6 Ways to Establish a Bedtime Routine For Your Bilingual Child

 

As promised in my post 6 Ways in which a Bedtime Routine Can Boost Your Bilingual Child I’m here to share some ideas on how to establish a bedtime routine. If you do not have a routine, then you really are missing out on a great opportunity to teach not only discipline and regain your sanity at night, but you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expose your child(ren) to the target language.

If you are anything like me, you often feel like rushing through the night and getting the kiddos to sleep so you can finally have some peace and a much needed break! I would try to use the time to clean up their substantial mess, get some of my work done, and even get some couch potato T.V. time. But honestly, the time of getting the kids to bed would stress me out, my kids never wanted to go to bed and were super cranky, and by the time I was done I was extremely tired and rarely followed through with my plans.

Working with children, I know the importance of routines. I know that they do better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them, so why wasn’t I applying this to my own children when we were trying to wrap up the day? Once I decided to implement our routine at night, I found time to spend time learning and to actually enjoy my children! So, here is the routine that works for us and it’s my hope that you can get some ideas from it and create a routine that works for you.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Dinner Time

I wrote a post for Cooking with Languages a while back on what children can learn from cooking. It was meaningful for me to write, because cooking with our kids provides such a special opportunity to bond and extend the time learning and practicing the target language. This is not an activity that is merely for older kids, but even the tiniest of tots can join in! My two and three year olds love to pour, crack (eggs), stir, and taste right along with me. Sometimes everything has been cooking on the crock pot all day, and they just get to stir a few times in order to “help” and sometimes we grabbed take out and they just need to set the table. Whatever we do, they always get to help and as they grow, their duties will grow with their abilities.

During this time I use parallel and self-talk in our target language (Spanish) to describe everything we are doing as we cook. I also ask them a lot of open-ended questions about the process (What are you doing? Why do you have to do that?) and watch their little brains workout how to answer me. Obviously, the conversations will evolve as their language skills evolve and I foresee a time when our conversations will go well beyond what we are cooking.

  1. Clean-up time

Oh dreaded clean-up! This is where I spend the majority of my time at home. With two professional mess-makers, it’s no wonder. It’s important to teach our kids from an early age to clean up and contribute to the house, but it’s never too late to start. Sometimes it really is like pulling teeth for me and it takes no small amount of patience, deep breathing, and chocolate (which I hide and eat in my bedroom closet!!) to get through this part of our routine. For now, it is all about me teaching them and indicating exactly what to do every step of the way, but I know that as they grow up, they will be able to do a lot more with a lot less prodding (as long as I keep up the routine!). For now, it’s another great opportunity for us to make practical use of our target language.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen
Yes, she chose that outfit. And yes, I let her go out in public like that!

  1. Preparations for the next day

At this point of our evening, I get the girls to help prepare themselves for tomorrow. We pull out pajamas and clothing for the next day. My threenager has developed her own style and takes a long time to put together her outrageous combinations for the following day (Boots with shorts are a current Florida winter favorite of hers) and it cuts down on morning rush (yeah, so I may have it “together” at night, but our mornings are RIDICULOUS! Can’t have it all right?).

This is also a time when we prepare book bags and lunch boxes for the next day. We have a lot of fun and silly conversations in the target language during this portion of our night, and they are usually revolved around the crazy outfits my baby wants to wear.

  1. Bath Time

So, while my kids are little, bath time has to be supervised. Honestly, I wish I could just throw them in and walk away or rush them through it. But they love their baths so much and it’s really a great time for them to play while I sit with a book or (GAASSSPPP!) my phone. If you’re an over-achiever, go ahead and use this time to play and talk with your kids. It’s definitely what I recommend. So, do as I say, not as I do!!

A little reading before bed.
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Reading

So, my excuse for taking it easy during bath time is that the next part of our routine is CRUCIAL! Seriously, whether you are a bilingual parent or not, reading every single day with your child is the single most important thing you can do for their education. Whether 0 or 17, reading aloud every single day should be the goal. It doesn’t matter if you read to them or they read to you, reading every day can make a bigger difference than anything else you do for them.  Reading with your child every day has a greater impact on achievement than anything else you may do, including the school they go to, the extracurricular activities they participate in, how much money you make, etc. And as a bilingual parent, this is the best opportunity for my girls to receive rich, deep, and crucial input in the target language.

  1. Reflecting on the day.

After reading and talking about what we read, we spend some time talking about the day. I ask them a lot of questions and try to remind them of everything that was done. I ask them what their favorite part of the day was, what they didn’t like, what made them laugh, what made them sad, etc. I love to ask them silly questions to make them laugh and more serious questions to make them think. If you’re having a hard time coming up with questions, check out this article!

I also talk to them about the next day and what they think they are going to do. I ask about what they would like to do and talk to them about what they must do. We do all of this in our target language and if they do not know how to say something, I let them say it in English and then I model how to say it in Spanish. It’s a very sweet time spent with them and it’s my absolute favorite part of the day.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

Taking the time to have a purposeful and meaningful time with your kids in the evening may seem like a daunting task, but remember, it does not have to take hours of your time. While it may at first be difficult to get your children to help with the clean up and preparing for the following day (especially if they are younger), but with a routine, it will end up being a lot of help and saving you time. If you go about the routine with the purpose of spending time and educating your children, it will also be less stressful! Taking the time to relax, read, and reflect upon the day with your child will also help you unwind and decompress while cuddling and hugging your babies will sure boost up those endorphins! And hey, there’s nothing wrong with getting the process started early. I’ve been known to enforce a 7pm bedtime routine and have lived to tell the tale!

