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  • 3 Jun 2022 11:51 PM | Anonymous member

    Welcome our new members for June:

    • Amelia T. has a three-month-old son, Lincoln. They live in Belmont.
    • Ashley C. has a three-month-old son, Casper. They live in San Mateo.
    • Ashley J. has a three-year-old son Aiden, and a four-month-old daughter, Zoe. They live in San Mateo.
    • Jack and Julianne G. has a two-month-old son, Bennett. They live in San Mateo.
    • Jessica M. has an eighteen-month-old son, Oliver. They live in San Mateo.
    • Matt J. has a daughter, Zoe, whose four-years-old, and Aiden whose three-years-old. They live in San Mateo.
    • Nicole B. has a six-month-old daughter Savannah, and two sons, Maverick who's six years old and Sterling who's nine years old. They live in San Mateo.
    • Roisin A. has a sixteen-month-old daughter. They live in Woodside.
    • Stephanie B. is a first-time mom to daughter Charlotte "Charlie" who was born in November of 2021. They live in San Mateo.
    • Stephany M. has a twenty-one-month-old son, Myles, and is expecting a baby in November. Congratulations! They live in San Mateo.

  • 1 Jun 2022 12:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Happy birthday to our June kiddos!

    Birth Day




    Charlotte B.



    Sidney D.



    Aaron H.



    Theo W.



    Clara C.



    Elena V.



    David V.



    Norah Z.



    Corey G.



    Penny T.



    Nico D.



    Nathan B.



    Nolan S.



    Khloe C.



    Piper G.



    Callan G.



    Jonathan S.



    Jon S.



    Owen G.


  • 18 May 2022 9:59 PM | Anonymous member

    Wow! It has been a crazy few weeks here at our house. It feels like I blinked and Spring Break just happened, but now we’re staring down Memorial Day, my son’s graduation from preschool, and the unofficial kick-off of summer!

    It is absolutely surreal to have a five year old, and to have had a conversation about the sunset of his SMPC playgroup, the Kiddie Cats. I remember attending a play date with a group of moms with multiple children, hearing them talk about their older kids’ playgroup and thinking that there was an infinite distance between that moment, holding my three month old in my lap, and the prospect of a group no longer being necessary because friendships had solidified, people had moved on, babies were kids.

    Yet here I am, sappily replaying that moment with another baby on my lap, but with the wisdom of knowing that this time is indeed finite, and the biting, wood chip consuming, 4:00 am nursing sessions, and general feeling of fatigue will soon be distant, overtaken by sleep training, more consistent routines, and a subdued oral fixation. And then babyhood will be for other caregivers to enjoy.

    I have decided to approach this spring with a renewed desire to enjoy these days that often feel so rushed, and I hope we can all take a few moments to step away from our chaos and perhaps step into nature or another space that brings calm, and soak up the moments that will be what we look back on in a few years as the ones that make it worth it. Whether it’s a milestone your baby is working toward and proudly accomplishes or a story time cuddle with a book you’ve read 6,000 times and counting, may that moment work its way into your forever memories and be a touchstone in the future.

    Rachel Kammeyer
    SMPC President

  • 16 May 2022 6:20 PM | Anonymous member

     By Lorraine Felix

    “Sleep Training” is such a buzz word! A lot of people think of it negatively. Many people have visions of babies being left alone in their rooms for hours on end. I promise, that’s not what sleep training is. I LOVE babies! And sleep too, but mostly babies! So, what does it mean? What is sleep training?

    Different people and even pediatricians discuss the subject without realizing they have completely different definitions of the same words. Even sleep consultants can have slightly different definitions of what they mean when they say “sleep training”. Since you are reading this, I want to give you a clear answer to the question, “What is sleep training?”

    When sleep consultants use the term sleep training most of them mean “a number of different methods parents use to adjust their child’s sleep behaviors”. When I ask, is your child “sleep trained?” What I am asking is “have you adjusted your child’s sleep to where he or she is sleeping through the night and able to fall back asleep unassisted (without the use of sleep props)?” 

