Children learn so much through play, particularly language skills. They are listening, observing, exploring and imitating. So playing games in French is a great way to teach your child French! This can be as simple or as complicated as you like, and is adaptable for the age of your child. You can make up easy vocabulary games or simply just play alongside them in French, even if they’re speaking English.
For the littlest ones, a game of Peek-a-boo (Coucou in French) is a super simple way to engage with your baby and introduce some French words as well as to facilitate learning and social bonding. This is a great way to begin to introduce simple French phrases to your baby. Hide behind your hands or a scarf - a transparent one works particularly well - then lower the scarf or open your hands and say Coucou! You can precede the hiding with the question “Ou est maman/papa?” (Where is mama/daddy). Next you might like to try hiding one of your baby’s favourite toys and asking Ou est [le lapin, etc]. This game is excellent for 6 month old babies who are just developing the concept of object permanence. For older children, you can use the opportunity to teach French prepositions and common household objects. You may like to hide the object then suggest places for them to look - ie, Ou est le lapin? Est-il derriere la porte, sur l'étagère, etc - you can even download our cute illustrated prepositions printable as a cheat sheet!
Role play/imaginative play
Role play is commonly used in the foreign language classroom as a communicative teaching tool as it provides the opportunity for the student to use their creativity, imagination and to practice conversation in real-life scenarios in a risk-free environment. Similarly, role play is a vital element of children’s development as it assists in language learning. Children use imaginative role play in the many of the same ways that adult foreign language learners do; it develops their communication skills and language, provides the opportunity to act out real or imagined situations and gives them the change to utilise their creativity and imagination.
Even if your child isn’t talking yet, it’s important that they hear the language and have it modelled for them. At the most basic level, you can simply give a running commentary of what you’re doing, and throw in some funny voices if you like! For example, you could have a teddy bear picnic with their favourite soft toys while you “narrate”. Older children will be more able to play along and contribute. It’s totally fine if they speak English, just restate what they’ve said in French and you could encourage them to try saying it. It’s also important to avoid telling children that they are making mistakes or that they have said something wrong, and any corrections should be made gently - once again, simply restating what they’ve said correctly should be sufficient.
Simon Says/Jacques a dit
The game Simon Says is a classic childhood staple. You don’t need any equipment or props, just yourself! It’s the perfect way to practice the names for parts of the body in French. The French equivalent is called Jacques a dit and it works in the same way. It’s a great game because it gets your child listening to the language and actively participating. For younger ones, you can do the actions along as they mirror you. As they become more familiar with the vocabulary, you can remove that support and allow them to do it on their own. And older children might like to have a turn at giving the instructions! You can download our free illustrated body parts printable to help you out. Additionally, once your child has got the hang of it, you might like to expand on the game and experiment with incorporating other items, such as household objects - ie, touche le canape, touche la table, etc. Check out our household objects printable.
Have fun playing these games with your child. Do you have any other favourites? Comment below and let us know!