We want to hear from you! Do you have a bedtime routine that you practice with your kids? What does it look like? What benefits have you seen from it? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
keli-blogKeli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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6 Ways in which a Bedtime Routine Can Boost Your Bilingual Child

Part 1 – How and Why a Bedtime Routine Can  Benefit  Our Children

What do your evenings look like? As a busy parent, they probably include making dinner, finishing up chores, and getting the kids off to bed as quickly (if not efficiently) as possible. After such a busy day, you’re probably just looking to just relax and maybe read a book, watch some TV, or maybe browse around on Pinterest for hours on end admiring and pinning projects that you know you’ll never actually get to (guilty!!). This much awaited time never seems to arrive when we are so busy trying to deal with wrapping up our children’s day and getting them to bed! But, what if I told you that while we rush about trying to get our kids to bed, we are missing on valuable bonding and language-learning time that can be a tremendous benefit for them?

I know, I know! After a long day, sometimes we just want and NEED time for ourselves. But just give me a chance! With a few tips and tricks for purposeful time spent together in the evening, our nights can go more smoothly and with less stress, our learning day can be extended, and we can create memories that our children will carry with them for life. But first, let’s cover the “why?”  what are you gaining by spending some quality time with your children in the evenings?

  1. An Insight Into Their Day

Do you ever ask your kids how their day was and they tell you “fine”? Or “what did you do today?” and they respond with “nothing.” AGHHHH!!! It drives me nuts! But it’s not just you. Kids don’t always open up to these sorts of questions, because they either don’t have the skills to process their day on their own so quickly (if they are young) or they are not practiced in the art of conversation with their parents. It takes time and effort and one has to be purposeful in establishing lines of communication, especially with our kids. Spending time together and asking questions like “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” or did “anything today make you feel sad?” can help kids engage and share with you about the day. But here’s the thing, you can’t just bombard them with a bunch of questions and expect them to answer right away! You need to take the time and develop an engaging conversation.

2. An Insight Into Their State of Mind

By gaining insights into their days you can also gain insights into their state of mind. As kids get older, parents often get pushed aside. Kids try to gain independence and if you haven’t developed communication habits, it can be that much harder to really KNOW what’s going on inside their heads. Issues of self-confidence, depression, bullying, anger, selfishness, etc. can be discovered and managed more easily when kids learn they can come to you to deal with them.

The girls love to look at books before bed.
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Calmer Evenings

Did you know that negative behavior can be curbed by simply giving a child some time and attention? Most of us know this, but do we actually KNOW this? I mean, do we actually put it into practice? Just sitting down for 10 minutes with your child and actually playing with them can give them the attention they need and crave and then buy you some time to get things done in a much calmer manner. Imagine then if you actually include your child into the chores and activities that must be completed in the evening? You can entertain your child, teach them something new, have bonding time, and get your chores done even faster! Even a three-year-old can help wipe down tables and put away laundry!

  1. Bonding and a Nurturing Relationship

Bonding is an important human instinct that gives children (and adults) a sense of security and self-esteem. Bonding occurs when humans spend time together, talking, showing affection, and taking care of each other. The thing is that bonding takes time, and not just your spare minutes. You need quality time spent doing special activities, but you also need quantity time! When I say this, I mean ordinary time spent doing routine activities that, although they may not feel special, they develop trust and a sense of nurturing and security. This time serves to let a family get to know eachother, reinforces mutual respect, improves communication and lets people learn to listen and communicate with each other.

Reading Together

  1. You Will Gain an Opportunity to Help You Children Process Their Day 

Establishing an evening and bed-time routine with your kids will help them process their day. They can reflect back on what happened and discuss the good, the bad, the ugly. You can help kids put a positive spin on their day and help them plan and prepare for tomorrow. It’s a great time to discuss goals, both small and large, and talk about the future. It’s also a great time to teach kids about thankfulness and the effect that their actions and choices have upon their lives and the lives of others.

  1. Extended Education

Finally, this time together at night can serve for practicing language and communication. For bilingual parents, this can be a crucial time of target language input. If your child spends a majority of the time listening and interacting in the community language, the evening spent with you can be crucial for practicing the target language and using it for higher order thinking and learning. You can model grammar, language structure and vocabulary and give them plenty of opportunities to emulate you. Most importantly, you can develop your relationship in the target language and help your child gain the confidence to use it.

Our days are busy. We are constantly running around with the business of life and we don’t often take the time to just be with each other and spend time in communication and bonding. Whether you are a parent who works outside of the home all day or you are a parent who works in the home all day, the reality is that you most likely spend your hours working! When the evening comes and kids get home from school it’s important to take time together to process the day, use our language and communication skills, and create the kind of deep relationships that will be crucial for the rest of our lives.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I will share some Ideas and Tips for Establishing a Bedtime Routine for your Bilingual Children.

Sweet dreams!
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

We want to hear from you! Do you have a bedtime routine that you practice with your kids? What does it look like? What benefits have you seen from it? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
keli-blogKeli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Thanksgiving in Venezuela: A story of Biculturalism, Food, and Love.

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Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays, because it was one just for us. The story of our thanksgiving goes back over half a century and it’s a story that has had a great influence on who I am today.

