Hebrew daycares and preschools are a fantastic way for young children to develop or preserve their knowledge of the Hebrew language. While closely connected to both Israel and Judaism, Hebrew is also an important historical language and is commonly spoken in many parts of the United States and the world (there are 9 million Hebrew speakers worldwide.) Hebrew preschools also allow toddlers and preschoolers to improve their social awareness, and build an appreciation for Jewish culture in a supportive environment.
Instruction in Hebrew immersion preschools can take several forms, including extracurricular activities, structured curriculums, or full immersion. Extracurricular instruction is often informal, tending to focus on basic vocabulary, cultural exploration, social development and play. These can often be found in Hebrew in-home daycares for instance. Curriculum-based child care programs and full Hebrew immersion preschools involve more formal instruction, with immersion programs having extended periods of the day or even entire days when Hebrew is the only language spoken. Other times will be reserved for English or dual-language activities.
That said, teachers in Hebrew 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. Hebrew language instruction can be found in child care centers of all types, including large preschools with robust extracurricular options. More commonly though, Hebrew programs will be at a daycare or preschool affiliated with a synagogue, or at a smaller home daycare where the owner or main child care provider speaks Hebrew.
While Hebrew and Judaism generally go hand in hand, it's worth noting that many Jewish daycares and preschools openly welcome families from all backgrounds and might even have a secular curriculum. You don't even need to speak Hebrew for your child to have a successful and enjoyable experience. Language skills are transferable and focusing only on English language development at home, along with enthusiastic support for your child's work at their Hebrew bilingual preschool should be enough for their needs. You can also read this article with 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 nearby, extracurricular exploration of the Hebrew language can still lead to improved cognitive development, cultural awareness, stronger social skills, and most importantly, fun!
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, you can read this post about 5 reasons why your child should attend a language immersion preschool.
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