Brush Strokes of Genius

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A child’s grip on a pencil starts out loose, like their understanding of cultures and worlds beyond their own. As they master holding the pencil, drawing basic shapes, and later letters, more and more of the unknown comes into focus. They begin to recognize the semi-circular shape of an Iranian mosque’s dome. They are familiarized with the square shape of mosaic tiles in Roman churches. The muscles in their hands know what it’s like to write out characters, the same ones that Shakespeare used to assemble his sonnets. Via these examples, we see how motor skills underlie art, which is a vehicle of cultural exchange. While we at Little Pim often emphasize learning languages as a means of cultural exposure, we want to use this post to highlight learning motor skills as a perfect time to introduce your children to different cultures through art. Accordingly, below is a list of artists from around the world who can inspire activities that will reinforce your children’s motor skills, cultural awareness, and familiarity with art as a tool of self and cultural expression.

Piet Mondrian

tate-museum
*Courtesy of the Tate Museum
  • Dutch
  • 1872-1944
  • Was initially a teacher who painted on the side
  • Started out as a landscape painter
  • Was heavily influenced by the geometric shapes and simplicity of the cubist movement in Paris, where he moved
  • Met Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesberg, who helped him develop his most famous artistic style, which highlights the beauty underlying simple shapes and primary colors

A child just learning motor skills requires a great deal of concentration just to bring these simple shapes to life. Resultantly, they have a heightened appreciation for them, an appreciation that Mondrian relearned. Your child might thereby be able to relate to an important figure in Dutch culture.

Activity

Ask your children to draw 10 dots at random locations on a piece of paper. Then, have them connect one dot to each of the others on the paper with straight lines. (Use a ruler if straight lines are difficult for them.) Repeat for the other 9 dots. The result is a very cool geometric pattern. Take out primary color markers, colored pencils, or crayons and have them fill in the shapes as they see fit. With that, you have a Mondrian inspired piece ready to be hung on the fridge.


Niki de Saint Phalle

  • French
  • 1930-2002
  • Was a sculptor, painter, and film maker, most widely revered for her monumental sculpture work
  • Had no formal art training
  • Was first recognized for angry, battered works that mirrored emotions associated with a troubled childhood
  • Developed a whimsical, joyous artistic style, child-like in its bright color palette

 The fun, quirky nature of these pieces will appeal to your child’s innate happiness and creativity. Let their curiosity take over upon asking what the sculpture below on the left represents.

art-for-kids
*Courtesy of artnews.com

Activity

 

Break out the colorful Playdough for this activity! Show your child images of Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures and let the fun ensue. You can suggest rolling out small segments of different colored dough and connecting them to make a multi-colored snake, which is what I see in the sculpture on the left.


Joan Miró
*Courtesy of joan-miro.net

Joan Miró

  • Spanish
  • 1893-1983
  • Painter, sculptor, ceramicist
  • Was classically trained in art school but rejected traditional methods and styles later in life, claiming they were created to appease the rich, who commissioned the works
  • Was also inspired by cubism and moved to its epicenter, Paris
  • Classified as a surrealist, who allowed his subconscious mind to take control of his hands

The abstraction of Miró’s pieces reinforce to your children that there is no such thing as perfection, especially in art. It is all about personal perspective and emotions. Encourage them to make “mistakes” and try something wacky in their own pieces.

Joan Miro
An Alexander Calder mobile inspired by Joan Miró *Courtesy of markwhitefineart.com

Activity

Grab a few hangers from the closet, thread/yarn from the sewing kit, scissors, and construction paper. You now have all the tools necessary to make your very own mobile, like the one above on the right, perfect for a younger sibling’s room. Snip the hook off of a hanger; that is how you will be able to hang the mobile. Then, cut a few straight pieces of wire from several hangers. Twist them to attach them to the hook. Splay them out in different directions. Afterwards, cut some pieces of thread/yarn and knot them onto the end of the wires. Go crazy cutting out awesome shapes from the colorful construction paper. Pierce a hole and knot the other ends of the threads into the construction paper cutouts. Boom! Your very own Miró inspired mobile!

