Teaching your child a new language is one of the best things you can do for them. However, some parents find that motivating a child to practice is difficult.
A variety of factors contribute to boosting motivation, such as positive incentives, or a safe environment to practice new skills. The most important skill, however, is simply ensuring the child practices enough to retain his or her new language skills.
So, how can you make learning Spanish and/or Mandarin education fun so that your child is willing to practice?
How About… a Tent?
It may sound a little out of the ordinary, but here at Jump! we recommend a method that works every time: set up a tent.
The tent doesn’t have to be anything grandiose — a $30 pop tent from Wal-Mart is all you need. Even blankets draped over the backs of some dining room chairs will do. For an extra bonus, line the tent with twinkle lights and set down some colorful pillows in cultural parallel to the language your child is learning.
The important factor here is that you create a special location that's "fun" and geared towards at-home language immersion. The tent could be in your backyard, in the living room, or in the rec room. The goal is to create a location where, once your child steps into the tent, he or she feels excitement. Your job is to direct that excitement towards language-learning.
The Secret Ingredient to Mastering the Tent Method:
Spend at least 30 minutes a day in the tent, and when you’re in there, your child can only speak Spanish or Mandarin.
Consider it a game: perhaps the tent “transports” you to a Spanish or Mandarin-speaking country — and the only way to communicate with each other is through this new language.
Decorate the tent to include Spanish or Mandarin-themed clothing or accessories. Use lots of color. You might even bring along a flashlight and music CD’s in Spanish or Mandarin to make it even more authentic (and fun!).
However, once your child understands the language-only rule, it's time to practice. Don’t worry about what you talk about… As long as you do so in Spanish or Mandarin, there are no rules.
Before you get into the tent, review your child’s lesson plan for the day. Once inside, go over it together. Work on the language together if you are both learning. Jump!’s curriculum is very thorough and offers vocabulary words to follow if you yourself are learning Spanish or Mandarin. You can easily follow along.
Most importantly, make sure the activity is fun for both of you. It should not be a punishment to practice in this way.
Trust Us, the Tent Method Works
The Tent Method is positive reinforcement at its best. As your child learns to speak Spanish or Mandarin in the tent, he or she will become more comfortable with the learning process. Language-learning aside, the important factor is not just that he or she is practicing Spanish or Mandarin, but that the child is receiving — and enjoying — the one-on-one time with you.
Ultimately, your child will effectively practice learning another language while developing a closer bond with you – what more could you ask for?