What do we have to do with AUSTRALIA??? Part 1

In short: Nothing. In more details: last month (April) we met a lovely elderly couple from Australia who we’d encountered on our honeymoon in Istanbul in 2011. Quite unusual.

I’ve taken  the opportunity of their visit to Hungary to introduce Australia to E. She loves planet Earth anyway. She already knows about continents (her favourite is Antarctica) so Australia will be fascinating for her. I hoped…

Map of Australia

As E. enjoys looking at maps and our big picture atlas I made a map colouring activity for her. I just printed a blank Australia map with the states drawn on it and after naming each states we coloured them one by one.

E. is practising her A
I also wrote AUSTRALIA below the map and E. traced my letters.

This Australian map puzzle was quite time-consuming to make but the result was beautiful and E. loved it. The link gives you a detailed description how to prepare it. In my version I laminated the pieces. As Queensland and Western Australia consist of 2 parts I sellotaped them together. Then I added sticky back velcro (bought them on sale in Auchan).

The background is a big blue cardboard

 

sticking

 

FINISHED!

I couldn’t buy a big enough cardboard to fit Tasmania in the right place. What a pity!

We can also use this puzzle map in the long run (I also plan to introduce her some cities as well as animals and famous sights. We’ll use this map to pin cities, animals and sights up on it and put it on the wall to display)

She has done the Australian puzzle map several occasions. Sometimes she even said the names of its states.

Painting the flag

As the puzzle map gave me a hard time we did not twist the flag project. I printed a blank Australian flag and painted it while we were talking about what is what on the flag
  1. The British Union Jack flag is in the upper left corner – noting Australia’s ties to Great Britain
  2. The Southern Cross constellation (5 stars) is on the right side of the flag. The constellation can be seen from everywhere in Australia
  3. The large, white, seven-pointed Commonwealth Star

Of course, we displayed our pieces  on our living-room door. You need to imaging the composition as I’ve forgotten to take a photo of it.

Work in progress
Let’s start!

Animals of Australia

First, I created flashcards of the most commonly known Australian animals. (See a printable at the end of the post)

Kangaroo                                         Duck-billed Platypus
Koala                                                Cassowary
Emu                                                  Brown snake
Wombat                                           Salt Water Crocodile
Dingo                                                Echidna
Tasmanian Devil                           Frilled Necked Lizard

E. has already heard about and seen a kangaroo in the zoo, and also seen pictures of koalas. She knows the (white) wombat from the video titled Red Rabbit, Green Gorilla. She is also familiar with the look of a crocodile or a snake as well as an ostrich, which can remind you of an emu. So first, I showed her 7 flashcards out of the 12.

As most of the animals had a familiar look I decided to add some information to the flashcards on their backs.

We had a look at Australia in our Picture Atlas Of The World.

As on this map flora and fauna is depicted, I showed E. an animal, I said its name and  she needed to find it on the map. When she found it we placed the flashcard on the map and I told her some interesting information (1 or 2 pieces) about the animal (eating habit, place of living, offspring etc.)
She was laughing at the platypus and found the Tasmanian Devil cute.

When we finished with this she wanted to see them in real life so we sat down in front of youtube and watched a few interesting videos. (I had prepared for this request so we didn’t need to waste time with searching for them)

The Cow Goes Moo – Kangaroo for Kids

Koala-la-la-la

Bindi and Robert Irwin feature huge salt-water crocodile

Platypus: Animals for Children

E. was fascinated by the platypus, mainly its webbed feet. So we needed to draw a Mommy and Baby platypus webbed “feet”

We’ll have a look at the other animals later.

In the next part:

E.’s 2nd test of her English; the lovely time in Szentendre we spent together with our Australian friends (M. and B.). – You can read about E.’s 1st real life test here
E. got some sweet presents (soft toys and books) from M. and B.

 

 

 

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Earth Day – recycling

April is dedicated to paying more attention to our planet, Earth. 22 April is Earth Day so we did some activities both in English and Hungarian  to “celebrate OUR Earth” – as E. has put it modestly.

While we were painting, drawing and selecting we used plenty of special phrases. I’ll put together a word list concerning Earth Day and recycling in one of my upcoming Earth related posts.

