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How to read a French book to your child {for the non-native parent}

29.4.15 1 comments
Recently, I added a new dimension to our daycare story-time - French-only books. Reading to your child in a second language is pretty similar to reading in your native language, and reading to a group can be fun because it allows for silly exchanges with and between the kids. 

While reading (in our case), non-English books can make you feel self-conscious, there's really nothing to it! If anything it will take you out of your comfort zone, and encourage your child to learn new words.
So how does a non-native speaker read and teach kids French (or any other language)? 

Here are 7 simple tips on the hows of reading to your child in French:
1. help your child choose a book with simple text and one you will enjoy
2. find your handy dandy French-English dictionary -if needed or jot down unfamiliar words on a sticky before you begin 
3. let your child guide you through the story 
4. ask questions about the story, characters, sequence of events
5. use props or find innovative ways to share the story
6. read/share the same story a few times 
7. do it again and again and again

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6 ways to encourage language & speech development

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I love watching little people play. I recently learned something, I wish I knew years ago, children are their own masters. While they may not have the ability to communicate (on our level), or work out their frustrations without tears - they are pretty awesome at connecting with the world and learning incredible skills that we take for granted. One of those skills is language and speech development. 
Here are some ways that you can help your child's speech, language and communication development:

Start slow & keep it simple

Routine is everything to a child, especially when it comes to communication.  Diaper time, bath time, at meals, dressing or undressing, are the most obvious because we do these things every day. These moments are great for learning vocabulary relating to the particular routine (ie, bath time = learning about body parts etc).

Maintain eye contact & proximity
Due to busy schedules and long to-do lists, it can be so hard to connect with the kids on the most basic level. While we are likely to boast about our multi-tasking skills, communication (especially with children), should never become an area where we "master" these skills.
Knowing that my preschooler understands complex instructions, I often shout instructions from another room (ie. please put your toys away...go wash your hands and get ready to eat..."
Slowing down our days is so important...this means getting down to the child's level (making eye-contact) and speaking slowly. This helps you and the child simultaneously: you from getting frustrated when child does not follow instructions, and the child, by keeping him/her focused on your message.

Simplify Toys & rotate if possible
Children learn through play. Therefore if play is complicated or distracting, your effort in teaching your child can and will be counter-productive. 
They don't have to be the most expensive, or the most popular on the market, but toys should have a purpose.  They should help your child navigate and learn. It's also a good idea to rotate toys so that kids will not get bored. 
This means that:
  1. brightly colored plastics, polyester, noisy toys that flash and blink rarely encourage children to play/create. They simply "do", which means that your child is not doing.
  2. baby equipment that push precocious development and videos that claimed to make your child brighter or more independent do not allow for serious play-based learning or enhance communication development. 
  3. toys that do not allow open-ended play limits a child's imagination, therefore, inhibits language development.
Stand back
I often watch parents as their children play. One of the things that I have noticed is the need for them to "encourage" the child to perform a specific task or activity (this is related to open-free play, not structured activities). Personally, I find it obtrusive.
I know it seems strange that speaking less could help kids in their language and communication development, but hear me out! When children are at play, especially with other children, there is often little need for us to get involved. Your job is to facilitate, ensure safety and redirect if conflict arises. 
By staying silent and allowing kids to engage in true play with their peers, you are forcing your child to learn how to use language and other non-verbal cues to navigate play.
  
Force them to use their words

My preshooler's calculator is often a train; his water bottle, a big tower, and a box of crayons becomes yummy french fries. He's got quite the imagination. 
have observed on few occasions that a child will pick up a certain object (a ball for example) and a parent will say "...are you going to kick the ball?" In order to assist in language development, one could ask "what do you have there?" However even this can be an interesting exchange between parent and child because perhaps in the child's imagination, the "ball" is in fact a spaceship or an giant bubble. 

In addition,  forcing your child to communicate is a great way to introduce or teach a new language. In my home we use 3 languages. This means that my kids can expect to hear stories, or instructions in all 3. This does not confuse them; it's actually great for brain development. 

How can you achieve this?
  • Force your child to ask for things. Don't make it frustrating, but to allow free access to things - food (specific types of foods too); toys, needing help to do certain tasks...anything and everything. 
  • Be silly. Call things by the wrong names, and let your child correct you. If he can't find the words, help him out, but do this a few times and you will be amazed that he has been paying attention.
  • At story-time ask younger children to point to a picture (after you have told him what it is). An older child can help to finish a story. Interestingly, if you have read the book enough a child might know it by heart, so you can play the silly game there too (point to the yellow cat and say the brown cow, for example...).
Mix it up
Some kids can count, know the alphabet and colours (all from memory), but it doesn't mean much for your child's actual development.  Story-telling, drumming, nature walks, shopping, the arts, free play (to name a few) are great ways to help kids express themselves. Learning does not have to be a planned activity, just let it flow. 

In short, communication is vital in all areas of life. The developing child is amazing when it comes to navigating the land of words, gestures, sights and sounds. There are many ways that we can encourage speech and language development in children. Some obvious things like shutting off TVs, and not putting iPhones and Tablets into the hands of our little ones too soon are an obvious. 

We can also talk to other parents (not the competitive ones whose kids can do everything better than yours), but people who are humbled about childhood development, and exchange concerns and ideas. If language/speech development is an issue of serious concern, it is never too late to connect with a specialist in that field.

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That's one bad traffic jam

28.4.15 4 comments


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Baking day:sweet birds nests

27.4.15 1 comments
Baking day has changed for us in the past few weeks. The kids don't want to be in the kitchen, they want to be outside. I'm okay with that!
This "baking" session was inspired by spring
For the treat, I wanted to do something that wasn't too permanent...does that sound strange? What I mean is, I wanted to leave the option of allowing the kids to skip the sweets altogether if they wanted. So I used Baby Mum Mums, which is pretty kid-friendly. For the nests, I used chow mein noodles mixed with homemade icing, and of course I topped with Robins' eggs (purchased at the Drug store).
Nothing fancy, but pretty sweet!

How do  you like your eggs?


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Banana smoothie for the babies or How I'm fattening up my toddler

25.4.15 1 comments
Z is not gaining a lot of weight, in fact she lost 2 pounds. On our last visit to the clinic we were advised to fatten her up with the things that she loves. That's pretty easy, because she loves to eat many foods- good ones too! 
Thus began my smoothie a day quest. Z loves smoothies, so I just load everything I can find into them. When daycare is closed, we drop in dollops of peanut butter- cause nothing fattens you up like pb :)

In the past 2 weeks she has had more greens (spinach, kale) than in the whole month of "eating". Here's our latest fave smoothie. I have to stop drinking them because while they are great for her, and the other little ones,  they are way  too fattening for me. Darn it!


Ingredients
1 ripe banana  (peeled)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon flaxseeds
1 cup almond milk - I used 3% for the babies
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon honey 

Directions
Cut and freeze banana
Add sunflower seeds and flaxseeds to a small bowl and cover with water. Let sit at room temperature overnight.
Drain seeds and transfer to a blender. Add frozen banana, milk of choice, turmeric, and honey
Blend until smooth.

Serve to little ones who will love you forever---or until it's done.

Don't forget to check in our recipes section to see what else we have to share.



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