Bilingual children enjoy creative, cognitive, and cultural advantages because of their early exposure to multiple languages. Fortunately, childhood is an ideal time to learn a new language, especially when the brain is still developing.
However, your child doesn’t have to start taking language lessons in infancy or grow up in a multilingual household to speak Italian. You just need to stay involved in their learning process and think of creative ways to keep them engaged.
If your son or daughter is taking private Italian lessons but you don’t speak Italian, it’s especially important to keep them immersed and make sure his or her new skills stick.
Turn Italian into your household’s second language with the following three kid-friendly techniques. From laminated labels to delicious menu items, your child will learn to speak Italian in no time!
1. Household Labels
Enlist your budding bilingual’s help with a creative activity that will pay off for months to come: labels! Sticking name cards on everyday objects is a tried and true way to reinforce new vocabulary terms – and your child will appreciate the opportunity to curate their own collection of words.
Make it an ongoing project by starting with simple items, such as doors, windows, and appliances, and progressing to less common terms as your child gets comfortable with the first set of cards. If you don’t want to fill your home with neon colored post-its, find single sheets of scrapbook paper that simulate the colors and materials of each surface.
2. Italian Movie Night
There aren’t many stateside screenings of Italian-language movies, but it’s hard to beat the educational value of a foreign film. Check your library, online streaming services, and on-demand menus for original Italian movies with kid-friendly themes. The following five are particularly popular and widely available in America:
|Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)||Dark comedy||PG-13||1997||Holocaust, father/son relationship, literature|
|They Call Me Trinity (Lo chiamavano Trinità…)||Western||G||1970||Cops vs. robbers|
|Il Postino: The Postman (Il Postino)||Romantic comedy||PG||1994||Poetry, love, literature|
|Pinocchio (Pinocchio)||Fantasy comedy||G||2002||Fairy tales, father/son relationship, honesty|
|Trinity Is STILL My Name! (Continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità)||Western||G||1971||Pioneers, brotherhood|
Don’t rely on English subtitles to understand the plots and dialogue; instead, screen or stream the movies with their original audio, and encourage your child to pay attention. Even if your child doesn’t catch every word, he or she will get a little more comfortable with each subsequent viewing.
3. Italian Dinner Night
Italy already has the market cornered on kid-friendly cuisine, but your family probably won’t pick up much Italian from a slice of pizza or bowl of spaghetti.
If you want to use mealtime as an opportunity to help your children speak Italian, it’s time to start a new family tradition. Pick a day or two each month — for example, every other Thursday — to prepare and serve authentic Italian meals together.
Instead of rotating a menu of safe favorites, commit to making at least one new dish each time. You don’t have to tackle challenging recipes for flatbread pizzas and hand-pulled pastas; just make sure your kids are picking items with original Italian names, and learning about their origins and etymologies.
For example, pasta cuts often have literal names with plural suffixes, such as ini or otti, which describe their size, shape and texture. If your kids pick different pastas for every Italian family dinner, they’ll gradually become acquainted with a whole lexicon of common words and grammar structures.
Speaking Italian is a great skill for a child to have. While private Italian lessons will certainly help your child progress, doing fun exercises at home is a great way to speed up the learning process and engage your child. For more fun kid-friendly Italian exercises, check out these other blogs posts:
- Italian for Kids: Learning the Alphabet [Audio and Visual]
- 4 Fun Italian Vocabulary Games for Kids
- 4 Quick and Easy Italian Grammar Exercises