We expats are coming and going, not always when we want to. My friend Ann Belle of family-friendly North Rhein Westfalia blog Belle NRW had to relocate back to the United States late last year reluctantly. After the initial years of stumbling to find her way as an expat mother, she launched Belle NRW, and was also comfortable and relishing in the positives of having her American children ages five and three in a German kindergarten. One of the biggest pluses, of course, was that they were learning the German language. So, it was with some regret that she was removing them from this daily immersion to repatriate back to America.
Before she left, she asked me for some book and toy recommendations that might help them retain their German. This is the list I sent:
- Warum? Wieso? Weshalb? books by Ravensburger. Pick a topic that your child is crazy about (dinosaurs, ballet, farms, construction sites, pirates, circus or ladybugs – the list is enticingly endless) and you will find a book with great detail and precision explaining how these things work or where they came from with lots of clever lift up flaps. (Check out this one on street signs and safety – appliances, plumbing, electricity. Makes you feel more confident about German engineering.) They have a more basic series for 3-5-year-olds and a larger more comprehensive one for 4-7-year-olds. These books are helpful when introducing a theme such as entering school or world religions.
“Auf dem Bauernhof” will show you how those potatoes are processed.
- Although these Warum Wieso Weshalb books can occupy children to play independently for long stretches, they do require someone who can read German for the German language support. If that’s hard to find, a number of these books can be used in conjunction with a Tiptoi,which is basically an interactive talking pen. You’ll need the Tiptoi starter kit along with the books.
- All playgroups and kindergartens involve lots of singing and accompanying dancing and movements. We like to listen to this CD full of classic children’s songs from Die Sendung mit der Maus in the car. For the jumping and dancing type of songs, this Detlev Böcker 1, 2, 3 im Sauseschritt CD won’t disappoint. Our copy was a gift from our German babysitter who is a certified German Kindergarten teacher. If you are a songbook and music type of person, our family recommends Die große goldene Liederfibel. It also has accompanying CDs.
- For quieter moments, we love the Bobo Siebenschläfer books. These are sweet, simple stories of everyday German life for a two-year-old. Again, reading the books requires someone who can read German, but there is also the CD version for the first three books. The series has recently been developed into a DVD in PAL format.
- For the older Kindergarten and grade school kids, a board game with audio, such as Schnappt Hubi or Wer war’s? can also be effective and fun. After enough repetition, anyone can learn the sentences and phrases used in the game: Grüne Hase, du kannst jetzt durch! (Green Rabbit, you can go through!)
This is my basic list of products to help you get started and initially bridge the gap, but I have since touched base with my friend to see what she has found effective not only in products but also in what she does to help her young children retain their German language skills. In my next post, I’ll share her recommendations. Meanwhile, if you have any further tips on helping kids with German language retention, please share them here.
* The above Amazon product links are affiliate links meaning that if you do buy the products using our links, the German Way store makes a small profit at no extra cost to you.