My grandparents came to Venezuela back in 1948 with 2 little girls, a few bucks to their name and hearts full of hope.  They had arrived to a very prosperous country that welcomed them, and all immigrants, with open arms.  It was a time when a lot of Americans arrived to Venezuela’s western coast to settle into oil camps.

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The Cox family in 1948.

My Grandparents lived happily with their family and friends in their close knit community, where everyone was  from the U.S. or “Americanized.” This meant that there was very little need to speak Spanish fluently, with store clerks that spoke English and “American” schools for their children. As the years passed, 2 new little girls (including my mother) were born in this new country. To them, growing up in Venezuela and often visiting family in Texas offered the best of both worlds, from which they created a dual-culture all of their own. One of the greatest examples of this dual culture was our very own Venezuelan Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, although a popular U.S. Holiday, is not celebrated in Venezuela and back in the 1950s it was difficult to find some of the wonderful holiday staples that are traditional to the meal. Through frequent trips to the U.S. and the advent of canned goods and boxed mixes, however, my grandparents made it a mission to celebrate this beloved holiday.

As the years passed, and their children and grandchildren grew up, this Venezuelan thanksgiving became a tradition that evolved to reflect us as a family and it is one of my fondest childhood (and adulthood) memories.

Thanksgiving dinner was always celebrated at my grandmother’s home in La Concepción, a small town in the outskirts of Maracaibo. My grandmother was the Queen of Thanksgiving, a holiday that was hers to do with as she pleased. There were no other events, no juggling of dates or family members, and everyone was welcomed with open arms. However, you always had to make sure you had enough room for that pecan pie!

The Queen of Thanksgiving herself, Grandma Cleo

The Queen of Thanksgiving herself, Grandma Cleo

As many of you know, hosting a holiday tradition in a different place has to come with some adjustments, but maybe that is what made our Venezuelan Thanksgiving even more special.  As you can imagine, celebrating a holiday on a Thursday was next to impossible, with their married daughters, grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren all on Venezuelan calendars. Celebrating on the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the first compromise.

The Menu
The food was another place where new traditions would evolve. Apples were not that popular in Venezuela until recently, so apple pie was never that prominent, but the pecan pie and pumpkin pies were ever-present. With the addition of new family members, new Venezuelan recipes came to accompany the traditional fare and my grandmother picked up a few tricks from Venezuelan cuisine along the way.

It wouldn’t be turkey day without the bird, and thanks to some enterprising businessmen, turkeys were available in select stores in town.  The dressing was cornbread, of course, made with Funche La Lucha, (the closest thing to coarse yellow corn meal) baked with vegetables and turkey stock and served with giblet gravy. We later switched to Cachapa mix (corn pancake mix – deliciousness) to make the dressing, but it was still amazing.  Cranberries were canned and jellied, the corn was fresh and fried, and the string bean casserole made with real Campbell’s cream of mushrooms. We also had mashed potatoes, baked beans, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, carrot cake, mincemeat bars, lemon pie, quesillo (condensed milk and caramel flan, and yes it is as good as it sounds) and fruit salad, all made from scratch with the exception of some imported ingredients, and it was all eaten with gusto. Large pitchers of iced tea and café guayoyito (a filtered and less concentrated cup, but it’s still made with some of the best coffee in the world!)  finished off the meal.

After we served our plates buffet style and we sat down to say grace in several tables across living room and dining room, (we were 20 and counting) and looked down at all this delicious food made with love by grandma and my aunts you could just see her smile, all of her chicks were back in the nest, all that effort paid off.

Some of the children and grandchildren of Grandma Cleo.

Some of the children and grandchildren of Grandma Cleo.

Some compromises were made, but Thanksgiving Sunday Supper was a must, and it was Grandma’s pride and joy.  Later on daughters and granddaughters (even me!) started to bring dishes of their own to these gatherings, right until grandma moved back to Texas. Now, we all celebrate thanksgiving in our own homes, celebrating our heritage with our new families, and we stick to tradition, our own tradition of incorporating our loved one’s favorite dishes to this holiday.  After all, this is a day for being thankful and counting one’s blessings, and family is the most special blessing of all.

About the author

Becky Becky Garcia-Muir is a Southern belle from way South, a Bilingual teacher and mom, and community manager for Learn Safari.

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Bilingual Dough Creatures Game – Teach the Parts of the Face in Spanish to Kids with this Fun Language Activity (Free Printable Included)

Teaching the Parts of The Facein Spanish with a fun language activity (Free printable)

We are so excited to present this activity by Kids Activities Designer Rodrigo Macias * It is a wonderful and fun way to practice the parts of the face in Spanish with your kids and/or students. We promise, they will not get bored with this one! Enjoy! 

cover-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Teach-Face-Parts-in-Spanish-and-english-to-Kids-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias

Activity: Practice the vocabulary for the parts of the face in Spanish by rolling the “face parts dice” and then choosing from a mix of different kinds of dough eyes, noses, mouths and ears to form different kinds of funny creature’s faces.

What do you need?

  1. The Bilingual Creatures’ Face Parts printable
  2. Scissors
  3. Any kind of glue or tape

Set it up:

  1. Print and cut out the face parts and dice provided in the free printable.
  2. After bending in the gray lines on the dice, use tape or any kind of glue to stick the flaps andform a steady cube shape.
  3. Layout the base face template and place the face parts around it.

(Video) Stop-motion with face examples

How to play:

  1. Roll the English dice and select a matching face part from the pool.
  2. Do the same, but now using the Spanish dice.
  3. Keep alternating the dice until the creature’s face has all 6 parts (left/right eye, left/right ear,mouth and nose).

