons. Although my children do not speak Italian, continuous exposure to one of their heritage countries’ customs is high on our list of priorities. Accordingly, whenever we have an opportunity to attend an Italian cultural event, we do. We have marched in the NYC Columbus Day Parade on 5th Avenue, attended  language lessons at our public library co-hosted by CampItlalia and New York Italians (See Fun Events that Complement Language Learning) and participated in UNICO’s Italian Heritage Summer Picnic. These types of events are great venues for children to learn about history and geography; language and customs; and foods and desserts.

Fun and friendly children's competitions at UNICO picnic

Fun and friendly children’s competitions at UNICO picnic

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Kids learning Italian in a fun CampItalia lesson at the public library! Photo courtesy of CampItalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnevale in Italy

This year, I also attended a “Carnevale” event hosted by Long Island Italians, a chapter of New York Italians. This non-profit organization kicked off the Easter season with a social and informative event. Although the event was too late in the evening for my children to attend, I shared with them what I observed and learned that night and spoke to them about the history of Carnevale.  They were intrigued, more so, because of the timeliness of the “lesson”. Some of the tidbits they enjoyed hearing about:

Carnavale Masks

Carnevale Masks. Photo courtesy of Long Island Italians

  • Origin of the Word – Carnevale comes from the Italian “carne’ (meat) + ‘levare’ (to remove or take away).
  • Carnevale was first celebrated in the 12th century in the northern city of Italy called Venezia.
  • The entire city becomes a stage and residents, visitors, actors, acrobats, and musicians wear elaborate masks and elegant costumes.
  • Carnevale was especially fun because the masks allowed all people to be equal: a poor peasant could be mistaken for royalty when faces are covered by masks.

Easter in Italy

In Italy, on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter Sunday, many children create gifts for family and friends made from the palms brought home from Palm Sunday services. Italian children, like children in America, also dye Easter eggs. They make their own natural dye from red onion skins. Rather than placing the eggs in baskets, they are placed in or on bread braids to add color to the Easter desserts. Some of the dyed eggs come out after the Easter meal for children to play games with.

Children in Italy are not familiar with the Easter bunny, as the concept of the Easter Bunny that American children know was actually brought to the United States by the Germans in the 1700’s. Italian children, like their American counterparts, also receive elaborate chocolate Easter eggs with treats inside as gifts from their parents and family members.

If your children are studying Italian, are of Italian heritage, or just want to learn more about Italy and its culture, seek out these types of free and fun events in or near your community.  Below are some places you could begin:

  • CampItlalia continues to host additional free library events in neighboring communities in Long Island, NY  and is partnering with other Italian organizations in the Northeast Region to promote the Italian language and culture. CampItalia also offers an enriching, lively, well-rounded Italian summer camp program. Children practice speaking Italian and learn about aspects of Italian life, traditions, music, and history. This program is structured according to age groups and is ideal for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Click here for program details.
  • UNICO has 20 active chapters across the United States, and
  • New York Italians is branching out and developing chapters across the United States, too!

Buona Pasqua a tutti!!

 

Global Children Learn about the German Influence in the USA

German American Heritage Museum of the USA

The German American Heritage Museum of the USA, located in Washington D.C., celebrated their 5th year anniversary on Saturday, March 21st. I recently discovered this museum, and if your children are German speakers or German students, and of course if your heritage is German or you are raising world citizens you will likely make this museum a stop on your itinerary the next time you visit D.C. 1000px-Flag_of_Germany.svg

During the festivities on Saturday, children were entertained with live music, fun and games and snacks. Adults participated in events such as viewing the museum’s documentary, “100 Years of Hollywood” that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios in Hollywood by German-American, Carl Laemmle. Click this link for a sampling of the schedule of events on March 21st

Fun Ways to Teach Children the German Language and Culture 

Although the German influence in the United States is not as prevalent, as let’s say the Irish and the Italian, it is quite easy and fun to highlight German themes to our budding world citizens. Fun, child-friendly, family events such as last weekend’s Märchen-Festival at NYC’s Galli Theater is another example of how children can participate in activities such as face painting, enchanted crafts and a “Mini-Theaterkurs” and learn about the German language and culture in a an authentic learning environment.

