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!!

 

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?