How Does Language Learning Affect Brain Development in Children?

Raising a child who is bilingual may seem like a daunting task. Maybe you learned a second language as an adult and you remember how difficult it was for you, or maybe you aren’t sure if a child is capable of picking up the intricacies of two separate languages. You may not realize that a young child’s brain is vastly different from an adult’s brain. Research tells us that, not only are children great at learning and retaining new languages, but learning multiple languages earlier in life actually has a greater overall cognitive effect than learning them as an adult, and not just with future language acquisition.

Languages Make the Brain More Adaptable

In “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” by Viorica Marian, Ph.D. and Anthony Shook, they discuss how children as young as seven months old benefit from being raised in a bilingual environment. This might seem shocking to many, as children haven’t yet acquired verbal language skills at that age. However, being exposed to multiple languages helps infants “better adjust to environmental changes,” and the benefits continue throughout their life as “the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain”. In short, learning multiple languages helps your brain learn how to effectively change gears, conform to new or unusual situations, and function well in new environments.  


Bilingualism Keeps the Brain Healthy in Old Age

Isn’t the brain amazing? Communicating in a new language is exciting, but there are so many additional benefits to language learning just for your brain. The benefits of bilingualism for brain development extend into old age as well. According to Marian and Shook, “bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline”. Learning a new language now can help you retain your brain power later in life, and the same applies to your child.

Bilingualism Can Help in Your Child’s Career

Early second language education will help your child both now and in the future. According to, bilingual job candidates can earn about 2% more than their monolingual counterparts. Knowing a second language also makes you a better candidate for business travel, which enables you to take better advantage of paid business trips. The perks of learning a second language extend into many other aspects of life.

How Can Parents Help Teach their Children Learn?

In addition to choosing an excellent school for your child to attend, you can also be a major driving force in your child’s language acquisition. Incorporating a second language at home, combined with the instruction your child receives at school, will greatly improve the speed of language acquisition. This article from has some excellent suggestions for teaching your children at home, and you will benefit as well! Learning a second language with your child can be an enriching experience for you both!


Finding a school that incorporates a bilingual curriculum for young children is a challenge. Many schools don’t begin teaching a second language until high school, which is well into a child’s academic career, or, at a young age, they teach the language in insolation, for twenty or so minutes a day, which is not effective enough for language acquisition. At Tessa International School, we understand how important it is to provide a solid foundation for bilingualism early in life. This is why we teach 80% of the school day in a second language (Spanish, French or Mandarin) from preschool. Your child’s brain is at a point where it can easily begin to acquire a second language, and we want to see all of our students succeed in language, academics, and in their personal lives as they grow.

If you’re ready to help your child get on the path to being bilingual, please contact us for more information about our school, what we stand for, and how to enroll your child today.

10 Awesome Activities in Hoboken to Keep the Kids Busy After-School

by Tori Galatro

Whether your son or daughter has just started first grade or they’re already filling out college applications, after school activities are a great way for kids to explore their individuality, make friends, continue their learning outside of school, and develop new skills. New York City offers amazing opportunities, but there’s no need to make the trek during the week when you have so many fantastic options right in Hoboken. With so many programs offered, we won’t list them all, but here are just a few to get you thinking:

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There are endless advantages to getting your child involved with after school sports. The City of Hoboken Recreational division offers all of the classic options. For kids with a less competitive spirit, Mimi Yoga Hoboken offers great after-school classes for both kids and teens where they’ll cultivate flexibility and strength, as well as skills they can take outside of the studio, like focus, stress management, and mindfulness. (Image from MimiYoga)

Improv Groups

Brave Bright Theatre Kids is an improvisational theater group for kids in Hoboken. Stressing creativity and expression, the group has a great reputation for building confidence and self-esteem, especially among shyer kids. Parents rave about the difference they see in their children after just a few classes.