Other fun ways to teach global children about Germany include:

1. Telling your children fun trivia stories.  I told my boys, early on, when they started wearing Adidas and Puma athletic wear, the story behind the German-born, innovative brothers Adi and Rudy Dasler. Adi named his company ADIDAS after his own nickname and last name (Adi Das). His brother, Rudolf, named his company RUDA, after his own name and last name (Ru Da) before changing it to PUMA. Also interesting, is that  “puma” is the word for cougar in German, as well as other languages, such as Spanish, French, Russian, Romania, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Czech, Swedish, Bulgarian, Danish, Norwegian, Serbian and Slovene. (according to Wikipedia)

2. Talking about German cars as you drive on the highway and the origin or meaning of the company names. German sports cars such as Porsche (a character on the Disney-PIXAR’s movie “Cars”) and German Formula-1 race drivers will always capture a boy’s attention.

3. If your child is familiar with classical music via the Disney Baby Einstein and Little Einstein series, or just because classical music is appreciated  at home, then they will enjoy discovering that Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and many others were German.

Kaffe und Kuchen

Kaffe und Kuchen – Lecker!!

4. Enjoying “Kaffe und Kuchen” with good friends and their children. This ritual also referred to as  Kaffeeklatsch is still quite common in Germany on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Our very gracious, German-American friend likes to explain to her own children and guests the names of the German cakes and cookies she serves as well as play engaging word games and guessing games with the kids at the table for an authentic German experience.

5. Finding and highlighting some English words and expressions that are German or akin to German. (i.e. hound, rectangle, Gesundheit, kaput, Wiener, hamburger, and Fußball). Children find these relationships between words and languages “funny” which will help them remember vocabulary words and roots more easily.

 

Always remember to keep your language endeavor fun. What do you and your family do to keep your language plan fun?  

 

 

National Women’s History Month – Maria Montessori and Language Learning

March is National Women’s History month. Before the month of March is behind us, I would like to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of a woman I only became familiar with shortly after I had my first child.  She is the Italian physician, Maria Montessori. She was the first woman to graduate in medicine from the University of Rome. I would like to acknowledge not only her achievements but, also the challenges she faced in the field of medicine and education. As a result of her passion and perseverance, she has helped shape the world with her contributions to education and made a significant impact on childhood experiences. Her theories have directly impacted my children’s multilingual development as well as my perspective on language learning.

This year’s theme “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” presents the opportunity to weave Maria Montessori’s story of her achievements and challenges into what so many of us consider significant in our children’s lives: the ability to become bilingual and/or multilingual.

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How I Discovered Maria Montessori 

A book titled: BASIC MONTESSORI- Learning Activities for Under-Fives, by author David Gettman, caught my eye after I had my first child. It seemed pertinent and practical as well educational since I had heard of the Montessori method but had never taken the time to learn about it.  I bought it, and although the book does not directly address the acquisition of a second language, it proved to be an invaluable tool for me in raising my boys multilingual. This book explains Montessori’s theories regarding language acquisition and learning as well as her revolutionary ideas about early intellectual development. Before I knew it, I found myself applying Montessori’s theories and ideas to the acquisition of a second language. I got most of my ideas, tools and tips from this book. Maria Montessori became my family language coach by default!

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori lived from 1870-1952. Although women in Italy were granted very few educational opportunities during her life-time, Montessori was given special opportunities because of her proven intellect.  She was permitted to attend an all-boy technical school which ignited her interest in pursuing a career in engineering. When she encountered obstacles in such pursuit, she settled for becoming a doctor instead. During her first year in medical school, she was shunned for being a woman. When her colleagues discovered her brilliance and insight, she became a welcome addition to the student body. After graduating, she practiced surgical medicine for 10 years, she helped other women through their higher education challenges, and campaigned for equal rights for all women. She studied psychology and began working with young children in mental institutions. She ultimately turned her thoughts and efforts to the education of the ordinary child. After 2 decades of working with young children, she developed her theories.

She encountered additional challenges in the field of education when “at the zenith of her public acclaim, in the United States of America, Montessori’s theories and method of education rather suddenly fell out of favour among some leading professors of education [in the USA] as well as elsewhere in the English-speaking world.” Shortly after her death,  however, there was a resurgence of popularity of Montessori schools in the USA, that continues to date.

Maria Montessori’s Theories

Very early in chapter 1, the author emphasizes that the most basic principle in Montessori’s theory of education is that the learning capacity of a young child is fundamentally different from that of an adult. To demonstrate this difference, Montessori used as an example, a learning task attempted by both adults and young children – learning to speak a new language. This is not news to any of us, but as soon a I read this passage,  I began reading the text in a different light.

