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!

 

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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!!

 

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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Au Pairs – Our Partners in Language Learning

I have briefly described my family’s experience with two of our au pairs in my posts about Crêpes and Language Teaching Tools for Babies (Tool #7). In those posts, I promised to elaborate more on the topic of au pairs at a later date. So, in the spirit of keeping my word, I will share with you one of the most valuable, enjoyable and long-lasting tools I have implemented in raising my children to be multilingual world citizens. This tool encompasses Passion, Partnerships and Planning (3 P’s from my Formula for Raising Bilingual Children)

Parents-to-be who are developing a language plan for their family as well as parents currently following a language plan and considering options to support the bilingual upbringing of their children may find this post of interest.

Au Pairs are young adults (male or female) who travel to other countries to join a family and offer their services as in-home child care providers.  In the USA, they typically stay for a minimum of one year in exchange for a stipend and a rich cultural exchange. In some cases, au pairs are not the sole child care provider, but as agencies advertise, “au pairs can be an extra set of hands” for stay-at-home parents. In my experience, au pairs have potential to be much, much more than merely “an extra set of hands.”

Welcoming au pairs into our family proved to be instrumental in our endeavor to shape our children into world citizens and nurture their love of languages.  Our au pairs (with the exception of one) spoke fluent English upon arrival and hailed from Brazil, Japan, Spain, Germany, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, and France. And some of them were trilingual. Both my husband and I, as well as our boys learned many intriguing facts about our au pairs’ respective countries, and our au pairs, in turn, discovered a great deal about the culture in the USA and about themselves during their stay.

Surfing tips from our Okinawan au pair!

Surfing tips from our Okinawan au pair!

Making a Spanish tortilla at home!

Making a Spanish tortilla at home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did Au Pairs help us further our goal of raising multilingual world citizens?

1. They shared a passion for languages and were genuinely interested in supporting our family’s goal of raising multilingual children.

2. They partnered with us and proactively planned activities that exposed our children to other languages and cultures.

3. They helped develop our boys’ palate and piqued their interest in tasting different foods by sharing their culinary traditions.

4. They were young, fun-loving role models for our children who saw in them a genuine interest in studying languages and their desire to learn about other cultures.

5. They embodied world citizenship, and to this day continue to influence our boys and help shape them into world citizens.

Thanks to Brazil's flag and this awesome T-Shirt, his favorite color has been green!

Thanks to Brazil’s flag and this awesome T-Shirt, his favorite color is green!

Some Fun Tidbits About Our Au Pairs:

1. Our Brazilian au pair started taking an on-line German class to keep up with my son’s German language acquisition and ultimately traveled to Germany, staying for a year and becoming fluent in German!

2. Our Spanish au pair had used Muzzy to complement her English studies as a child (20 years ago) and loved that she knew the characters, the plot and the songs and could join right in with my boys when they watched it in Spanish!

3.  Our Japanese au pair, who was an avid basketball player in Japan, introduced our boys to basketball and taught them everything they know!

 

 

To learn more about how to leverage the Cultural Exchange and Language features of the au pair experience, please visit the Consulting and Coaching tab of my blog and submit your request for a complimentary consultation about Au Pairs.

 

 

A Spontaneous French Lesson About Crêpes!

A quick trip to France for breakfast!

A quick trip to France for breakfast!

Although I had my first crêpe in Argentina followed by crêpes in France and Quebec, my children were first introduced to authentic French crêpes at the age of 2 and 4 in the luxury of their own home.

In order to complement my children’s acquisition of world languages and expose them to other cultures and customs, my family  has  welcomed several au pairs into our home for one-year stints. Our French au pair, Clara, proudly made crêpes for our family shortly after her arrival and voilà, our boys were hooked! After her time with us was over,  my sons continued their French lessons, but crêpes were sadly, no longer featured on our menu at home as neither my husband nor I mastered the “art.” Our subsequent au pairs were from Japan and Spain (more about the language experience with them in later posts).