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Acting isn’t the only skill kids can learn in a quality after school theater program. From set design to chorus to dance, theatre gives kids the opportunity to find their individual strengths. Hoboken Children’s Theatre has after school classes for grades k-12 with increasing skill and experience levels. (Image from Hoboken Children’s Theatre)

Libraries and Bookstores

Public libraries are a staple after school location and local meeting place for any community and the Hoboken Public Library has a great reputation for being safe and kid-friendly, offering homework help and a full calendar of kids programs. Rainy and cold days are especially great for book browsing. Little City Books is a beloved local children’s bookstore and one of the few places where you’ll be proud when your child begs you to buy them something.

Learning New Skills

No matter how broad your education, everyone wants a unique skill that sets them apart. For low-key and crafty kids, M Avery Designs has sewing classes for kids and teens where they’ll start by making simple stuffed animals and work their way up to making their own clothing. (Image from M Avery Designs)

Parks and Playgrounds

With almost 20 different parks, Hoboken is a great place to live when the weather’s nice. Pier A, Pier C, and Frank Sinatra Park are unique spots to bring your kids to play after school, known for their gorgeous views of the NYC skyline. Columbus Park, located slightly more inland, is also a great option and has two fantastic playgrounds. Play frisbee, bring the dog, or just sit and people watch.


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Learning an instrument takes a lot of practice and many kids tend to lose focus with classical instruments like piano and violin. Luckily, many teachers in Hoboken offer instruments that will be more familiar and exciting to most kids like drum lessons at The Drum Den. Another local shop that also offers rock n’ roll instrument lessons is Guitar Bar, but classical instrument options are also available, as well as banjo and voice lessons.

Visiting a Museum

Going to a museum may not be the first thing on your mind after picking up the kids from school but The Hoboken Historical Museum is actually a great after school option. It’s open until 7pm Tuesday to Thursday, it’s free for all children, and it has great educational programs for kids of all ages. The Hoboken Fire Department Museum is also a part of the historical museum. Especially exciting for little ones, kids have the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat and ring the bell of a 1930s fire truck.IMG_3170 copy

Art Classes

Urban Arts offers an extremely diverse range of art classes for all ages, including mixed media and illustration, giving kids a chance to develop their creativity as well as hone technical skills. Classes include discussions of art theory and history as well as end-of-session exhibitions of student works. (Image from Urban Arts)

Tessa International School in Hoboken has a range language immersion classes as well as other enrichment skills and activities, all conveniently in the after school hours. Contact Us for more information.

5 Compelling Reasons Preschool/Early Education is so Important

Young children have an innate desire to learn and explore. Notice how children will begin to investigate their world as soon as they can walk and begin to experiment with language as soon as they can talk. Children attempt to make sense of all the new sights, sounds, and textures they encounter. Now, imagine if they were in an environment that presented them with a variety of new experiences and answers to the many questions they have. Their world would be one giant learning adventure that stimulates their minds and satisfies their curiosity. That’s what preschool and early learning facilities do for the children they serve.


At home, parents may teach their children words, songs, rhymes, and a love for books, but preschool provides the structure and opportunities to build upon this foundation. Children desire to understand themselves and their world, and a preschool setting facilitates that desire. According to the research findings put in a report entitled, “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” children who attend preschool or early learning programs are “better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t.” Preschool and early learning benefit children in at least the 5 following ways:

Encourages curiosity

Parents may wonder if their children are born curious. Young children are constantly exploring, touching things, and asking questions. While this may seem to be a challenge at times for parents in the home environment, it is the perfect behavior for preschool. Preschools encourage children’s curiosity by allowing them to have many hands-on experiences that provoke thoughtful questions. Teachers are always on hand to stimulate thought and then provide answers. For example, while exploring dirt, bugs, and worms, children may ask “do worms have eyes?” or “do bugs fly?” This opens up a curiosity-based learning opportunity.

Fosters a love of learning

Children are natural lovers of learning. Watch their faces fill with wonder as they watch an egg hatch or learn how birds build their nests. Early learning environments nurture that inborn love for learning because the curious nature of the child is free. At preschool, education is done through playtime. This connects playing (fun) with learning (education). Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a psychology professor says when you combine learning with play, kids will “experiment with everything from attitudes and ideas to shapes and colors — all in the name of fun.” Preschool teachers are not so concerned about the extent of their learning at this age but on fostering a love for learning.