    Here are some definitions, because it’s important that we are talking about the same thing.

    • Sleeping Through The Night is defined as at least 10 hours from bedtime to wake-up time. *Note* Depending on age and weight, this does NOT mean without a feed.
    • Falling asleep unassisted means putting baby down in the crib or bassinet awake and letting him/her soothe themself to sleep, without any sleep props.
    • Sleep Props refers to anything the baby is dependent on to fall asleep (pacifier, feeding, rocking, patting, etc.). 

    Now that we know what sleep training is, let’s talk about the use of sleep props. Are they always a “bad” habit? No, of course not! Some babies are able to use a pacifier all night long and never wake when the pacifier falls out. Others can fall asleep at the bottle, and it doesn’t stop them from connecting sleep cycles. 

    When do we view sleep props as a problem? When the baby needs them to connect natural sleep cycles, for example:

    • When someone needs to wake up to re-insert a pacifier to get the baby back to sleep.
    • When the baby needs to be fed to get back to sleep.
    • When the baby needs to be lulled (rocked, patted, swayed, held, or even just checked on) to get back to sleep.

    These props are only an issue if your baby expects to use them to fall back asleep. If your baby is sleep trained they should be able to sleep through the night, get themselves back to sleep if they wake unassisted and should be on an age-appropriate nap schedule and feeding schedule.

    Does Everyone Need to Sleep Train Their Baby? 

    No one should feel obligated to sleep train their little one if things are relatively smooth, and your baby is rested and happy. If you have a baby that is a good sleeper, then great job and go with it! That being said, if you are struggling, exhausted or unhappy with your baby or toddler’s sleep, you should consider sleep training. Everyone needs quality sleep. It’s not an easy way out for parents. It’s not selfish or done for ease so parents can make their kids fit into their perfect schedule. Sleep is necessary for muscle growth and brain development, as well as a healthy immune system for kids of all ages. Parents need sleep so we can stay healthy (immune system) and function in our daily lives (juggle work, life, balance our obligations, etc.)

    A family short on sleep may struggle more than a well rested one. Parents that are tired have less energy and patience. Babies and children feel the same way! It’s hard to control emotions (especially when you are a toddler!) and process frustration when tired and overwhelmed. A rested family can better handle the ups and downs of a daily life.

    DON’T let the words “sleep train” scare you! Remember the definition? “A number of different methods parents use to adjust their child’s sleep behaviors”. This means there is not one set method to help you and your little one get the sleep you need and deserve. Some methods that I use include sitting near your child, back rubbing/patting, quick checks, silently return to offer support (older children) and there are many, many more!

    That being said there are some times that you will want to wait to start sleep training.

    1. If your little one is sick:
      When your little one is sick, they need the extra comfort. They also sometimes need a little assistance in falling asleep depending on the situation. Wait until your little one is starting to get back to feeling like themselves and playing normally. Then it’s ok to start.
    2. If you are about to move:
      Give yourself about a month to sleep train before moving. There is usually a lot going on before you move; packing boxes, making appointments, and a busy schedule. So you will want to start sleep training before all that begins. Your little one will sense the change, and it will make it harder for them to settle on their own if they haven’t done that before.
    3. If you are going to be traveling:
      If you know you are going to be going away, give yourself 2 weeks before traveling to begin sleep training. Most methods will take 2 weeks before you see complete results. This gives you enough time to have your little one sleeping independently before you go on holidays rather than have the process interrupted and have to start again when you get back home. Again, a new place and new surroundings will throw their sleep off a little bit.
    4. If you just had a new baby:
      A new sibling is a huge adjustment for your toddler. They are going to have to get used to sharing Mom’s attention, sharing space (perhaps a room), etc. It will be exhausting for you; but it will be so much harder on your toddler if now they have to do something new. It may even cause them to act out and resent their new sibling. If you have the time, I encourage you to teach your little one to sleep independently before the new baby arrives. It will be easier on you and your little one.