But now, in this post, here comes some selective rubbish collection fun:

Preparation:

    1. I prepared 5 boxes (4 shoe boxes and a blue, IKEA box)
    2. Then I printed, coloured (you can print the bins on coloured paper) and stuck the bins with different labels (plastic, glass metal, paper) on the side of the shoe boxes.
    3. I selected some rubbish items from our recycling bins:
      – beer cans
      – tins
      – a milk and juice carton
      – scraps of paper
      – magazines
      – a glass olives jar
      – a cider bottle (glass)
      – plastic bags
      – bottle tops and plastic bottles
      – yogurt cups (etc.)
    4. I placed the rubbish in the blue box.
    5. I let E. do the selecting.
First, she was checking what is what, which went with several questions.

She didn’t really know how to make a difference between the different materials although she had been helping sort out the rubbish in our everyday life.

So I asked her a few questions and showed her the actions at the same time:
– Can you crumple it up? (And I was crumpling up a piece of paper)
– Can you tear it? (tearing a piece of the magazine’s cover)
– Is it flexible? (I was smashing a yogurt cup)
– Is it hard? (knocking my finger against the glass)

She was copying me while I was showing her crumpling, tearing or smashing.

And she got the hang of it:

 

 

 

I also mentioned to her that we need to flatten the cartons so she tried it.

Having finished we took the boxes to our selective bins and put them in their designated places.

 

E. was really excited about recycling and rubbish selection. Before dinner she wanted to watch “recycling videos”. And she did. Here they are:

Peppa Pig – recycling

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Il1RX6_h9Xc?feature=player_embedded

Betsy’s Happy Earth Day

https://www.youtube.com/embed/PlBLO8_2ix8?feature=player_embedded

Mother Goose Clube – Earth is our home

https://www.youtube.com/embed/gLAp30NQ0E0?feature=player_embedded

What is recycling for children? – HooplaKidz

https://www.youtube.com/embed/gSATRSB4OcE?feature=player_embedded

Happy Earth Day, Everybody!

FAQ

In the last couple of weeks I have bumped into a lot of mums who asked me similar questions about raising our daughter bilingual in a totally monolingual environment. So I collected a bunch of questions and my answers to them with some links from earlier blog posts:

  1. Do you speak to her English only?

No, I don’t. I can’t do that. My mother tongue is my mother tongue, no matter how high my level of English is. (High level of language command is relative. I always feel my English is deteriorating.)

I assigned certain times to speak English. When E. was a baby we had a timetable which meant that we used a little bit more English than Hungarian as she spent loads of time with me. Then we needed to change our schedule, still we had 50-50 % balanced language usage. (When she was around 2). Nowadays, (she’s almost 3) we are in trouble with the balance between the two languages as we do not spend so much time together therefore there is less English in her life. BUT! Her English basis is so strong that she asks for changing languages when she feels she misses one of them (it’s usually English)

Even today, whenever there are just the two of us she says: – Uh-uh, Mommy. We need to change into English. We are just two.
or
– I’ve already changed into English, because there is only Mommy and I.

 

  • When do you speak English to her and when Hungarian?

    There are many methods you can follow. What I use is a special one: I call it the timetable method. By now we don’t have a timetable any more. Whenever we can, we speak English, as the Hungarian input of the environment is too influencing.

  • When did you start talking to her in English?

    When we took her home from the hospital. At first, I was just singing songs and chanting rhymes to her in English. I wasn’t sure about what I was doing and it felt strange. Then I got some inspirations after having read some books and contacted some other moms in the same shoes. From the age of 6 months I’ve been talking to her in English just like in Hungarian.

  • Wasn’t she late with speech development?

    Not at all, although it would have been perfectly normal. She was about 1 year old when she could say 6-8 English words (and Hungarian ones too). Actually, her first word (bib) was in English. Of course, these words were fuzzy and not distinct for the untrained ears. But by the time she turned 18 months these words had become clear and a LOT more had been added to them. Not to mention, she started to build up 2-3 word sentences at that time too.

    I have to admit that the period between the age of 12 and 18 months was filled with more English sessions than Hungarian.

  • Doesn’t she mix the languages?

    She does! At first she didn’t, however, nowadays more and more. I’m not worried about it… okay… I am a little bit concerned, but I know if we keep up the balance between the languages she’ll have all the language tools in both languages to express herself. Most of the time she mixes Hungarian into her English because she doesn’t know a word or she can’t express something due to lacking a structure.