– To keep the game fresh during many different rounds, rotate the base face template between rounds to make different kinds of creatures (see example video above).

– Each face part can also be rotated to form different looks. This encourages the kid’s creativity as well as giving more dynamism to the activity.

Game twist:

Forget the base face template and let the kids add the face parts to any random objects (you might need tape to do this). Below is an example using a roll of toilet paper 😛 .

toilet-paper-face-for-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias

PRINTABLE’S DOWNLOAD PAGE

About the guest author:

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Rodrigo Macias is the creative behind The Box of Ideas (his website) where he merges his experience working in Childcare, Design and Languages to produce free high quality printables and playful-educational activities for kids.

Rodrigo’s social outlets: PinterestTpT InstagramGoogle Plus

We All Want Our Kids To Be Geniuses, But Are You Making These 5 Common Mistakes?

As parents, we want what’s best for our children. We want them to grow and develop, be successful and happy, and we want them to achieve more than we ever did. Often times, we imagine a life for them that is an idealized vision of what we would have wanted for ourselves. We see their dreams as an extension of our dreams and try to live vicariously through them! Then, we are slapped in the face when it turns out that they are actual people with their own personalities, desires, likes/dislikes and dreams.

While preparing them for their future lives, we often do things that we think are very beneficial, but in fact, will more than likely backfire. As a Teacher, I have seen a wide-range of parent behavior and have seen their results as children grow up (sometimes I have even taken part in them, even though I should know “better”!). So, I wanted to share with you guys a list of some of the most well-intentioned behavior patterns that I have seen that have turned out to be detrimental to children.

Using Baby Flashcards & “Genius” Videos

In our quest to raise up brilliant children, we often start off trying to “teach them” at a young age with the use of flash cards and videos claiming to turn your baby into a genius. The reality is that this simply does not work. Baby brains are wired for learning, but they are wired for learning through natural interaction with parents and caregivers and through exploration; sitting in front of a screen or having a formal “class time” just won’t cut it.

Babies learn from hearing the soothing voices of their caregivers, from watching how the world around them works, and from listening to real conversation. The rote memorization of flashcards will not help! If you want babies to learn, hold them a lot (remember, you cannot spoil an infant!), speak to them, and let them see and experience the world. Seriously, an empty box will stimulate them so much more than any fancy programs you can purchase for them.

Teaching Children To Read Way Too Early

This is another popular goal that parents have for their children. They want kids to start reading at the earliest age possible. There are so many videos,  flashcards, and activities that promise to teach children to read. If you stick to it, many can work. But there are trade offs that frankly, just aren’t worth it. Because teaching a child to read too early means they are just memorizing the symbols and words, instead of understanding them. They are skipping over pre-reading skills and the fundamentals that they will need for reading mastery and understanding. Moreover, because they can recognize the print does not mean they are comprehending what they are reading. It’s also important that children learn to listen and that they understand what is being said and read to them.

When you dedicate an inordinate amount of time trying to teach a 3 or 4 year old to read before they are developmentally ready, you are taking away from valuable time that can be used on other important and attainable skills. Moreover, they should also be spending time forming relationships and exploring the world around them. They need experiences and they need to master skills within their developmental windows.  Sitting them in front of a screen or with some flashcards takes away from the time they should be learning about the world, relationships, and the use of language. What good is it if they can sound words out, but don’t comprehend what they are reading because they don’t have experiences to tie the reading to? And what good is it if they can’t communicate with others? Now, I am not saying that if a child expresses interest in learning letters and their sounds that we should ignore those cues, but just don’t get ahead of yourself! Go at their pace and help them discover knowledge with developmentally appropriate activities.

Expecting Children To Sit & Have “Class” Before They Are Developmentally Ready

Children should be learning through play until at least the age of 8.* Yes, 8 years old! It is developmentally inappropriate to have young children sit and listen to an adult speaking for more than 20 minutes at a time (time varies by age, of course). But 4 and 5 year olds should not have to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time! So, what does this say about our school system?

Children need to move! They need to run, wiggle, explore, touch things, speak. How can we expect them to sit quietly without moving and expect them to actually learn? It’s no wonder there are so many behavior and attention problems in young children! Hint: They don’t have the problem. We do!

Over-Scheduling Kids & Teenagers

As our kids get older, we have a tendency to over-schedule them. We want them to play five different sports, train in several forms of dance, take swimming lessons, chess lessons, play an instrument, have language classes, join the scouts, tutoring, etc. etc. etc. WOW! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

Yes, we want our kids to have experiences and develop their talents, but really, they need to just be kids. Shuffling them back and forth to school and practice after practice after practice can really put a strain them. Not only that, but we are denying them the free time they need to explore, use their imaginations, and discover their own desires. We are also taking away the opportunity for them to learn how to manage their own time. If they are told what and when to do every single thing in their lives from the time they are babies until they become young adults, how will they know how to manage their lives in the real world?

Over-protecting Them

This one is a reminder and pep-talk for myself. It’s hard for me to follow through, because I love my girls so much, but that is precisely why I must.

The world is SCARY. I am not going to deny it. It’s hard to let our children experience it fully, because we know the dangers and heartache they could face. But we need to prepare them for it and we need to make them strong enough to face it all. Part of our job is to let them go. We need to do it baby steps at a time, but we need to do it.

