Raising Bilingual Children

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It’s no secret to those of you that know us that, ever since Olivia was born, we have been trying to raise her bilingually.
 
Throughout my pregnancy I was adamant on this (even before I was pregnant I wanted my children to learn other languages and be brought up bilingually if possible).

It’s been harder than anticipated – the truth is, when the foreign language isn’t your first language, it’s difficult to remind yourself to speak it at home, especially when your partner doesn’t also speak the same language!

Jamie has been an avid learner for a while now, however he considers me fluent (I don’t consider myself fluent, but, yes, I can speak French fairly well) and he is still learning. That hasn’t stopped us from attempting it though! Olivia actually has a very good French vocabulary, considering she’s 2!

So, for any parents who are wondering how they can also cultivate a language skill in their little one, these are the resources and techniques we have found most helpful:

 

1. Muzzy

Muzzy are a BBC resource on DVD that are specifically aimed at children. For the first 18 months of Olivia’s life, she wouldn’t watch the television (partly because she didn’t want to and partly because I didn’t want her to), but, from her being a few months old and able to sit in a bouncy chair or baby walker, she would watch Muzzy. If I needed a little break, to have a wee, a shower, a cup of tea, or food, I’d plonk her in front of Muzzy and felt ZERO guilt for sticking her in front of the TV, because she was learning.

2. Youtube

This has been a more recent discovery, since dreaded Peppa Pig made an entrance into our lives. I mitigate whatever hatred I feel towards that damned pig by letting Olivia watch it in French, and, FYI, Youtube hosts an hour long video with back to back episodes in French.

3. Songs

I have always sung to Olivia at nighttime, and I used to sing French songs to her more often. I simply googled the lyrics to our favourite Disney songs and sang them in French. I also learned the French lullaby ‘Alouette’ and that one is a particular favourite in our house!

She has also learned body parts by singing ‘tête, époules, genoux, pieds’ (head, shoulders knees and toes).

 

4. Animals/Teddies

On our morning walks to the childminder, Olivia would of course see lots of things outside that she had never seen before. Each time she discovered a new thing, I would teach her the word in French (only French – she would have plenty of time to learn the English word later!)

This evolved into using her teddies, as she has many animal teddies, and teaching her the words for the animal using each of these.

5. Flashcards

Olivia has a ‘My First French Words’ set of flashcards that we have used since she was 14 months old. These have probably been the most valuable resource! She is able to tell me most of the French words for the pictures on the Flashcards on request.

6. Bath books

She has had bath books since she was a tiny baby, and I would use these to tell her the names of the animals in French during bath time from her being that young age!

I bet you’re wondering how much she’s actually picked up…

Well, on 1 January 2018 when she was 18 months old, she could already say:

  • Kaka (poop)
  • Pipi (wee)
  • Bras (arm)
  • Bouche (mouth)
  • T’aime (love you)
  • Papa
  • Couche (nappy)
A month later, she could also say:
  • Arbre (tree)
  • Cochon (pig)
  • Chat (cat)
  • Pied (foot)
  • Bon nuit (goodnight)
  • Dents (teeth)
  • Papillon (butterfly)
Now,  she can say full sentences. Her entire list of French vocabulary is in italics below:
kaka, pipi, bras, mains, dents, pied, jambe, tête, bouche, époule, genoux, oreille, nez, je t’aime, bon nuit, bon matin, au revoir, bonjour, couche, arbre, fleur, orange, jus, cochon, mouton, vache, canard, grenouille, cheval, chat, chien, oiseau, souris, flocon de neige, pomme, banane, saucisse, pain, croissant, poissons, pâtes, glâces, manger, grande, blanc, rouge, vert, papillon, s’il vous plait, merci beaucoup, trés bien, princesse, belle, petits amis, joyeux noël, à bientôt, ça va, je m’appelle Olivia, oui, non, 

un, deux, trois, quatre

 
Now she is 3 months away from turning three, and she recognises French words. She tells me that Cinderella is speaking French if I put the film on in French for her, and she tells me off for speaking French too!
It’s not quite what I wanted, but I’m proud of how much she’s come on and how clever she is! She will pick languages up easily at school, and I’ll continue doing what I can to teach her at home.
Have you ever taught your children another language? What did you find helpful?

