My kids are mad.
My students are mad.
But that shouldn’t be a surprise, really, because all children are mad.
Let me give you a good example.
Yesterday my seven-year-old son comes home from school and my wife makes popcorn for an afternoon snack. Roy and I are sitting together at a low table on the living room floor, each with a bowl of popcorn before us. But the way we’re eating this popcorn is profoundly different.
I’m munching the pieces of white, fluffy popcorn one after the other, intent only on eating.
He’s studying the size and shape of each piece, separating the bigger pieces from the smaller pieces, eating those smaller pieces first, then taking one bigger piece in each hand and crashing them together in battle, complete with lively commentary and sound effects. The pieces break apart into bits, which he sweeps into his hand and gobbles down. Then the next battle begins.
I finish my bowl of popcorn in little more than a minute.
It takes him ten because he’s not only eating, he’s playing.
Children are mad—in the most wonderful way possible—because they’re constantly pursuing play. This is how they engage with the world and express the basic joy of being alive, a hard-wired force that’s so potent in childhood but seems to dim over time as children grow into adults. In fact, adults are also held to very different standards when it comes to play. For us, engaging in play beyond bounds held acceptable by our society becomes a cause for concern to others.
Just imagine me at the table there, a middle-aged man waging war with pieces of popcorn.
You see, half the battle of raising a bilingual child is making the time and opportunity to provide exposure in the minority language. The other half is making the most of that time and opportunity by maximizing the child’s engagement. In my experience, the most effective way to achieve this is by matching the child’s madness for play.
Click to see a fun video with my toothless son →