Summer Activities to Develop Child’s Native Language

Successful second language learning depends on the development of your child’s native language.  The following activities are suggestions for you to do with your child, or for your child to do on their own, to develop their first language.  Use as much language as you can during the activity.  The activities below are based on what you can do in the United States, but you can tweak the activities to your own culture.  

The activities below are also focused on building your child’s background knowledge or prior knowledge.  It is important for your child to have many, various experiences to increase their background knowledge or prior knowledge.  Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension.  Children need to have knowledge about the topic in a story or text in order to understand it.  The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is to read and understand a text as well as remember the information in the text.    

Most importantly, spend time together having fun and making memories!

  1. Discuss how the weather changes and how people and animals prepare for summer and survive during the summer.  Discuss hot climates like a desert and how people and animals survive in this habitat.
  2. Read summer-themed children’s books to your child.
  3. If your child is able to read, have your child read books that they are interested in.  Visit the public library for free books for your child to read. 
  4. Go on a nature walk or hike.  Bring a magnifying glass.  Examine butterflies, insects, berries, flowers, leaves, birds, frogs, parts of a plant or tree.   
  5. Visit museums, parks, aquariums, farms, zoos, the beach, fairs, water parks, theme parks, farmer’s markets, factory tours or national wildlife refuges.
  6. Plant vegetables, flowers, or a tree.  Discuss plant as a noun and as a verb (to plant).  Vocabulary words:  seeds, soil/dirt, dig, pat, watering can/hose, grow, weeds, sprout, blossom, stem, roots, bud, petal, leaf, flowerpot, garden.  Discuss what plants need in order to grow.  
  7. Have your child play a sport or go to a sporting event.
  8. Go camping (even if it’s in your backyard) and/or fishing.
  9. Go for a bike ride.
  10. Go canoeing/kayaking or for a boat ride.
  11. Have your children play on the playground.
  12. Use sidewalk chalk for your children to practice math facts, spelling sight words, or writing sentences.
  13. Stargaze.  Talk about constellations, the North Star, the verb twinkle.
  14. Watch fireflies glow at night.
  15. Go berry picking.
  16. Feed the ducks.
  17. Eat ice cream, popsicles, snow cones or watermelon.
  18. Go on a picnic.
  19. Have your children jump rope or play hopscotch.
  20. Watch fireworks.
  21. Play miniature golf.
  22. Set up a lemonade stand.
  23. Make a bird feeder.
  24. Watch or be a part of a parade.
  25. Have your child go to a summer or day camp.
  26. Fly a kite.
  27. Discuss Independence Day.  Does your native country also have Independence Day?
  28. Discuss summer weather (rain:  sprinkle, drizzle, pour/downpour, flood  wind:  breeze, blustery, windy, hurricane  clouds: cloudy, clear, gloomy, foggy  other:  storm, drought, thunder, lightening, tornado, rainbow) 
  29. Go whale watching.
  30. Have your child swim at your local pool if you have one.

Winter Activities To Develop Child’s Native Language

Successful second language learning depends on the development of your child’s native language.  The following activities are suggestions for you to do with your child to develop their first language.  Use as much language as you can during each activity.  

The activities below are also focused on building your child’s background knowledge or prior knowledge.  It is important for your child to have many, various experiences to increase their background knowledge or prior knowledge.  Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension.  Children need to have knowledge about the topic in a story or text in order to understand it.  The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is to read and understand a text as well as remember the information in the text.  

  1. Discuss winter weather.  Blizzard, snow storm, ice storm, sleet, slush, ice, wind, freezing rain
  2. Discuss how people and animals prepare for winter and survive during the winter.  People shovel snow, scrape the ice, snow plows plow the snow.  Animals hibernate, migrate, store food, camouflage.
  3. Read winter-themed children’s books.    
  4. Make hot cocoa.
  5. Bake cookies.
  6. Go snow shoeing or a nature walk.  Do you see any icicles?  Search for animal tracks.  Identify trees deciduous, coniferous, evergreen.  Do you smell pine?  Observe different types of birds (not all migrate!).  Collect pine cones and berries.      
  7. Build a snowman or snow fort.
  8. Go sledding or ice skating.

