Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: December 2016


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Traditions in Italy.

We live in Italy and Christmas is my kids’ favorite holiday because of the magic of the Christmas tree’s lights and, of course, because of lots of presents that Santa Claus brings them!
How is Christmas celebrated in Italy?
Christmas in Italy is celebrated on 25th of December, as in other catholic countries; however, I was surprised to learn that not all Italian catholic kids receive presents that day.

Who brings Christmas presents in Italy and when?

In many Northern Italian cities, which once belonged to the Most Serene Republic of Venice, children receive sweets and presents 12 days earlier!

The night from 12 to 13 December Santa Lucia, a blind woman who is walking around towns and rings a bell, brings sweets and presents to the children living in the northern part of Italy: Trentino, Udine, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Verona regions.

Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and in some places Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) , brings presents on the night from 24 to 25 December to the majority of Italians. Some lucky kids receive a second round of presents.

In Alto Adige, Trieste and Bari kids receive presents from San Nicolas.

In Napoli la Befana, a kind Italian Christmas witch, brings presents and sweets to kids the night of January, 5th. In other parts of Italy, she brings just sweets as an addition to the presents received from Santa Lucia, baby Jesus, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.
La Befana often leaves a lump of coal (made of sugar) inside children's stockings to remind them that they can behave a bit better than the previous year.

Xmas tree and Presepe (Nativity Scene).

And another interesting discovery! Some of Italian houses have  a presepe instead of a xmas trees. Presepe is a nativity scene that families start building on 8 December. It contains small figures, some of them are even animated!

Every year the scene gets some improvement: a new figure or a decorative element is added. Italians take a particular pride in presepe. Many expose their work outside their homes, in a garden or in a window, for others to enjoy.

Presepe window display


Italian Christmas meal.

Italy is relatively small country, but it is HUGE if you measure it by the wast variety of dishes and recipes the country has to offer. Different regions have VERY DIFFERENT FOOD! You will not find the same standard Christmas dish. Every table in every family will be different.

However, a general preference can be notices: fish dishes in the south of Italy and meat dishes in the north.

The Christmas celebration starts with a dinner on Christmas Eve, called Vigilia in Italian.

Many course dinner runs upto the midnight mass which is the culmination point of the celebration.

The Christmas day is celebrated with the lunch.

Here are some menu examples.

Christmas dinner (cena) menu from Cremona:

- pate con gelatina and salumi, included salame cremonese.
- ravioli in broth
- cappone ripieno
- panettone stuffed with ricotta cream.

Xmas lunch (pranzo) menu from Bergamo:

- fish and veggitable appetiser (antipasto di pesce salmone e verdure)
- Russian salad (insalata russa)
- lasagna
- rabbit with polenta (coniglio con polenta)
- panettone or pandoro with mascarrpone cream

- cappone ripieno
- tortellini in brodo
- lesso e arrosto
- biscotti

Italian Traditional Christmas Dessert.

1. PANETTONE from Milan

Globalization makes its impact even here. Originally from Milan Italian Christmas cake Panettone starts appearing on the tables around the globe and slowly even in the south of Italy.

Panforte Italian Christmas sweet

2. PANFORTE from Siena

Italian dry Christmas cake Panforte is delicious!  It has nuts, figs, citrus pills mixed with honey and flour. It is so rich in taste. The one on the photo we bought while traveling in Tuscany. It is one of our family's favorite cakes! even our kids love it! Traditional panforte is the one you should try first.

Panforte Italian Christmas sweet

3. PANDORO from Verona

Pandoro is an Italian Christmas cake with butter and eggs as main ingredients that is covered with powder sugar. If you cut it like on the photo below, each piece of the cake is a star. This makes Pandoro a great center piece of Christmas tables. You can decorate it with fruits, sparklers or even with candles as my kids did. You can add cream layers too, or just serve it with mascarpone cream on a side, as we did.

Try to prepare a Pandoro using the following Italian approved Pandoro recipe.

4. GUBANA from Udine
Gubana is a very particular Italian Christmas cake from Udine.
Try to make your Gubana, following this Gubana recipe.

5. PANDOLCE from Genova

6. TORRONE from Cremona

7. MOSTACCIOLI cookies from Naples

8. CROCCANTE from Naples

9. SUSAMIELLI from Naples

10.ROCCOCÒ from Naples

11.BOSSOLÀ from Brescia

Even if my favorite Italian Christmas cake is a traditional Panettone, I love the delicate taste of BOSSOLÀ, it is another great Italian Christmas cake all Pandoro lovers should try!  


13. BISCIOLA from Valtellina (Sondrio)

It is also called Pan di fich or Panettone valtellinese. Typical Italian Christmas sweet from Valtellina, Sondrio province, Lombardia region. Bisciola is made of dry fruits, butter and eggs.
Bisciola Italian Christmas sweet


Christmas in Different Lands 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Welcome to our fourth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, and 2015), plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest! Follow Multicultural Kid Blogs's board Christmas Around the World on Pinterest.
December 9 Creative World of Varya: Lebanon
December 14 Raising a Trilingual Child: Italy
Celebrate Christmas Around the World Printable Pack from Multicultural Kid BlogsDecember 15 Let the Journey Begin: Latvia Spanglish Monkey: Spain
December 16 Pack-n-Go Girls: Austria
December 19 Uno Zwei Tutu on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Colombia
December 20 Multicultural Baby: Paraguay
December 21 La Clase de Sra. DuFault: Chile
December 23 All Done Monkey: Haiti
Don't miss our other posts about Christmas in different lands, plus our printable pack Celebrate Christmas Around the World, on sale now! 

