Communicating with Bilingual Families in Childcare Settings

Instructor: Helen Satchwell

Helen has taught English and Spanish to all ages and has a master's degree in Spanish Linguistics.

Knowing how to communicate effectively with bilingual families can have a positive effect on students and families alike. This lesson will explore strategies that you can use to communicate with bilingual families as their childcare provider.

Communication Strategies

Communication is the center of language development for any child. Bilingual children have access to the language they speak at home in addition to the English that you speak with them. As a bilingual childcare provider, you get to create an environment that fosters learning both languages. Therefore, it's essential that you establish good communication from the start to convey the importance of the family's role and your role in their child's language development.

This lesson presents three strategies for establishing effective communication with bilingual families. The first and most important involves making the physical space an inviting, collaborative place for learners and families alike. The second outlines researching and providing information about services available in the community that support their child's language development. Finally, the last strategy highlights best practices for oral and written communication with families.

Set up the Space for Success

As childcare providers, you have good intuition about what it feels like to be in a fun and inviting space. You have an idea of the colors, textures, and cozy corners you'd like to incorporate. You may even daydream about how you'd use a theme in your classroom. This space is unique to you and your learners, so the possibilities are endless!

What better way to make that space like a second home for your students than to invite families to collaborate in creating that space? Families should feel like the space is just as much theirs as it is their child's, so invite families to decorate, label, and make the space familiar. You can also ask them to teach you salutations, common phrases, songs, or games that they have shared with their child. Collaboration with families will also ensure a good balance of both languages in the physical space, as well as in the selection of educational materials.

There are a few additional things to consider when creating a themed space. Make sure the theme is relatable to both students and their families. Avoid using settings or characters from popular culture, cartoons, or television. The theme should also work across both languages and be culturally sensitive. Consider themes that encourage creativity and collaboration, and make sure these themes have some flexibility. Check out the list of themes that can be incorporated in your space:

  • Air travel
  • Boat
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Insects
  • Dinosaurs
  • Treehouse
  • Garden
  • Ocean
  • Landscapes
  • Outer space

Community Resources & Support

Providing information about resources in the community is a good way to support bilingual families. You can make an area where families can share information, such as their contact information, events, or helpful resources in the community that support their child's bilingual language development. You could include information about library events and education programming, book exchanges, or bilingual enrichment programs.

You can also look into what bilingual support services are offered in the community. These services may help families improve their own English skills or learn more about their child's bilingual literacy development.

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