Develops social skills

One of the key objectives of preschool is to help children develop social skills. According to Kathleen McCartney, Ph.D., dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, preschool is so important for children because it’s when “they learn how to socialize — get along with other children, share…” The opportunity to learn these important social skills occurs when children must take turns, work in groups, interact with a variety of different children, and not interrupt.


Strengthens self-management skills

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning states, “self-management is used to teach children (typically 4 years of age and older) to pay attention to their own behavior and to complete activities or engage in interactions using appropriate behavior. Self-management can help children use appropriate play and social interaction skills, participate in classroom routines and engage in instructional activities.” In preschool, children may be given tasks that require them to work within certain parameters such as completing a task at a particular time or in a certain order. This gives them the opportunity to manage their actions and check on themselves to make sure the task is done properly. For example, children may need to manage their hygiene activities such as washing their hands before snack time. They may need to regulate their behavior when told it’s clean-up time. Teachers often help children with self-management skills by displaying a chart with the desired behaviors and activities and other great whole-class and individualized methods to help the children along.

Boosts independence and self-esteem

Preschool may be the first time a child is away from his/her parents for an extended period of time. Although this may prove difficult for both parties at first, it can also very much work towards the children’s benefit. Children learn independence in a preschool learning environment which, in turn, increases their self-esteem. Sometimes parents wonder why their children seem dependent on them at home, but do things for themselves at preschool. Jennifer Zebooker, a teacher at a nursery school in New York City says that children are required “to pour their own water at snack, to throw away their plates, to hang up their jackets — and they do.” When you raise the expectations of children, they will perform.

Preschool gives children a solid foundation to build on as they enter kindergarten. Tessa International School is committed to providing children with an excellent, individualized, nurturing experience. For more information about our program, please contact us today!


Why Teaching Your Child a New Language Will Not Harm their English Skills

All parents want their children to thrive. Unfortunately, sometimes myths, rather than actual research, can lead our decisions as parents. A common piece of parenting folklore states that we might harm our children’s English language skills if we introduce the child to a new language during toddlerhood.

This is simply not true.

Busting A Myth

Access to different languages will allow children’s language skills to thrive. Children learn language structure without even knowing it, particularly at a young age, and can then apply it to their new language or languages.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has determined that the ability to speak or understand more than one language actually helps brain development. In a study monitoring brain activity in bilingual individuals, they found that bilingual individuals had more brain activity in different areas of their brains than monolingual individuals.

The bilingual child’s brain is always active, differentiating between the two languages and their expansive vocabulary, particularly if the languages are taught simultaneously or in the same environment. This high level of brain activity, studies have shown, actually changes an individual’s ability to absorb new information. Essentially: learning a second language rewires the brain permanently so it performs language tasks quickly and efficiently.


Researchers at Cornell University have learned that young children who learn a second language have better attention skills and can ignore distractions easier than monolingual children. In our modern world, with distractions merely inches away from us, the frustration of continuous loss of attention for students, parents, and teachers, and eventually employers, cannot be overstated. It may seem counterintuitive, but learning a new language does not overwhelm a child’s brain. It helps it.

Languages Teach Empathy

The University of Chicago conducted a different study and learned that being multilingual increased empathy in children, allowing them to see situations from others’ points of view. Researchers noted that throughout human history, exposure to languages has aided survival through exposure to new ideas. What we are seeing with this study is evolution in action.


Languages also have different words for experiences and emotions, so empathy is engaged in the learning process. Multilingual children learn that languages are vibrant and organic, empowering them to appreciate the world’s many cultures.

The Cornell study researchers point out that learning to read, speak, write, and understand languages is part of what makes us human. Picking up different languages is simply what we do best.

What Learning Sounds Like

When children, particularly toddlers, are learning more than one language at the same time, they may occasionally use two or three different languages in a sentence. And of course, “sentence” is a relative term as toddlers speak in fragments, getting distracted from their main point, punctuating with constant “umms”, as they practice communication. Adding a few languages to the mix may frustrate the parent, who simply wants to know what is going on. It’s all perfectly fine. The child’s brain is simply trying to organize their thoughts into a system – one that will straighten out over time.

