Sunday, December 03, 2006

Learning Styles Continued

In my last post, I wrote about my older son's preference for visual/spatial learning. My younger son, ML, is not quite three so his style is a bit harder to identify but he's showing a definite preference for tactile/kinesthetic (or active) learning. If he can manipulate something, he understands it and remembers. This kid has been loving jigsaw puzzles for over a year - and can pick out the piece he wants from a big pile. Show him where the play button is on the remote control and he'll never forget where it is (and uses it often!) My older son still needs reminders on which buttons to use. Like any self-respecting preschooler, he adores water play and is proud that he knows how to get the temperature just right. Dancing, climbing and jumping are favorites of his. My little ML is very active, however, he easily sinks deep into concentration when doing something engrossing to him like a puzzle or a matching activity.

Some other activities for tactile / kinesthetic learners which you can apply to German immersion:

Crafts. Do a craft and read an accompanying story
Role-play (have kids act out a story they know and help them with the German if necessary)
Dance and sing to German music.
Allow frequent breaks for movement.
Read books with tactile effects. (Lift the flap, glitter effects, touchy-feely). ML loves these kind of books and will "read" them to himself.

Luckily there seems to be a lot of overlap between my two kids' learning styles so I'm not going in two completely different directions most of the time. I wonder what the new baby will be like...?

Learning Styles for German Study

In a continued effort to understand what makes my kids ‘tick’, I have been reading a lot lately about learning styles, and consequently thinking about how it can be applied to expanding a child’s knowledge of German.

I seem to be mainly an auditory-verbal learner which explains why I found German so easy in college – I just listened to the lecture, read the textbooks and learned the rules. I always wondered why everyone said German was so difficult. I loved learning all the rules and their exceptions! My learning style is well-geared toward traditional methods of school instruction.

Fast forward to my efforts to homeschool my older son, NJ, now 6, and my verbal style is frustrating us both immensely. He is more of a visual-spatial learner and is much more interested in the big picture rather than the small details. He’s extremely creative and is constantly constructing things with his hands. The kid even learned to knit last week! (Yes, I am very proud!) Pesky details, however, are not of much interest to him and he needs to keep moving to learn. No sitting still and listening for this boy! Now that I understood this, our lessons are becoming more effective and productive.

Some ideas geared toward these two learning styles that you can use with your German study:

Auditory/verbal learners
lots of books
Listening to music and audiobooks
For older children, a discussion of the grammar – they may enjoy learning the origins of words and expanding their vocabulary

Visual/spatial learners
– where is Germany on the map – what path did we take when we flew their last time? We love to keep maps handy (map placemats are great) and frequently refer to them when a place is mentioned.
Puzzles – most visual/spatial learners love puzzles. Cut their workbook pages into jigsaw puzzle pieces and they may retain the information easily.
Allow them to draw a picture or model with clay while listening to a story auf Deutsch. When my son’s hands are busy, he’s able to concentrate so much better. And later on you can refer to the picture and ask the child to narrate back the story you told.
Incorporate role-playing into your work. Act out a story using action figures. You can really emphasize the verbs this way. Kids will remember the vocabulary as they visualize what the characters did.
Ask them to visualize. Write vocabulary words in color, ask them to close their eyes and write the word in the air. Ask them to see the word in their mind. If they can visualize it, they will remember it.
Have them build models or dioramas and label the parts in German.
Show them how lessons apply to their everyday lives. Visual/spatial learners need to see the big picture. Encourage them to write to other German-speakers, plan a pretend trip to Germany (where will you go, what will you do, what language might you need to use to get around, etc.)

Coming soonideas for tactile/kinesthetic learners.

For more information on learning styles, see this great series at Montessori for Everyone.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Licht an! Series

My kids have been engrossed in this series for a while now. Both N (6) and M(2.5) love to pour over the detailed illustrations with their paper "flashlights" and they always find something new each time they look at one of these books. It's a little tricky to explain the concept behind this series and you won't really get it until you hold one in your hands but let me do my best. Each two page spread has one side with some explanatory text and things labeled to find. On the opposite side is a transparency on top of a jet black page. The child uses his paper "flashlight" (Taschenlampe) which is really just a piece of white cardboard to illuminate things on the transparency which don't show up when backed by the black paper. So the entire page is never in view all at once and the child can really explore the page and find the creatures lurking in the dark corners. It seems to hold their attention well since they must actively search out the subjects of the page.

