Resources for Raising a Bilingual Child

As you know I have an interest in families who are raising bilingual children. I have blogged about this and want to get a dialogue going among parents so we can share resources. I just got a note from a mom of 2 year old Katerina who speaks both English and Spanish. Katerina’s mom offered the following ideas for books and TV shows that have been helpful in immersing Katerina in Spanish:

“Katerina is still speaking two languages.  I find myself trying to stay disciplined about speaking to her in Spanish because she will sometimes speak back to me in English.  She has become a little bored with a lot of the Spanish books we have.  She’s more interested in stories.  She loves Dr. Seuss so I found some in Spanish at Barnes and Noble.  Some wording was changed so as not to compromise the rhyme and rhythm.  I also recently purchased the following books in Spanish for her which are translations as well; Leo, the Late Bloomer (Leo, el retono tardio) by Robert Kraus and My Mom ( Mi Mama) by Anthony Browne.  She enjoys them all. 
Also, she loves Dora the Explorer.  There are a lot of Spanish books about Dora and she eats them up.  On Saturday morning there are Spanish cartoons on Univision…Diego and Dora are on there as well as are other shows like Plaza Sesamo, the Latino version of Sesame Street.  I like to sit with her and talk to her about the show as it plays and ask her questions.  These cartoons are pretty interactive so it lends itself to dialogue, especially Dora and Diego.”
Thanks to Katerina’s mom for those helpful suggestions. Mom is doing just what she should be to encourage language development by sitting WITH her daughter as she watches the shows and interact with her in response to the content. Her daughter will get much more language learning out of this method than just sitting in front of the TV.
Keep the suggestions and comments coming. Parents want to know where you can get good books, music and DVD’s in different languages.
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Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Bilingual, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Toddler | Leave a comment

Speech Therapy Game for the “R” Sound

Chocolate Fix by ThinkfunI always play  with toys or games when I work with children so they forget that they are doing “work!” It occurred to me the other day that “Chocolate Fix” by ThinkFun is a great game for practicing the “R” sound. I have blogged on this game before because kids and adults like it. Using a puzzle of spacial clues to solve, the player has to put 9 chocolates in order for the customer. Just the language used to role-play, asking the customer what he wants, and saying, “Your order is ready!” is full of the “R” sound. Each chocolate is dark, light or pink in the shapes of circle or round, triangle and square. Use the game as a carryover activity or suggest parents play it to reinforce the sound you are working on.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Articulation, Elementary School Age, Games, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Smallest ABC Chart

Yesterday I treated myself to “Holiday Art Trail” which was a tour of local artists in their galleries. I visited Dalton Ghetti for a second time and was equally amazed at his work. 

Dalton carves sculptures in the graphite at the end of a pencil. To see his work is to be amazed that this man can sculpt an old boot, screw, a chain a hammer and even the letters of the alphabet with just a sewing needle and a razor blade! Gifted with amazing calm and eyesight, he doesn’t use a magnifying glass and told us about controling his breathing to sculpt in rhythm with his heartbeats.

One of his most fascinating works is 26 ordinary, well-used pencils lined up with the letters of the alphabet carved into the end of each pencil. Check out this NY Times article that talks about the 2 1/2 years it took him to complete this project. He sells postcards of the alphabet which would be a great picure for a child’s room. Unfortunately I can’t give you a website because Dalton told me he doesn’t use a computer!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds | Leave a comment

How To Raise A Bilingual Child-7 Steps

7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual ChildMany parents of newborns ask me about the best way to raise their child to be bilingual. Some parents ofr spouses speak a second language,  have relatives or a nanny available to talk to their child in another language. There are many options and ways to expose your child to a second language and help them become proficient in it. It takes time and commitment but is worth it.

 A helpful resource for families considering raising a bilingual child is the newly released 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner, M.D. A developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Tufts, Dr. Steiner grew up speaking four languages and her Swiss husband five languages. Her personal experience raising her two children to be bilingual as well as dealing with bilingual families in her practice make this guide especially helpful.

She deals with the benefits of raising a bilingual child, how to do it, common myths, dealing with predictable obstacles, and how to teach your child to read and write in another language. Resources at the end include websites that offer educational activities, podcasts, encyclopedias, and books in a second language.

Her 7 steps are:

1)      Establish the right foundational understanding of bilingualism by (a) understanding what’s happening in your child’s very adaptable brain and (b) the myths related to learning multiple languages early

2)      Be intentional about setting expectations and goals

3)      Realize that success is associated with your being an effective coach to your child and knowing what that entails

4)      With the help of simple templates, build out an action plan that will organize your “intentionality”

5)      Understand predictable obstacles and have strategies to deal with them

6)      Know how your success in this endeavor proceeds in the dimensions of both reading and writing

7)      Finally adapting to your child’s schooling so that your efforts towards bilingualism are reinforced Let me know in the comments below if you have any other resources to share with parents embarking on this journey!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Bilingual, Birth-3 year-olds | 1 Comment

Taking Time to Talk with Toddlers

In the midst of writing reviews and my list of best kids’ toys for Holiday giving, I am reminded that speech and language skills can be enhanced in any setting. 

I volunteered to entertain 2 year-old Will while his mom and aunt hit the stores after Thanksgiving day. We had a marvelous time at Banana Republic. I was instructed to “sit down” in front of the jewelry case as he examined all the bracelets, as we described them, tried them on, explored the different openings and slid them back on the manikin’s arm. Then we proceeded to the dressing room where he was thrilled to see himself three times in the full-length mirrors! Naturally he had more fun exploring the toy store before we went to the clothing store but there was still a lot to have fun with. 