The bottom line is that research clearly shows that first language proficiency does not decrease by learning a new language. There are many benefits to learning a second language, and a child’s mind can only expand and grow from exposure.

We firmly believe this and invite parents to contact us if they wish to learn more about our educational philosophies.

Whole Brain Teaching Methods for Pre-School Students

“Class?” “Yes?”

This step is intended to capture students’ attention with a single word. Students are taught that when the teacher says the predetermined word (usually “class”), they are to respond as a group with “yes”.  The catch here is that the students are taught to respond in a mirror image of the teacher, so if the teacher says “class, class”, the students are to respond with “yes, yes”. Teachers should practice improvising and using as many variations of “class” as they can imagine. This ensures that the technique remains interesting to the students, thereby keeping them entertained, engaged, and looking forward to the instructions that are to follow. This step is especially important for preschool aged children, as they are just learning to mimic and copy.

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Classroom Rules

Once a teacher has the attention of the students, it’s imperative that he or she lay down the classroom rules. Each rule is associated with a specific physical gesture, so over time the combination of muscle memory and memorized rules becomes second nature. The rules and their associated gestures are:

  1. Follow Directions Quickly – Move your hand or finger in a swimming motion forward.
  2. Raise your Hand for Permission to Speak – Raise your hand then make a talking motion with your mouth.
  3. Raise your Hand for Permission to Leave your Chair – Raise your hand and make a waving motion with your fingers.
  4. Make Smart Choices – Tap your temple on your head.
  5. Keep your Dear Teacher Happy – Make the letter “L” with each hand and place it by the corners of your mouth to motion a smile.

Hands and Eyes

This is the step where the students are required to really focus on what the teacher’s instructions are.  When the teacher announces “hands and eyes”, all students are to look at the teacher, sit up straight, and hold their hands together. The “hands and eyes” statement is a simple reminder to the children that they are about to receive instruction. This is the time for the teacher to make their point and since preschool-aged children tend to have very short attention spans, it’s important that the point be short (less than 15-25 seconds), sweet, and uncomplicated. Remember that the end result should be pieces of information that are chopped up into small enough bites that a preschool aged student can effectively retain and then reteach the information to his or her peers.        

“Teach.” “Ok.”

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The Teach-OK step is the instructional part of the lesson. The teacher divides the students into groups and teaches small pieces of information with the aid of hand movements and/or physical gestures. After the teacher completes instruction, he or she announces “teach”, to which the children respond “ok”. This signals the students that it is time to repeat the same information and gestures to their peers. During this time the teacher should be moving among each group and assessing which children adequately retained and are able to re-teach the lesson, versus those that are struggling. This process repeats itself until the entire lesson has been taught.


This step coincides with Teach-OK. As the students are re-teaching their classmates, they should take turns using and mirroring the gestures or physical movements that accompany each step. The least complicated way to accomplish this is to count the students off by ones and twos, so that when it’s time to switch, each child knows that it’s their turn to perform the mirror image of their peer.


At any time during the lesson the teacher may announce “mirror, mirror”, accompanied by a specific gesture. This command signals the children to stop what they are doing and mimic the teacher. This step should be used to regain the class’s attention when the children begin to lose focus. It offers a brief time out and a chance for the students to recollect their thoughts.


For preschool aged children, students should receive points marked on a smiley face or a frowny face on the board, depending upon how they performed (up to three points per face). Every time the teacher marks a point on the smiley face, the students should be taught to respond with a quick cheer or applause, and each time a point is marked on the frowny face they may groan out loud (though this may not be something a teacher wishes to adopt in his or her classroom). This practice ensures that the entire class is cognizant of overall performance. At the end of the day a surplus of smiley face points should be rewarded with an extra few minutes of playtime or storytime.

The practice of Whole Brain Teaching emphasizes active learning and engages a student at the level they are most comfortable with for their age group. This fun and interactive method ensures that even the youngest student will retain and understand their lessons more comprehensively. For more information on the benefits of Whole Brain Teaching and how it applies to preschool aged children, please contact us.

