Summer Children's Activities for Practicing French at Home

Does it feel like summer to you yet? It's so close here--we have friends visiting from out-of-state, and this is my husband's last week of teaching before his summer break. I've been thinking of simple summer activities that we can do to keep French integral to our days because my family will be spending more time together and we will be conversing more in English (since my husband doesn't speak French). Here are my suggestions of simple, classic children's activities for summer fun in French (and most of these activities can be used to practice another language as well):

Hopscotch by  Nick Lee

Hopscotch by Nick Lee

La Marelle: 

Not only does the game we know as Hopscotch date back to Roman times, but it is popular among children worldwide!  The French version can include a starting square--terre--and a finishing square--ciel--in addition to the standard squares numbered 1-8 or 1-10. The child throws a stone into the first square, skips over the square with the stone, and jumps to the tenth square and back on one foot (or two feet on doubled squares). If the child steps on a line or throws the stone out of the correct square, his turn ends and he must restart from the same square again on his next turn. The first person to hop to the tenth square and back wins.

La Marelle by  Olivier Bacquet

La Marelle by Olivier Bacquet

The French have another version, l'escargot or la marelle ronde, where the squares are drawn in a spiral. I think this would make the game more interesting for children who might feel a bit too old for hopscotch.

Related vocab: lance le caillou (throw the stone), saute à cloche-pied (jump on one foot), ne touche pas le tracé (don't touch the edge), la bonne case / la mauvaise case (right square / wrong square)

Promenade en plein air:

Nature walks are wonderful year-round, but the gift of free time and warmth make these idyllic now. You and your children can use French to identify the plants, trees, insects, and animals you spot. Gallimard Jeunesse makes a lovely app called La Forêt that helps children learn to identify trees by their leaf shapes and needle characteristics; you can download a free preview version here.

Screenshot from Gallimard's app for iPad

Screenshot from Gallimard's app for iPad

La Corde à sauter:

jumping rope lends itself to great rhythms for reciting memorized songs, lists, and poems. Your child can recite the days of the week or the months of the year in French. Other short and simple French jumprope poems include:

Jumping rope by Latitude Longitude

Jumping rope by Latitude Longitude

La Tour de France: Granted, watching la télé is not making the most of summer, but catching media footage of the Tour de France bike race in the early morning or evening during its three week span in July is an exciting opportunity to see France's villages and scenery. The race starts in England this year, giving you a good reason to review Europe's geography with your child.

Loumarin Cyclists by  Elliot Brown

Loumarin Cyclists by Elliot Brown

Other ideas:

  • Have your child list and discuss items he or she will need to pack for any vacations (real or imaginary)
  • Play Pictionary with sidewalk chalk (la craie) or take turns adding and identifying details to a drawing
  • Tell campfire stories in French. You could start with Il était une fois . . . 
  • Have a pique-nique, perhaps with French foods. For food ideas, visit this post from the Alliance Française of Washington D.C. A picnic à la française is a good excuse to visit a local French bakery beforehand! (My favorite here in Portland, Oregon, is St. Honoré Boulangerie, but I've been told that Ken's Artisan Bakery has the best baguettes around.)
  • Read together! Les Petits Livres offers bags of 4-8 French children's books that you can read over and over this summer before returning them by September 24th. Find more details about their summer reading bags here.
Baguette lunch by  Paul Downey

Baguette lunch by Paul Downey

What does your family love most about summer? I'll share French summer events around the Pacific NW region of the U.S. later this week!