Many of us don’t even allow our children to go play outside! We are so afraid that something can happen. The world is not any more dangerous than when we were growing up. The reality is that we just have more access to media and therefore we are more aware of the dangers. But instead of this instilling fear into us, we should learn to prepare our children! Allow them to experience freedoms according to their maturity and development and slowly let them do more for themselves.

I realize that some of these things are probably hard to hear. We are all trying to do what is best for our kids, after all, they don’t come with a manual! This is also not about judgement, because there is no perfect way to parent. However, it’s important to draw from the experiences of others and we have opportunities to do so like never before! (Hellooo… you are reading this blog! A few decades ago, so many of you would have missed out on my pearls of wisdom razz)

So, what do you guys think? Have you noticed any well-intentioned behaviors that have backfired on you or someone you know? Share with us in the comments!

On a Trilingual Journey – Teaching my Children English, Italian, and Spanish

 

Photo by: Geoffrey Whiteway http://www.stockvault.net/photo/137079/gondola

Photo by: Geoffrey Whiteway
http://www.stockvault.net/photo/137079/gondola

At Learn Safari we are proud to partner with  parents, teachers, homeschoolers, and language lovers in order to share tips, information, and stories. We believe that working together, we can better achieve success and help each other on our individual learning journeys. It is with great pleasure that we bring you this guest blog from a very enthusiastic, vocal, and insightful member of this wonderful community. ENJOY! 

Our Story

Having been brought up monolingual, I never thought about learning another language until I came to Italy. Living in an English speaking country my whole life, I never felt there was a need to speak another language, because everyone I knew spoke English. As I travelled and met new people, I realised that languages aren’t just about words. A new language is a new culture, a new way of looking at the world, and a new outlook on life.

When I married my Italian husband and had our two boys, now almost two and four years old, there was no doubt that we would bring them up to be bilingual; it felt natural to us to speak to them in our respective native languages, so that’s what we have done since birth.

Our boys were born here in Italy, and obviously, the common language is Italian. We are following the OPOL (One Parent One Language) approach, where my husband speaks in Italian  and I speak in English. Their exposure to Italian is quite extensive, but speaking with me and sometimes over Skype with my family is the extent of their English exposure.  My husband only spoke basic English before we met, but he is now quite fluent due to the amount of English that was spoken in our home. Now that his English is better, we are speaking more Italian so that I can practice the language.

It has been an exciting experience watching them learn two languages simultaneously. I have worked with many children in the past as an English Teacher and Governess and I have seen how easily children are able to learn a new language. Watching my own children though, is like experiencing it all for the first time.

Introducing a Third Language

About a year ago we decided to introduce a third language, Spanish, even though neither of us speak more than just the basics. We thought it would be a good opportunity for our children, since Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Knowing what it feels like to learn a language as an adult, we knew it would be best to start as early as possible.

However, we didn’t want to give them “lessons” as such, because being so young they are not able to sit and concentrate for too long. Just as they had learned English and Italian from us, we wanted to introduce Spanish to them in the most natural way possible.

Our Secret Weapon

At first I answered advertisements and called up schools to see if they had any native Spanish speakers that could come “play” with my children, however I had no luck. They only offered language lessons and were more concerned about how much they would achieve in a certain amount of sessions. It was actually by coincidence that I met a local Argentinian girl and she agreed to come hang out with my boys and introduce them to the Spanish language.

At first it was a few hours per week, but as the boys got used to her, we set a schedule where she comes at 4-5 days per week for around 2hrs at a time. This gives them a good amount of exposure to the language every week.

From day one, Ana (nickname) has only spoken to our boys in Spanish, and even if they spoke back to her in Italian or English, which they did a lot at the beginning, she always answered back in Spanish. Her understanding of Italian helps as she can understand what my children say if they speak in Italian, but she just repeats what they have said in Spanish, and then answers them.

Materials

We brought some new Spanish books online and Ana and the boys usually read at least one or two stories together every time she is over. Reading stories have helped to reinforce the language and introduce them to new vocabulary. The boys love to read and talk about the pictures and they look forward to story time.

We also downloaded some Spanish songs and nursery rhymes, and they sing quite a lot together. Singing every day has helped my children learn different words and has helped a lot with their memory. Even before my son started speaking any Spanish, he could sing a couple of songs word for word.

Our Progress

Over the past year my 4 year old has become quite the chatterbox in Spanish and though our little one doesn’t speak much yet, he understands everything and will repeat anything she says. We are looking forward to watching them improve and I hope that one day they will be completely trilingual; fluent in English, Italian, and Spanish.

Bilingual Kidspot

I had many people asking me on a regular basis how we are bringing up our children with multiple languages, and what types of resources we used. These questions are what inspired me to create Bilingual Kidspot, a website which aims to help parents who are on a bilingual or multilingual journey with their children. With information on where to start, helpful hints, tips on bilingualism, and stories of my own parenting journey, I hope to inspire and help families in the same situation.

Soon to come I will be providing educational resources for children. I will be reviewing the books, games, and language apps that we use, and providing parents with language activities and print outs to help reinforce the language that they are learning.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

6 Tips for Beating the Summer Learning Slide

by: Dwight Tracy https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

by: Dwight Tracy
https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

Summer is here! The weather is warm and kids are out of school, which makes it the perfect season to enjoy beaches, pools, lakes, cookouts and vacations. For most kids, it’s the absolute best time of year! But it is also the season for that dreaded summer slide. Research has shown that over the summer, kids lose an average of 2 months of math achievement and the losses are even greater in reading! The learning loss is cumulative, which means that those kids who experience summer learning losses every year in reading, will lose an average of 2.5 years of achievement by the time they reach middle school. Scary!! But don’t worry, we have a few easy tips to help slow-down, and maybe even reverse, that summer slide.