    Sleep training can be a lot of work. It is changing the way we had inadvertently trained a child to sleep (using certain props and sleep associations) and re-training them to use new (independent) sleep associations. That takes patience, effort and consistency. When done consistently and correctly, it is a short term effort. Yes, you need to keep up with it; boundaries need to be maintained and routines need to be followed for the most part. But don’t let anyone tell you sleep training means you can never leave your house or have a late night dinner with friends; that’s not true! There will be bumps such as teething, regressions, illness and travel, but all of your hard work and routines will be beneficial. Children thrive on consistency and they will bounce back faster when they know what is expected and are back into their normal routine. You will be grateful for the rest and ease of sleep after these bumps. Sleep training may not be for everyone, but if you are struggling to get sleep, are constantly tired or feel that your child is constantly tired, it is definitely something to consider! If you have tried to sleep train your little one, are frustrated from failed attempts or feel like you need some extra help, ask for support! It will be worth it!

    Lorraine Felix is a certified sleep consultant and the owner of Serene Sleep Solutions. SMPC is hosting a free zoom talk by Lorraine on “How to Sleep Train Your Little One.” The virtual event is May 24 at 7:30 pm. Please register here.

  • 9 May 2022 10:54 PM | Anonymous member

    Welcome to our new members this month!

    • Alexis P. has a one-month-old daughter, Madeleine. They live in San Mateo.
    • Annie C. has a five-year-old son, Max, and a two-year-old daughter, Arya. They live in San Mateo.
    • Clarissa R. has a two-year-old son, Argo, and is expecting a daughter, congratulations! They live in San Mateo.
    • Daniel F. has an eighteen-month-old son, Ansel. They live in Belmont.
    • Elisabete N. has a three-year-old son. They live in Burlingame.
    • Kristen V. has a three-year-old son Isaac and her second son August came in March of this year! They live in San Mateo.
    • Lauren B. has an eleven-month-old daughter, Charlotte. They live in San Mateo.
    • Margaret H. has a twenty two-month-old daughter, Mina. They live in San Mateo.
    • Patricia K. has a two-year-old daughter, Evelyn. They live in Burlingame.
    • Rose C. has a one-month-old daughter, Gwendolyn. They live in San Mateo.
    • Yiyang H. has an eleven-month-old son, Aaron. They live in San Mateo.

  • 5 May 2022 12:20 AM | Anonymous member

    Happy birthday to all our May kiddos!





    Lola T.



    Sadie M.



    Oliver Q.



    Hope M.



    Arabelle C.



    Gabriel  S.



    Violet P.



    Stas P.



    Alexander A.



    Charlie K.



    Mila L.



    Simon L.



    Sebastian Y.



    Piper M.



    Charlotte C.



    Alana W.



    Lea L.



    Arjun M.



    Ellis M.



    Chloë S.



    Logan I.



    Jillian D.



    Cullen W.


  • 1 May 2022 11:00 PM | Anonymous member

    Mother’s Day honors mothers as well as the broader concept of motherhood at large. Mother’s Day, in the United States, is the second Sunday of May, which is May 8 this year. Here are some fun ideas for celebrating Mother’s Day. Got more? Send us a message about it!

    • Bring her special flowers. The SMPC is having an exclusive fundraiser just to make flowers extra special this year. Fill your house with some local beauty with our Mother's Day Flower Fundraiser! We are partnering again with local Blue House Farm in Pescadero, purchasing bunches of wholesale flowers and creating our own bouquets. Details here

    • Make a card. There are endless card ideas on the Internet. As a suggestion for one direction to brainstorm in, use handprints or footprints. Usually easy, and very personal. Here are some ideas: Handprint Bee, Footprint Butterfly, or Fingerprint Flowers.

