multiple intelligences

Why Giving My Toddler One Cheerio at a Time Helps Teach Her a Foreign Language

I am not a sadist mama, but to hell with a BOWL of cheerios—I only give my toddler one cheerio at a time. Why? Because, they always want more. And therein lies my trick; never mind that it happens to mirror theories for learning according to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

It’s tactile learning at its best: multi-sensory in every way. She picks it up, looks at it, feels it, puts in on her tongue and it either melts into sogginess or she chomps it to dust. Sometimes, her little pincer fingers demolish it before the hand is ever raised. And I look her in they eye and ask, “Más? Quieres más?” while offering up another little round O.

She might not even exactly understand my words, but she trusts me and understands my body language, so she nods and she reaches out. The more I ask and repeat “más?” the more she finally comes around and repeats the answer with me, “más,” and I give it to her.

Done. She’s learned her first Spanish word of the day.

Using Everyday Activities to Teach a Foreign Language
It’s a fun little game we play at the table, in the car, at the playground, or even in the store. My daughter has started to point at other things and say “más” now, and I give them to her. This is a classic example of reward-based learning.
There’s basically nothing she can do that’s wrong. She trusts me and I deliver. Even if she repeats me with a different sound, I just look at her and smile and repeat it back correctly. There is no fear or consequences for the mistakes made, just reinforcement of the positive. I add other words: “por favor” or “gracias.”

Their little brains are ripe for the picking! Just ask Noam Chomsky.

The Easiest Way to Learn a New Language

I recall a favorite adage that the easiest way to learn a new language is to fall in love. Constantly, people query me to find out why I know Spanish, “Is your husband Latino?” “Does your husband speak Spanish?” Apparently the chemistry that is exchanged and created in the process of falling in love motivates your brain to work overtime to best understand each other.

People have been known to learn a whole new language after meeting the person of their dreams, or a person of their then-dream.

My toddler is no different. She’s the love of my life, no doubt, but every day we are learning more about one another and I want to know what makes her tick, what she likes. She trusts me for all of her needs and she wants me to be happy, too. We are in love. And that, ultimately, is why it’s so easy to teach her.

~ Amy Conroy