photo credits: Jens Nink, Heather West, both @ flickr.com
With summer here, many parents have a challenge ahead of them: keeping kids productively entertained until school starts up again. Whether you or your partner is a stay-at-home parent, or you just want to make the most of these warm, sunny summer nights and weekends, there’s no reason you can’t make language and cultural learning part of your routine! Here are 5 ideas on how you can make learning about a new culture or language fun for your family this summer:
1. Have a weekly themed meal.
One of the most entertaining introductions to a culture and its language is through its food. If your family wants to learn Italian, make Italian food a part of your summer cuisine. Try following an Italian language cooking show or recipe, and make sure you invite your kids to be hands-on in the kitchen. As you serve up the meal don’t forget to play Italian music as well! Get a family-friendly movie and watch it in Italian with English subtitles to keep the fun going after dinner’s done.
- Let your kids pitch ideas for your next vacation destination.
If you have older children, encourage them to do research about destinations they’d like to visit. Have each give a presentation to the whole family about their dream vacation destination, including things like the language spoken there, traditions, most popular tourist destinations, and other key facts. If you’re already planning a vacation abroad, do research together on activities you’d like to do. Reward kids for their participation by letting them choose certain activities during the trip, such as a tour that they find appealing or planning a visit to an amusement park.
- Make a multi-cultural mural or scrapbook.
Spend the summer creating a mural that pays tribute to a country or area of the world your family is learning about. For example, if you’re learning German together, pay a visit to a traditional German restaurant and bring home a menu or the receipt and adhere it to your mural. Visit a German festival and take pictures that you can print out and add to the 3-D collection.
- Start a dream travel journal.
Encourage your older kids to be curious about the world by starting a dream travel journal. Get a low-cost subscription to a travel magazine and take turns reading it. Talk to each other about the featured destination you would most want to visit and add it to your journal.
- Label everything in your house.
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book –labeling everything around your house with the objects’ names in a foreign language. Younger kids will get a kick out of putting sticky notes on every possible object and will benefit from seeing these words all summer long.
Parents who want to promote language learning are likely to get the best results when they join their kids on the journey. Watch movies together in the target language, visit restaurants where typical food is sold, and, if you live near a major city, visit neighborhoods like Little Italy or Chinatown to gain even more exposure to the language and culture. Because kids don’t have formal schooling in the summer, many families find it is the perfect time to take language instruction classes. Join your child in practicing and growing your foreign language skills and it can become a bonding experience for both to enjoy together!
Dusty Fox is a full-time world traveler and freelance writer who contributes to the Language Trainers network. Visit the Language Trainers website to learn more about the services they offer.