Looking for a creative flair to boost your child’s Italian? Here’s an idea! Load the kids up in the car and head to your favorite beach. Then, take some photos. Be sure to get a good variety. Get some of your child playing in the water, or digging in the sand. How about a close up of a seagull or some seashells? ...
When you get home, print out the pictures, glue them onto some brightly colored paper and write some simple sentences in Italian underneath. Now you have your own, unique story about your family’s adventure at their favorite beach!
Your child will love being the main character of this very special story, so be sure to read it together often. Remember, repetition is key when your child is exploring a foreign language. As long as the repetition is fun and engaging. (Meaning no drilling vocab words or conjugating verbs!)
For my photo book, I chose our trip to Mission Beach in San Diego, CA. This project was mainly for my youngest, who is still happily immersed in the world of picture books. We kept it simple – we were going for cute and home spun – and she loved helping me put it together. Once it was finished, we put it in the rotation of her bedtime stories and she has it practically memorized!
Once your child has become familiar with the vocabulary and phrases featured in your book, you can try throwing them into every day conversation. The next time you’re preparing for the beach, try saying Andiamo a metterci i costumi da bagno! – Let’s go put on our bathing suits! Be sure to hold up the bathing suit as you make the request. Children at this age learn concretely. They need to see the object as they hear the word. Keep repeating it as your child gets changed, even if you feel like a weird, malfunctioning robot. Gianna si mette il costume da bagno – Gianna puts on her bathing suit. This way, you’re associating an action with the phrase.
As a way to extend the learning, you can try playing spiaggia (beach) at home using your child’s stuffed animals or action figures. Start by reenacting some of the things you highlighted in your photo book. Comment on how cold the water is, or ask for help building a pretend sand castle.
Be repetitive, but playful and silly at the same time. And don’t be discouraged if your child uses English only as you play together. The important thing is that they’re listening to you. Listening is a receptive skill that is critical to learning a foreign language. Be persistent on your end, but don’t require Italian responses. That magical moment will soon arrive when you use Italian to tell your child to pick up their toys, and they actually respond! It’s truly a thrill, even if their response is in English. And even if it’s an annoyed Do I have to, Mom? You’ll be over the moon that they actually understood.
And for those of you who are beginners and learning along with your child, don’t be afraid to make errors! Yes, in a perfect world, your child would be fully immersed in a household whose members spoke exclusively in Italian from morning until bedtime. But full fluency doesn’t have to be the only goal here. Or at least not the immediate goal. It’s ok to start with baby steps. Just adding a few new words and phrases at a time is a great place to start!
Hope this has given you some fun ideas for incorporating more Italian into your summer. If you have questions or suggestions, or if you need help with translating, give me a shout!