    Though it happens the other way round, too. She makes her grandparents puzzled when she asks for some stories with the telescope in it (mind you, pronounced it with a perfect British accent) or when she says she wants to play on the see-saw at the playground. Sometimes she names some bugs (bumblebees, wasps, ants) or plants (pansies, daffodils, shepherd’s-purse etc) she sees in the park in English. They can sort out this teeny-weeny language problem… for the time being.

  • What do you do when she mixes the languages?

    I keep on talking in the given language. I don’t change. And I do NOT advise you to let your child take the lead (although it is also an option.) I go on talking, let’s say, in English when she says some Hungarian words or sentences here and there. If I know she could say it in English I ask back: – What did you say? or – What’s that in English?

    If I am aware of the fact that she can’t express herself, I simply repeat in English what she said in Hungarian. Some sources suggest not to make your child repeat a word or sentence, yet sometimes I ask her to repeat just to reinforce we use English and help her fix a structure she cannot use (at all, or properly). Nonetheless, I’m not forcing it. Normally, she repeats expressions after me by herself. If she doesn’t want to, we move on.

    Also, you can pretend you do not understand what your child says, but in our case (we do not follow the One Parent One Language -OPOL-strategy; she can hear me talk both Hungarian and English) it wouldn’t work as my daughter knows that I understand and speak both. The other problem with this could be that your child can get frustrated if he or she can’t put an idea or a wish across.

  • What English activities/programmes can you take part in?

    We used to have a native British nanny for almost 2 years. I’m really grateful for her as she meant that I could have some free time (cooking, washing, ironing, shopping, cleaning etc.) while I knew English was still in focus in my daughter’s life. Now we are looking for a new nanny. If you happen to know someone in Budapest who would be interested I would appreciate it.

    I’ve organised a Mums’ English Club (MEC) in the library nearby, where mums gather with their little ones and chat in English while the kids play away. At the end of our sessions we sing some English songs for the kids. An afternoon session of MEC is badly needed but I haven’t had time to find a place where we could go free of charge.

    We’ve been taking part in the well-known Helen Doron School’s programme since E. was 10 months old. We are planning to leave it, but I’ll write about that in a later post.

    For almost a year we took part in a swimming course which was instructed both in English and Hungarian. We met there some non-Hungarian families who communicated mainly in English, so E. could hear during the swimming sessions that English is not just Mommy’s crazy language.

    We also visited Rhyme Time sessions (singing and playing in English) for a few times, but we do not go regularly.

  • Does Daddy speak English to her?

    He does. Daddy speaks a lot of languages, it’s no problem for him at all. What’s more, practising English regularly helps him improve his spoken skills as well. I suppose he also enjoys our English session;

    Again, at the beginning we did it differently. When Daddy arrived home from work we changed into Hungarian, but the whole day was in English. Nowadays, as I’m starting to work, E. is spending more time with the grandparents or she is in the nursery (not to mention that our native nanny, A. has left) we have been trying to fit in as many English sessions as we can.

    We have plenty of dinners, weekend programmes, playground visits, craft activities and bath times in English with Daddy. I’m very lucky, because my husband is very supportive concerning our bilingual project.

  • Can she say sentences?

    Haha. This has been the funniest question so far I’ve received. Sure she can. 🙂 Sometimes very complicated ones. I was really amazed when she said a passive sentence in the playground (– Look, Mommy, the other swing is taken) or when she talks to her soft toy using present perfect (– What have I told you?). One day she was replaying a Berry and Dolly episode (Gingerbread) that we watch in English.

    The following left her mouth: – I’m making gingerbread with the cookie cutter and then I’ll put it out in the winter (sic) to cold (sic). Magpie, (that is me) come and take it away.
    Later in the story: – Don’t take away that belongs to somebody else.

    Here is the episode.

    Not only her sentences but her vocabulary is also outstanding. I’m often surprised at how eloquent words she knows. The other day she called a pan saucepan. I don’t think I have ever used this word with herOr she can name different kinds of onions: leek, garlic, spring onion as well as varied expressions for the eating process: munch, chew, stuff your face, digest, feed, bite

     

  • How do you “teach” her (sic)?

    This is exactly how this question is asked most of the time.

    And the answer is : I do not teach her.

    What I do is to play with her in English just like in Hungarian. We do the daily routines in both languages. I try to prepare everyday and special activities for her which give us a chance to meet a lot of new situations:

    – experimenting,
    – prepping for holidays of the English-speaking world,
    – doing fun craft activities,
    cooking and baking
    doing housework together
    exploring nature
    reading books and singing a lot as well as watching videos

    These are just a few examples. In short, we LIVE our lives in 2 languages.