My spin on Montessori’s theory was: if a young child effortlessly learns his first language so perfectly by living in and absorbing the surrounding cultural environment, then the same must apply with respect to the acquisition of a second or third language. I chose to follow Montessori’s recommendations with respect to materials, practical activities and environment and never looked back.  I purchased the recommended materials outlined in the book for the appropriate age and developmental stage of my children and presented the activities in the first target language (Spanish). Later, when we participated in the Au Pair Program, the au pairs did the same, but in the second target language (German). The Montessori activities intrigued and engaged my boys and since we carried them out in target languages, they effortlessly acquired their language skills in their second and third language very early on. My take on Montessori’s theory proved to be successful for us!!

Highlights from the Book

Some of the take-aways from this book that became part of my family’s language plan are listed below. As you will note, I have mentioned these points in my previous posts: Tips and Top 10 Tools Part 1 and Part 2 and have already provided my readers with examples of some non-Montessori tools that I used to involve the senses, incorporate music, and make language connections.

  • Learning occurs physically, mentally and sensorially
  • The contribution of music to mental growth is as crucial as that of oxygen to the brain
  • Learning is essentially connecting; children learn concepts from working with materials

In upcoming posts, I will share my kids’  favorite Montessori toys and how we utilized them. Stay tuned for My Montessori Favorites!

 

Have you used Montessori materials to teach your children a second or third language? What was your experience? 

 

All of the information about Maria Montessori I outlined in the blog post above is from Desmond Swan’s excellently written Foreword and from Chapter 1 of David Gettman’s book titled: BASIC MONTESSORI  – Learning Activities for Under-Fives. 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Parade – A Family Tradition full of All Things Irish

Our family lived in NYC for several years before we moved right outside the city limits, but we still go to NYC parades that celebrate our heritage such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Kilt

This type of event is always a great segue into conversation about history, geography and immigration as well as the arts, food, world cultures and languages.

Sometimes children need to be reminded that they are not the only ones who are learning to speak and/or speaking a second language. When they come to events like these, their eyes are opened and they see that so many other children celebrate their family’s culture and language, too. Children also typically go out to eat a traditional Irish dinner after the parade with their clan. Nowadays, you could find a little more than fish & chips and corned beef and cabbage on certain Irish menus. There is such thing as Irish cuisine! The language and cuisine of Ireland are not always in the spotlight, so what better time to bring it up?

The Irish Language:

Granted, I have never met an Irish-American family that speaks Irish to their children at home, but I do personally know parents who take the time to teach their children about the Irish language, sometimes referred to as Gaelic, and to teach them certain words and expressions along with some history.

Although Irish is not formally included in our family’s language plan, we do read Irish tales and myths at home with our boys.  We listen to Irish programs on the radio in the car from time to time. We also listen to children’s Irish audio books which do a grand job of exposing our sons to the correct pronunciation of certain Irish words and names such as Oisín (ush-een), Niamh (nee-uv), Cahir (care) and Aoife (ee-fuh). I had to look up the phonetic pronunciation to include in this blog post, but if my boys were home right now they would have been able to recite those names and pronounce them correctly without flinching. I attribute this skill of theirs to their exposure to world languages and speaking at least one other language from a very early age.

Irish Cuisine:

Did you know that Kinsale, a town in County Cork, Ireland, is the culinary capital of Ireland? Kinsale has some of the best seafood in the country and hosts an annual Gourmet Festival which attracts people from all corners of the globe. Irish cuisine has come a long way and Irish chefs have come to the States to participate in culinary exchanges. They have introduced some of their new Irish gourmet dishes such as poached paupiettes of lemon sole and fresh trout and poached darne of sea-fresh brill. If your children enjoy seafood, fine Irish cuisine could be a great addition to your dining repertoire.

The NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade abounds with entertaining, child-friendly, Irish stimulation. Bagpipes, Irish Step-Dancing, Irish Fashion: Irish Wool Sweaters and Caps, and of course Shamrocks, Gold Coins and Bright-colored Emerald Beads to add to the festive environment.

What a brilliant way to sprinkle children with a little bit of culture, cuisine and history!!!