1. Make Reading A Priority

For young children, make books readily available in all of their spaces and make sure you read to them every single day. Start this when they are infants, although you may feel silly, it is so good for them!

For school-aged children, reading 5 to 6 chapter books over the summer can be enough to prevent reading losses*.  Take trips to the library during the summer and allow kids to pick out books themselves. Perhaps spend some time reading there. Hopefully, during the school year you already have a designated reading time, but increase the amount of time kids spend reading during the summer. Maybe instead of one reading time in the evening, have an additional one in the morning and/or afternoon.

For some kids, a reading chart helps to keep them on track and offers a sense of achievement and motivation to keep going (that competitive drive can be a high motivator!).

Don’t forget reading out loud! You can read to your kids, even if they are older, and always make sure your kids read to you. For some practical tips on reading out loud, check out our blog post on the benefits of reading.

2. Limit Screen Time

If you have read our blog post on the Intentional use of Technology, you will see why we believe that technology can help our children gain invaluable skills that will be increasingly necessary in our modern world. However, we should not let our kids simply vegetate and watch a screen or play video games 24 hours a day. Limit their time to no more than 2 hours a day and make sure that they are doing something purposeful with it. Playing with learning Apps such as Spanish Safari, learning some computer coding, and doing internet research are encouraged uses of technology. Even watching a fun movie as a family has great value! But make sure they get plenty of other activities and physical exercise.

3. Summer Camps

Summer Camps are wonderful opportunities for children to socialize and learn new skills. Many sports, museums, zoos, beaches, and schools offer summer camps and enrichment activities. If you are able to, take advantage of camps offered in your area. Many will offer weekly and daily rates so that you don’t have to commit to the entire summer.

4. Plan A Family Trip

Are you able to go on vacation this summer? Well, let your child(ren) help plan the trip! Provide them with maps, brochures, and help them do an internet search to come up with an itinerary. This will get them reading and researching, but it will be exciting and it will give them agency in the family trip.

5. Science, Math & Art Activities

Design enrichment opportunities and fun activities to keep them busy. This will keep them challenged and be great exercise for their brains. You don’t have to do them every day, but if you can manage to set some things up for them a couple times a week, it can go a long way in combating learning losses, but it can also offer up some great entertainment. If you are looking for some inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards. We have collected many simple, fun, and educational activities from some of the best that the internet has to offer!

6. Kick Them Out!

It may sound harsh, but seriously, let the kids go outside. And keep them outside. They will release a lot of energy, they will be physically active, and your house will stay much cleaner! You can provide them with some toys and outdoor activities, but remember, it is not your job to entertain your children. They need to be able to entertain themselves! Just set some ground rules, depending on their age and where you live, and let them play!

Summer time can be a welcomed relief for students, teachers, and even parents. There is something to be said for taking a break from the hectic school year. There’s no denying that children need free time to unwind, explore, and practice decision-making and time-management. However, they also need to have some guidance on how they spend their summer months in order to prevent learning losses, but also to prevent unhealthy habits and weight gain. Because let’s face it, if given the choice, most kids and teenagers would choose to sit around in front of their screen(s) all summer, eating junk food and wasting away. (Hey! Many of us adults would make the same choices if we didn’t have an example to set, am I right?)

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have some more to share with us? Join the conversation and leave us a comment!

*http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/summer-reading.pdf

Three Hacks to Get the Most Out of Screen Time & Technology for Children

Photo by Tum Gouw Creative Commons Zero https://unsplash.com/@punttim

Photo by Tum Gouw
 Creative Commons Zero
 https:[email protected]

Technology makes our lives easier. However, many of us live in constant fear that tech gadgets are “taking over our lives”. Even if this is true, with some helpful tips and self discipline, we can make sure that we are still in control!

Most adults can remember what it was like before we had a tiny computer in our pockets dictating our every move. But for our children? Well, they know no such world. My one-year-old picks up anything that resembles a phone and speaks into it “hellooooo”. My almost three-year-old (yikes!! I can’t believe she is almost three…) can work a tablet with no problem. This is their reality and it is the world in which we must parent. So, how can we make sure technology empowers our children and enhances their life experiences, instead of it turning them into zombies that can’t function without it?

The Answer Is Time Management & Intentionality

Limiting the time our children spend with screens in front of their faces is important. Excessive screen time not only leaves children looking and acting like those zombies we dread, but it takes away from so many other activities they need to participate in in order to fully grow and develop. Reading, active play, speaking and communicating with others are all extremely important activities that are hindered by excessive screen time.

But beyond the screen, we also need to think about their play time. What kind of toys are they playing with? Do they have a lot of bells and whistles? Do they use batteries? The less a toy does, the better it is for their development! Take a moment and think about how your child plays. Does he or she KNOW how to play? If you stick them outside will they entertain themselves?

I have to check myself often. My kids have so much access to technology, that I have to intentionally create time and activities in which they will use their imaginations. A couple of weeks ago, we were out in our front yard visiting with neighbors. The girls were looking for something to do and my first thought was “hey, let me go bring them some toys for them to play outside.” And then I stopped myself. Why not let them flex those imagination muscles? So, we set up an outdoor kitchen and I picked up a couple of leaves and told my daughter to cook some chicken with it. Next thing I know, she is running through the yard looking for all kinds of “food” to cook in her new play kitchen. It was amazing!