 


wang-guangyi
*Courtesy of artnet.com

Wang Guangyi

  • Chinese
  • Born 1957
  • Still alive today
  • Went to art school after many failed attempts at college entrance
  • Heavily inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution
  • Internationally acclaimed for the “Great Criticism,” which were paintings on top of traditional propaganda
    • Ended the series in fear that its fame undermined its very message, which was that political and commercial advertising is manipulative
  • Continued with political criticism of VISA’s

While less child-like in its appearance than the works of the aforementioned artists, Guangyi is unfiltered and unapologetic for his opinions in his art, just as a child is before he or she is molded to fit into a society that values conformity.

Activity

Let your children make a statement with this next piece of art.  Suggest to your children that they draw how they feel about their least favorite food. See how their emotions translate into art.

Does your child have a newfound love of art after trying some of these activities? If so, check out our most recent Where to Go Wednesday below for a list of ridiculously cool sculpture gardens in New York:

*featured image by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

Did You Know Every Parent is Bilingual?

bilingual-parent

“Don’t talk to me like a baby!” You might be familiar with this phrase if you have an older child or have gotten into a spat with a partner or colleague. While baby talk can be construed as condescending when directed at an older individual, it is actually critical to the cognitive development and language learning of infants and toddlers.

Linguists and child psychologists refer to baby talk more often as child-directed speech. Many aspects of child-directed speech allow it to facilitate language learning, such as the following:

High-pitch and tone variation

These qualities characteristic of child-directed speech make it more stimulating, effectively causing the words spoken to be more memorable.

Repetition

Children’s first words are often the ones they hear the most often. This is because repetition is a key component that drives memorization. Thus, the repetition common in child-directed speech helps children learn the language.

Reduplication

When using child-directed speech, parents often say expressions like “woof woof” and “beep beep.” This specific type of repetition, called reduplication, also helps with memorization and language learning.

Isolation

Sentences and phrases formed when using child-directed speech tend to include the most important word at the end. For example, parents might say “oh look at the cute little doggy” instead of “there is a cute dog right over there.” This isolation of the word dog helps children learn the word, because they can separate the noises associated with saying the word from the rest of the phrase.

baby-talk

When children imitate child-directed speech, they are actually imitating and learning proper grammar.

One theory about language acquisition is that much of children’s knowledge is innate. Specifically, some linguists have asserted that children are born with knowledge of syntactic structures and then utilize imitation to learn words to fit into those structures. Complete foreknowledge of grammatical structure prior to birth seems unlikely, especially given this structure is unique to every language. In fact, a closer look at child-directed speech reveals that it is far more properly structured than casual, fragmented conversation between adults. When children imitate child-directed speech, they are actually imitating and learning proper grammar. While children’s capacity to learn may be innate, their language learning is in many ways an imitation game.

Each and every parent around the world is fluent in both his or her native tongue and child-directed speech.

Child-directed speech doesn’t just exist here in the United States and with English, but in a plethora of cultures and with a multitude of languages. Each and every parent around the world is fluent in both his or her native tongue and child-directed speech. This form of bilingualism is pertinent to infants’ and toddlers’ first language acquisition and cognitive development.

Just like child-directed speech improves cognitive development in infants and toddlers, so does learning a foreign language.

While parents adopt this child-directed speech with ease, infants and toddlers could also adopt another language with ease. Children can learn more than one language at a time without conflating the two or hindering their progress towards fluency in their native language. In fact, children are noted to become more native-like speakers in a foreign language if they learn the language at a very young age. Just like child-directed speech improves cognitive development in infants and toddlers, so does learning a foreign language. As it happens, children who learn another language at a young age are said to be able to concentrate better in spite of outside stimulus, an important skill in an age when technology, among other things, has become a huge distraction.

While all parents are fluent in their native tongue and child-directed speech, not all parents are fluent in other foreign languages… cue Little Pim.

In conclusion, while many people may not appreciate when you speak to them like a baby, your infant or toddler loves it. Your child’s engagement with child-directed speech makes it a useful tool to teach words and proper grammatical structures. Via aiding in first language acquisition, child-directed speech improves a child’s cognitive development, just as learning a foreign language can. While all parents are fluent in their native tongue and child-directed speech, not all parents are fluent in other foreign languages… cue Little Pim. Let us join you and your child on a path towards intellectual growth.