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My Tips & Top 10 Tools for Raising Bilingual or Multilingual Children – Part 2 – Toddlers

Part 2 of this series is intended for the parents of curious toddlers. I include resources and materials for children 10 months old through 36 months old in this post. If your target language is not directly addressed in this post, I recommend you take my tips and suggestions and incorporate them into your child’s language plan.

I always knew that I wanted my children to learn a second and third  language alongside their native language (English). I also knew that in order to succeed, I had to be creative, strategic and savvy about my approach to multilingualism because my husband and I worked outside of the home during the day and because English is my husband’s and my native language. Accordingly, from very early on, my boys were exposed to both Spanish and German numerous hours per day until the age of 5.  We partnered with a large network of wonderful individuals who supported our goals and helped us succeed. Some of our partners were: au pairs (See Our Language Learning Partners), grandparents, multilingual friends and family members as well as language teachers at the language schools they attended.

Tip: In addition to partnering with key people who supported our multilingual goals, I researched and procured materials in either the target language or generic age-appropriate tools that helped reinforce vocabulary and concepts that my toddlers were learning in their native language. Below is my top ten list of activities, games, toys, and books:

Tool #1: Musical Instruments

Having a quality set of musical instruments was a must to complement the songs we liked to listen to when they were babies. (See Part 1 of this Series – Babies) Adding the interactive opportunity to make music and accompany our favorite songs enriched their language-learning experience. These instruments can also be used to practice infrequently used vocabulary words

getDynamicImage-3.aspxgetDynamicImage-2.aspxgetDynamicImage-1.aspxrelating to sound and music such as ‘high and low’, ‘loud and soft’, ‘pleasant and unpleasant’, ‘fast and slow’. These instruments also come out for birthdays and family sing alongs…

Our castanets, cymbals, harmonicas, triangles, maracas, drums, rhythym sticks, and more were from West Music, an excellent source for quality, long lasting, durable instruments for children.

Tool #2: Board Games

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Generic games such as Chutes and Ladders (numbers 1-100 and directions), Colorama (shapes and colors) and Kid O Memory Match 16 (animals, insects, numbers, colors etc.) not only help reinforce basic vocabul81OSn5QergL._SL1500_ary words, but also help your child begin to think in the target language as he gets engrossed in the game. Children enjoy explaining games and rules to new players, and they gradually and naturally start using expressions, such as ‘your turn/my turn’; ‘that’s right/ that’s wrong’; ‘I go first/you are next’; and ‘I am winning’…)

 

Tool #3: Play Doh Shapes, Cookie Cutter Sets and Accessories

Another activity that I found was conducive to naturally thinking in the target language and practicing new vocabulary was creating Play Doh shapes with cookie cutters and accessories. I am not a baker, so when I got the Wilton 101-Piece Cookie Cutter Set as a gift, I immediately put it to use as a fun learning tool and incorporated it into the Play Doh experience. My Wilton set included, letters and numbers as well as geometric shapes and holiday theme-related sha51Gd6kc0ZpLpes 810Adb9Fv5S._SL1500_perfect for practicing certain words at given times during the year, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter/Spring, and Halloween. Obviously, if you enjoy baking, you can get the same results when you use the cookie cutters for their intended purpose and get to eat your creations, for an added bonus!

Then, I accessorized using Melissa & Doug’s Shape Model and Mold and added fun tools such as rolling pins and textured cubes to practice additional descriptive words and verbs.  We used and re-used these tools for a very long time and my boys highly enjoyed their time playing and learning with them.

Tool #4: Floor Puzzles

Floor puzzles were a relaxing (quiet) way to engage the boys in the target language while they busily scurried around the floor to find the pieces to match and complete the puzzles. You can shop for puzzles that support your child’s language plan depending on your child’s interests, level, and attention span. I recommend the Alphabet puzzles available in your target language. It is always advantageous for children to have a visual of the alphabet in their target language with words representing each letter. You can see the sparkle in their eyes when the see the words and make the connection to the letter.  As they got more and more excited about completing the puzzle I found they naturally started speaking and thinking in the target language!

Tool #5:  Picture Dictionaries/Diccionarios por Imágenes

My children transitioned smoothly from  Picture Books from Part 1 of this Series – Babies to the Mini Diccionarios por Imágenes collection. This series of books is from Spain and I highly recommend it for its content, illustrations, quality and variety!!  Among our favorites were: The City, Opposites and My First Picture Dictionary. A great title for budding world citizens is Children of the World. These books explain simple concepts in full sentences and provide context and practical comments. My boys couldn’t get enough of these books. The illustrations are child-friendly and colorful. An added bonus is that the books are interactive. There are one-line questions on every page to engage the child and encourage them to think and speak about what they are seeing on the illustrated pages. They also come in handy when your child begins to read.