We recently, and by default, re-ignited our passion for crêpes when my 6-year old son and I were making breakfast on a Sunday morning. He was pouring pancake batter onto the hot griddle when he announced that he wanted to have “one huge pancake”.  As we watched his creation take on the shape of what reminded me of a crêpe, I seized the moment and added “what you’ve made looks very much like what the French call a crêpe.” His eyes lit up as he started to feel that he wasn’t just making plain ol’ pancakes for breakfast any longer; he was making something with a little more flair!  He was still 2 years old when he stopped regularly enjoying authentic French crêpes, and I quickly realized his memory needed jogging.  To that end, a conversation about crêpes, France and Quebec ensued. We naturally transitioned into a simple French dialog about foods, colors and textures, and we “wrapped up” with selecting a local French crêperie we could all go to as a family very soon.  We injected a little French into our day by engaging in a spontaneous and relaxing conversation revolving around what started out as pancakes.

Moments like these are ideal for naturally engaging your child and reinforcing vocabulary learned in the target language. Have you had opportunities such as this to broaden your child’s horizons and help him realize that learning a world language is more than merely learning to speak it? Learning a world language is also learning about tasting, smelling and hearing the flavors, aromas and sounds of another culture. This spin on languages keeps the learning fun and exciting for children.  

Bon appétit!

Paddington Bear – Teach Language and Culture to Children by Reading Paddington Stories

PADDINGTON, the movie, will be opening in the United States on Friday, January 16th. Paddington Bear, a classic character from English children’s literature, is known around the globe and Paddington books have been translated into at least 40 languages. He is a lovable and accident-prone bear from Peru who fortuitously ends up in London and is adopted by the Brown family.

Paddington Bear is still front and center on our favorite stuffed animal shelf!

Paddington Bear is still front and center on our favorite stuffed animal shelf!

All the hype about the movie has prompted me to share with my readers how these endearing books by Michael Bond can be an invaluable tool to expose our children to the wonderful world of languages and cultures. Paddington Bear books are perfect for reading to both – children who are learning English as a second language as well as to native (Non-British) English speakers who are curious about how English is spoken in other parts of the world. I highly recommend these engaging, playful and beautifully illustrated books for pre-readers, early readers and independent readers. 

I began reading the picture book series illustrated by R.W. Alley  to my boys when they were about two years old. The picture books are written in a simpler format than the original Paddington novels which are full length chapter books written in 1956.  As my children had already developed a keen ear for language nuances, they picked up on the British English expressions and colloquialisms, learned much about the culture and customs of England as well as geography. If you are not British, yet feel compelled to feign a British accent when reading Paddington books aloud, you and your child will likely find these stories even more delightful!!

Paddington picture books, such as Paddington at the Tower, Paddington at the Carnival, and Paddington at the Palace provide numerous opportunities to talk about the bustling city of London, the red London double decker buses, and the Union Jack. As children travel with Paddington on his fun-filled adventures, they learn what a monarchy is and tidbits of royal protocol; what a Beefeater is and who wears a busby; and new words such as “elevenses”. Children will also discover new locations like Little Venice, London and the inside of the Tower of London.

Our favorite picture books

Our favorite picture books

Paddington chapter books are ideal for children who have developed a longer attention span and can follow more complex plots. They are filled with messy adventures and intriguing elements that capture the attention of children of many ages. These books provide the same benefits as the picture books, but in a more sophisticated manner. For example, the first book of the series, describes in detail South America and darkest Peru and piques children’s curiosity about that region of the world.  The chapter books can be read aloud to children or read independently by children.

Our favorite chapter books

Our favorite chapter books

If you would like to benefit from all of the British English expressions and colloquialisms as originally published, then be certain to purchase the UK edition of the books.

Paddington books have been instrumental in furthering my boys’ understanding of the global world we live in.  If one of your goals is to raise a world citizen, Paddington Bear is a great place to start.

Enjoy the movie, but don’t miss out on the books!!!

Cheers!!

Paddington.com