During the business of the holidays, don’t forget to take the time to chat with your toddler about what he is seeing and wanting to look at while he is wheeled around in that shopping cart!

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Turn Off the TV When Toddlers Are Around—Could Impact Language Learning

Recent research, by Daniel Anderson, professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, looked at the impact of background TV while toddlers were playing. 50 kids aged 1 to 3 were observed for an hour of play, half in silence and half with “Jeopardy” playing in the background. During the TV-free half hour, researchers observed signs of the toddlers being focused on learning, “The child gets an intent look on their face, they lean into the toy, their extraneous body movements decrease. When they’re in that state, they’re much more likely to learn” according to Anderson.

In contrast, when “Jeopardy” was on in the background, researchers found that kids played only half as long as when they had a quiet environment for play. They occasionally glanced at the TV, were less focused in play and visibly less calm.

Since the statistics tell us that in the average home, the TV is often left on, providing “background noise” interrupting focused learning in our toddlers, as parents we need to monitor the on-off switch.  Bringing your baby or toddler into the TV room to spend time while you watch a show doesn’t provide the best environment for learning.  Take the time to be the “commentator” while they play, talking about the features of the toy they choose, or let them entertain themselves in quiet.


Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Creative Play Forts for Kids

eebee play matAfter raising three boys and just spending the holidays with preschoolers, I am reminded again of how much fun a fort can be! It brought back memories as my oldest son grabbed the pillows off the couch and made a tunnel for 2 year-old Will, much to his delight. A tunnel, tent, fort or castle—no matter what you call it—a kid sized abode becomes a place to hide, sleep, peek out and pretend. I wanted to share some of my favorite forts, old and new, to create a land of fantasy, and bring on the giggles.

Eebee Playmat: Babies can crawl across the entertaining panels or get their older siblings to attach the pieces to make a house. The mirror, window, eebee face, cut-outs and peek-a-boo curtain maintain the interest of little ones.

Yookidoo Play Hut: This kid hut made Parents and Parenting Magazines’ list of top toys of the year. Sturdy, yet easily collapsible, it provides fun inside and out. With kid-sized openings for coming and going, and shape sorting, spinning and ball play on the exterior, kids are entertained on all sides.

Circo Kid’s Frog Play Tent from Target: Enter through the frog’s wide mouth, step across his orange tongue and you can zip yourself in to this hideaway. Easy to assemble, this fort is most like a tent with four collapsible tubes to support the frog. It breaks down to fit into a compact carrying bag. Big enough to hold some friends it measures 35” high and 71” in diameter. The price is right at around $20.


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Build Speech Through Creative Play–Infantino Playtime Activity Center

Infantino Playtime Activity CenterEight-month-old Caroline confirmed my excitement over the Infantino Playtime Activity Center.

This pyramid of fun has four flat sides of entertainment–a mirror in the cat’s face, crinkly bugs to uncover under textured flaps, a jingle fish to swat in his fishbowl and two birds to settle into their nest. Each side is angled just right for tummy time or a sitting or crawling baby. 

Moms love the portability of this toy as you unzip the velcro and flatten the pyramid to stash in your diaper bag. Perfect for an airplane ride or family visit over the holidays.

Tell Grandma to add this to her Christmas list!

For my full review see Parents Choice 2008 toy awards.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Soft Dolls for Kid’s Creative Play and Speech

Children's creative play with blah blah dollsTwo Year-old Will introduced me to Blabla dolls today. He was my “shopping buddy” as we visited one of my favorite stores, Airlie Moon, in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. We had talked about how we would point to what we like instead of touching it and I thought that my grandmothering skills were working. I looked away for a moment and found Will inspecting these delightful dolls and then next thing I knew, he was hugging two of   his chest!

They are delightfully cushy, bendable and engaging with whimsical kid colors.  Grabbable and huggable, these dolls and animals are ready for kid’s creative play. Minus batteries, noises and lights, these open-ended toys are ready for your child to create the action.

Check out their website to see the fascinating story behind the company. Two long-time friends traveled to Peru and discovered entire villages of expert knitters who had been knitting for generations. They decided to use their creative talents to design products, including dolls.

One of the friends,Flo, grew up in a creative family in a chateau in France with “no TV or washing machine…just a grand piano and lots of books.” After studying art in Europe and having a career in design she started to design for Blabla.  I love to see the origin of creativity. She probably made her own fun as a child and is now designing kids dolls with just enough flare to spark a child’s imagination.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Saving Money on Fun Toys

With the current economic situation, I perk up to clever ways for moms and dads to get toys or creative play items for less. 

Over the weekend we ate dinner at 4 year-old Piper and 2 year-old Sam’s house (with their parents of course). Shortly after we arrived, Piper called to me, “Mr. Cherry, I want to show you my room.” We went upstairs to a cozy little girl’s room and she immediately turned off her light and switched on her new flashlight. She had a wonderful time flashing it around in the dark, showing me the highlights of her room.

Mom explained that they got the flashlight at the town’s recycle center that day. There is always a pile of free toys to take. This family brings in the toys they no longer use and “trades” them in for a “new” treasure to take home. What a great creative toy a flashlight is. You can read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and then have a pretend bear hunt through the house–with the flashlight of course. Go under the covers at night and read a book with the flashlight–a first camping experience without the bugs.

What ideas do you have to save money on toys and kid’s items? Share in the comment below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Toys | Leave a comment