Food for thought: Not losing sight of the youngest sibling’s bilingual education

Whilst recently reflecting on my eldest’s literacy acquisition, I came to realise how we are neglecting our youngest daughter’s bilingual education. My eldest’s first steps into literacy was through the ABC classic song from the nursery rhymes I played for her. My eldest being now 6, I do not play as many nursery rhymes on YouTube as I used to, as I consider she is now quite old for this… whilst completely forgetting about our 2-year old! It only hit me there and then how we are neglecting our little one. 😥

We tend to follow our eldest’s interests as to us adults they seem slight more entertaining than her little sister’s more baby-like interests. In a sense, it can be beneficial to our youngest as our youngest is stimulated by things aimed at older children. However, it can also:

  • generate frustrations or loose her interest quickly when she cannot do it herself,
  • she gets less opportunities to do things aimed at her age,
  • she does not get the same opportunities as her sister to acquire age-appropriate knowledge.

Having raised the neglect issue with my husband, we immediately started alternating one-on-one time with our daughters, so as to provide each of them with age appropriate activities and closer attention. It is quite pleasant since it means quieter interactions, more quality discussions, activities adapted to their respective ages. It has also been an eye-opener to fully focus on my little one’s language capacities.
As part of this one-on-one time, my first move was to spend over an hour with my little one, watching and singing along YouTube nursery rhyme videos. Among the songs featured “Five little monkeys”, which I deliberately selected because I remembered what my little one’s childminder had told me during the week. She had been surprised at my daughter’s reaction when at the local playgroup she did not want to sing that very song; which they were trying to teach in English to other children as part of an initiation to English. With hindsight, my daughter probably had not reacted just out of shyness, but had most probably forgotten the lyrics through our negligence. Since playing it again, we have sung it several times on the way to the childminder; another thing I used to do with my eldest (see Make the most of the school run!) at the same age and that I neglected with my youngest. And I am pleased to say my little one is now participating in the singing, enjoying it and regularly asking me to play nursery rhymes (which I do on Spotify whenever it is not an appropriate screen time).

Finally, another factor that led to this neglect is us focusing more on our eldest as she has given us so much grief with speaking her 2 minority languages (see Our story). Educating her bilingual has been and still is a fight. And in this focus, we lost sight of our little one. Had she been language resistant like her eldest had been, we would have been more concerned and paid more attention to her, but being rather easy-going and so far (fingers crossed!) not resisting the minority languages, we continued focusing on her big sister.

Hence, here is food for thought learnt through this experience: whatever the circumstances playing against you, remember not to lose sight of your youngest’s bilingual development. We sometimes need to step back and see where each child is standing on their journey and what we are missing out and what we can do to solve it. Action – reaction 😉

Our favourite YouTube channels for nursery rhymes:

  • Super Simple Songs (English and Spanish)
  • KidsTV123 (English)
  • Hey Kids (Spanish)
  • Bounce Patrol Kids (English)

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