When my daughter was about to turn 1, it was time to enroll her in her first class. I, being a musician, of course wanted it to be a music class. My husband was more interested in foreign language exposure. You know, all the talk and studies that show how early exposure to a second language actually builds a more powerful brain.
So we compromised by enrolling her in a French music class. It's a great way to get language immersion and music all together in one class, at about half the cost of language school.
Both of my kids have been in this French music class from about age 1. The results are amazing. My 3-year-old runs around the house singing in French My 6-year-old is too old for the music class now and is studying Chinese in kindergarten, but still remembers and uses her French, too.
Then one evening at the playground, I started counting how many different languages I heard. I thought to myself how unique this is to our neighborhood. Right here in my own front yard (really a section of Chicago park district), my daughter is receiving the most natural language immersion possible: Playing with other kids. And it's not costing me a dime.
And more importantly than that, my children are both growing up thinking this diversity is absolutely normal. They don't understand why anyone would think someone is better based on their skin color, where they're from, or what language they speak. To my kids, we're all different, and we all love to play at the park together. Recently I read that Uptown is thought to be the most diverse neighborhood in our country, not just the city of Chicago.
So as the weather is threatening to finally warm up for good this spring, I am anxious to return to some of our playgrounds of the world. Why not try a new playlot and see how many people you can meet from another country? If you hear another language spoken, ask them what it is. Most people are proud of their heritage and will tell you their story of how they arrived in Uptown. Let's teach our kids to embrace the diversity around us.
If you need something to jumpstart your visit to a new park and
to meet your neighbors, dust-off your bike (kiddy trailers welcome)
and join the Kidical Mass Bike Ride this Saturday April 2
from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The bike ride starts at
Clarendon Park. Helmets required!
Here are some of my favorite Uptown (and some bordering Edgewater) playgrounds of the world. What is your favorite Uptown playground? Why?
And if you're interested in the class, Mme. Rose Nadolsky teaches Spanish and French Wiggleworms at the Lincoln Square Old Town School of Folk Music, and has a great French kids CD.
See more of Heather's stories here.