Have you already got a calendar for 2018? Check out this coloring calendar monthly planner that I created. Illustrated by Maria Soldatova.


Kids Radio Sations from around the world!
In so many different languages !

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fun Activities and Mouth Exercises for Toddlers' Clear Speech Development.

I watched the wonderful work that my child's Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) was doing and I noticed that many pronunciation problems can be prevented, if parents act early and stimulate child's tongue and mouth muscles development. I talked about it with the doctor and she confirmed it. Also she was so kind and agreed to share some tips with you, parents of bilingual and trilingual children. She also writes about "R" pronunciation difficulties. I hope this article will help you! 

by my child's SLP

I and my colleagues, other speech language pathologies,  have noticed that among the children, who are accessing our services, there are increasingly more children with bilingual and trilingual abilities. These children have speech defects because of the phonetic characteristics of the secondary languages which quite often are opposite to the ones of their primary language, and because of this they also have different learning times.

Not always the children have a correct perception of the buccal space and of the movement that the tongue can perform in it, so one has to work on the phonetic apparatus perception, sensitivity and the muscular strength in order to obtain a joint correction, that including cheeks, lips and tongue.

This resulting so-called "mouth" gymnastics consists of simple exercises that every willing and imaginative parent can work on with their child, by making it fun as a game.


Normally one starts with expressive grimaces that involve all the muscles of the face: in front of the mirror, together with the parent and any siblings
we make the ugly face,
the beautiful,
the sad,
the angry …….
we raise eyebrows ,
we move our nose,
we inflate and then deflate our cheeks and so on ... whatever comes to mind !


The blowing games are also important, such as :
  • blow bubbles in water with different types of straw ( long, short , thin , thick , ... )
  • make soap bubbles,
  • move small cotton, paper balls or marbles by blowing on them. You can invent a football game, where you have to do as many goals as possible by moving the ball only by blowing on it ),
  • move small pieces of paper from one container to another holding them by sucking though a straw, slowly increase the distance and use thicker paper.
  • inflate and deflate our cheeks or hold them inflated for more time (remembering to breathe through your nose ! )  ... .


Exercises for the lips such as:
  • send many kisses ,
  • hold "a kiss" for a minute ,
  • "pinch" the lips around the edges ,
  • make the noise of a car ( BRRRRR ... .. making sure that only the lips vibrate )
  • alternate the position from a kiss to a smile ( or more simply to say Italian "I" and "U" ) ,
  • hold small balls of paper and for spitting them out as far away as possible,
  • press the lips strongly and then produce a burst (like the sound of a bottle of sparkling wine cap)


And then come the exercises for the tongues which normally are the most difficult to execute. These are to be performed with the mouth open and the tongue pointed outwards so that it rests on the lower lip and the jaw does not "slip" forward:

  • licking a candy (or other kinds of lollipops)
  • touching only the upper teeth
  • touching the "rugae" (located behind the upper incisors at the beginning of the palate)
  • touching the upper lip
  • touching the corners of the mouth alternatively
  • same exercise as the previous one, but going beyond the corners of the mouth
  • circular tongue movements, clockwise and counterclockwise
TIP: In order to help with these movements, one could spread a bit of Nutella in the point that is to be reached with the tip of the tongue.
  • touching the four top and bottom molars alternatively
  • "massaging" the palate forward and back without moving the tongue beyond the upper front teeth
  • opening and closing the mouth holding the tip of the tongue onto the upper palatine wrinkles (“rugae”) without moving it
  • to repeat "LaLaLaLaLa ... ..LeLeLeLeLe ... ..LiLiLiLi ... LoLoLoLo ...... LuLuLuLu" being careful that the mouth does not move and that the tip of the tongue always touches palatine wrinkles without reaching the teeth.
  • to repeat "TATATA TETETE ... ... ..." changing the vowels etc.
  • to repeat "LALATATA ..." changing voice etc.

Please note that all of these exercises are intended to acquire a particular muscle capability therefore, during the execution, the precision of the movement is always more important than its speed!


As for the phoneme R the question is a bit more complicated.

If by the age of five (5) years, the child is not yet able to produce it, it is best to consult a speech therapist.

As a matter of fact this sound is rather complex from an articulatory standpoint: the tip of the tongue must rise against the palate and move a bit forth, it creates a flow of air that passes between the tip of the tongue and the palate while keeping the tip in the top position to produce the vibration.
Very often parents force their children to say it, even if they are not capable of doing it, however, this will lead to an incorrect setting that will result in the known French R.

It 's good to know that for a speech therapists is usually easier to correct an absent R that to correct an altered R; also waiting over a certain age will make things more complicated as the child will get used to his way of talking and the correction will become more difficult.

The parent will have to figure out if this is just a speech problem (which will be easily fixed) or abnormalities linked to other pathologies, such as

  • speech or language delay,
  • deafness,
  • bad habits such as prolonged use of the pacifier and baby bottles, thumb sucking (all these ones make the tongue used to stay low).
  • there may be a short lower frenulum of tongue that leads to an incompetent tongue, environmental allergies and / or chronic conditions such ear infection- all these provoke an exclusively oral breathing, so the tongue lays always low - (an examination with audiologist is recommended)
  • a sore tooth occlusion with alteration of the bite or
  • an arched palate, 
  • an atypical swallowing (an examination with an orthodontist is recommended).

If there no one of these complications is present, it means that the child simply has not found an autonomous way to develop skills useful to produce various sounds of the language and thus it will be possible to help him.

I hope the tips that my son's speech and language pathologies shared here will help your child avoid seeing one.

If you find this post interesting please share it! It might help other parents too:)

If you’d like to share some tips and /or write about your experience as a parent of a bilingual or multilingual child contact me here.

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