How soon can I get my children involved in clubs and hobbies?

I could not wait to sign Olivia up to all kinds of clubs and lessons!

This weekend, she went to her first one – a local tots and mums dance club and she absolutely loved it. She is 2.

The club is aimed at children under the age of 2 and a half, and involves loads of props including sparkly fairy wands (anything sparkly is a win for Olivia), flags, pom poms, bean bags, a big colourful parachute, and teddy bears.

I’ve been looking at so many things that I want her to do. A little while ago at a fun day organised by our Grenadier Guards Welfare, she had the chance to ride a donkey. Her face was an absolute picture. I was excited because she was so excited. After that, I started looking at horse riding lessons for her. I did find one place close by that would take children aged 2 and up, but it was too far away for me before I was driving!

Once she hits 3, there are so many more things that she’ll be able to do! Horseriding is a must – she has a real affinity with animals and I wish I could properly convey how much she loved riding the donkey.

I’d also like to get her playing a musical instrument. For her birthday I bought her a toy grand piano (it is so cute and probably the only grand piano I will ever own). It has a little microphone with it which Olivia loves signing into, and so I think that the piano will be the best instrument to start off with.

I’m not sure on when is the best age to start a musical instrument, and it largely depends on the instrument itself. My stepdaughter asked us to find her a saxophone teacher – don’t ask me why! I have no idea why she wanted to learn the saxophone, however being only 8 years old I had a lot of difficulty finding someone who would teach her to play. Larger instruments that need to be held will mean that children have to be older to start to play. Some advice I was given was that they have lessons in smaller instruments of the same family first, e.g. the recorder or the flute!

I don’t know if Olivia will continue to enjoy playing the piano when she starts lessons, and I don’t really know when she can start! I’ve heard of 3 year olds having piano lessons but in a way I feel like that’s maybe too soon for formal lessons… Maybe I’ll review that when she gets to 3!

The last thing I want to get her into is boxing! Again, she can’t really do this yet, however she goes on a Monday evening with the childminder while her son does boxing classes and they’re great about letting the little ones run around and join in. Because she’s already familiar with the environment there, that’s something I really want to get her into! Not least because she loves giving me “high-fives” whilst wearing Daddy’s boxing gloves! Plus, I want to do it myself and I love the idea of boxing being a whole family activity. Kiera went to boxing a couple of times a week until recently and I know she absolutely loved it, and it’s possibly the best kind of fitness for anyone, adult or child!

Maybe I’m already exhibiting “pushy parent” behaviours, but you can make your own mind up about that! I don’t want to force her to do all of these things, but I’m just so excited to get Olivia involved in these things because not only will she enjoy them, but they’ll be hobbies for life and they’ll stand her in such good stead in the future. She’s already showing signs of being a performer and I want to nurture that, as well as her love of horses and how energetic she is!

These are all just ideas for now, and I’m enjoying the bonding time that we have on a Saturday morning doing our dancing club.

Have you taken your tot to any clubs or activities? How old were your children when they had their first music lessons?

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Mental Health Monday: 5 ways to cope with stress!

Stress!

The one thing we parents seem to have in abundance! Unfortunately, I haven’t yet discovered how to live a completely stress-free life, so instead, here are my top 5 tricks on how to cope with stress!

1. Copious amounts of tea

Ever heard the saying that none of the world’s problems cannot be solved with tea? Well, I am a firm believer! Particularly if your problems are stress-related. I know it can be hard to drink a hot drink while it’s still hot these days, but make sure you grab the opportunity when it presents itself! There’s not much else that’s better than enjoying a hot, caffeinated drink and putting your feet up for a minute while you do!

2. Play dough

This may sound daft, but this is ridiculously stress-relieving. Come on, mummies, whose kiddies do not have play dough lying around somewhere? (If not, you can check out the way to make your own here!)

If they do, and if the colours aren’t all mushed up together in some form of absolute ANARCHY, then I seriously recommend just twiddling it for a while and feeling all of your stress leaving your body as you do!

