I have a feeling I will be shunned from the Montessori community for what I am about to say…TVs aren’t always bad! Many homes are completely unplugged from technology however the digital world can play an important and fruitful role in exposing children to a second language and culture, in fact in homes where parents’ second language is limited they become indispensable. Having seen varying amounts of IT being used in homes and classrooms I think that a limited amount of supervised use is very beneficial. In our house the TV is used exclusively to immerse Alfie in a Spanish environment – both culturally and linguistically. And to watch Orange Is The New Black when he’s in bed!
Very often digital resources turn children from learners to spectators (Interactive White Boards I’m looking at you!). In my experience what makes the difference is active use, by active use I do not mean children playing an online game, I mean children experiencing something in the digital world and then practically applying it to their actual life eg learning a song about colours and then singing it while setting up a paint activity.
Boundaries are still important and adults should always remain in control. My suggestions would be;
- Listening to music is enough for the under 1s,
- Watching a short video (2-3 minutes at a time, no more than 3 a day) is enough for the the under 3s
- 10 minutes a day of purposeful use for the under 6s
If we ensure that TVs, apps and the online world is fixed to real life skills and purposes our children should be safe! I don’t think there is much to be gained from flat out denial of the existence of screens, especially if a child will be entering mainstream education.
My favourite online resources which best facilitate active use are;
Musica Libre – this is by far my favourite story and song resource, they have a huge amount of songs available and the visuals which accompany them are stunning. A big bonus from this site is that the melodies are all recognisable as Spanish. It is only available in Spanish however and is more ‘text’ based than the other sites!
Rockalingua – this is a subscription site and while some content is aimed at children over 5, it has a whole range of brilliant FREE vocabulary based songs which come with fantastic printables, making it ideal for . My only problem is that the music tends to be very American as opposed to Spanish BUT the words are sung slowly and clearly which is not true of Musica Libre.
Online Free Spanish – This site has wonderful lessons which are well paced, the pronunciation breakdowns are some of the best I’ve seen! I’m not sure how I feel about this site, if you allow your child to use tablets or laptops then you will love it but it does require a child to get behind the screen themselves.
Comptines – a slightly cheesy looking website but one that is packed full of simple karaoke style songs and videos making them easy for parents to learn and fun for very young kids to watch.
Bandgee – An online cartoon library for homes that allow some TV. Unlike other websites these shows are written in French rather than being UK/American shows that have been translated. This means they are more appropriate to the culture of the second language.
I haven’t included any apps because to me mobiles and tablets are too hard to resist and can become a slippery slope. If you have any favourite resources that you love using in your home then please leave them in the comments, I’d love to see them!