As a four-year old, I remember my mom bundling my sister and me into our hand-me-down snowsuits and trudging over to our local library for a weekly French class for preschoolers. Once snowsuits were removed, we sat in a circle and played a “broken telephone” game, passing phrases around a circle to see if they could survive, ungarbled. We sang some French songs, including “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” and “Aloutte.” And when we learned colors, I remember being astounded when the teacher demonstrated that you could mix red and white paint to make pink – “rose”. How come we didn’t know about this in English? Such was my introduction to French, and I was hooked.
Fast forward to when French classes started in school in grade 4. I remember in one class learning the meaning of the word “pont” – – bridge – – and having a flashback to those classes in the library, with a newfound understanding of the song On the Bridge in Avignon/Sur le Pont d’Avingon. Had my early exposure to French helped? Absolutely. And I can still sing those songs, word-for-word, today!
My mother’s intuition that it’s best to start learning a foreign language as a toddler has been proven by research. Research shows that at less than 12 months of age, babies start to focus on the sounds in their native language, and begin paying less attention to sounds in other languages. However, if they are exposed to people speaking to them in other languages, it improves their ability to differentiate those sounds.
But, it’s not enough to plunk your toddler down in front of YouTube videos. It turns out that toddlers are particularly wired to learn best from human beings – and “conversation turns”- when dialog goes back and forth – is more important than “dumping more words” on kids.
Research also shows that singing in a foreign language can accelerate children’s language learning, and many people can learn words to a song more easily than a passage of text. And children have a preference for being sung to by a parent. When an infant as young as 5 months old is sung to by a parent for 1-2 weeks, they can recognize the melody 8 months later!
At PandaTree we’ve heard from lots of parents who know the importance of getting their children started on foreign language learning as young as possible, but lack a convenient or accessible solution. And let’s face it, bundling little kids out the door, diaper bags in tow, in the narrow window between naps and mealtimes, isn’t the easiest thing.
That’s why parents are loving the PandaTree for Preschoolers program: parents and their 2-5 year old toddler enjoy private Mandarin or Spanish lessons in the comfort of their home, provided by an expert tutor who is live online.
The program incorporates the latest research about language learning, and the curriculum is designed so toddlers don’t need to use a mouse or read. The parent or adult caregiver is a full participant too and is given tips on how to practice with their child between lessons. While it’s great if the parent already speaks some Mandarin or Spanish, absolutely no prior language skill is needed.
Each series contains ten 25-minute lessons, and most families do them once or twice per week, at times they choose. Lessons “spiral” and new vocabulary is repeated frequently throughout each lesson, and repeated in future lessons, to make the learning easy and natural. At the end of each series, the toddler receives a Certificate of Completion.
The topics covered are geared to the interests and learning needs of toddlers: greetings, family members, counting, colors, animals, foods, shapes and more. Sorry, mom. You won’t learn to hail a cab in Hong Kong in this class – – the curriculum is designed from the ground up for kids.
Toddlers can have short attention spans, so in the 25-minute lessons, expert PandaTree tutors use puppets and props as well as short, colorful animations to keep the child’s attention. The classes have the same structure so toddlers learn what to expect… and they’re always excited to learn what mystery bag item will be revealed at the end of the lesson. Even if a shy child doesn’t say much during the first few lessons, there is a lot of mental processing going on. After all, babies listened for months before they said their first word in their native language. Soon they’ll be teaching their favorite stuffed animal to count in Mandarin or Spanish!
The curriculum is packed with short songs specially designed to reinforce the new words in the program. Parents can download the lyrics and recordings of the songs to sing together with their toddler between lessons. A word of warning: the songs are catchy. Don’t be surprised to hear yourself singing them even when your toddler isn’t around! Check out a demo of a Mandarin or Spanish song!
Little kids often need to wiggle their bodies and move, and research shows movement can help with learning so movement games are built into each lesson. Learning to count? Let’s clap out the numbers. Learning emotions? Let’s see you make your best happy face. Learning body parts? Let’s see you touch your head.
PandaTree’s proprietary platform is designed with trust and safety in mind, and has a Kid Safe seal of approval. Tutors are carefully hired only after passing through rigorous interviews, test sessions, background and reference checks. There is a money back guarantee if a parent is ever unhappy with a lesson.
There are so many benefits for kids from language learning and starting young really helps. PandaTree for Preschoolers is the best way to make your child’s first exposure to foreign languages an experience they love.