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How to Teach Your Kids Hindi? My Family's 3 Foundational Pillars and Practical Tips

TLDR: You don't teach your kids Hindi. You ENGAGE WITH your kids in Hindi.

Our Journey Begins with Curiosity and Love

Five years into our adventure of exploring cultures and languages within our mixed-heritage family, the joy and challenge of raising bilingual and culturally inquisitive children have unfolded into a daily exploration of Hindi and the Devanagari script. Sparked by a love for the language and the joy of exploration, our journey has highlighted my children’s (now aged 3 and 5) inherent enthusiasm to embrace their linguistic and cultural heritage. Their progress reinforces the immense value of these early years not only for language development but for fostering curiosity, inclusivity and cognitive flexibility that will empower them for life.

Facing Our Challenges Head-On

As the primary provider for the first four years of their lives, finding time for Hindi amidst a hectic schedule was challenging as many working parents can relate to. With their father speaking only English, the task of being their sole source of Hindi also seems daunting at times. Yet, none of these have been an obstacle for my children's continuous enthusiasm for Hindi which has been a constant source of inspiration and joy for me. 

Guided by the principles of early childhood education, I've leaned on three foundational pillars for our Hindi language development since the birth of my eldest: 1. Daily Conversations, 2. Embracing Devanagari, and 3. Reading. This balanced three-pronged approach has been our key to creating a multi-sensory and self-sustaining Hindi learning environment since their birth.

How to teach kids Hindi Infographic Multi-sensory engagement process

Pillar 1: Daily Conversations: Flipping the Script

Like many urban Indian dwellers educated in English-medium, my primary mode of communication was largely in English, occasionally interspersed with Hindi. This dynamic underwent a significant change when I intentionally chose to "flip the script"adopting an 80% Hindi and 20% English mix for my daily conversations with my children. Initially, this switch felt unusual not just to me but also to my Hindi-speaking friends and family, especially when I started swapping English names of everyday items with their Hindi names: For example - peanut butter as 'मूँगफली मक्खन | mungphali makhan, backyard garden as 'बगीचा | bageecha,' and plate as 'थाली | thaali.' These deliberate changes were crucial in normalizing Hindi at home and greatly enhanced my children’s Hindi vocabulary alongside English.

While Bollywood movies are a popular Hindi learning tool for many, we find that their suitability for children is often questionable, leading us to Hindi music, rhymes, and podcasts as enriching alternatives to enhance our auditory immersion in Hindi.

Hindi Alphabet podcast.

Practical Tip: Make everyday teeth brushing time a Hindi time. Describe the teeth brushing process and movements in Hindi. Such practices not only reinforce the language but also integrate Hindi into the fabric of everyday life.

Pillar 2: Embracing Devanagari: Making Literacy Joyful

Rather than treating Devanagari script as an afterthought, we've embraced its phonetics, shapes, and sounds wholeheartedly. Our approach diverges from traditional rote learning and endless tracing, opting for a richer interaction with Devanagari through art, games, and celebratory activities like our "अक्षर  | akshar" (Hindi for alphabets) themed cake.

Within our home, everyday items feature the Devanagari script, integrating its study into our daily routines in a smooth and joyful manner. This flexibility means we don't stick to a rigid sequence for learning alphabets, vowels, consonants, and matras (vowel diacritics) but focus on an interest-led approach to learning the script’s fundamentals, turning moments of recognition and reading into significant victories.

Witnessing your children's joy when they recognize and read letters on their own is incredibly rewarding. It not only fills me with pride and validates our approach but more significantly, bolsters their sense of achievement, which is crucial for inspiring them to continue to engage with both Devanagari and Hindi. Our Varnmala Collection springs from my family's wish to blend language learning with language pride and celebration effortlessly into our everyday existence.

Hindi Alphabet Devanagari Tote Bag. Hindi Alphabet Devanagari Cake. Hindi Alphabet Devanagari Art

Practical Tip: Make learning Devanagari a hands-on, visual, and tactile adventure using our FREE printables. Or grab yourself a fun merch from Varnmala to celebrate your linguistic roots while also guaranteed to make your children ask you what does it say; making it a fun learning tool anywhere and anytime.

Pillar 3: Diverse Reading Materials: Exploring Words and Worlds

Our family's home library stands as a vibrant testimony to the immense role that diverse books play in nurturing language proficiency and cultural understanding. Our collection ranges from sturdy Hindi board books - resilient against the explorations of newborns and the zeal of toddlers - to the epic narratives of the Rashmirathi and Geetanjali in Hindi. This journey through the vast expanse of Hindi and Indian literature has not only been a venture into language learning but also a precious avenue for bonding, discovery, and mutual growth in vocabulary, enriching the other two foundational pillars of daily conversations and literacy.

In our household, reading in both English and Hindi is routine, yet we've encountered a significant gap in the availability of diverse, relevant, and inclusive Hindi children's literature. This void led me to author and publish “My Heart Would Like Some More, Please! | ये दिल माँगे और ”, designed to promote early literacy in English and Hindi since birth and acquaint young children starting on their food journey with the rich diversity of Indian foods through an entertaining tea party narrative, all the while interweaving educational themes.

Diverse Inclusive Books. Hindi. English

Practical Tip: Incorporating Hindi board books encourages children to naturally pick up and engage with these books on their own, normalizing the presence and use of Hindi in their everyday activities from birth. 

Embracing the Journey and the Importance of Flexibility

Yes, there are days when exhaustion takes over and when frustration bubbles up. Yes, there are days when children outright refuse to want to do anything with Hindi. Yes, there are days where we don’t engage with Hindi at all. But instead of forcing, we allow ourselves the space to take that break and when we do I often find that we return with renewed enthusiasm, because for us learning Hindi, Devanagari and engaging with cultures is not just an educational endeavor with deadlines in mind —it's a journey of life-long exploration filled with discovery, curiosity and adventures. For us, the journey is the goal.

Remember: Consistency is key, but so is flexibility. Celebrate small victories and don't get discouraged by setbacks. Embrace the breaks without judgements. Language and cultural exploration is a lifelong journey for all ages and all backgrounds. 

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