For her birthday, my 3-year old got a beautiful, highly detailed, princess-themed jigsaw puzzle. She has always been a jigsaw fan and despite this one being for ages 4+, she took to it straight away.
Obviously, as it is for a slightly older age range, I chip in when need be and this is how it made me realise how valuable a resource puzzles are on the bilingual journey.
- foster conversation – The more complex, the more time you will have to spend time with your child to help them. Time spent together naturally entails chatting together in the minority language (ml)
- foster description – In the conversation process, you will inevitably describe what you see. Another excellent way to expose your child to the minority language.
- foster comprehension – You will give directions to your child as to where the pieces go. Whether or not they follow your instructions correctly will be a good indicator as to their comprehension of the ml used.
- create exposure to positional vocabulary – Prepositions of place such as on top, at the bottom, next to, behind… This is an ideal exercise for young children my daughter’s age, as they often struggle with these concepts.
- expose to the vocabulary of the theme – For instance, in our case, with a princess puzzle I get to use the name of all the classic princesses in the minority language, so my daughter gets to know The Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel and the whole lot in English. She is already picking up their names. If you feel your child needs to learn a specific vocabulary they are lacking, e.g: animal names, then puzzles could be a fun way to expose them and pick up that vocabulary.
- foster family and ml bonding – thanks to the time spent together doing them, you strengthen your bond with your child. And with it, the bond with the minority language.
- entail repetition – When your child is small like mine, they never grow tired of things and can repeat what they like over and over again, be it a song, a book or… a puzzle! As tiresome as this might be to us parents, it yet has a positive side to it: repetition drills in your child’s mind the minority language vocabulary you use during these jigsaw sessions.
From a practical point of view, jigsaw puzzles can easily be found in your Majority Language (ML) country as they do not necessarily have ML text and can be affordable. No need to have them imported.
At last a good resource for bilingual education that is readily available in your Majority Language country! 😉
To make the most of the drill puzzles can create, try to always use the same words to describe each piece. For instance, on this princess puzzle, I always talk of the “well”, the “swan”, “Rapunzel”, the “pumpkin”, etc… My little one has already picked up the word “well” and over time the other words will sink in. Once it is so, it is then possible to move on and use synonyms to these words, so as to broaden the child’s vocabulary.