A lot of linguists believe that the best language-learning method is through immersion. As in, moving to a place you have to speak it. Sounds dreamy and idyllic, right? But, let’s get real honest here. Most of us just can’t move so that our kid can learn a language. For five years, I taught our kids to speak Molière’s language, on my own, with hardly one French-speaking friend ever interacting with them. Take heart, it’s still entirely possible for your kids to speak great French! In fact, thanks to the Internet, never before have you been able to find so much material to teach your kids a language for free. Here are my favorite resources to teach your child FRENCH. Feel free to add your favorite go-tos for little French-language learners in the comment section below – there are so many great ones out there!
Psst…if the idea of this post with more things to add to your to-do list just makes you feel tired and more full of horrid parent guilt, please read my post For weary parents of bilinguals first.
A few fabulous French children’s books to get you started
I tried hard to find French books, written in French rather than those that have been translated…
*Youngest read-with-me collections (0-3 years):
T’choupi, Petit Ours Brun, Babar, Oui-Oui…
*Younger readers might like (3-7 years):
Bon appétit ! Monsieur Lapin, Doudou perdu d’Océane, L’Afrique de Zigomar, Le mystère des Nigmes
*Inquisitive reader topical collections (3-7 years):
Mes P’tits docs, Kididoc, Mes Années Pourquoi… (excellent value for money, books that are re-read through the years)
*More advanced readers may enjoy beginner novels (6-12 years):
Le Petit Prince, Poil de Carotte, Les Trois Mousquetaires…
*Bande Désinées (BDs) or comics:
Astérix, Tintin and the more modern Titeuf (all of which can be found on Youtube as well)
*A few children’s authors:
Philippe Corentin, Claude Boujon, Claude Ponti, Godefroy de Pennart
*Beautiful multicultural books in French:
You can find them in my former post, right here.
I loved this sweet but simple reading list from last year. See if you can order them from a library near you!
6 Online Bookstores that will ship worldwide
This is a Canadian website with a fun list of French immersion books for your little learners. Indigo ships internationally.
I just discovered this website that sources its products from 50 stores and allows you to locate books, films, music albums or games and pay in one of 6 currencies and ship it to any of the 10 countries, including… South Africa. Who knew!?
But, I don’t have any money to buy French books!?
Find a local book swap or why don’t you create your own! Lots of families are looking for books in English (or other languages) and will send you one in French in exchange. Or, find some ideas to host the perfect book swap at your place here.
Fear not, the library is here! In many parts of the States and elsewhere, you can get the inter-library loan system working in your favor. Your local library can ship you a T’choupi or a P’tits Docs book from Chicago to Denver free of charge. Well, thanks to your taxes, I mean! Let’s just not talk about the carbon footprint of your cutesy French board book! Ehem…
Image by Courtney of Carrying Wonder Photography
2 Great French children’s subscription services that deliver worldwide
L’Ecole des Max
User-friendly subscription website that will ship an age-specific French book each month to your address, anywhere in the world. Lovely books, eco-friendly (lighter = cheaper shipping) binding – really cool.
Milan Jeunesse Magazines
You may remember these kids’ magazines from my post on great gifts for multicultural families. We are big fans of the Wakou animal magazine, but I just discovered that they can all be delivered to foreign doorsteps.
3 Online French games for kids
7 games (and lessons and evaluations) to help your youngster learn French, from Mix and Match to The beetle and The Bee, Pelmanism, Four in a Row, Hangman, Spelling game and The Frog Flies.
700 point and click games in French for your little learners. Maybe a bit outdated but very educational (check out the sciences section!) with a broad offering of topics and age ranges.
I kept hearing about this site before checking it out. Turns out, it’s a fabulously user-friendly drill-style website that feels like a game – down to the part where you earn points for completing lessons. The social aspect is quite fun and motivating as well. Chat with virtual buddies, debate on a topic or boast about finishing your “French tree” before them!
3 Sweet little apps for your sweet little French learners
Okay, so, I don’t have any kids’ apps on my phone. That’s because my phone is always full of photos! So, for this category, I will default to the top of the far more organized Sylvia Duckworth’s French apps for Kids list, namely these intriguing ones:
2 Useful websites to purchase French resources
UK website, global delivery available.
A range of products for teaching and learning French including books, songs, games, DVDs, Flashcards, Posters, Motivational Rewards and Schemes of work for teaching Primary French.
Teachers Pay Teachers
Have you ever heard of TpT?
Here is what my friend Annabelle from the Piri-Piri Lexicon writes about TpT: “TpT stands for Teachers Pay Teachers. It is a marketplace, just like Etsy, for teachers and home-schoolers primarily. Teachers and educators upload and share their materials, workbooks, printables, posters and everything else you might need in a classroom or to teach children at home. The site is incredibly popular in the US and a few other English-speaking countries. But did you know that you can also find French resources on it? If you have school-aged children, it is worth a good look. There are hundreds of great materials for all levels and topics (from geography to seasonal events, from maths to travel journals).” To help you sort through it, my friend has selected her top 5 stores right here. Sweet deal!
