Teaching Children French – Learning Tools

You should involved in the French learning time. This is what will really get your young kid’s attention. For older children, video games in French, YouTube videos and DVDs are great tools.

Teaching French to Toddlers

Young kids need both supervision and interaction.

So, a parent or sitter needs to get involved with the French book, the DVD, the French Apps or whatever medium you choose to teach French to your child with.

The first thing is to get him/her interested. Sit down with your child while you listen to a Fairy Tale in French and use simple sentences like:

  • “Le loup  arrive” (the wolf comes)
  • Get up and dance, and repeat: “Le loup! Le loup!”.

Even if you don’t speak French, pick a word and repeat it. Chances are you’ll learn a couple of things yourself! But your kid will pick up much more than you do, because at a young age, they are just geniuses in guessing and learning languages from the context: this is how they learn English!

Sing along with kid songs (you can find the lyrics on the internet): your children will love this special time and will definitely develop an ear for the language – and associate it with a special bonding time with you.

You’ll see, it’s quite amazing how much French a kid can figure out on his own. What is difficult though is to motivate him, to get him to actually concentrate on go through the activity. And that’s where you come in :-)

Classic French Fairy Tales Work With Young Kids

At 3 years of age, my daughter had lived all her life in Boston, USA. She spoke English from 9 AM to 5 PM at daycare, then French at home.

She loved listening to my Fun for All French Tales adaptations and recordings; she seemed mesmerized by my voice and the lively rendition of the tale, and listened to the same tale over and over — for weeks.

Then, when I was telling her the story, she would fill in entire sentences that she had memorized. Just like when a child “pretends” he can read because he has memorized the lines of his favorite books.

It was cute at the time, but I didn’t read too much into it.

When we moved to France the following year, I was quite nervous about Leyla integrating a full-time French-speaking school (her English seemed so much better than her French at that time).

To my big surprise, the teacher told me Leyla was one of the most advanced kids in her class in French. Although technically, English was her first language, she had a lot of vocabulary in French at a young age, and used vous really well, as well as complex tenses such as subjunctive.

I know this comes from hearing and memorizing the Classic French fairy tales.

YouTube – An Endless and Free Resource For Your Kid to Learn French

Leyla loves watching gamers play video games on YouTube. But native gamers usually speak too fast for kids learning French.

So, we decided to create our own French Today YouTube channel to teach French with video games (follow this link to subscribe for free – and never miss a video!)

Leyla has done a few videos using Minecraft to teach French to kids

And I created videos using the popular video game “The Sims 4” for kids and adults to learn French.

Of course, depending on the age and reliability of your kid, leaving him/her in front of YouTube is not always recommended.

Leyla is very trustworthy. Early on, we did explain to her that some videos on YouTube were violent and scary, and would give her nightmares and that she was only allowed to watch videos from specific channels (like videos with the French Today logo on them). We didn’t engage auto play, so she had to pick and choose the video she was watching.

And of course, we kept an eye and ear on what she was doing, and never left her in front of the computer without being somewhat around (and we did tell her we knew how to see what she watched – and do check our computer history to make sure she stays the course. And she does).

Set Your Child Video Game to French Language

For older kids, once they are accustomed to using a video game, you may be able to switch the language to French (many popular games offer this option such as the Sims or Minecraft).

I wouldn’t start the game on the French language unless your kid is bilingual or already knows how to play, because s/he may not understand the cues at first.

However, once your child is familiar with the game, setting it to French is a good way for your kid to learn new French vocabulary.

Apps for Children to Learn French

With kids nowadays being born with an iPad in their hands (or so it seems) there are of course many French apps for kids – the link shows a good list, but I don’t know how updated it is. As usual, better check it out for yourself and check the customer rankings before you buy anything.

Another thing to watch out for: if you are buying some sort of word + image game, make sure the French word includes the French article (un/une – le la)… The article shows the gender, and you need to memorize it with the French nouns:

  • une table (table is feminine in French)
  • un livre (book is masculine)

Should there be no gender indication, you’d be missing on half of the info…

Softwares for Kids in French on Amazon

Of course, some tools are developed to teach French to kids. Amazon is a great resource (check out the customer reviews to make up your own mind).

This is pure fun. The French cartoon host is enticing, the accent legit. It won’t create a strong grammatical basis, but it is a fun introduction to French, with lots of songs and games you can print. I do like this program a lot. It’s well done, with a big booklet that goes with the lessons and can help the parents reinforce the lesson’s content, and quizzes. The real actor is a plus since kids love to watch other kids. This is the second part of this great program, with older versions of the same characters. Money well spent.

French CDs = A Great Tool for French Pronunciation

This is a fantastic tool to introduce French to your kids, with sentences for everyday life situations as well as songs and games. This covers the traditional French rhymes, with very nice music and different singers. A plus is that you can sample all the songs on Amazon… A fun introduction to French, well done, with age-specific songs, and French singers. This CD is really well made, with authentic French kids voices, and new rhymes, a more modern approach that Leyla loved.

Read Books in French to Your Kid = A Special Bonding Time in French

If you are going to read a traditional US bedtime story, why not do it in French? The sentences are short enough, I’m sure you can handle to pronunciation. This is a simple, yet great way to initiate your kid to French. This is a fun way to count in French, and learn food items with your kid. Plus children love the format of the book. An old time favorite for my family. I think we own a first edition, and even if the French might be difficult for children, the action takes place in Paris and the drawings are to die for! I LOVE that book, and so did Leyla. If you want, the English version is also available in my Amazon store.

Children DVDs with French Audio Tracks: Read the Product Description!

TV can definitely help. Find movies or shows that contain French language tracks and play them for your kid. Actually, if you want to see results, your kid should ONLY watch TV in French. It’s a good thing that they love repetition at this age – see my tips about pitfalls and bad habits :-)

Finding kid DVDs in French is not that easy: the Caillou series has French tracks, so do many of the Disney & Dreamworks movies – not all of them do though (Ratatouille doesn’t for example!!) (see my list below).

Be careful that not all DVDs actually have French audio tracks even if it does say so on the Amazon web page. We actually own the following DVDs and know that these do indeed have the French track (be aware also that some versions of the same movie might not have the same ‘extras’ on the DVD so the original release of the movie and the Special Edition might be different).

Here are some of our daughter Leyla favorite DVDs – which do come with a French track!

An absolute classic. The French voices are actually even better than the English ones I think. Unlike most sequels, this one is almost as good as the original (different voice cast though) Another classic. Be carefull that the witch can be a little scary for the smaller ones. We love dogs so this in a big favorite in our house.
Although you can not beat Ellen DeGeneres’ voice, the French track is really good too. Tinkerbell is gorgeous to watch (kind of unusual for a straight to DVD release) Another classic one, Leyla burst out laughing everytime she sees the spaghetti scene! Finally some diversity in the Disney “princesses”

Teaching French to Teens

I know for a fact that the best way to learn French is to do so in context: check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks. French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation.

They are perfectly suitable for teens – I’ve recently used À Moi Paris Level 1  to teach a 14 years old American boy and he loved it!

He said the audio gave him reflexes in French: he heard my voice in his head. He also liked the fact that the story featured vocabulary he could actually use, real life like situations.

Finally, he said that unlike his French school book, there was a lot of repetition and everything was explained really clearly. The story difficulty was progressive, so he didn’t feel he had to memorize too much at once.

Voilà, I hope this helps. I invite you to read my articles on:

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