Learning French Around the Maison: Tactile and Kinesthetic

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By Sarah Dodson-Knight
Photo Credit: Posh Living, LLC

If you’re speaking French at home with your kids, like I do with my toddler Griffin, then you know that just about anything you do around the house is fair game for rendering in French, from playtime to mealtime to bath time to bedtime.

But what about activities specific to learning and practicing vocabulary words like prepositions, rooms in the house, and names of furniture? How about some songs and stories about homes that you can share with your children? Maybe you feel like some interactive games and art projects?

If so, then welcome to Learning French Around the Maison!

Learning French Around the Maison
Part Four:
Tactile and Kinesthetic

We’ve explored vocabulary about houses and homes, sung songs and done art projects about where we live, read and written stories about places to live, and now we’ll conclude this series with tactile and kinesthetic activities that will inspire you and your kids to get up, get moving, and use French all around your home.  Amusez-vous bien!

Tasks as simple as household chores are a fantastic way to get your children involved in using French in a natural context (and they might even end up helping you with the cleaning!).  For example, my son Griffin loves to do laundry.  As we sort clothes, fill the washer, transfer the clothes to the dryer or the drying rack on the porch, and then match socks and fold the rest, we cover all of the following vocabulary points:

  • Articles of clothing
  • Colors, patterns, and fabric
  • Sizes
  • Opposites:
    • mouillé/sec (wet/dry),
    • clair/foncé (light/dark colors),
    • garçon/fille (boy/girl),
    • enfant/adulte (child/adult),
    • pour quand il fait chaud/froid (warm/cold weather)
  • Commands:
    • ouvrez (open),
    • fermez (close),
    • donnez-moi (give me),
    • prenez (take),
    • versez (pour),
    • mettez (put),
    • bougez (move),
    • levez (lift),
    • pliez (fold)
  • Possession:
    • what clothing belongs to which family member (“la chemise de Daddy,” “sa chemise,” “la chaussette de Griffin,” “ta chaussette”)

These types of vocabulary-rich exchanges can take place while washing dishes, cooking, and cleaning the house, of course.

You can also use home-related French while interacting with your children as they play. (By the way, if they are just starting to speak French, you might want to designate certain places in your home as “French only,” such as a specific room or piece of furniture, or pick a time of day to only speak French, like during lunch or in the car when running errands.)

When you and your children play house or play with a dollhouse or other toy building, use French yourself and encourage your kids to narrate, explain, and describe the toys and what they’re doing in French.

Perhaps you could help your children build their own toy house out of big cardboard boxes–but speak only French, using gestures and intonation to help convey what they have to fold, cut, and draw.  When you play with blocks, talk about what you’re building in French.  And as you play board games, try them in French too!

In addition to simply interacting with your children in French as they play around the house, you can try some games that will encourage them to use the target vocabulary:

  • Jacques a dit is the French equivalent of “Simon Says,” where the leader gives orders and the players have to do what he commands, but only if he adds “Jacques a dit” to each one.  This is a great way to practice prepositions: cours au canapé (run to the couch), cachez-vous derrière le canapé (hide behind the couch), asseyez-vous sur une chaise (sit on a chair), etc.
  • Je vois is played like “I Spy,” where the players take turns describing something they see in the room and the others must guess
  • In 20 Questions, the leader thinks of an object in the home and the players must ask yes/no questions to determine what the secret item is: C’est un meuble? (Is it a piece of furniture?)  C’est marron? (Is it brown?) and so forth.
  • Chasse au trésor (treasure hunt) invites the players to follow a map to find a hidden prize.  You and the children can take turns hiding the objects and drawing the maps (and giving directions and hints in French).

Finally, here are some interactive computer games that will help you and your kids practice home-related vocabulary in French:

  • Je fais tout ça chez moi: Click on characters’ faces to hear them explain what they do in each room of the house, then use your mouse to drag and drop each person in the appropriate room.
  • L’appartement: Look at the floor plan while you listen to the narrator describe where the rooms are located.  Use your mouse to drag a label into each room.
  • Je déménage: Listen to two people discuss where to put the furniture in their new home, then drag and drop a drawing of the items into the right place.
  • Ma chambre: Play “interior decorator” for impatient Olivier.  He announces what he wants in his room, and you select the furniture, wallpaper, objects, and pets, including what type or color of each.  This one is a little tricky, so I’d recommend starting with “entraîne-toi” (training) and figuring out what all the little drawings in the box represent.  (For example, he might tell you that he wants a fishbowl, so you have to click on the cat to see all the possibilities for pets.)
  • Meublons un appartement: Using Homestyler, a website in English (after you sign up for a free account), design a professional-looking blueprint, and then furnish it with items from these links supplied by a French teacher.
  • Á la maison: Matching, memory, and word search games online.

Thank you so much for joining us on our journey through la maison!  Please share any of your favorite home-related songs, books, games, and activities in French by leaving your comments below.

My next series of articles about French language-learning activities for children will focus on friends and family; the first installment will appear here in a month or so.  Contact me at babybilingual@gmail.com if you have suggestions for what I should include!

Looking for Part One, Two and Three of Learning French Around the MaisonClick here and you will find all of Sarah’s French Activities!

Sarah Dodson-Knight has taught English in France and English composition, ESL, literature, and French in the US. She now coordinates year-round reading enrichment programs at the Lafayette Public Library (Colorado). You can find her at Bringing up Baby Bilingual where she writes about raising children with more than one language and records her efforts to teach French as a non-native speaker to her son (Griffin, age 2) and her nephew (Carl, age 4). On her blog, you will find profiles of bilingual and multilingual families, resource recommendations, book reviews, discussion prompts, descriptions of games and language learning activities, and stories about Griffin and Carl.

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