3. Yoga

Again, I know that finding time is difficult, but it could actually be the best thing you do that day to get out of the house and going to a yoga class! If not, you could easily pull up a youtube tutorial for some yoga breathing exercises. It’s incredibly calming and whenever I’ve done it, I LITERALLY feel lighter having done so. You can physically feel the tension being lifted and the positivity seeping back into where it used to be, once upon a time.

4. Classical music

I know what you’re thinking. “She’s gone mad”, “how old is she?” etc. etc.

But I am serious! Music defines our emotions so much more than we think. If all you listen to is high tempo, upbeat pop music, you might feel happier but it’s still energetic and active. I’m not suggesting you listen to Bach, Mozart or Beethoven (I mean, you can if you want to), but just go onto Spotify, pop your headphones in, and stick on a classical playlist.

My favourite contemporary classical composer is Yiruma – a Japanese artist. His music is just hauntingly beautiful, and I always feel calm and relaxed when I listen to it.

This tip could probably apply to any music you find relaxes you, but if you haven’t tried it, I definitely recommend listening to a bit of pure piano magic.

5. Scream into a pillow

You really do think I’m mad now, don’t you? But I’m serious… In the same way that sometimes you need a good old cry to just get it out of your system, sometimes releasing all of that pent-up anger, upset and frustration is best done by burying your face in a pillow, and screaming loudly. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel afterwards!

So there you have it, my 5 TOP TIPS to cope with stress, and make life just a little bit more manageable!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips that you swear by to keep your cool!

Mummies Waiting

Mental Health Monday: PND and bonding

Having trouble bonding with your newborn isn’t something limited to those experiencing PND – it actually happens to most mums after giving birth, and is a common part of the “baby blues”. There’s an expectation that everything will be wonderful and magical, but in actual fact your body has gone through an immensely traumatic experience, and for the next 2 or 3 months you will be sleep deprived beyond belief. It’s no wonder that sometimes the bonding isn’t automatic, or just takes a little longer.

Immediately after I gave birth to my daughter she was placed on my tummy for skin-to-skin, recommended to keep baby warm and to benefit baby straight after leaving the security of the womb. She stayed there for all of 10 seconds before I had to ask someone to move her. I had been throwing up throughout labour and was still being sick into a paper bowl, shaking too much to hold her properly.
After that I didn’t hold her very much, except when she was being fed. I didn’t know what I was doing with her. It was the single most daunting experience of my life that first day in the hospital – a midwife huffily “helped” to latch her on to me, told me I was doing things wrong and fixed them for me, not advising me but just doing it for me because I seemed so incapable. Even nappy-changing was a struggle, and with 4 younger siblings that was something I’d done my fair share of in the past.
Around 2 or 3 weeks after she was born, my mother-in-law got back from her holiday to New York so we went to visit, driving from Kent to Essex. The drive wasn’t so bad, but when we got there, it was impossible to settle her to sleep. She just screamed, for hours, and I didn’t know what to do.
My husband and I drove around Corringham with her, hoping that the motion of the car would settle her, but, if anything, it made her worse. Usually, that would have done the trick. We started to suspect it was colic, something I’d never heard of, and, of course, that made me feel even more unprepared and inadequate to be a parent.
Don’t worry – this story gets better, I promise. That night I received the best advice I’ve ever been given, though I didn’t use it straight away. My mother-in-law asked if I’d tried singing to her, took Olivia, rocked her and sung a song her mum used to sing.
Poof!
Just like that, the screaming, crying baby was gone. She was asleep, and peaceful.

At first, I didn’t think it had anything to do with the singing. I thought my baby had had enough of me already in the first month of her life.
The next night, the outbursts started again, so I tried it, not holding out much hope that it would work.
But it did.
And not only that, but I cried tears of joy for the first time since she had been born. Partly due to the fact that I’d found something that would allow me some sleep for the foreseeable future, but mostly because for the first time I felt needed for something more than just milk. I felt like my baby loved me because she felt safe and secure enough in my arms for me to soothe her to sleep with a song.
I forgot that she had spent 9 months listening to me singing and talking from inside the womb. I forgot that she was already so familiar and comfortable with my voice that she would recognise it now that she was on the outside. I didn’t know that, at the same time as calming her, it would calm me, too.
So, if you’re one for singing in the shower, your baby has heard it and fallen in love with it already. Try it. Even if you’re not one for singing at all! Try singing to your baby and see if it has the same effect. You don’t have to be Mariah Carey or Beyonce… You just have to be you.
Your baby knows you and your voice better than anyone else in the world.