    +1. How shall WE start?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

So just start it.

If you want to get some ideas read through the blog… HAHA. Believe me, it’ll be much easier to find your own ways. But you can get some ideas here. (Feel free to search for keywords if you’re looking for something exact)

Start with some songs that you sing to your child while changing nappies or waking him/her up.

Search some videos online around a topic (cars, shapes, animals, numbers, planets etc.) that your child is interested in and watch them together. You can also explain what you see in the videos.

Learn some rhymes/songs with sign language and play with your munchkin.

Flashcards are almost always fascinating for children, but rather time-consuming to prepare your own home-made ones. On the other hand, our own flashcards are much more attractive to my daughter. You can find really good flashcards online, which you only need to print (and perhaps laminate).
If you don’t mind spending some money, you can buy some beautiful ones.

And I haven’t mentioned the endless opportunities that books offer to speak and practise a foreign language.

Again, these are some very basic ideas to start with your little one from an early age.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me either in the comments or via email. You can come and visit  my facebook page as well.

Enjoy!

Planets and the Solar System

The Solar System craze started about a half a year ago (August 2014). Planets caught E.’s attention while having the usual pre-dinner-youtube-video-watching session. Since then she’s been an expert in this field just like we needed to become.

Let me start with our favourite videos:

The very first song in the line – The Solar Sytemn Song by KidsTV123

She liked it so much that we had to watch it several times and of course more came:

The planets song by KidsTv123

She quickly learned the next one, so at bedtime I had to sing this song 7/11:
(Carful, this tune is so catchy that you might wake up in the middle of the night singing it in your head)
After What shape is it? here is another video from the same youtube channel with the title: What planet is it? Annoying for parents, fascinating for kids 🙂 You can also learn about some dwarf planets like Pluto, Ceres, Makemake, Charon etc.
E. loves the next  Solar system video too, although the colours of the planets are not so accurate. She mentions it every time we watch it. I guess it is an Indian video, and the pronunciation is a little funny. Still, we watch it a lot. She knows exactly how to pronounce the names of the planets and I want her to listen to as many different accents as possible.

These videos are not only about the names of the planets in our Solar System but also give some interesting information about them.

Then, we found Storybots on youtube. It’s hilarious. Even for parents. At last something I and Daddy love watching, too. Well, the next videos are not typical children videos. First: The Solar System Rap
(For a week we were playing the “Microphone game” i.e. throwing a microphone to each other – E. was the Sun, I was Mercury, Daddy was Venus (!) and  Doggie was Mars. The game always ended with Mars as the dog couldn’t catch the microphone 🙂 By the way, Daddy made the microphone out of a kitchen roll tube, a deodorant cap and some duct tape.)

I’m hot – the Sun song

I could go on and on adding more videos in the topic. But if your child is intereted in the planets you’ll find them anyway through the above mentioned examples.
Other fun with planets and the solar system:
After the videos, I had to make the Solar System on her plate. The following is just one occasion. The Solar System made out of frankfurters, but I’ve already made it out of fruit, cheese and bacon, vegetables etc.:

 

Here is a link where you can find a fruity solar system snack for kids together with a colouring sheet of planets.
I love the asteroid belt 🙂
 If something is in the  middle of E.’s attention, she recreates it in all fields of life – like drawing:
(While she was drawing the picture below she was in English, later we changed languages and she asked me to write the names of the planets in Hungarian)
Why did she put the cotton buds on the planets?  – It beats me…

I prepared a pom-pom colour sorting activity for her one afternoon (in September), which turned into a Solar System activity again. (It’s a kind of size comparison as well.)

Here is a video about her naming the planets in English and at the end she also sings one of the planet songs.

At the playground (at the beginning of October) we made the Solar System out of sand. It wasn’t my idea, but hers.