The Career Benefits of Multilingual Education

There is no greater gift you can give to your child’s future career than a multilingual education. The business world is an international one, and the most successful companies have locations across the globe. Companies are always on the lookout for bilingual new hires and one of the most common complaints of young professionals is that they didn’t learn more languages (or learn more thoroughly) when they were younger. By helping your child learn additional languages when they are very young, you can set them up for higher quality positions for the rest of their lives.

Language and the Young Mind

By the time the public school system starts offering language classes, it’s too little, too late. The human mind learns languages best during the infant and toddler stage, preparing each person for the complex communication required for further learning. Study after study has found that “in the domain of language, infants and young children are superior learners when compared to adults, in spite of adults’ cognitive superiority”. Children from bilingual families, for instance, will always have a deeper, more inherent grasp of both languages than their peers who try to learn a second language. By the time the traditional high school language classes begin, the brain has solidified into it’s one-language way of forming thoughts and picking up the structure of a new language can be incredibly difficult.

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Domestic Opportunities

English may be the national language, but it is by no means the only language spoken within the US. Companies are constantly seeking bilingual new hires, who experience a ten to fifteen percent pay increase for the value of their skills. When a staff includes people who speak multiple languages, a company can reach out to every local community, not just the English speaking ones. This means that your child’s linguistic abilities not only grow their own cultural awareness, but can influence any business they are a part of to greater cultural service. Especially in industries that cater to multicultural families, polyglots (people who know more than two languages) are desperately needed to translate and explain policies and opportunities to their non-English-speaking clients.


International Opportunities

The more languages you know, the more countries you can do business in. Whether your child grows up to be a doctor without borders or an international entrepreneur, markets and communities open up before them. Representing a corporation, they can also offer a courtesy few Americans can manage effectively: meeting clients in their own language. In addition, when culture, as well as language, is taught to children at an early age, they gain a deeper and more inherent understanding of how to interact with people from that culture courteously, without any common cross-cultural faux pas occurring.

Interpreters and Translators

Anyone with good manners and a strong grasp of two or more languages will always be welcomed as an interpreter or professional translator. These positions open up whole new realms of travel and import. Interpreters are needed everywhere from ESL classes to the UN, giving your child an amazing range of opportunities based on a single set of skills you can teach them before the age of six.

People who fluently speak multiple languages have an easier time getting a job, traditionally make more money than their monolinguistic counterparts, and can find unique business opportunities all over the world. Many people seek a second language later in life, but by then their brains have already settled into the thought patterns of a single language. By educating your toddler in multiple languages, you are effectively setting them up for a long and successful career, no matter what they choose to be when they grow up.

If you’d like more information on French or Spanish language learning for young children or to enroll your child in the Tessa International School, contact us today! Multilingual and multicultural early education is our passion and we’d love to share it with you and your child!

5 Benefits of Childhood Bilingualism

Benjamin Lee Wharf, a Yale linguist, was the first person to explore the possibility that bilingualism shapes the way we act and think. Although parts of his famous language theory, the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis,”, remain hotly debated, many recent studies have supported his theory that bilingualism does have a distinct effect, particularly early in life. Many studies suggest that learning more than one language has the potential to unlock amazing mental capabilities and benefits as children grow and mature.  


Research conducted on 6-year-old test subjects produced some interesting and encouraging results The children were grouped into two even sets: children who were bilingual, and children who were monolingual. Researchers gave the children various tasks designed to test their multitasking abilities. The bilingual children were able to switch their attention between tasks with greater ability and speed. The researchers behind this experiment felt that this type of increased ability stems from the skills and brain development acquired during their language acquisition. They concluded that switching between two separate languages regularly may increase the activity in our brain responsible for multitasking.

Brain Health


Some researchers liken the brain to a “muscle”, growing and changing as we “exercise” it regularly, making it stronger and healthier in the long run. In a 2011 study, researchers found strong evidence to support the theory that bilingualism can support overall brain health and delay cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Although there is no cure for these diseases, this study suggests that learning multiple languages may increase our “cognitive reserve,” the brain’s ability to use its resources and resist damage. Learning multiple languages is a perfect way for children to  “exercise” and grow important areas of the brain.

