Anyone with a toddler or preschooler knows how they can get sometimes. They latch onto something – a favorite show, a beloved stuffed animal or toy, a certain game or book – and they can’t think about anything else. It’s cute at first, but let’s face it. Cute can quickly disintegrate to irritating, especially when it’s non stop.
I’ve gone through the preschool phase 4 times now, and I’m pretty sure we’ve had all the obsessions. Princesses, Thomas the Train, the show Little Einsteins (remember that one?), the book Leo the Late Bloomer (one of my favorites, but it got to the point where I could recite it on demand anytime, anyplace, without even needing the book in hand)...
Though child number 4 isn’t quite a preschooler anymore (first grade, how did that happen!?), that phase is still very fresh on our minds. And she still has her obsessions, she’s just a little more reasonable about them. She did the princess thing, which wasn’t a surprised, given how girlie she is. When that faded, we were headed for a pretty serous fairy addiction. Then she suddenly took a major detour. Fairies were out, and outer space was the latest craze.
I actually found it refreshing. Even with 4 kids, we had somehow missed the outer space obsession. It was the perfect outlet for some creativity, imagination, science and … Italian? Seemed like a strange combination at first, but I got the idea to use all that outer space enthusiasm as the perfect vehicle for our Italian language exploration.
If we were going to play outer space all day, we would learn the Italian words for stars, moon and sky. If were pretending to take off in our rocket ship, we would do our countdown in Italian. For her space-themed birthday party, we made alien cupcakes, and we used our Italian color words as we decorated them. We also practiced the parts of the face as we put on the eyes and drew the mouth.
Unlike their older counterparts, preschoolers learn best through play. And it’s no different for foreign languages. You’re not teaching them the language, you’re exposing them to it. In a way that’s natural, fun and serves a social purpose. So if you’re little pirate wakes you out of a sound sleep and wants to start hunting for buried treasure at 6 in the morning, and he knows you’ve been calling it pirata all week, he’s likely to do the same. He won’t particularly care that’s he’s using Italian over English. He’ll just know that when he calls the game pirata, you suddenly seem a touch more enthusiastic.
So how do you best channel all that delicious preschool obsessiveness into some enriching Italian practice? Here are some ideas below to get you started.