Inside: 7 easy ways to help your child learn Italian.
There are a wealth of resources available to children learning Italian if you know where to look.
However, it’s important to note that not all resources carry the same weight and if you want to cement vocabulary into your little life one’s minds interactive activities are key.
We all learn and retain the most information if we are speaking or listening so where possible always prioritise these first.
Secondly, don’t overestimate the importance of context. You need your child to want to learn the language. The reasons you might give them will not necessarily be a motivator for them!
So be sure to teach them about Italy. If this is part of your heritage, explain where you’re from? Which festivals are celebrated there? What does everyone eat? Can you bake something or show them some YouTube videos of your town? Give them some idea why Italy is interesting and why it’s important to you that they learn. Don’t get hung up on the words. Curiosity creates motivation so keep this in mind.
Keeping up with your peers is of great importance to children of all ages.
So seek out an Italian playgroup in your area, ask on Facebook groups for your town. If you can’t find one think of setting up a monthly park meet-up for other Italian families.
Ask the staff at your nursery, school or Pre-school if they have any children who speak Italian at home. If so give the staff a little note to go in each child’s bag explaining you’re trying to help your child learn Italian and ask if they’d like to have a playdate.
Introduce a little bit of Italian culture at home. Here is a really way to make pizza with kids the Italian way.
Use the language at home
It sounds simple but the easiest way to increase exposure to Italian is to use it at home all the time.
If this is too much start with using the ‘Time and Place’ method where you decide a time or place such as at dinner or the school run where you will always speak Italian. This can be a less daunting way to ease into using the language and once your child becomes more familiar with it you can expand how many times or places you use it!
Reading in Italian
Try and gather a decent selection of Italian books new or second hand. You can buy these on Amazon very easily and some of your child’s favourite stories such as The Gruffalo are available in Italian.
Try and swap your evening bedtime story to an Italian book but also ask questions as you go through the story to give you more opportunities to use the language together.
Other great ways to increase the exposure to Italian with books is to have a little quiet corner they can go to at home with the books displayed. Even if they aren’t reading yet they will visualise the words of the story in Italian if you read to them in this language and eventually memorise it and tell themselves the story.
There are lots of audio Italian books for children, these are perfect for car journeys or quiet moments of the day.
Having the radio or music playing at home even for you to listen to increases their familiarity with Italian as well.
Our latest discovery is The Italian Experiment which has really captivated our children and has a lovely selection of stories with both text, video and audio.
When you’re busy and don’t have time to devote to such active learning YouTube can be a very useful tool.
Obviously, it’s best not to overuse it and to make sure you have your privacy settings set for your child’s age.
This is one of the best places to find songs and fun programmes. Switch your child’s favourite cartoon to Italian, such as Peppa Pig or Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.
To really help them with speaking using fun songs they can learn and repeat is really productive.
Our favourites are:
Don’t feel that language learning has to mean buying a large selection of new toys and materials. Whilst these can be useful it is possible to use what you have around you.
If you have a scrabble board at home play this together using only Italian words. Don’t worry about rules just try to encourage your child to be creative and use which words they can.
Snakes & ladders is also something most families have lying around or can find in a charity shop. This is perfect for using numbers so play this in Italian and practise counting and talking about moving a place forward or back. It’s all useful vocabulary and they won’t realise they are learning.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Start to notice which words your children use regularly and what they are interested in. Maybe it’s animals, maybe you have a budding fireman in the house? Write a list of words such as cat, dog, mouse, fire engine and create a word of the day system.
Every day my husband leaves out a new Italian word on the breakfast table, we find out what it means and go over it a bit each day in conversation. At the end of the week, we gather them all together and remind ourselves of what they are.
This is an easy, cheap way to increase the vocabulary your child has and it’s just a case of creating a new habit for all of you.
As you can see there are a variety of ways to help your child learn Italian. If you take up just 1 or 2 of these you’ll be well on your way to increase their confidence and desire to master this wonderful language.
About the author: Kristie Prada is an English writer married to a Milanese Italian man and together they are raising their two children bilingually. On her blog Mammaprada, she helps parents wishing to raise their children with languages and inspires others wishing to learn about authentic Italian travel and culture. Kristie is based in London, living parts of the year close to family on Lake Como and visiting the Italian mountains at every opportunity!