My Three Rules For Better Technology Usage:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
    The first step is actually doing some simple research on a show, app, toy or video game. Watch it or play it for yourself first! You need to decide if there is any educational value in what they are watching and whether they are learning inappropriate behaviors from the show or whether it goes against your family values. Just because something is made “for children” does not mean the content is great for them. If you find that your child is behaving a certain way, maybe whining, screaming, kicking and punching, it may very well be something they are watching or playing with.
  2. CONSTANT INTERACTION
    The second step is to interact with your child before, during, and/or after his or her time with a tech gadget. Children learn the most from interpersonal interaction! So, something as simple as having a conversation about what they are watching or playing will really help cement what they have learned. Describe what is happening (especially for younger children), explain things that seem to be too complicated for them, and ask open-ended questions. Taking the 5 to 10 minutes to do this will really make such a difference!
  3. BRING TECHNOLOGY TO LIFE
    The third and final piece is to bring some of these experiences to life! Try to plan activities or outings that go along with a show or game that your child really enjoys. Is your child playing a literacy game? Well, create some literacy games to play at home! Does your child love a particular show or movie? Pretend to be the characters from said show or movie, play a memory game with those characters on it, draw a comic strip based on them, etc. For some great hands-on activities that you can adapt to your child’s interests, be sure to follow us on Pinterest!

Technology can be great if it is purposeful and intentional. There are many educational shows, apps (like Spanish Safari), and video games that can open up a whole new world of learning and possibilities for your kids. Children can learn literacy and math skills, see places they have never seen, practice a new language, and even learn decision making and empathy from some of these well-made products. However, this will not happen by just passively watching television or playing video games for hours on end.

As parents, we are all trying to do the best for our kids.  Let’s not fear our tech world or just be passive observers. Make it work for you and your family! Set boundaries on technology and encourage them to explore, learn, and be active!

What about you? How do you make tech gadgets work for your family? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Related Reading:
*HealthyChildren.org
*Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
*American Academy of Pediatrics 

 

All About Bugs! Awesome Activities For Young Language Learners (Printables Included!)

Version 2

 

Experience is the best teacher. The more children hear, see and do; the more they will learn. One of the best ways to teach language is to create engaging and fun experiences in which children can use all of their five senses.

When preparing activities for my young students, I love working with themes! They are a great guide for the activities and books you choose. It’s also very fun when you can change the learning environment to go along with the theme.

Since Learn Safari’s first project is focused on learning Spanish, all the activities are prepared in English and Spanish. However, these activities can be easily prepared to work with your target language.

Theme: Bugs

Let’s face it. Kids love bugs! They are interesting, readily available for observation (just step outside), and they provide so many opportunities for learning.

Books

There are a lot of wonderful books about bugs! Two of our favorites are The hungry Caterpillar (La Oruga muy Hambrienta) and the Grouchy Ladybug (La Mariquita Gruñona), both by Eric Carle.

I have these books in both English and Spanish. For language learners, it is important to read the same book several times. Children love repetition and they love knowing what is going to happen next in the story. Feel free to read the book of your choosing every day for a few days.

You can actually find these books read out loud on Youtube. Although nothing beats having children hold and page through the physical book, it is very fun if they can also see it on video! It also  provides a change of pace for them (and a break for your tired voice). This is very convenient for parents trying to use OPOL (one parent, one language) or those who are introducing children to a language that they do not yet master.

Reading non-fiction books is also very important for learning. Many children have no exposure to non-fiction books prior to kindergarten and I have consulted with Teachers who say this is a problem. I always try to include them into my lessons and I find that children really start getting into them.  La Vida de Una Mariposa, by Dona Rice is a great non-fiction reader on the life cycle of a butterfly.

Memory Game

Memory is a great vocabulary building game! You can make two copies of this printable in order to play the game. The vocabulary includes Oruga (caterpillar), Mariposa (butterflies), colors, and sizes.

Comparing Caterpillars

Use the caterpillar printable to compare and contrast the caterpillars. The vocabulary used includes larga (long), corta (short) grande (big), pequeña (small), gorda (fat), and flaca (skinny). Remember, the word for caterpillar, orguga, is femenine, which is why all of the adjectives end in ‘a’, but if you were to talk about masculine nouns, you would change the words to an ‘o’. E.g. Un pájaro gordo (a fat bird).

After you have talked about the caterpillars, find other things in your environment that you can describe using the same adjectives and compare and contrast them to the caterpillars.

Color Butterflies

Use the butterfly printable we talked about above to practice colors in Spanish. The colors are written right on the cards. Ask children to find other items in the same color or ask them to draw their own butterflies using the colors you call out.

Veo Veo

Basically, this is a game of I spy. You are supposed to say “Veo veo un…(fill in blank with a color, or noun.”  The The Pleasantest Thing is a website that actually has a great The Very Hungry Caterpillar I Spy Activity that you can use. We have a list of the vocabulary in Spanish that you can pair with it in order to turn it into a fun Spanish language activity.

Bug Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of different bugs and go outside with magnifying glasses in order to search for them. This is a great time for exploration! Nature and language are two things that kids need to discover through experience and this activity is sure to bring on a lot of opportunities for conversation.

