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A child prepares to go down a slide as a teacher holds her up.
Photo courtesy of Tierra Encantada.

Spanish immersion daycare and preschool fosters early cognitive development

Helping children learn Spanish and English, Tierra Encantada seeks to provide a productive learning environment both inside and outside the classroom.

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For bilingual parents or parents that want their children to learn more than one language, schools can be a useful resource in getting their children the education they need.

But what about younger children, who may not even speak English fully?

Tierra Encantada is one such organization that seeks to address this, operating daycares for children aged six weeks to six years old across the country.

Erica Taylor, Director of Marketing with Tierra Encantada, spoke with AL DÍA about what the daycare program has been able to do for children and parents.

To begin, Tierra Encantada is a Spanish immersion early childhood program, meaning all of their staff are either Spanish-English or Spanish-predominant speakers that use Spanish and English for their teachings.

On a regular day, children begin with “Tiempo de Aprender,” time set aside for children to learn. Infants, for example, sing engaging songs and talk about their emotions alongside other engagements where they cognitively are, with older groups building on this.

“We create our own curriculum. It's STEM based, as well as play based. Science, technology, engineering, math, as well as immersing and imagination in the classroom, all through Spanish,” Taylor explained.

Tierra Encantada seeks to provide its children with food from Latin America and other locations across the diaspora to give them a taste of other cultures' foods, providing dishes such as Brazilian fish stew and South African shrimp jollof.

Parents come to Tierra Encantada so their children can grow up with the culture and language they have, or see the value in their children speaking more than one language. Some are even parents who speak Spanish as a third language who want their children to learn Spanish as well.

“When it comes to language, having the ability to learn language at an early age helps promote executive function. So for a dual language spec, speaker, the synapses and the cognitive knowledge that you have, are connecting and creating kind of that on off switch ON OFF, am I speaking Spanish? Am I speaking English?” Taylor said.

What Taylor describes is the way dual language speakers can mix two languages without confusion, called code mixing, a sign of linguistic sophistication

For children, learning two languages at the same time is not much different than learning the one, with bilingual children becoming fluent in two as quickly as other children are in only one.

“Language directly impacts us but because they have the ability to think and be immersed in two languages. It's broadening their executive function, it's broadening their cognitive ability, and that bleeds into every other skill set that they're going to need as a human being,” Taylor continued.

As a part of Tierra Encantada’s efforts to keep children immersed in learning Spanish, they provide resources for parents to use at home.

Taylor emphasized the importance of educational material to bring Spanish into the home to help keep children from losing what they have learned, a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.”

These resources not only include educational material, but also things like grocery lists and recipes for Latin American foods to provide to children, or connecting parents to other parents to help each other.

“Our goal is really to not only provide care internally through the centers, but really be thoughtful about giving resources for parents to easily connect and find and use at home to build upon what they're learning in the classroom,” Taylor explained.

More information about Tierra Encantada can be found on their website, with resources for parents found on their blog.

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