Saturday, January 23, 2010


Well, this one is not for the faint of heart, but as I've said before, my intent is to give you ideas on motivating and getting the children to understand and become bilingual.  Every so often, (but not too often), I offer our children a "pajama party" night.  Granted, this is likely best suited for children from toddler to the upper tween years.  However, I'll tell you that it really has worked well for me so far.  There are several benefits to having these fun nights.

1)  The children get to spend time with me and I with them, with out the constant pressure of having to run from one activity or another.  (Plus, my husband would say, he gets to watch the television in bed with no complaints from me describing how boring it is to watch football.!)

2)  We play games that are from the Greek culture (an asset, if the kids will be playing tavlee, cards, or kreefto, with cousins in Greece).

3)  Most of all, I speak to the children in Greek only. They get to respond in Greek. Now of course there are many times they do not know how to say something, but I will let them know, how to say it, and then when they do....out comes the treasure chest.  (As always, keep it light, this is really important, as this generation is not like ours where we just got the look and we dealt.)  Anyone recall, the koutala, or how about, tnv zwvn.?

So, what do we do exactly?  Well, firstly, I present it as a real treat.  After all, I am sleeping on the den floor, and they get to sleep as late as they want.  Generally, we do this when there is no school the following day.  We all wear a T-shirt that is worn just for these nights, the pajama party shirts.  Each morning after our  night has ended, each of the children earn a patch, which I iron on that following morning.  At this point, you could imagine that they take great pride in wearing the pj shirts with all the patches.  I wear one also, since we are all a part of this together.  In fact, both girls and I, as well as my sister in Greece have the same color, pink.  My son wears a lime green, as does my godson who lives in Greece.  Yes, these shirts have traveled to Greece, along with patches I did not forget to bring on our last trip.  My sister earned a few patches already. (Oh, there is another benefit to these parties).  By including my sister and son, in on something as special as this, my children's connection to their aunt increased / increases their bond. Getting back to what we do during these nights...  The kids vote, and they pick if we start with a snack, game or craft.  I try to give them as much decision making power as possible.  After all this is work hidden under the guise of being fun.
First I open my now famous "Mary Poppins bag".  This bag contains a never ending supply of books, art and crafts supplies, all of which the children never get to actually view in the bag.  I started this Mary Poppins bag idea when my oldest daughter, now eight, was four, and they still love it.  The children are still young enough that they enjoy it's mystery.    In the bag is also their favorite colors for nail polish, and I will offer them a pedicure and manicure.  All these little activities I maintain in Greek and because of the high value they regard these "sleep in the den" nights, I find they are very willing to enjoy it as such.  This works well, since the foundation of forein language acquisition is easiest in the early years.

Snack?  Everyone must say, "I want (flavor) and (topping) please.  In other words, Boro na exo sokolata me sirope se parakalo?  I'll have my kids repeat this phrase if pronounciation is not clear...always easily, and going at the childrens' pace. 
Games? I may say that I will ask a question and whoever repeats correctly what I asked, gets to pick a trinket from the treasure box.  (For a child that can not guess or is easily frustrated, I would offer to have them repeat when someone else answered correctly and they would pick from the treasure chest also.)  If you have one child, then use yourself.  If they don't know, you can just offer to tell them and when they repeat it,  well they've just earned a treasure.  In a nutshell, during, the time that we make a craft, we use phrases like, "pass me the scissors please", I need 2 yellow sheets.  I encourage the children to say everything or as much as possible in our foreign language. If they are too frustrated, I let them know that they are doing great, and I will communicate in Greek and leave the kids to speak in what ever comes naturally.  Revisiting those words and phrases that were too hard is important and I certainly get back to it.  As always though, it is of paramount importance that the children find it worth their while, and equally important that we encourage a confidence in their ability to "get it".

The final treat of the night is that the children pick a movie & I make popcorn. The children usually will fall asleep by the end but all of them happy that they stayed up past midnight!  We as parents know our own childrens' strengths and what may get their attention.  I hope you will find this post useful, and if you use this idea I would love to learn how it went.