French Language Resources for Young Children is a post by contributing writer Michelle of Raising Cajuns.
When we decided homeschooling would be best for our oldest child, it took a while for me to actually pull her out of school, because we have some wonderful public school French immersion programs here. I could do a lot of things with her, but I could not come close to replicating French immersion in our home. Sure, we had French speaking grandparents and I remembered a little from all of my years of French in school, but I feared she would lose all that she had learned.
Eventually, I decided that what we could add to her life weighed more than what we would be taking away, so we began our homeschooling journey. Three years later, does she remember all of that French she so effortlessly absorbed in school? Not much. But I’m convinced that her life is richer now anyway, and after lots of research and trial and error, we’ve found some easy ways to add French exposure to both of our children’s lives.
The best way for young children to learn a new language is through songs, games, and stories. I want my little ones to love learning a new language, and worksheets and formal language programs can be frustrating and tedious for young children. We’ve decided to skip those until our kids are older and can decide for themselves what language they’d like to learn and what program might suit them best. For now, my goal is to create interest and a foundational vocabulary in the language spoken by our family and in our community. The following are a few of the resources that we’ve discovered and used along the way.
French Language Resources for Young Children
Hop, Skip, & Sing in French – We love this CD, although I know some people have complained that these are not native speakers and the accents might not always be perfect in the recording. I can live with that. My children sing the songs, act out the games, and learn French vocabulary in a fun, painless, and informal manner. Exactly what I wanted. (The CD is not always available on Amazon, but you can also find it through McGraw-Hill.)
For those of you interested in the Muzzy BBC French program, you can try out their 3D animation makeover on YouTube to see if it’s right for you and your family. Also, check your library for copies of the DVD program to borrow. I cannot personally recommend this program, as I’m not interested in anything this intensive yet, but it looks ok if this is something you might be interested in. It is immersion-based, and you can do an online-only version of the program.
Music – Our favorite music CDs are Songs in French for Children and French Playground. You might be surprised by how much kids can pick up just by listening in the background. And you’ll love hearing them singing some of the tunes around the house. Check your library’s children’s section for French CDs to try a few before you buy.
Picture Books – Mom or Dad will need to brush up a bit on their French for this one, but if you choose some simple childhood favorites, this is a fun way to learn a new language. Our library has lots of French books, because we have immersion programs in our schools, but if yours does not, try to select picture books your child is already familiar with. Some of our favorites (available in French) are The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Books with repetition and simple language are usually the easiest to start with.
Games – A favorite game in our house is Bataille. Basically, this card game is war, but whenever we have a war, we shout “Bataille!” My kids love it, and it’s a favorite to play with the great-grandparents during hurricanes or just a rainy day at home. You can also play the French version of Red Light, Green Light, in which the caller turns his back, counts, “Un, deux, trois,” then turns and shouts, “Soleil!” as everyone freezes. It’s a quick and easy way for even the youngest children to learn the first three numbers and the word for sun. You can search for other examples of games French children play on YouTube.
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