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Au pair Tips : Games for kids who don’t speak your language

Whether you’re a foreign nanny, babysitter, au pair or even grandparent whose grandchildren live in another country, play time is an enormous opportunity for a language exchange. Here are our top au pair tips:

Language learning with children should be a two-way street. In the most successful cases, not only are you caring for children, but you’re also facilitating an information and cultural exchange.

These games help practice and build simple vocabulary that both you and the children will learn from, and it does so in a playful way that doesn’t feel stressful. 

1. Coloring / Coloring books are a fantastic tool to have up your sleeve when babysitting for children who don’t speak your language. You can practice learning the names of colors and the vocabulary of what’s in the pictures. 

Insider au pair tip: print out your own colouring sheets, and YOU can choose which vocabulary you’d like to practice. Household items? Articles of clothing? Different foods? New day, new topic, new learning.

Practice the words in both your language and the children’s language, helping you both to practice and learn. Coloring is also a very soothing activity, and can help relax anxious children.

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2. Playing school / Be a student in a pretend classroom. Who better to have as a teacher than an excited, playful child? The success of this will depend on the developmental point of the child, but playing school is a very popular game for school-aged children.

3. Cards / The key to playing cards with kids is to keep the rules simple. A great game to practice numbers is the game “Bigger” (where I grew up, we also called this game war).

How to play:

  • Everyone gets an equal number of cards and holds them face down in their hand
  • Every round, everyone lays down the top card off their pile
  • The person with the highest number wins and takes the cards from that round
  • The person with the most cards at the end wins

The key to learning here: each round, as players lay down their card, they say the number out loud in their language and your language.

This game is great for a few reasons:

  • It’s very repetitive. There’s lots of practice, which means plenty of opportunities to improve and succeed, boosting confidence
  • It’s not a game of skill, so no one will be left behind. If you’re playing with children of different ages, everyone will be on an equal playing field since it’s a game of chance instead of skill. Statistically speaking, it should be very close to an even split each time (but no one tell the kids that!)

These Au pair tips are aimed at travelling au pairs that may find themselves working with a foreign family, or perhaps in a your home country you have many foreigners visiting. For example, our babysitters at Baby’s first Sitter in Cape Town often find themselves working with foreign families that are holiday making. In a world where we have all been travelling and working abroad these tips can be applied whether you are au pairing long term or doing a once off babysit.

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