The “Right” Way to Raise a Bilingual Baby

Ever since my bébé was born, I’ve been bombarded by advice from innocents people. Some of it is great advice, while others are just not for my bébé nor my parenting style (do I even have a style or am I making this up as I go…?).

Honnêtement, there’s hardly a “right” or “wrong” way of raising a bébé bilingue – you just stick to speaking your langue maternelle and your partner continues to speak his, right?

Wrong. Woah, wait…what?!

Raising a bébé is not all about you speaking the langue to your little pitchoune -it includes exposure to the culture, too. Food, littérature, mannerisms/gestes, sounds, expressions, toys, songs/chants… are all a part of encouraging your bébé to be bilingue.

But, that’s not all. What else goes into raising a bébé bilingue? Well, let’s not forget EVERYTHING that goes into raising a bébé monolingue!

This post is going to focus on one important fact that often gets pushed to the curb: Raising a bébé bilingue is not That much différent than raising a bébé monolingue. The IMPORTANT thing is to stick to your langue EVERY SINGLE TIME (even in public).

Here’s my (incomplète) Liste on How to Raise a Bilingual Baby:

Food:

  • Give bébé spices and…rice-cakes. When it comes to spices and lack there of, let your bébé try everything! From Wasabi (it’s too bad I did’t take a photo of that one!) to rice cakes (use caution of course (as with everything!) as rice cakes may not be the best choix for daily consumption), your bébé has the right to taste everything, so, give her the chance! After all, a bébé bilingue need not only be bilingue in the language sense.
  • Give bébé dark chocolat. When it comes to dark chocolat and ice-cream*, say, “Oui!” First of all, your bébé isn’t going to eat a whole bar of chocolat, nor an entire ice-cream cone. Secondly, dark chocolat has a range of benefits: It contains omega 3 fatty acids, flavanoids, antioxydants, all of which are parfait for healthy brain development and in prévention of Cardiovascular Disease. Bien-sûr, fruits and vegetables are a better option, but there’s no need to always be négatif about chocolat. Giving your bébé some chocolat fondu or a spoon of ice-cream is parfaitement healthy.

Nap Time:

  • Let bébé relax where she is. If your bébé falls asleep in her highchair, let her stay there for a little bit. Even if she’s got food in her hands… …or if you’re in the middle of feeding her…Bébé‘s comfortable, so, why move her right away? Bien-sûr, remove the food (and make sure there aren’t any hidden in her mouth – we don’t want bébé to choke)! There’s too much stigma around being the “parfaite maman” (“oh you can’t do that or this or that…”) but all bébé really needs is to be loved and to be left to do bébé things. I suggest waiting until bébé is sound asleep and then move her/him to a crib.

Fun:

  • Let bébé ring the bell. Your bébé is exploring the world for the first time, so let her participer! Whether you’re at home with wind chimes or at a learning ferme with a blacksmith bell, encourage your bébé to make noise! After all, some sounds aren’t the same in every langue (e.g. animal sounds).
  • Let bébé enjoy a ride at an amusement park! Exploring doesn’t stop at the mouth and hands: Let your bébé explore the world through her/his eyes and ears, too. There’s usually an attraction at most amusement parcs that even a healthy bébé can safely enjoy!
  • Give bébé a raison to laugh. Despite what some recherche suggests, don’t be afraid to make your bébé laugh by throwing her/him into the air.After all, this recherche was discovered as a résultat of parental abuse of this game. To avoid problems, just remember to be safe, careful, use your best judgment, and to not let go.  Or if you do let go, be sure to catch her/him. Or you can jump with bébbé, thus making it fun for both of you!
  • Expose bébé to other bébés. Whether it’s bébés who are also acquiring your langue or not, letting bébé interact with other bébés will help développer bébé‘s social skills.  Bébés learn not only from mom and dad but also from their peers. This article by Reuters briefly explains the study completed by the U.S. National Institutes of Child Health and Development. The article highlights the fact that “children with high-quality childcare scored slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement years later as teenagers.” The basis of the study was to discover whether or not parents should work during the early years of development; however, it also shows that bébé to bébé interaction helps promote cognitive development. This article by Melinda Wenner adds both a working-mother and journalist’s input to the subject matter: Enrolling bébé in high quality daycare promotes both cognitive and language development but it’s not the only way to help bébé‘s development. That is to say that bébé to bébé interaction does not necessarily mean daycare – it can be playdates, bébégym, or even a baby swimmers classe. So, whether you choose to enroll bébé in childcare or have playdates several times a week, give your bébé that first-hand expérience.
  • Limite screen time, but get bébé in front of it. Screen time can be anything from music (vidéos or just listening to music) to short épisodes of kids shows in the target langue. There’s a lot of négativité on screen time; however, within limits, screen time can be a good thing – especially as support for bilingual bébés. For one, it can expand and reinforce your child’s vocabulary – especially in the target language. For exemple, in many épisodes of Peppa Pig, she plays with a ball, a bike, at the parc, etc…, so, playtime vocabulary such as “catch”, “play”, “ball”, “park”, “slide”, “bike” are learned/reinforced in context. In addition, politeness is also learned and reinforced: “please”, “thank you”, “may I help”…Seeing a child (even if it is a pig) using these words and expressions enables children’s brains to make associations with the word, which then helps reinforce the words.

Hygiène:

  • Let bébé brush her “teeth”. Once your bébé begins teething, it’s time to whip out the bébé toothbrush and the non-toxic toothpaste! After all, it’s never too early to start good teeth-brushing habits.
  • Let bébé splash in the bath! Bébé is just learning about water and all its properties, so, let her make a mess! After all, it’s only water (if you fear the wrath of the Splash, then try this splash guard). Also, as bébé grows into her toddler years, don’t be afraid to sit in the tub with her. It’s always more fun to splash together!

This liste is definitely incomplete and I could go on for days! The point is that in a time when moms are often judged and criticized for everything we do and don’t do with our children, we often forget that the person these judges/critiques should really be thinking about is the bébé! This liste is meant to show parents that there’s not really a HUGE différence in raising a bébé bilingue or a bébé monolingue.  Just go with bébé‘s flow and enjoy it before she grows up! Offrir love, plenty of activités, and target langue exposure – the rest just works itself out.

I must be doing something right since my bébé is always happy! ♦

*Letting your bébé try these foods may come with a risque – if he/she is allergique, don’t take the risque! Follow your pediatrician’s or GP’s orders!


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