Works Cited:

http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test4materials/ChildLangAcquisition.htm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3937814/Why-baby-talk-GOOD-children-Speaking-motherese-helps-develop-language-skills-faster.html

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-motherese-important-children-language.html

http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2009/05/learning-second-language-good-childhood-mind-medicine

The Advantage of Multilingualism

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The traditional view of imposing language learning on children is that the two languages would interfere with each other and slow literacy learning. There is some evidence that learning two languages in early education does impose additional stressors on the brain.

  • New evidence suggests that this stress actually improves mental ability.
  • The demand forces the brain to solve some fundamental learning problems which monolingual children never have to face.

The key difference between monolingual and bilingual children goes beyond the ability to control the suppression of one language and select the other language at will.

  • It seems to be about improvements in ability to monitor surroundings and sensitivity to the environment.
  • New studies indicate that the multilingual exposure is manifest in improved social skills in children.

These particular cognitive abilities, are improved through multilingual education:

  • The ability to monitor the environment is especially important for social interaction.
  • Children who have learned how to select among learned languages are better at considering the point of view of others.

This is a critical developmental faculty that the pioneering developmental psychologist Jean Piaget called “decentering.”

  • Children in multilingual environments have ample practice considering the point of view of others.
  • They are also more aware that there is more than one point of view.

Children who learn more than one language are often raised in environments surrounded by multiple languages and cultures.

  • They learn early how to see the world through widely varied eyes, a range of different perspectives.
  • They learn to account for other perspectives in their communication and their attitude development.
  • Not only do they become more decentered (in Piaget’s terms) but they become less “egocentric” as well.

At Little Pim, we believe that all children deserve to learn a second language. We use a natural immersive method of teaching. Please contact us to learn more.

Bilingualism: Benefits of Learning Arabic

arabic-for-kids

There are many articles stating the benefits of being bilingual, but not many go into the benefits of being bilingual in a certain language. If you are teaching your child another language anyway, why not choose one that will improve their future career opportunities, such as Arabic? Here are a few ways that learning Arabic will enhance your child’s future.

Commonality

Arabic is the national language of 20 countries and is the fifth most spoken language in the world. By teaching your child Arabic, you will be giving her the ability to communicate with over 300 million people.  The majority of native speakers are concentrated in the Middle East, but with Arabic being the language of Quran, Muslims all over the world speak the language.

High Demand

With the increasing importance of the Middle East in international affairs, there is a growing demand for speakers of Arabic. Few Westerners ever attempt to learn the language, so there is little supply to meet the demand. Those who know the language are needed in many fields including journalism, translation, education, intelligence, and government service.

Financial Incentives

Arabic has been declared a language of strategic importance. Not only will many careers offer a hiring bonus or higher salary to those who speak it, but the National Strategic Language Initiative also offers scholarships and more learning opportunities, including study abroad programs.

Culture

The Middle East has a rich and fascinating culture. Be it the food, literature, music, or history, culture is a lot more interesting to explore in its native language. Arabic-speaking countries have also made significant contributions to medicine, science, and philosophy over the centuries. Much of this learning, along with that of the Roman, Greek, and Byzantine empires, has been preserved in Arab libraries.

Intercultural Understanding

arabic-for-kidsMost of your child’s exposure to Arabic culture is likely to be through negative media representations or one-sided stereotypes in films. These false representations can create feelings of mistrust towards Muslims and the Arabic people. With over 3.5 million people of Arab heritage residing in the U.S and over half of them reporting experiencing racial discrimination, teaching your child about their culture can potentially minimize conflict.

What are you waiting for? Get started teaching your child Arabic today! If you have any tips or experiences teaching your little ones Arabic, please comment below.

Bonding With Your Child Through Your Native Language

multilingual-kids

raising-bilingual-kidsCreating bonds is a very important part of raising children. It allows them to feel nurtured and loved. Sharing your native language with your child is a great bonding experience that can have a life-long impact.

Family ties

Many parents that are raising bilingual children have ties to the language through family. The technology that we have today makes it so easy to communicate with family that is far away. Your child will have the great advantage of communicating and forming bonds with the extended family. Being able to communicate not only broadens social skills, it definitely expands the family tree.

For a fun craft, build a family tree with your little ones when they are old enough to recognize names and photos of relatives. Talk about the relationships between each family member and go over relevant vocabulary in your native language, i.e. words for mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, etc.