Sand Solar System

 

Destroying the Sun

 

Destroying all the planets

I made her a magnetic Solar System to play with. I found the following printable online at 2teachingmommies.com. You can find their Planet shadow match in their Space unit. (After downloading a zip file you need to print the Planet_shadow_match.pdf)

I printed and laminated the shadow sheets (2 x A/4) and the planets (1 x A/4). I cut out the planets first then I laminated them and cut them out again. In this way they are more durable. Adding Velcro is recommended in the explanations of the original planet shadow matching task but I used small magnets (you can buy them in Creative Hobby Shops) which are sticky on one side (I couldn’t glue the Velcro on the laminated sheets)

Sometimes we play with it on the floor, but nowadays the Solar System is on our fridge:

Here is a video how we play with it in Hungarian.

Last, but not least – salt dough planets. I’m sure the time comes in every family when they make salt dough, or some sort of home-made dough but you can use any kind of modelling clay as well. In this way E. could see the sizes compared to the sun (which is a yellow plastic ball). Originally we wanted to paint them, but somehow they disappeared during Christmas time.

E. wanted Pluto added. It’s made out of kitchen foil

For Christmas, E. got a Solar System Model Making Kit.

On Boxing Day the three of us were working on it all day.

mixing the right colours

We needed to paint and assemble the planets, then hang them on rods with fishing lines placing them around the sun in the centre.

drying the planets

I added some glow plaint (which was included in the set. The planets glow in the dark.) It was a great family activity (in English). It looks nice in our living room hanging from the central lamp. (Sorry, the photo was taken with my mobile phone.)

Let’s read how we should put the whole thing together

 

measuring the fishing line
This post has turned out to be a long one, but my main aim was to show you how many different activities you can do around a subject, let it be the Solar System, fruit or cars. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on buying props or toys (see the sandpit or the pom-pom or the drawing fun). And there are just a few activities which needs preparation (planet shadow match or the model making). So let your and your little one’s imagination fly and build the topic of interest in your everyday playtime.

Christmas tree crafts and some more ABC

As Christmas is getting closer we are doing a lot of Christmassy crafts. They give us the chance to talk about a lot of things in English, like colours, decorations, presents and E. has already learnt plenty of Christmas vocabulary (like candy cane, gingerbread man, angels, advent, wreath, candles, sparklers, baubles, tinsel, gifts etc.)

Here I’d like to present you 2 ideas in connection with decorating a Christmas tree.

  1. Sticker decorations and letter recognition:

I searched for a Christmas tree colouring sheet and I copied it in WORD, then I added the letters and a little table at the bottom. In the table I put the letters and above them you can see a Christmas related word. (We didn’t read them I just wanted her to see the words written down. I can send you the word document if you wish to use it)

I had some Christmas stickers from last year (I’d bought this sheet in KIK for 300 HUF) and I added an angel, a star, a candle, a bauble and a gingerbread man. These stickers are really cool. They easily come off the paper, so I took off the candle and the gingerbread man, just for fun. Later, E. put them back.

One afternoon after her nap this was the scene waiting for her.
She needed to search for a figure and stick the right sticker on the starting letter of the word.

But first she coloured the tree green, the star on the top yellow and the trunk brown. A little more colour talk.

artist at work

Then searching and sticking started:

peeling

sticking

 I had to add some more letters as she wanted more baubles and stars.

When she’d finished we displayed it on the door of our living-room.

            2.     Dot marker decoration

We got a box of DO-A-DOT markers for E.’s birthday in May and ever since we’ve had so much fun with them. Actually, I saw this dot the letter Christmas tree activity online, though we’ve done a similar dot marker activity at Halloween with a pumpkin.
This time I drew a Christmas tree with some presents below it. I wrote the beginning letter of the colours, like G for green (a lot of them, though I should have written even more), R for red, Y for yellow, P for purple, B for blue.
I prepared all the dot markers well in advance. I took off the lids so E. didn’t need to although it could be a nice fine motor skill practice. There were quite a lot to do with the Christmas tree and I didn’t want her to get bored with the opening of the markers.
First, she tried almost all of the colours, then she stuck to one colour and finished dotting all of them on the sheet. As I’d always been telling her to put the lid back on the markers she decided to put it back and pack away the marker when she’d finished with a colour.
packing away
red baubles
She mentioned that she was putting red and purple baubles on the tree. When she was doing the yellow decoration she said they were candles. I asked quite a lot of questions to make her talk while she was working. We even sang the “Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree” song:

Then we put the finished Christmas tree next to the other. 
I have some more Christmas tree ideas from paper plate with some painting and sticking, however some snowy crafts are on the way too. We’ll see what we have time for.
Also, I’d be happy if you let me know in the comments what Christmas tree projects you have with your little one