When I started working for Le Repertoire de Gaspard, my level of French was rather low. However, it didn’t stop me from being instantly enthusiastic to take on the challenge of looking after non English speaking Children.
My second year working with the family has just ended but during this time there have been many tests and embarrassing moments. Therefore, I’ve put together these 5 tips to help you power through the children’s dramas and tantrums as well as some teaching ideas.
Tip 1. Use drawings or pictionary to communicate
During the first few months, as a beginner French speaker, I found it difficult to explain important things such as holding hands to cross the road, or not to run off when walking down the street. For this, pictionary was a great way to explain. For example, drawing stick people to represent always holding hands when in the street and when crossing the road and then saying “we always do this” or “il faut faire ça”.
Tip 2. Go back to your youth, have fun and play
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a child carer is playing. Research has shown that self-motivated, unstructured and imaginative play is essential to the child’s intellectual, physical and social-emotional development.
Play is also beneficial for adults. It allows you to relieve stress, focus on the present moment, and connect with the children. As a child carer, thinking about different games and creative ideas fuels your imagination and takes you back to your youth!
Tip 3. Use the children’s interests to teach English
By the end of my first week I realised that the girls I looked after were very creative and loved all things flowers and butterflies. Thankfully, I too enjoy the pretty things in life and we soon formed a bond by drawing and colouring wonderful pictures together. Using children’s interests and incorporating this into learning basic English words and phrases is a great method to use for beginner English learners. For example, with the girls I used our drawing activities to introduce colours, animals, numbers and short repetitive phrases such as “Can I have the blue pencil please”.
Tip 4. Don’t take things personally!
Every day with a child is different and you go through a roller-coaster of emotions with them. There are many tantrums, grumpiness and tears and the one tip I can give during this testing time is not to take anything personally. Make some space just to observe instead of immediately reacting to the situation. When the children are experiencing certain emotions they say things through frustration or even for humour and it is imperative not to take it to heart and react through anger or embarrassment. Remember, we were all children once so it’s helpful to put yourself in their shoes and remember what it felt like when getting told off by adults.
Tip 5. Stay calm and breath
On my first day with the 3 year old, it took me 2 hours to persuade her to leave school and come home with me. In this time I tried all sorts of methods to get her to budge, attempting to play games, calling her parents, promising her a treat when she got home, pleading and trying to have authority. In the end I gave up, breathed and sat with her quietly. And it was like magic, she decided that she wanted to go home! Yay!
Please comment below if you have any other tips to share with us. Happy child caring!