Cultural traditions

Languages are more than just words. There is a lot of tradition within them. Through the words of your native language, your child will learn about food and traditional dishes, they will learn about music and instruments. They will hear stories that have been told through generations and pick up books of great writers. They will be able to have an understanding and participate in these traditions. The bond between you, your child and family will have stronger roots.

gift-of-languageThe gift that keeps on giving

Sharing your native language with your child really is a gift. It will not only set up great advantages when he/she is an adult venturing out in the world, but it will instill a strong sense of self and an emotional connection to others. One day, your child will be in the position to pass down all of the great treasures that are wrapped inside the words of that second language.

Need some help introducing your child to a second language? Little Pim makes it fun and easy to learn a new language with resources your child will love! Comment below if you have any questions!

Bilingualism: Reading With Your Child

bilingual-reading-kids

reading-with-kidsExtracurricular reading, throughout the year, is one of the best ways to assure children continue to develop language and reading skills fluidly. Children tend to lose weeks or even months of learning when they do not practice their newly acquired language and reading skills over the summer months and other school breaks. Reading at home is essential to helping your child continue to grow his skills. When your child is bilingual, it is of particular importance to include reading materials from both languages.

There are ways to help your child to enjoy reading, if he or she does not, already. Many competing interests pull children away from academic pursuits. Reading in the second language can cement skills and provide a fun distraction, especially if reading time is also special parent-child time.

Popular children’s books available in other languages

Following are some suggested children’s books for preschool and grade school children. It is necessary for your child’s academic progress that you select books from her reading grade level, rather than her actual grade level if she is reading to herself. Many children read above grade level, and some read below grade level. Your child’s progress in both reading skills and language development, when reading appropriate books regularly, will increase. When reading aloud to your child, you can both enjoy more advanced books, which helps with their comprehension.

For preschool children, most often, you will read to them. Use your finger to point to words as you read. The left to right process is an essential pre-reading skill for English, Spanish, and many other languages; while some other languages use right to left pattern, such as in Hebrew text. Pointing helps your child understand the left to right, or the right to left pattern, for the languages they learn.

Each book listed below shows the foreign language versions from readily available online sources.

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Korean)
  • In a Small, Small, Pond by Denise Fleming (picture book – have your child create the story from the pictures, using the second language)
  • Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (Spanish, French, Korean)
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Mandarin)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Spanish, German, French, Mandarin)
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess (Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (Spanish, French, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese)
  • I’ll love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw (Spanish, French)
  • My FaceBook by Starbright Books ( Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, Portuguese)

Read Aloud Chapter Books

  • Charlottes Web by E.B.White (Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Korean)
  • Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary (Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis (Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (German, French, Mandarin, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese, Korean)

These are a few books to get you started on you bilingual reading lists. Once your child has identified the authors he especially enjoys, you can encourage him to explore more of that writer’s work.

For more information on enriching your child’s bilingual education, let Little Pim be your go-to source.

Being Bilingual Can Improve All Areas of Your Child’s Life

bilingual-benefits

bilingual-kids

We live in an increasingly global world where learning a second language can give your child many advantages. Learning a foreign language at an early age improves overall fluency, but the issue is that most schools do not offer the opportunity to learn a second language until high school. According to Forbes magazine, we have a “foreign language deficit” in our country, especially when we are compared to other countries. Overseas, most countries require their students to learn English as a second language from a young age. When researching the benefits of bilingualism, it seems that the pros are endless; speaking more than one language can improve social skills, school performance, emotional health, and so much more. With all of the positives that come from being bilingual, it’s a wonder that more young children are not being raised bilingual.

Learning a Second Language Improves School Performance

According to a study performed by Stanford researchers on language, the language children are exposed to in infancy and early childhood has a massive impact on their academic abilities and ability to communicate later in life. The best way to set your child up for success is to teach them both their native language, alongside a foreign language, during the critical period between infancy and six years old. Bilingual children have been proven to score higher on tests throughout their entire school career.

multilingual-babySpeaking Multiple Languages Improves Social Skills

In a piece exploring the superior social skills of bilingual children by Katherine Kinzler, published in the New York Times, she found that children who are bilingual or multilingual have an easier time understanding different perspectives. This is because they have to understand when to speak a certain language, and to whom. This greatly improves their ability to communicate and empathize with people from all different walks of life. For more information about this study, check out our blog post on “Raising a People Person.”