Social Growth

Communication is extremely important in the modern world for cultural understanding. As children grow and mature, learning how to interact with different types of people is of huge social advantage. Bilingual children possess great potential for social skills, with an increased sense of empathy, both used in their personal relationships and even in their future careers. Language is the glue that holds society together. To possess greater language ability will provide a child with greater social understanding, skill and increased adaptability (not only linguistic, but a general ability to adapt better in multiple settings).

Abstract Reasoning

As we grow, we begin to think deeper and are capable of understanding more abstract thoughts. Our academics become more oriented towards problem-solving designed to test our reasoning skills and creativity. Studies have shown that children who understood two languages at an early age have an advantage at this type of learning later in life. Using multiple languages grows short-term “working-memory”, a brain tool specifically designed for problem-solving and rapid-fire action.  Bilingual children often show greater brain “flexibility” when it comes to solving problems and finding original answers.

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Many young children often initially struggle with sitting still and focusing on specific tasks. However, as they grow, their attention span often grows with them, allowing them to increase their focus. Some studies show that bilingual children possess a naturally stronger attention span. Even at younger ages, these children often possess the ability to focus on tasks and better understand what’s being asked of them. This is due to improved “executive control,” a cognitive mechanism responsible for mental decisions and focus. Some researchers feel that better executive control in bilingual children results from their ability to quickly see the difference between the words of different languages. By switching back and forth between two languages at a split-second’s notice, these children naturally grow their focus and attention to detail.

Although many new facts about bilingual development are yet to be discovered, many studies suggest that specific benefits come with learning multiple languages. As adults, we often struggle with learning foreign languages. However, language learning is much easier for children as they have an innate gift to do so and they do not compartmentalize in the way we do – language is language. Gifting  your child another language at an early age puts them at great advantage for their future.

For more information on language skills and development, please contact us today.

The Pre School Years and the Importance of Social Emotional Learning

When it comes to learning and culture, your child’s brain is a blank slate. Children learn through socialization from other adults and children in their immediate environment and, through repeated exposure to the people of that culture, they begin to understand those norms and beliefs. In a foreign country, your child learns cultural norms from both you, the parents, and their experiences in that country. Children and young students living abroad have the benefit of encountering different cultures, and therefore have a richer view of the world. Parents who want their children to experience a wider view of culture may consider a more international upbringing for their children.

The Context of Socialization


The Age of Pretending

Your child’s personality is shaped through the beliefs and attitudes they experience during socialization throughout their development.

As parents, you can steer your child’s development in one direction or another. For example, your child may be naturally musical. If you provide them with musical training, you may find that they have unique musical abilities that they would never have otherwise discovered.

During preschool, children learn through pretending games. They assume different roles and act out scenarios with their peers, assuming multiple attitudes and perspectives. Even alone, children may act out different roles by themselves. Through pretending, children achieve a deeper understanding of what they’ve learned watching adults and peers.

Social Emotional Learning Counts



All parents want what is best for their child and structured play experiences provide ample developmental benefits. Through structured play, children learn to explore their personalities, understand their culture, and form friendships.

Some children are introverted and less likely than peers to seek out social experiences. For timid children, exposure to regular playtime with peers is particularly important. Introverted children benefit from a nurturing environment with low-key pretending games. Pretend kitchen sets or puppets are great tools for low-key playtime, or even a simple sandbox.

It’s so wonderful as parents to see your young children immerse themselves in play with others and come home excited about the friends they’ve made and the things they’ve learned. Children’s brains develop at an incredibly fast rate, and as a parent, you can witness your child make new discoveries almost daily. Our children remind us of how we first developed our understanding and belief system about ourselves and the world. It’s important to take the time to provide children with diverse experiences so they can have full advantage of this crucial time of education and discovery.

For more details on the importance of social emotional learning in a safe and structured, setting, please contact us today. Your child’s positive development is our primary focus.