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!!

 

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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.

My Tips & Top 10 Tools for Raising Bilingual or Multilingual Children – Part I: Babies

Part I of this series is intended for Parents-to-Be and parents of young babies through 18 months. The subsequent parts of this series will address toddlers, pre-schoolers, pre-readers, elementary school-aged, middle school-aged and beyond.  

Here goes:

MUSIC 

Tip: I started playing music in Spanish (target language #1) as soon as my boys came home from the hospital.  I played it at certain times of the day (feeding, diaper-changing, playtime, etc.). Sometimes, I sang along and made the experience playful, more enjoyable and memorable. When my boys started speaking, I noticed they incorporated words from the various songs into their own vocabulary and correctly used them in context. Carefully select your music in French, Italian, German, Romanian, Greek – you name it – and start playing music and singing to your baby in the target language of your choice!

Tool # 1: Cantemos Todos Juntos

cantemos2014-CD-coverFor a top of the line, quality, musical and language experience in Spanish, get your hands on Cantemos Todos Juntos. This CD not only brings a smile to children’s faces, but also makes them want to sing and dance! I supplemented this CD with the use of egg shakers, tambourines triangles and castanets and made  listening to it as festive and fun-filled as possible! My boys listened to the traditional songs on this CD well into their 4’s and 5’s and to this day, they recall some of the lyrics and sing to themselves when trying to jog their memory with respect to a word that is on the tip of their tongue.  The music is beautifully executed and of varying tempos and rhythms which keeps children engaged throughout the CD and exposes them to the patterns of music.

Tool # 2: Canciones de los Animalitos

61FBnte1S8L._SS280My children and I loved the gentle songs about an array of animals on this MP3 Album titled: Canciones de los Animalitos. Although the songs are calming and soothing, they are also catchy. As my little listeners got older, they paid closer attention to the elaborate descriptions of the animals and eventually began asking questions to further their knowledge about them. This MP3 Album is an excellent tool for building vocabulary as it provides more details about animals that you could ever imagine in a song. (These animal songs are far from being a variation of of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”). There are two tracks about caring for the environment, which is an added bonus. You can sample the songs by clicking on the link provided above.

 

Tools # 3, 4, and 5: Cantando Aprendo a Hablar Vol. I Vol. II and Vol. III

This MP3 Collection was developed by speech pathologists (called speech therapists in the USA).The songs are nurturing, fun, and playful. This collection is definitely one ideal for playtime or when you want to be silly. I recommend incorporating toys and your own interactive fun to get the most out of them. I found that they were extremely useful for introducing words, but more so for developing phonological awareness (the ability to hear sounds that make up words in spoken language). Phonological awareness is the first step towards developing reading and writing abilities. For more on bilingualism and biliteracy, please see my previous post Formula for Raising Bilingual and Biliterate Children. Some of the sounds the songs review are the rolling r’s, the vowel sounds, rhyming words and so much more. We have all 3 volumes, and because there are so many tracks, I chose the tracks that were the most appropriate for the developmental stage in which my children found themselves. I gradually introduced the remaining tracks as the boys made progress in their language skills. You can sample the songs by clicking on the links provided below.

Volume I

Volume I

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOKS

Tip: In my experience, certain types of books were more conducive to learning the target language than others during different developmental stages. In addition to short story books that can be read to babies in order to accustom them to the rhythm, intonation and sounds of the target language, I highly recommend the following categories of books in the target language of your choice:

Tool # 6: Word Books

51qz7ENxmnLColorful word books that feature photographs in lieu of illustrations for the youngest babies. My boys tended to focus on the photographs of the babies and the baby-related objects in the DK Word Books and they really made the connection when I said the word while pointing to the photo. I could almost see their wheels spinning as they took it all in. Since babies are generally intrigued by seeing other babies in person and in photographs, this type of book is so helpful and useful in introducing a target language to babies. My little readers enjoyed DK Word Books  mainly because of the vivid, colorful photos they could identify with.

 

Tool # 7: Board Books

By the time my older son was 16 months old, our German au pair had joined us and brought with her a collection of wonderful German Board Books. And so we started introducing him to German (target language #2). My favorite object identification books in German for this age group are “Kennst Du Das?” books (available on Amazon.de) They are colorful, captivating, thematically organized and so well made. We loved this series so much, we continued collecting DUDEN books as the boys got older and went pre-school.  More on the advanced DUDEN books in upcoming posts!

 

Tool # 8: Lift-the-Flap Books

I found that this category of books piqued my boys’  attention the most because of the interactive component. As they were immersed in the sounds and rhythm of words and sentences, they also reveled in the interactive possibilities – thanks to the simple flaps. These books were page-turners for them! Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap books were some of our favorites.

 

 

Tool # 9 – Tactile Books

Touch and Feel books are suitable for making the connections between words and the sense of touch. Babies are further stimulated when you add their senses to the language learning process and tend to remember these usually abstract words more easily. It became a natural and memorable way to learn descriptive words in the target language.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tool #10: Language Program designed for Babies and Toddlers

Enroll your baby in a quality Language Program that will enrich your baby and support your goal as a parent. See my post How to Choose A Language Program for Your Little One for additional Tips. Babies and 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 babies 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 songs and books make you and your little one 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.

 

 

 

 

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