French daycares and preschools provide an amazing opportunity for young children to develop or preserve their knowledge of the French language, an extremely valuable skill in today's global world. French is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world, and is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations
. Besides English, French is the most-widely spoken language by number of countries
, with 29 countries speaking French as their official language. French is thus an excellent second language option for children of all backgrounds! Besides acquiring a valuable skill, a French daycare or preschool is a great way for kids to improve their social awareness, and build an appreciation for French culture in a fun and supportive environment.
The first three or four years of life are an ideal time for a child to learn a second language, and doing so can provide many advantages in a child's cognitive and social development. Contrary to a common misconception, there has been no scientific link found between dual language learners and a delay in language development. Bilingual children have indeed been proven to consistently reach early education milestones at the same rate as their English-only peers. In fact, some studies have found that learning a second language can increase the rate of English language acquisition. If you're still on the edge about whether or not a bilingual daycare and preschool is a good option for your family, read this post about 5 reasons why your child should attend a language immersion preschool
Instruction in French immersion preschools and in other dual language child care and preschool programs can take several forms, including extracurricular activities, structured weekly curriculums, or full language immersion. Extracurricular instruction is irregular and often informal, tending to focus on basic vocabulary, cultural exploration, social development and play. Curriculum-based child care programs and preschools involve more formal instruction, which is usually offered a few hours each week. While using age-appropriate methods similar to those in curriculum-based facilities, full French immersion preschools will have extended periods of the day or even entire days when French is the only language spoken. Other times will be reserved for English or dual-language activities.
That said, teachers in French immersion daycare and preschool programs always want the children, especially infants and toddlers, to feel secure and comfortable. They will thus switch to your child's native language if he or she becomes overly confused or upset. This reduces stress and encourages learning, over time. French language instruction can be found in child care centers
of all types, large preschools
with robust extracurricular options, or smaller home daycares
where the owner or main child care provider is francophone. Parents seeking to promote French-English bilingualism in their children should try to find a language immersion or curriculum-based child care program.
One important thing to know is that parents don't even need to be fluent French speakers for their child to have a successful and enjoyable experience in a French daycare. Language skills are transferable and focusing only on English language development at home, along with enthusiastic support for your child's work in French should be enough. To learn more about how you can help your child learn French, read these 6 tips for raising multilingual children
. If you would rather avoid a structured academic environment or if bilingual preschools and daycare centers are not available near you, extracurricular exploration of the French language can still lead to improved cognitive development, cultural awareness, stronger social skills, and most importantly, fun!