    • Offer breakfast in bed. Again, endless recipes on the Internet. Here are some ideas that kids can do: Matcha Breakfast Bowl, Citrus Salad, or Roasted Apples. Things as simple as cereal and milk, or toast with peanut butter, become extra special if prepared by little hands.

    • Take her outdoors. Go to Central Park, San Mateo, and smell the flowers at the rose garden, or have a relaxing stroll at the Japanese garden. Admire the well-groomed flowers at Filoli, Woodside (advance reservations needed). Or find a hiking trail at AllTrails, and get some fresh air and exercise. You might enjoy a picnic at one of these locations while you’re at it.

    • Take her out for a meal. Too many good options around town, but here are some Mother’s Day specials we found. For a fancy meal, try the four-course meal at Stella Alpina Osteria, Burlingame. For historic charm, there are brunch and dinner options at MacArthur Park, Palo Alto. Do a game and a meal with a competitive mom at Pinstripes, San Mateo. Watch an entertaining chef make an onion volcano at Benihana, Burlingame (offering Mother’s Day gift card specials).

    • Give her a day off. Dads can offer to take care of the kids for a day, and do the chores. Everyone needs some me-time, including Moms. Or, hire a sitter, and go out together for a romantic evening. Another idea is to offer Mom a chores coupon book that she can use throughout the year so that she can feel loved on Mother’s Day and all the time!

  • 24 Apr 2022 12:20 AM | Anonymous member

    By Daisy Yau

    With Earth Day this month, the San Mateo Parent’s Club has been thinking about what we can do for the environment. Earlier, we published Michelle Hudson’s article, What I Did to Tackle My Kids’ (and My Own) “Climate Anxiety”. Meanwhile, I also had the privilege of speaking with Jay Beard about water conservation, a serious issue for the drought we’ve been experiencing in California. Jay is the owner of Heavywood Construction & Design, specializing in residential repairs and remodeling. He is an expert in water conservation (and power conservation too!).

    Daisy: Why do you think water conservation is important?

    Jay: Personally, what intensified my water conservation efforts were my Japanese maple trees. I saw that they were becoming dry, even while my water bill was going up. And I’m glad I have taken on these water conservation efforts. Water is simply a very limited resource for the whole world. In some parts of the world, bottled water is more expensive than Coca-Cola. Of the things that the earth provides us, water is one of the scarcest resources we have as human beings. If we aren’t stewards of it, it’s going to become our master.

    D: I understand there are a variety of things you can do inside and outside of the home to conserve water. What are some things you can do inside the home?

    J: There are two main directions: limiting water that comes out of faucets, and collecting the water that does come out but would otherwise be wasted.

    As for limiting the water that comes out, make sure all of your faucets have working aerators. An aerator adds a screen to the end of a faucet, thereby adding air to the water, shaping the water stream, and restricting water flow. Be careful to restrict by the right amount, or else you’ll be frustrated with water usage. Typically, you can use 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute) for the kitchen, 1.5 GPM or 1.25 GPM in the bathrooms, and as low as 0.75 GPM for a utility or laundry sink. Shower heads are a standard 3.5 GPM. But many local water companies offer their customers free kits to lower shower heads to 2 GPM (see California Water Services, for example).

    Along the same lines, while I realize it is not always easy to do, newer appliances typically have more efficient water usage. Upgrade when you can! You may be able to find a city or county or utility rebate.

    D: What about collecting water inside the house?

    J: I put a pasta pot or salad bowl in the kitchen sink to collect water from rinsing dishes. When it becomes full, or at the end of the day, I toss it onto the lawn or the plants in the yard.

    We have a 5 gallon bucket in each bathroom to collect the water that comes out while waiting for water to heat up for use. I move this into a 45-50 gallon container in the backyard.

    I admit, it’s hard for me to get others in my household to do it. Five gallons of water is about 45 pounds. I tell them that everyone can participate by keeping showers to 3-5 minutes.

