I am not a supporter of putting children at front of a TV screen; however, I see a significant benefit in watching movies, cartoons and documentaries in the case of promoting non community language abilities in children. I do limit TV time as much as I can and prefer to snuggle with my kiddos on the couch with a book instead. That said, I see a need that bilingual children / multilingual children have in that special world that cinema gives them. It works as one more minority language point of reference for them, a strong one that should be provided especially when only one parent speaks it.
We set a rule for our children that limits the Italian TV exposure to weekends only. During the week they are allowed to watch programs in the languages they are less exposed to in everyday life, such as English and Russian.
I tried to show the cartoons that follow the interests of my children by acting proactively, as I write in Being proactive in exposing your child to the new vocabulary. I first read a book with my son about first planes and boats and he just loved the vision of the Russian ice breaker "Arktika" crushing the thick ice and polar bears running around that he became really interested in boats. I try to provide as much information as I can to feed his hunger for knowledge. This days we watch cartoons and videos about sea life and pirates.
Turning on the TV gives me a break to run the household errands, but I try not to just leave the children in front of the screen. I find it important to participate in this activity at least by watching some parts together. My children often call me and ask me to stay to share their excitement with me. Also watching a program together it gives even more topics to discuss and, thus, promotes the conversation and the minority language development.
Some of the English languages nature documentaries we love to watch all together on weekends, and they become a rainy day savers, or we love to be in direct contact with nature otherwise :)
Frozen Planet series;
The Life of Birds series;
The Living Planet: A Portrait of the Earth series.
Would love to hear about your family favorite documentaries and cartoons. You are welcome to check the list of our favorite cartoons in Russian language out.
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