It’s time to buy presents! My antennae are up for gifts that are fun, educational, and will help our budding language learners to see themselves as world citizens. Your child is never too young to start playing with toys that feature other countries, languages and cultures. And if your children are already speaking and starting to acquire a second or third language, these toys can help reinforce their wider world view. Here are a few of my faves for this holiday season. Amuse-toi bien! (have fun)
BABIES (0-14 MONTHS)
Your child will love these brightly colored blocks from Haba (if you don’t fancy Seville, they also have Cordoba!). With 45 pieces, this set will keep your little architect busy for hours. Brighten up your baby’s nursery and be the only one on the block (pun intended) to have a Spanish city under construction… Buy it here
Made in the French Alps with natural rubber and non toxic paint, Sophie has been safely cuddled and chewed by thousands of babies. She is soft light and easy to grasp and fits perfectly into little hands. She makes a happy sound when squeezed… Babies especially love her bumpy head to soothe their teething gums. But if you speak French to her, don’t expect her to talk back, she’ll just look at you in her “coquette” way. Also comes in Vanilla! Buy it here
TODDLERS (15 MO – 3 YEARS OLD)
Introduce your children to beautifully made wooden toys and to how some of our most endangered species live! Your kids will discover an Elephant, Tiger and Panda (our favorite, of course) in the “Asia Series” from Plan Toys. They are made of natural, chemical free recycled bamboo and can sit and stand just like real animals. They are finished with non-toxic dye and recommended for 3+, but could be played with by toddlers as well. Make sure to show your wee ones where China is on the globe! ($34) Buy it here
These adorable plates teach words in French – choose from delightful farm animals or Pirates and Princess themes for your little swarthy crew and precious princess (make that “une princesse”). My son Emmett is 7 ½ and I still haven’t managed to give away his animals plate from this series (little brother Adrian is enjoying it now). Buy it here
What better way to get familiar with kids of different countries than with this oversized floor puzzle featuring kids from around the world? At only $10.75 it’s a great gift that will keep your child busy and expose him or her to not only to kids’ native costumes as well as the flags associated with the countries where they live. Buy it here
From our friends at GeoToys, this bingo game includes 50 country cards, representing the world’s most populous nations. Each card lists that country’s capital, land area, population, and geographic location. The goal of GeoBingo™ World is to get 5 countries in a row on one of the 8 GeoBingo™ Boards. ($18.99) Buy it here
Last but not least, what gift guide would be complete without our very own trilingual books? Featuring French, Spanish and English, these board books are perfect for budding linguists and chock full of lift the flaps, pull tabs and Little Pim antics. Books are in English with Spanish and French words taught throughout and phonetics for parents who don't speak the language. COLORS and FEELINGS, $8.95 each. Buy it here
This excellent book by Homa Sabet Tavangar has practical suggestions for raising children with a global perspective. I got several ideas from this book of fun things to do with my kids, I am sure you'll find new cool new activities too! Makes a great gift for parents who are travelers and want to share their love of other cultures and countries with their little ones. Buy it here
This is one of the most practical, well-written books I have found about raising a bilingual child. Dr. Naomi Steiner is a developmental-behavoir pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center in Botson and an expert in the methods used to teach children more than one language. 7 Easy Steps... includes worksheets that help you map out your family's bilingual action plan, ways to involve parents who don't speak the language being taught, and tips for keeping your child motivated and excited about language learning. A terrific resource and road map! Buy it here
If you are like me, holiday shopping starts right after the Halloween costumes go into storage – mainly because my kids start telling me what they want for Hannukah as soon as November 1st hits! This year I feel I have a lot of great things to choose from that will delight them, and make me feel like I am buying things that actually challenge and stimulate them. Here are a few of my faves (and not all of them have to do with language learning!): MAGNETIC BLOCKS
Tegu Blocks are the kind of invention that makes you think “why didn’t I come up with that?” Take a block and combine it with a magnet, and voilà! Embedded inside each block is a powerful magnet that allows you to build things that couldn’t be done with traditional blocks. To boot, Tegu blocks are made from eco-friendly wood native to Honduras, where they are manufactured.
You can get them in New York at Doodle Doo’s (11 Christopher) or on line at
PUZZLES THAT TAKE YOU PLACES
My kids love GeoPuzzles, and are always excited about a new game or puzzle from this wonderful company. GeoPuzzles makes jigsaw puzzles with pieces shaped like individual countries, so children learn as they put the puzzle together. Invented by a dad, these great puzzles are made by a a family-run business. They make Geo Cards and Games too (like Geo Bingo – which is what it sounds like!).
PAINT A ZOO
My kids love doing art projects, and Alex Toys keeps coming out with cool new crafts to keep us busy on cold winter afternoons. This zoo kit lets kids paint bright colors on fun animal shapes and add silly accessories to create a zoo full of creative fun. The activity kit includes 6 cardboard punch-out animals, 12 poster paints, 6 crayon bright crayons, wiggly eyes, glue and easy instructions. Even better, my six year old and my almost three year old can both take part in this zoo-stravaganza. It’s tough to find activities for them to share, but big and little kids alike love zoo animals, so you can’t go wrong!
CITIZENS OF THE WORLD T-SHIRT
For one of those 8 nights or Hannukah or a stocking stuffer: You can’t go wrong with these adorable Tea brand t-shirts that announce your child’s membership in the global kids citizens club in four languages!
“for little citzens of the world” written in four languages on the shirt – comes in blue or pink
SPANISH INTRO GIFT SET (NEW)
At Little Pim, we have just come out with an intro gift set to help you give the gift of language to little ones in your life – at a new little price! Our $29.95 intro gift set comes with the Little Pim Spanish DVD 1, Spanish Bop CD and plush panda, all in a see through vinyl tote that can later become a home for doll clothes, blocks or overnight at grandma’s supplies. A terrific value, and provides hours of play and learning.