    D: I admire the effort you are putting into this. Conserving water is a good reason to move around the house. Now, what are some things you can do outside the home?

    J: First simple thing to do: Make sure all spigots close tightly, and the seals work. Visually inspect hoses and drip lines as often as possible. Monthly or at least quarterly, check your water meter when you know there is no water running.

    A larger project is to change your landscaping. Ground covers help maintain soil moisture. You can use wood chips, decorative rocks, and drought-resistant plants. In particular, PAMI pebbles are red, brown, bluish stones that are great for this purpose. They look nice when dry, but become especially pretty when wet after the rain.

    D: Speaking of rain, I know that you collect a massive amount of rainwater. How do you do that?

    J: You just need a downspout diverter and a rain barrel. A downspout typically goes straight down, carrying rainwater to the drainage system. A downspout diverter diverts the rainwater from the downspout into a rain barrel. There are many types of diverters, but I use galvanized steel fold-out diverters. Anytime I think there might be rain or dew, I open the diverters up to collect.

    A diverter is installed into a downspout. I measure about 42” above the surface (whether that be ground, or a patio, or whatever the surface is). I make a cut in the downspout using a metal saw. I slide the diverter in, connecting to the downspout. I then put a 45-50 gallon barrel right under the diverter, so that water flows directly in. You can also add a hose to guide the water from the diverter to the barrel.

    D: What if the 50 gallon barrel gets full?

    J: For a normal household, collecting 100-200 gallons of rainwater per year is a good realistic goal. So if the barrel gets full, you can close the downspout diverter, and let the water flow directly down the downspout like it did without the diverter there.

    As for me, I collect 4,000-5,000 gallons per year. It’s time consuming, but here’s how I do it. I have three rainwater collection sites on my property. I have about six 50 gallon barrels at each collection site. Additionally I have four 550 gallon cisterns at the back of my property. I never move any of these barrels (they would be extremely heavy when full). When the barrel underneath the diverter gets full, I transfer the water to another container.

    For transferring water from a 50 gallon barrel within the yard to the 550 gallon barrel in the back, I use a half-horsepower sump pump. I just let the sump pump run when I’m out gardening.

    But when there’s a major rainstorm, I go out during the rain, and manually bail water from the 50 gallon barrel underneath the diverter to an adjacent 50 gallon barrel. Yes, I’m working in the rain. During a major storm in October last year, I collected 1,150 gallons on a single day!

    D: Wow, that is a lot of hard work. Now that you’ve collected the water, how do you maintain the water and the collection system?

    J: When a 50 gallon barrel is full, I add a quarter to a half cup of bleach. When I get a full 550 gallon cistern, I add a half gallon of bleach every 4 months. This would provide for chlorine levels comparable to that provided by Cal Water. The main reason is to keep mosquitoes away. I also close the lids tightly to avoid bugs and prevent water from being evaporated.

    The barrels will always have algae, which is not a problem. Algae floats. Since the sump pump is unable to pump the last inch of water, the pump will not get clogged with the algae. I clean the barrel by swishing it around with a broom, and then pouring the leftover water onto the lawn or plants.

    Note that I collect rainwater for non-potable purposes only. I use the water for watering the yard. So that the stored water would effectively oxygenate plantings, I circulate the water to keep it aerated every 60-90 days. Possibly, if absolutely necessary in an emergency situation, we could contemplate drinking the water. We keep water filters (like this) in our earthquake kits for this reason.

    D: How do you use the collected water for watering?

    J: I use watering cans to pour the collected water on my vegetables, maples, and bonsai. I use a half-horsepower submersible pump to spray water onto the lawn and citrus. And yes I do use some water from my local utility for my Japanese garden, which is on a sprinkler/drip system.

    D: Any estimate of how much savings you get in water bills per year from your water collection?

    J: In sum, I have about four 550 gallon containers, forty 50 gallon containers, ten 5 gallon pails, for a total capacity of about 4,500 gallons. I’m reducing water usage by a third or more, so it’s roughly a $250 annual savings on the water bills.