  9. Because there is more darkness at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to observe the night sky.  Discuss and record the phases of the moon.  Do you see any constellations?  Observe or discuss sunrise, sunset, dawn, dusk, twilight.  Some animals are most active at dawn and duskDiscuss nocturnal and nocturnal animals.
  10. Build and decorate a gingerbread house.
  11. Make a craft.  
  12. Make a bird feeder.  
  13. Go on a sleigh ride.  What do you see, hear, or smell?
  14. Discuss cold regions of the world (north pole and south pole) and animals who live there.

iTranslate App

iTranslate is an effective language translation app for communicating with ESL students.  You type what you want to say, and the app translates English to the student’s native language.  Students can also speak into the iPad and iTranlsate records what the student says.  The app translates the student’s native language into English.  I found this method to be less effective because iTranslate does not accurately record what the student says, even when the student is speaking slowly and clearly.  Despite this flaw, I still highly recommend iTranslate for ESL and classroom teachers who need to communicate with their English language learners.

iTranslate is also helpful for English language learners for learning new vocabulary words and grammar structures.

Fall Activities To Develop Child’s Native Language

Successful second language learning depends on the development of the child’s native language.  The following inexpensive activities are suggestions for parents to do with their child to develop their child’s first language.  An effective activity depends on how much language is used during that activity, so you want activities that promote as much language as possible.  Use as much language as they can during each activity.  You can also suggest that they incorporate grade level skills during activities.  For example, for kindergarten students, parents can practice counting or the beginning sound of a fall item. 

  1. Visit an apple orchard and go apple picking.  
  2. Bake a pie or apple crisp.  
  3. Make caramel apples.
  4. Examine the parts of an apple and/or pumpkin.  Compare and contrast both. 
  5. Collect, examine, and compare and contrast leaves.  
  6. Go on a nature walk and collect fall items.  Discuss and compare and contrast your fall treasures.
  7. Visit a pumpkin patch.
  8. Carve and decorate pumpkins.
  9. Go on a hay ride.
  10. Play “I Spy” during a nature walk.
  11. Attend a local harvest festival.  
  12. Read autumn-themed children’s books.
  13. Visit a farm.
  14. Drink apple cider.
  15. Toast pumpkin seeds.

Bilingualism/Multilingualism: Literacy and Bilinguals

If you have a bilingual child, what is the best way to develop their literacy skills in both languages?  There are a variety of  programs for learning to read and write in both languages.

The dual language model is where both languages are used for literacy instruction and development throughout the day. 

The immersion bilingual education program is where children learn to read in their second language before they learn to read in their native language.  Literacy in the native language is added to the child’s education and not replaced. 

Another program is the opposite of the previous model.  Children develop their literacy skills in their native language first and then develop literacy skills in their second language.  Educators who support this model claim that it is easier to understand texts in a language that you already know and understand. 

The goal of these models is additive bilingualism where a second language is added to the child’s native language without replacing their native language.

Research has concluded that literacy skills in a student’s first language is a strong predictor of their development of reading skills in their second language.  The more literacy skills a student has in their first language, the easier and quicker it will be for that student to acquire literacy skills in English.  If a child understands the concepts of print and uses comprehension strategies (scanning, skimming, visualizing, using background knowledge, making inferences, etc.) in their native language,  the child transfers these literacy skills from their first language to their second.  Many educators believe that because of this research, it may be more effective to develop the child’s literacy skills in their native language first and later on, develop the child’s second language literacy skills.   

Reading and writing skills need to be explicitly taught, especially the differences between the two languages.  The child’s writing system in their first language and whether or not the child’s first language is a literate language may affect the ease and rate at which English literacy skills are acquired.    

An important point to language success is language development.  The more a parent develops their child’s native language in all four domains (speaking, understanding, reading, and writing), the more successful the child will be in acquiring a second language.