Monday Stumble Linky

How to entertain a toddler without spending a penny.

I am so excited about Christmas. The tree has gone up early, I seem to have bought pretty much everything. I’ve planned some Christmas activities for my little one for the month of December. But what do you do when you don’t want to give your toddler any new things to play with, because their toys are waiting in a cupboard to be wrapped, and you’re living off a budget because your money has either been spent, or is going towards all the food and other bits and pieces your money disappears on at this time of year? The weather is also not enticing me to spend much time outside, even with layers on!

I’ve been coming up with some free activities to do at home with my toddler who is a bit bored of her usual toys. She had fun, so I wanted to share these activities with you. Let me know if you try any of them and please share your ideas with us, as we can give them a go before Christmas!

Music time.
Ok, I get it, you’re probably thinking, why Charlotte, why would you want to add to the noise levels you’re already experiencing as a parent?! Well we quite enjoy trying to play some rhythms to songs. I put on some nursery rhymes and we’ll play some instruments, which I’ve separated from the rest of my daughter’s toys, for ‘music time’. If you don’t have any, get the ol pots and pans out with the wooden spoons and have a little sing song. You’re not in front of a judging panel, so who cares if you’re not Mariah Carey? We filled some empty plastic bottles with dry pasta, corn kernels, rice and buttons and used them as shakers. For extra safety you can put some tape round the lids. You could even do this to Christmas songs!

A teddy bear’s picnic.
If you go down to the woods today… Nope, no way… Not in this weather. So what better way to bring a bit of sunshine into your home than to lay out a blanket, sit the teddies round and enjoy a bit of make believe fun. This is when you realise just how vast your toddler’s soft toy collection is getting! My daughter doesn’t have a toy tea set or anything like that yet. It’s something I want to get when she’s a bit older, so what we used instead were some of her plastic bowls, plates and spoons. We even got some empty milk bottles she’s not really used. I put on some music and we had a lot of fun feeding the teddies at the picnic.

If you’re interested, this is the play list we used. I picked some old time classic children’s tunes:

Teddy Bear’s picnic- Bing Crosby
Fuzzy Wuzzy (wuz a bear) – Andrea McArdle
The Bee Song – Arthur Askey
Nellie the Elephant – Mandy Miller
Run rabbit run- Flanagan and Allen
The Sun Has Got His Hat On – Ambrose and his orchestra
How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? – Patti Page
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah – James Baskett

Play dough.
I knew my mum used to make this with me as a child, but I didn’t realise just how easy it is to make and from things that I had in my kitchen cupboard. If I did this again I would add the food colouring to the water, but we still had fun and what we got was more of a marble effect. It wasn’t deliberate but it didn’t bother us, we still had fun. With the amount of salt in the recipe, I kept an eye on my daughter to make sure she wasn’t eating it.

2 cups of plain flour,
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil,
1/2 a cup of salt,
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar,1 and a half cups of boiling water
And food colouring.

Mix the salt, flour and cream of tartar together in a bowl. Add the water, the food colouring and oil into the mixture and stir.

That’s it!

Road car mat.
This was probably the most time consuming activity for me to prepare. I used a piece of board I had lying around the house, but you could use a piece of cardboard. What I did was got out our permanent marker pens and drew some roads, a roundabout and some buildings onto the board. If you were arty, you might like to paint this on, use your imagination! A lot of people will have car mats already for their toddlers, but even if you have, your toddler might enjoy having a different place to drive their toy cars. You could put your house on there and ask your toddler to drive the car home. Now we have this ‘mat’, I’m able to re use it in the run up to Christmas.

These were the free activities I did with my toddler in a week. If you are looking for some fun, free activities to do and you didn’t have the pennies right now, I hope these give you some ideas. Christmas is always a time where we are made to feel as parents that we need to get our children lots of things, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to spoil your children. What I’m saying is that your toddler will be enjoying spending the time with you and won’t be worrying about the price tag.

Like I said, please share your ideas, we’d love to see and hear about them!