    I also have solar panels, which powers the pumps that transfer water and keeps my electricity bill down overall. My average annual electricity is $375.

    Water conservation is a time commitment. You need to be transferring water on a regular basis, whether it’s taking out water collected from the shower or moving water from rain barrel to lawn. That’s in contrast to a solar system, which is typically an upfront financial investment that subsequently runs itself. I recognize that the amount of water collection I do is not for everybody. It’s a personal commitment. But my overall message is to be mindful. Water is a scarce resource, and very hard to collect. Be very mindful with what you do with your water.

    Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.

  • 15 Apr 2022 10:43 PM | Anonymous member

    By Michelle Hudson

    The List of Demands

    It started with my older child, Vivienne. One day when she was in 5th grade, she declared out of the blue that she was a vegetarian for environmental reasons. Then she requested we no longer buy disposable plastics, hoping to become a “zero waste” household, which apparently meant that we could fill no more than a single glass mason jar with our total landfill waste each year! She even committed to buying all of her clothing second-hand because she considered fast fashion to be horribly unsustainable. Her environmental code of conduct was so strong that my son, Zach, started to follow suit.

    All of this was a bit surprising at first. But, of course, kids see the signs of climate change all around, and they are not immune to the many scary news stories about climate change and its impacts. 

    Rather than sweeping my kids’ concerns aside, I was supportive. I was not (as of yet) vegetarian, but I cooked vegetarian meals for them. I tried my best to reduce my purchase of plastics and started to research sustainable products. Yet despite my efforts, my kids’ worries and demands did not subside. 

    My Own Growing Concerns 

    Meanwhile, I was feeling my own worries about climate change. Both my kids have asthma, and they suffer when the air quality is bad. During wildfire season, they have to stay indoors, with the air filters running full blast, to not feel really awful. As the incidence of wildfires has increased, I began to feel extremely worried about our changing climate, and I didn’t know what to do about it. 

    My feelings of helplessness grew until I tried the following google search: “What to do when you feel helpless about the environment.” That was when I first learned from the major news outlets that my kids and I, along with many other people, had a big case of “climate anxiety” or “eco-anxiety”.  

    If you’re not familiar, climate or eco-anxiety is described by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom” that Psychology Today notes is afflicting more and more people— especially young people.  My children, I’d discovered, were part of this growing group.

    Tackling the Anxiety: Lessons I’ve Learned

    So what is the remedy for this climate anxiety that has been affecting my kids and me for years? The sources are all unanimous on this: Take Action! 

    Here are the actions I took to help tackle our family’s collective climate anxiety, and how I included my children. It’s important to note that climate change is a huge and global problem, and one thing that helped us get through the anxiety most was simply realizing we could have a much bigger impact on local climate solutions.

    1. I educated myself, and then my kids. I learned about climate change from reputable, non-political sources. I was then able to talk to my kids about what I knew. 
    2. I connected my kids with nature. I taught my kids to be stewards of the environment by instilling in them a love of nature.
      • We became native plant gardeners to support biodiversity, and have had so much fun with it! Native plants attract native birds, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators. Planting native also reduces the use of irrigation and harmful fertilizers, and helps sequester carbon. Websites and videos helped us along the way. 
      • We volunteer on native habitat restoration projects through local California Native Plant Society chapters (Yerba Buena and Santa Clara Valley), San Mateo County Parks, and Grassroots Ecology. All of our volunteer projects have been kid-friendly, fun and educational! 

