I’m constantly on a quest for opportunities to provide our daughter Ella with exposure to German and her heritage cultures. Unfortunately, we live quite far from both grandparents. My husband’s mother lives in Hawaii, while my mother lives in Germany. So you could argue that New Jersey is kind of in the middle. But then still neither “Tutu” in Hawaii nor “Oma” in Germany live close by. My mother visits us once or twice a year and I try to take Ella to Germany once or twice a year. But obviously that is not enough exposure from a language perspective—-let alone from a grandma’s point of view who would like to see more of her grandchild. So every chance we get, we Skype or FaceTime with Oma or Tante Janni in Germany or Tutu in Hawaii. Even when Ella was not even a year old, did she know exactly who was on the other end (although she sometimes double-checked if Oma was hiding behind the iPad).
Both grandmas have gradually developed their own ways of communicating and playing with Ella via FaceTime and have started to provide some language and cultural input. Sometimes Tutu tells Ella about Hawaii. At another time, she sings the hokey pokey for her and Ella dances along. Oma in Germany has also come up with some interactive games:
- She asks questions such as “Ella, wo ist deine Nase?” (Ella, where is your nose?), “Wo ist dein Bauch?” (Where is your belly?) Or “Wie macht der Elefant?” (What sound does the elephant make?)
- She plays ‘peekaboo’ (German: Kuckuck) using the frame of the screen to hide herself
- She brushed up on German children’s songs (or rather the lyrics) to sing those with Ella
- She also gets Ella to do some dance moves when singing songs like “Die Räder vom Bus”
- She reads books to Ella holding the book pages into the camera.
For Ella, skyping with Tutu and Oma is almost like truly interactive TV. It’s almost like an alternative to watching TV. Ella gets screen time, but then it’s interactive screen time—the type that helps to develop her language.
Do you have similar experiences? Or have come up with other cool games to play via FaceTime or Skype, I’d love to hear about them.