Bilingual Children Tend To Be More Creative

According to a study performed by the University of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health, children who speak two languages statistically scored higher when it came to creative thinking and problem solving. Bilingual children scored much higher than monolingual children all across the board, in fact; especially when it came to questions assessing their critical thinking skills. In other words, bilingual children’s ability to think outside the box helped them eventually work out answers to questions that they otherwise may not have been able to answer.

It Can Even Improve Emotional Health

Language plays a large role in our emotional health, because it is the only way we can articulate our deepest feelings, whether we choose to write them in a journal or discuss them with friends and family members. The ability to express their emotions in more than one language offers children more opportunity to talk to more people; it’s also a good way to vent their emotions when around those who are monolingual. Also, when observed in school, bilingual children showed a better ability to pay attention and exhibit inhibitory control. It has been shown that bilingual children tend to have better relationships with their teachers and peers as well. Those early experiences with teachers and friends are vital to a child’s emotional health and social development; teaching your child a second language can help ensure those interactions will be positive ones.

Cultural Curiosity and Tolerance

Bilingual children often have a natural curiosity about the country from which their second language originated. From a very young age, they have also been shown to be more tolerant of other cultures; they play more easily with children who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they are more likely to engage in play with children who do not speak their language, and they show more of an interest in socializing outside of their usual social circles. Since our world is becoming more globalized every day, the ability to tolerate and show interest in other cultures is an important advantage.

The Benefits Are Endless

There are endless benefits to teaching your child a second language from an early age – this article has only covered a small handful of the advantages your child will get through becoming bilingual! If you would like to introduce your child to a new language, try out Little Pim for free by watching a demo video to get started as soon as possible!

Empowering Language Tips for Parents

baby language tips for parents
baby language tips for parents
Flickr: Chewy Chua

SheKnows recently published an article on raising bilingual kids featuring our very own Julia Pimsleur Levine! The article encourages parents to “Fill Your Baby’s Brain with Language” and includes some incredible case studies and language tips for parents who want to raise multilingual children.

The take home message is this: all parents are capable of giving their children the gift of a second language. Different families take different strategies: from One Parent One Language (where each parent picks a different language and sticks to it) to simply learning a new language along with your kids. The is no one right way to do it, and each family provides a bevy of useful language tips for parents who are thinking about introducing a new language. There is a style for every family.

Elsewhere on the internet, our friend Ana Flores of SpanglishBaby reminds us not to “underestimate how important commitment and consistency are in successfully raising a bilingual child.” In her piece, she runs through some general Do and Don’t language tips for parents to keep in mind as they begin to incorporate another language into their family’s lives.

Both pieces are must reads for families who are just starting to speak in new languages and for parents who are looking for ways to expand on what they are already doing!

  1. Fill Your Baby’s Brain with Language
  2. 7 Do’s and Don’ts of Raising a Bilingual Child

3 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bilingual Brain

bilingual brain surprise

bilingual brain surpriseThe internet is abuzz with news of a new study published in the journal Neurology that indicates that bilingualism can delay the effects of dementia (including Alzheimer’s). While other researchers have certainly drawn the same conclusion in the past, this study has the largest sample size and is certainly worth reading about!

But if you’re more interested in how learning a second language will impact your child’s brain NOW, here are a few more fun facts about the bilingual brain and language development from some of our favorite articles around the web:

  1. Children who learn multiple languages may make grammatical errors at first, but it won’t last! Just as monolingual children sometimes make errors as they begin to learn the structure of a language (“I go’ed” vs. “I went”), so do bilingual or multilingual children. It’s all a part of the language learning process.
  2. Socio-economic status has a greater effect on vocabulary than bilingualism. Some parents fear that adding a second language to the mix will stunt their child’s development in their first language, but more and more evidence indicates that multilingualism is an insignificant indicator of how a child’s vocabulary will develop. Read more at the New York Times.
  3. On the other hand, speaking a second language helps delay dementia regardless of education level. This new study demonstrates that even illiterate participants reaped the benefits of bilingualism, experiencing the same 5-year delay in symptoms as more formally educated participants.