    3. I took meaningful climate action that felt empowering, and was beneficial for my children’s health.  
      • I volunteer with a couple of environmental organizations that are focused on local level climate action, most often with the Sierra Club.
      • I committed to electrifying our home - i.e., replacing our greenhouse gas-emitting gas water heater, furnace and stove with electric alternatives at the end of the useful life of the gas equipment, or earlier. I started with the easy step of purchasing an inexpensive portable induction cooktop to try out, and I love it! In addition to enjoying the many benefits of induction cooking, I’m thrilled to no longer be contributing to my children’s asthma by cooking with gas
      • I co-founded the San Mateo Climate Action Team. We are a group of San Mateo residents supporting local solutions to the climate crisis. My kids and I are active members of the Team who write letters to the City Council and speak up at City Council meetings in support of local climate action. We have received a really positive response from our local leaders, which has been a very empowering experience. 

    4. I keep it positive. The recent NYT article, "OK Doomer", explains it well: when it comes to taking climate action, everyone responds better to messages of optimism rather than doom and gloom. Here’s what I do:
      • Shift the perspective. Whenever there is troubling climate news or my kids express climate worries, I tell my kids things like: “It was good that this news came out because this is important information for people to know”, and “Your actions are making a difference, and setting an example for others to follow.”

    Until I started acting, and role-modeling climate action for my kids, they felt that I was placating them without really listening to them. Now, I am showing them that I have heard and agree with their concerns. My kids tell me that they are proud of me, and their climate anxiety seems to have calmed down significantly. We are taking action together that feels meaningful to us, and having a lot of fun at the same time. 

    Michelle Hudson is a mom of two, an attorney, and co-founder of the San Mateo Climate Action Team

    Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

  • 13 Apr 2022 8:59 AM | Anonymous member

    By Cheryl Chepusova

    Why learn a heritage language?

    In our family, we have two children under the age of 5 and we speak four languages with them regularly: our community language, English, along with three of our heritage languages: Chinese (Cantonese Chinese and Mandarin Chinese) from myself and Russian from my husband. Before our children were born, my husband and I decided that it would be important for us to share our mother tongues with our children. Later on in their lives, our children may still want to study a foreign language of their choice, but their heritage language learning is about exactly that: heritage.

    While neither of us have a background in linguistics or education, we can still be our children’s most effective teachers, leveraging the trust and relationship we have with them to integrate a language we know into their lives. Sharing our heritage languages with them gives us another layer of expressing ourselves to our children so we never feel we have to translate or be at a loss for words. We teach our children our languages to build connections–with us as parents, with our relatives, and with our culture.

    But isn’t learning a language really hard?

    Deciding to teach your child a language is a long-term commitment and requires dedication and perseverance. It is very much a marathon – one in which you need to adjust your pace and direction as your child takes the lead. You already know the language, so the work is in how you add it to your life. Our approach to this has been to introduce the heritage language gently to our children, building it into our home naturally from the day they are born.

    Practical strategies we’ve tried at home

    Infants (0-1)

    • Start your relationship with your child in your heritage language. Many people recommend methods like OPOL (One Person One Language) or MLAH (Minority Language at Home) to provide guidance on when to use which language. Our family didn’t adopt either strategy and simply tried to speak to our children naturally and consistently in our native languages from birth. Both of our children have learned to code switch when talking to each parent and to each other, and the heritage language has become the default language we use before English.
    • Narrate and describe what you see and do. Get used to hearing yourself speak in your heritage language to your baby – they might not understand yet, but they already love listening to your voice. If you don’t usually speak your heritage language daily at home, this will allow you to warm up for when your baby grows older. It may feel like you’re talking to yourself, but the foundation you lay will set your child up to have conversations with you in a few years.
    • Repeat vocabulary and build them into routines. Infants thrive on routine and it adds structure to the day for parents too. You can help them know what to expect by repeating useful expressions like “milk” or “change” or “sleep” when you’re doing the action. They’ll hear it so much, repeated throughout their daily routine that these will be the first words they familiarize themselves with when they learn to speak.