Venn Diagrams

For those children who are a bit older and have greater grasp of language, Venn Diagrams are a great activity in which you can draw out rich language and scaffold new vocabulary. Compare and contrast two different types of bugs (For example, mariquitas (ladybugs) and hormigas (ants). You can do this activity one on one with children or you can do it with a group of children on a big dry-erase board or sheet of paper. It’s great to see how they can brainstorm collectively.

Remember, learning language is about communication and the best way to get children (and people of all ages) communicating is to provide them with reasons and opportunities.

Do you have any fun bug-related (or not) activities to help with language development? Share them with us in the comments below!

Don’t forget to follow @learnsafari on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for great info and ideas on Spanish language learning.

Read To Your Child Out Loud: Helpful Tips For Starting Today

Photo By: Keli Garcia Allen

Photo By: Keli Garcia Allen

Every year on February 24th we celebrate World Read Aloud Day, an initiative by LitWorld, a literacy non-profit that advocates internationally for every child’s right to literacy. People from every corner of the world will get together at home, school, and work in order to share stories and encourage a global community of readers.

As a mother, teacher and book-lover, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading! Children who read are children who think and children who think become adults who think!

Through books we learn about different places and cultures, but we also learn language. Research shows that reading out loud to children is the single most important thing we can do as parents to ensure their educational success. When children are read to, and when they read out loud, they get exposure to vocabulary, language structure and pronunciation. We are also encouraging them to be life-long readers and learners. Children who read 20 minutes a day are exposed to around 1.8 million words a year! 

If you are the parent of a multi-lingual child, reading makes a huge difference in helping them learn a minority language or helping them practice a majority language with which they are having trouble.

Little Caperpiller
So, what does reading with children of different age levels look like? Here are some tips and tricks I have gathered throughout my teaching experience:

Infants

Mommas, from the time your baby is in your belly he or she will recognize your voice and will love to hear it! Once babies are born, they mimic your language with their cries and more readily respond to your language. So yes mommas, even if you live somewhere that your language is the minority language, they know your language first!

Even when they are this young, it’s important to give them an environment where reading is promoted and appreciated. Let them have access to baby board books and soft books. I love books that are black and white to really stimulate their vision. However, unlike older kids, babies prefer to look at your face as opposed to pictures in a book. So when you read them a story, keep that in mind! You can hold the book, but make sure they can see your face. You can also tell stories from memory (or make them up), sing songs, and rhymes! These are amazing for young children, because it develops their listening and pre-reading skills.

Toddlers  

Toddlers are a tricky group. They just want to be on the run and don’t want you to stop their fun! So, getting them to sit down and listen to a story is seemingly impossible. But, I do have a few tricks. Make sure you have books available to them at eye level. Display them in their room, play area, and anywhere you can around the house. It’s best to show the book covers, because it will attract their attention.

Sit down on the ground and start looking at a book. Don’t call them over, just wait for them to come to you. Their natural curiosity will get the best of them. You can start reading, but you might only get a single page in, and that’s okay. He or she will probably want to hold the book and then together you can talk about the pictures and point to different words. Just follow their lead! And just like with the infants, don’t forget rhymes and songs!

Preschoolers

The majority of preschoolers really love to read. They feel like they are growing up and want to learn as much as possible. This is especially true for those who have older siblings going to school! Sit down in a comfortable place and let them choose a story for you to read. Talk to them about the cover, the author, and the illustrator. Ask them what they think the story will be about. Then read the book! You can read the same book over and over and they will enjoy it every time.

Once they get to this level, there are many activities you can do with them to extend the learning. Ask them questions about the book (open-ended questions are best), ask them what will happen next, and even ask them to “read” the story to you. Afterwards, you can have them draw a picture about the book, tell you what their favorite part was, or do an activity covered in the book. For example, read Green Eggs and Ham and actually make green eggs and ham together! (Pro Tip: If you don’t want to use food dye, blend the eggs with Spinach before cooking. They might even eat it!)

School Age Children

Once children start kindergarten and first grade they will begin to learn how to read and they need to practice, practice, practice! For some of us, it may require no small amount of patience, because it can be such a grueling process (in some languages more than others). However, we need to keep it light and fun, because we don’t want kids to hate reading. After all, reading can be so much fun.

Choose books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level (many children’s books will tell you). You want to challenge your child, but not make it so difficult that it’s frustrating. Also, remember that even though children at this level are learning to read out loud, it’s still important and enjoyable for them to listen to you read. Let your child read a short book to you and then you read one. Once you get into chapter books, you can take turns reading chapters.

Older Students

Once students are older, we often leave them to read on their own, which is great, but it’s not enough! (Especially if they do not enjoy reading). It’s still important for them to read out loud every day, just to make sure all of their skills are up to par. They may be much more independent at this age, but we want to continue to challenge them and make sure they are not having any struggles that we don’t know about.

They can read from their school materials, but I would encourage it to be a fun read or a poem from a book that has nothing to do with school. You can read current events to each other in order to keep up with world news. Something else you can do is choose a book and form a book club of sorts as a family. It can really be a great way to connect with your teen and get a glimpse into their way of thinking (which is super challenging at this age)!

Learn Safari supports the World Read Aloud Day movement! We hope that you do too. What book will you read out loud today?

What does reading look like in your family? Do you have any tips or tricks that you like to use? What about you bi-lingual and multi-lingual families, how does reading help with your language goals? I would love to hear from all of you in the comments!

Besos,

Keli Garcia Allen
Lead Spanish Teacher | Learn Safari
[email protected]