3 places to go for free French printables
Warning, you may get totally lost in this website. You will find in Fiche Maternelle a wealth of preschool printables from French cursive, to preschool biology. You do need to speak French to understand the categories though.
Un monde meilleur
Poking around online, I came across this Belgian portal for primary school teachers. It features crafts, French lessons or online games. Lots of freebies to download here as well.
Follow this link to print out a French alphabet, crossword puzzles, coloring books and more. Mind the “Make your own French fry holder” cut-outs that slip into the Pinterest search as it contains the word “French”!
Here are some more helpful resources to get you started on Pinterest. Try typing:
Poésie française enfants (French poetry for kids)
FLE enfants (French as a second language for kids)
Comptines Enfants (nursery songs for kids)
Apprendre français activités (Lean French – Activities)
2 fantastic websites for learning French
The French Experiment
So, you don’t have a French speaker on hand? Go to this website to hear someone read you a handful of children’s classics in French. The enunciation is sloooow, but the vocabulary isn’t dumbed down. I really like this website for its simplicity and good choice of French kids’ lit. Clicking around a bit further, you’ll discover topical French lessons for free too.
BBC Languages – French site
Like most things produced by the BBC, this website is well-done and very attractive, including for primary school learners. Select your language of study, French, and you’ll also find a fun French BBC style show for your youngsters in the children’s section.
4 Great Instagram accounts for learning French
Older kids may enjoy learning French from one of these Insta accounts:
@LyraFrench (French learning for budding foodies. Gorgeous illustrations and slow, clear enunciation.)
@FrenchEveryday (Everyday French vocabulary. Tap the post to hear the pronunciation.)
@FrenchWords (Words and expressions with their translations)
@GastonMillefeuille (The most adorable little cartoons with expressions, phrases, (play on) words.)
6 Cute TV shows in French for kids
Le monde des petits / Comptines et Chansons des Tintounis
This is a most darling collection of classic nursery songs for little children, ages 0-2. We’d often listen to just the audio and dance around the house. Sit them down in front of the screen and drink your coffee warm. Also possible.
Dany le Tigre
Daniel Tiger exists en français, mais si! These gentle, morally driven shows based on the late Mr. Rogers’ shows are translated superbly and are decent enough to leave your 2-4 year old kid watching while you are putting a load of laundry in. No seriously, one time I left the kids with Wheels on the Bus playing and I came back to them screaming because someone had lit the passengers on fire and they all drowned?! (I just read more about this twisted phenomenon today, here!) You can’t even trust kids’ shows today..
Please don’t get mad. I was oblivious for a long time that a number of parents find the cartoon character Caillou lame, whiny and grating. Perhaps that is because I discovered this Canadian show for 3-6 year olds in French, I don’t know. I enjoy this medium-length show because all the little things Caillou encounters (sleep-overs, fear of the dark, not eating dinner) are daily occurrences in most children’s lives too. As a result, the vocab is useful and helpful… with the exception for the sometimes peculiar Canadian expressions! Haha!
Didou (dessine-moi) is a lovely short show for 4-7 year olds who are into drawing. From a carousel to a horse, learn a simple way to draw all the things your kids love, while learning useful French words.
Sam le Pompier
Boys (and girls!) 5-9 years all seem to enjoy the suspense of Sam le Pompier. Conversation is rather robust and fast, but the action and context drives comprehension.
Les Aventures de Tintin
Older children ages 7-12 will enjoy Les Aventures de Tintin, a French..well, Belgian classic actually, contrary to popular belief! Vocabulary is quite advanced, but you can also watch them with subtitles if you are so inclined!
Bonus language hack for when you get bored of the above list: Try the dubbing or subtitling options in French on your favorite Netflix shows.
6 Excellent CDs/DVDs for young French learners
DVDs for learning French:
Little Pim – Little Pim is great for the youngest learners, focusing on repetition and the adorable little panda, present in all the langauge DVDs.
BBC’s Muzzy – I have heard a lot about this children’s language course. It’s supposed to be spendy yet excellent, but I can’t vouch for it personally. Perhaps one of you have tested it out?
CDs to rock out in French:
Holà l’eau là – Contes et Musiques aquatiques by Christine Laveder
Bulle et Bob à la plage – Nathalie Tual
Putumayo French Café CD Upbeat, catchy and excellent recording quality
Songs in French for Children CD Sweet, vintage, classics.
Find a French teacher for your youngster!
When all else fails, take advantage of our modern era to select a French instructor who will teach you over Skype or Facetime. Websites such as italki.com (and others!) allow you to select a French teacher from 276+, located all over the world. After you find one who will fit your profile and budget, make sure you select one that works with children or teens, and let your kids see the teacher’s intro video so they can be part of the excitement and take ownership of the process.
As I said, French language material has never been more accessible, so what are you waiting for to get started?
Prêt, feu, et c’est… parti!!
Not learning French? Click on the banner above for a wealth of resources in 14 other languages. Thanks goes to Chontelle from Bilingual Kidspot for organizing this mammoth language resource mash-up!