    Toddlers (1-3)

    • Read a lot. You can read any material to your toddler in the language you want – picture books, magazines, menus, flyers...they can’t tell even if you’re translating it from English! Books in another language are hard to come by in the US or are expensive to import so make the best of what you have access to and read often. Visual dictionaries are a great format to introduce basic nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions in context, and gradually your child will learn to point them out on the pages too.
    • Sing nursery rhymes and teach language through music. Toddlers love music and singing is a great way to help them remember the lyrics. Nursery rhymes tend to be repetitive and include early learning concepts like numbers, colors, foods, body parts, or animals, and are wonderful starting points for building everyday vocabulary.
    • Give your child the words they need by echoing what they are trying to say. Toddlers will start to string together phrases and sentences, and they will constantly be acquiring new vocabulary. You can enrich their expressions by echoing what they’ve said and adding to it. For example, your toddler might say “look, car!” You can elaborate on that by adding “Yes, look at that blue car! That’s a really fast blue car.” If your child prefers to speak in English, don’t fret, instead recast what they just said so they can learn the words in a different language. Recasting is really effective, as more often than not, your child isn’t resistant to speaking in your heritage language, they just don’t have the vocabulary.

    Preschoolers (3-5)

    • Broaden vocabulary with interests and activities. At this age, you can move beyond everyday vocabulary in the home and help them expand their words in both breadth and depth, depending on what they want to talk about. If your child is fascinated by vehicles (like mine are) you can lean into their interest and introduce different types of vehicles and all their parts. Learn poems, follow a recipe, sing along to pop music…do whatever your child loves in your heritage language so that it’s impressionable. If you visit a zoo or farm, talk about all the animals–what they’re called, how you’d describe them, and what they are doing. Take a trip to the grocery store in your heritage language. Conversing in contexts beyond your home environment shows your child there is a place for them to apply this language in the community too. Don’t be afraid to get specific as your child is eager to learn about the topic they love! Celebrate your culture’s traditions and customs in the native language. Start to introduce older children to science and history too, just as you would in English.
    • Keep reading. Books offer an abundance of opportunities for discussion after. Each time you read it, a different part of the book may pique different interests. The format is dynamic and interactive. Reading together also sets aside time for connecting – even as your child learns to read independently, make it a part of your routine to read aloud to them.
    • Explore audio stories and videos. Nothing beats dialogue and interaction, so save any passive learning methods for later. Once your child has a firm foundation in comprehending and speaking, educational videos are a great way to engage your child and supplement their learning. Watch together so you can discuss the content and answer your child’s questions, helping them with any new concepts and words. We also love incorporating audio stories to our bedtime routine or on longer rides in the car too. Exposing them to different voices, pronunciations, and accents improves your child’s listening ability in the heritage language.
    • Find a community of support. Pair your child with a peer for play dates in the heritage language. Forming relationships with peers in the heritage language is a wonderful way to encourage your child to use it. For them to feel motivated to learn and use their heritage language, they have to feel a belonging to a community and connect with people they can use the language with. If in-person interactions are not available, explore virtual options like group classes, online 1:1 tutors, and language partners to continue to supplement your child’s learning. You’ll feel more supported and uncover many resources along the way from families with like-minded learning goals.

    Balancing the heritage and community languages

    As your child interacts with the larger community, their English skills will eventually catch up to or even overtake their heritage language. You can rely on your existing language relationship with your child, and gently nudge them to switch to your shared language by recasting, but don’t translate. Even if they might speak more English, stay the course. Inspire and encourage them to continue conversing with you about their interests.

    Continue to teach by modeling, echoing, recasting, but don’t test. While your child might not speak on the spot when you ask them to, they’ll also surprise you with beautiful long sentences you didn’t realize they knew. Language learning can feel more like a lifestyle and less like extracurricular, and that’s because teaching a heritage language is also about passing down your culture to your child. The language your child learns becomes a part of who they are, it’s more than a skill, and it can be a really special thing.

    Cheryl Chepusova is a designer, writer, and the author of the children's book series, Big Cities Little Foodies, and others.

    Photo by JACQUELINE BRANDWAYN on Unsplash

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