Tip: I strategically selected DVD’s that were age-appropriate, developmentally on point and well narrated:

Tool #6: Sounds by Small Fry Productions

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I think it is universal and fun, not to mention precious, to teach children animal sounds, but sometimes we forget to teach sound identification and association in the target language. Some of my family’s favorite sounds in the Sonidos DVD were; ringing, crunching, whispering, laughing, and stomping.  My children genuinely enjoyed it and giggled through several parts. This DVD features live action, catchy music, child actors and familiar objects to help children make learning connections. The Spanish spoken on this DVD is neutral and pleasant.  It contains an interactive segment, called “Mystery Sounds” which was a big hit in our family. The entire DVD piqued my boys’ curiosity about the different Spanish words used for sounds. Sonidos is narrated in full sentences and is ideal for bilingual children, between the ages of 2 and 5, who have a comfort level in Spanish. Sonidos by Small Fry Productions.

Tool #7: The Seasons of the Year by Small Fry Productions

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Estaciones introduces children between 2 and 5 to the four seasons and takes them on a trip through the seasons.  Children learn to make connections between the holidays and the time of year. Some our favorite scenes were: sledding, splashing and backyard fun. The Spanish spoken on this DVD is neutral and pleasant. It features live action, child actors and familiar settings such as beaches, snowy hills, flower gardens and pumpkin patches to help children make learning connections.  Estaciones, is narrated in full sentences and is ideal for bilingual children, between the ages of 2 and 5, who have a comfort level in Spanish. Estaciones by Small Fry Productions

Tool #8: Sal y Pimienta by Susy Dorn

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This DVD by Susy Dorn was an all-around favorite for several years in our family. Susy Dorn is a teacher, school director, singer-songwriter, puppeteer and a native speaker. Her Spanish is impeccable and she is a sweetheart. Her teaching methodology includes theater, puppetry, games, and music that she composes and sings. Her songs are all very catchy and perfect for leaning and remembering vocabulary words such as the planets, good manners, sports, insects, emotions, rhyming words and so much more. Sal y Pimienta DVD is engaging and guaranteed to bring a smile to your toddler’s face. It is available on Amazon and on her website.

Tool #9: Audio Books in the Target Language 

Because I am less proficient in German than I am in Spanish, I resorted to the “Mein Hör-Spiel-Buch” series. If we did not have a German native speaker on hand to read to the boys, then I would play the CD and they would eagerly follow along. There are many enjoyable stories available in “Mein Hör-Spiel-Buch” series, and you can view the list on Amazon.de.51iaCNAgN0L 51nwCO-7rQL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tool #10: Multi-Region DVD Player

When my toddlers were between the age of 2 and 3, I started mixing things up a bit with real-world educational material and added animated features with dubs in the target language.  And so, I purchased a multi region DVD player to be able to view the DVDs we got from Spain and Germany. More

You can apply this tip of implementing real-world educational material to the target language of  your choice. World-renowned characters such Pocoyo, Winnie the Pooh and Caillou can be watched in various world languages such as German, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Polish and Mandarin!  Most toddlers and pre-schoolers identify with these lovable characters and enjoy watching regardless of the language it is in!

There are a variety of Multi Regional DVD players on the market. We have been using the Samsung DVD-C500 HDMI Multi All Region DVD player and have been satisfied. It is a basic version, it is easy to install and does the job!

31hDS4cjwQL._SY450_Tip: Enroll your Toddler in a Language Class

Enroll your toddler in a quality Language Program that will enrich him and support your goal as a parent. See my post How to Choose A Language Program for Your Little One for additional Tips. Toddlers get so much pleasure from socializing with other children, and it is so special for parents to see how their little ones flourish in a second language. It is natural for toddlers to want to communicate with, observe, listen to and play with other children. Bringing your child to an environment outside of the home to do just that, in the target language, is so beneficial and stimulating!!

I hope that these Tips and Tools make you and your toddler as happy and as excited about languages as they made us. All of my recommendations are based on my personal experience using the products with my children since 2006.

 

 

 

Frances Mingoia is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.