I don’t usually do product reviews on this blog. I’ve been approached to do a few, but have never wanted to spend the time to review a product that didn’t seem to me like it would really appeal to the people who tend to read here.
But, a few months ago I was starting to look into programs for teaching foreign language to my girls. I had really been slacking on including any foreign language in our homeschool, and was looking for a little help. I took three years of Spanish in high school, and have a very basic recollection of the language, but I certainly cannot speak it and didn’t feel very confident to teach much more than vocabulary to my girls. Even that I wasn’t doing regularly, so I wanted to find something to provide more structure and better instruction than I was giving.
It just so happened that, around the time I was beginning to do some research into the available programs for preschool-aged children and was having trouble finding something appealing, I was contacted by someone at Little Pim and asked to review one of their language DVDs. I checked out their website and was impressed, so I agreed to do the review.
Little Pim produces DVDs, books, flashcards, music CDs, and games to help children from ages 0-6 begin to learn a foreign language. Their method:
The Entertainment Immersion Method® integrates the latest scientific research regarding kids’ language learning and brain development. Pimsleur Levine developed the series with leading neuroscientist Dr. April Benasich, director of the Rutgers Infancy Studies Lab.
Each of our educational DVDs has a unique, child-friendly theme, such as eating, playtime and feelings. The method teaches 360 words and phrases, providing the essential building blocks for language learning. A child only needs 500 words to be considered “conversational” in a language. Babies, toddlers and kids respond enthusiastically to Little Pim’s format, which combines animated and live-action videos.
At Little Pim, we understand how children learn, so our videos are segmented into 5-minute episodes to accommodate a young child’s attention span. Simple sentences are broken down into easy-to-understand parts and reinforced through repetition by native speakers.
They offer many languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, and Italian, to name a few. I chose to have the Spanish DVD sent to us, largely because this is the language I am most comfortable with trying to teach my kids, having some background in it myself.
The DVD that was sent to us is #2 in the Spanish DVD set, “Wake Up Smiling.” I put it on for the girls the first chance I got and sat down to watch it with them. I did this at first without looking in depth into the many suggestions Little Pim offers, both on their website and in the packaging of the DVD itself, for helping kids get the most out of the DVDs.
To begin, we just sat and watched together.
My first impression? The girls loved it. They laughed out loud at Little Pim and the silly things he does throughout the video, and they were really into it, asking to watch it again and again.
Other initial thoughts were that I really liked the repetition of the words and the way the short segments alternate between animation of Little Pim and live action of children and adults engaging in the behaviors or interacting with the items that represent the Spanish words being spoken. I loved that the DVD doesn’t just show pictures and vocabulary words, but uses common phrases as well. I needed more help with teaching Spanish phrases using the correct grammar than with teaching vocabulary words, so this part is especially useful to me.
It was a good first impression.
We began watching the DVD a few times per week, as recommended. The first few times we watched it, I just sat with the girls, turned on the English subtitles, and repeated the English and Spanish words after they were said in the DVD. We talked about many of the words (those I could remember) afterwards and at random times through the day between viewings. After watching it with them a few times, I took the time to read up on the recommendations on the website and that go along with the DVD and look into some of the other great offerings on the Little Pim website.
As recommended, I increased my attempts to use the words from the DVD in conversations with the girls throughout the day. I printed out the companion guide provided on the website to help with this. I almost always sit and watch the DVD with them and repeat the words as they are said in the video, encouraging them to do the same.
I’ve also been talking with them a bit about Spain, showing them on our world map, and cooking some traditional Spanish food (paella, empanada, etc.), so they get a little bit of context for what “Spanish” means outside of just a bunch of different words we say. I used Post-Its around the house to label various items and actions, mostly to remind myself to say these words as much as possible with them.
Both of my older girls are able to repeat many of the words and phrases while watching the DVD.
Miss (my four-year-old) in particular has had lots of fun trying to say the words in conversation with me. We have been watching the video for only about five weeks, but she is really beginning to pick up words and phrases. Last night while getting ready for bed, she randomly said, “los pies,” while smiling up at me. I asked her what that means, and she (correctly) held up her foot.
Lass (age 2.5) is also beginning to remember a few of the words and phrases. Her favorite is to say, “Adios, hasta pronto!” (Goodbye, see you soon!), which Little Pim says at the end of each segment of the video.
Sis (age 1) isn’t speaking much yet (in English), but she does attend to the DVD for short periods when her sisters are watching.
Overall, I really like the DVD we are using.
But, I don’t love the idea of just using a DVD and nothing else. I want a program that is more interactive, for two reasons:
One is simply that I believe providing interactive experiences is a better way to learn anything than by just staring at a screen.
The other is that, after the first few viewings, the DVD has failed to hold my girls’ attention really well for very long. They still enjoy sitting down to watch it, and will pay close attention and repeat the words back for a couple of the segments (about 5 minutes each), but they don’t sit and enjoy the whole video anymore like they did the first few times they watched it. It’s just not that sort of video.
That said, I realize that the”interactive” piece with a DVD like this has to come from me, which is why I watch it with them and try to incorporate the words and phrases in conversation throughout the day. Though the DVD is somewhat interactive (Little Pim asks questions here and there such as, “Que es esto?” – What is this?), the video seems to me to be more of a tool to get parents engaged in speaking a foreign language with their children rather than expecting that a child will learn Spanish purely from watching this DVD (or the set of DVDs) over and over. I’m sure simply watching the DVDs repeatedly would produce some learning of the language, but doing the additional activities recommended by the Little Pim folks are what is really going to make the experience beneficial.
And fortunately, Little Pim has several other, more interactive, products available as well. For the past five weeks I have only been using the DVD that was sent to me, because I wanted my review to mostly focus on that. But, recently I also downloaded some free Little Pim games on my phone, which Miss loves. These seem to have boosted her comprehension and interest quite a bit very quickly, and they’re free. Additionally, I am planning to get the Spanish Word and Phrase Cards, a few additional videos, and maybe the Little Pim music CD, as well as a few children’s books written in Spanish to increase the methods we have for presenting the language in our home.
Bottom line? The DVD is great. In short viewings, my girls really enjoy it and benefit from it. It helps me to remember and add to my old Spanish knowledge so that I can use it to teach them what’s on the DVDs and also some other things I remember. Add to the DVD the helpful tips Little Pim provides, the word and phrase cards, CD, books, and downloadable games, and I think the Little Pim program is really well-rounded for providing foreign language instruction for very young children, which is hard to find. It is also very reasonably priced, with each DVD costing only $17.95 and several different packaged deals from which to choose.
We will be watching our DVD plenty during our 10-hour drive to my parent’s house on Saturday to provide breaks between Disney movies!
I recommend the Little Pim DVDs and games to anyone who wants to expose a young child to learning a foreign language. I will also be purchasing the flashcards and music CD to try in our house as well***
Now, for the fun part. The folks at Little Pim have agreed to provide another DVD for one reader to win. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me which language you would want to try.
For two additional chances to win:
1. Like Motherhood and Miscellany on Facebook (you can click this link or just use the “Like” button on the sidebar >>). Leave a separate comment and let me know that you’ve done so.
2. Like Little Pim on Facebook. Again, leave a separate comment telling me that you did.
Be sure I have a way to contact you if you win (email, FB, etc). The giveaway will be open until Monday, April 15th at 8 PM CST. When it ends I’ll use Random.org to pick a winner. Good luck!
*** Little Pim sent me the DVD I reviewed for free and is providing the second DVD for this giveaway. I did not receive any other compensation for writing this, and all opinions contained in this post are my own.