“You’ll thank me when you’re older” doesn’t fly at our house so we try to make sure the kids enjoy and value German for their own reasons. Some of our tools include:
- Books – Our kids love to read and we have nearly as many German-language books as we have English!
- Music – Most of our children’s music is in German. They both love to sing and have grown up singing Kinderlieder. We started off with traditional songs appropriate for young kids like the “Hoppe, hoppe, Reiter” songbook with CD. Now we try to offer a wide variety of CDs as their tastes and interests change. Through the years Rolf Zuckowski has remained a favorite at our house. He offers a great variety of song themes (traditional, holidays, school days, family, etc.), musical styles and also “story songs” like “Im Orient” that are mini stories. Rolf Zuckowski has been a fixture in German children’s music for many many years, and his songs have become part of the cultural landscape.
- Hörbücher – There are some fabulous German audiobook series for children. They are great tool for learning both the language and the culture, and our kids love them. We’ve already added some of the “Reisemaus” stories to the store and will be bringing more of our favorites in the near future.
- Video – The majority of our screen time is in German. For example, the kids were surprised to know that Peter Pan spoke English when they saw the movie in First Grade. At our house he only speaks German!
- Traditions – We’ve incorporated German customs and holidays into our lives. We dress up for Fasching, we decorate Schulüte for the first day of school, decorate lanterns for Martinstag, the Nikolaus visits our house on December 6, and we light the Adventskranz every Sunday during Advent. We enjoy German food regularly and often eat breakfast from our Frühstücksbretter (one says “Morgenmuffel” which is a great word for grumpy people in the mornings, and often gets the kids singing the Rolf Zuckowski song of the same name). We like to bring the culture as much as the language to our kids, so they can relate to their peers when we visit Europe.
- Friends – We are blessed to live in an area with lots of German-speaking children. We make an effort to participate in the German community, and we’ve cultivated a Freundeskreis with other kids that have similar interests.
(This article was originally published in our newletter. You can sign up here to receive the newsletter in your e-mailbox and get a copy of “Parenting auf Deutsch” by Sarah Mueller.)