It's low tech, got tons of detail, and works well for beginners who are just picking up vocabulary through profis who want technical details.

The transparent pages are sturdy and we've not lost a Taschenlampe yet, although if you do, it's easy to make one out of stiff paper. There's a slot at the back of the book to hold the Taschenlampe when not in use.
Licht an!, part of Meyers Kleine Kinderbibliothek from Alphabet Garten

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

German Music for dancing and singing along

Im Kindergarten is a wonderful, upbeat, happy CD by the hugely popular Rolf Zuckowski. This album will have your kids dancing through the house, although you may wipe away tears as I do every time I hear "Wie schön, dass Du geboren bist" (How wonderful that you were born). This CD, with it's child and adult singers, will leave a lasting impression on it's listeners. I used to listen to this CD when my first child was a baby and think "Maybe he'll speak and sing like these kids one day." I'm glad to say that now he does!

A really BIG book - Erste Bilder, Erste Wörter

Besides the realistic illustrations of items from a small child’s world, the best thing about Erste Bilder, Erste Wörter is it’s size – it’s huge! When opened up, it measures almost 2 feet across by 15 inches tall. Kids will feel they can practically climb into the book.

There’s lots to see and talk about on every page from the toys, animals, and trains on the Kinderzimmer page to the tools, laundry items, and dry goods on the Im Keller page. You can play “find the …” or make up stories about what the little bears who appear throughout the book are doing on each page. Sturdy boardbook pages allow enthusiastic little ones to enjoy this book without risk of damage.

A favorite poem - Das kleine Ich bin Ich

Das kleine Ich bin Ich is another of the very first books I purchased for NJ before starting Alphabet Garten. I picked it out solely from the look of the cover and it turned out to be a true gem. NJ was about 18 months when it arrived and we read it over and over. It was great for my German and I loved the rhythm of the poetry. A bit long, especially for kids who prefer shorter picture books but so much fun!
This book is a wonderful poem about an animal who doesn't know exactly what it is. In amusing verse, the story follows the little creature as it goes around asking other animals what it might be - it's got ears like a horse - maybe it's a foal? No, not a horse. Maybe it's a fish because it swims so well. No, not a fish either. Finally the creature comes to a happy realization that he's simply himself - "Ich bin ich"!

The rhyming in this book flows so well that it's a joy to listen to and read aloud. The imaginative illustrations alternate between black/white and color and I always discover something new to look at each time I read the book. Read the sample text below and see for yourself!

Alle Hunde, groß und klein,
bellen laut: "Was fällt dir ein?
Hast zwar Ohren wie ein Dackel,
auch sein Freuden-Schwanz-Gewackel.
Aber deine kleinen Beine
Sind nicht so schön krumm wie seine,
hast auch keine Hundeleine
-und bist überhaupt zu bunt
und kein Hund."

This book is great for kids ages 5 and up who have at least a basic understanding of German. When read aloud with expression, kids will enjoy the book and begin to understand the story even if they don't understand all the text.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's all Japanese to me

I've had the interesting experience lately of being in many of my customers' shoes. That is, of understanding very little of a language I'm trying to learn. A little background: my 6 year old homeschooled son, NJ, has developed a passion for all things Japanese. He loves Japanese anime movies, Japanese art, and particularly Japanese language, both written and spoken. So we have plunged into learning some Japanese. Since he isn't reading in English (or German) yet, this means I need to do most of the legwork and basically learn alongside him. He has infected the whole family with his passion and we all know a lot more now than we did a few months ago. Even our two-year-old loves to say Konichiwa (hello) on the telephone. :)

Of course being the book maven that I am, one of my first steps has been to search out books! But I don't speak Japanese and since the alphabet is different, I don't even have a chance when trying to decide on a book. Luckily, we have good friends who are able to help a bit and who have pointed us in the right direction. I realize how many of my customers must feel who are shopping for German books but whose German is not sufficient to help them make a decision. I now know how it is! I do feel for you!

So I'm going to try and do more book reviews and more translations to help the beginners. And if anyone has any tips on learning Japanese, we'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A personal favorite

ML (2.5 years old) has found an old book of NJ's and begs to read it over and over at bedtime. The book is Klopf an and is one of the original books I ordered for NJ sight unseen when he was a baby, way back before Alphabet Garten was created.

This book has earned its keep over the past 6 years. It's a good-sized boardbook and the right side of every other page spread is a door - all one color with a door handle. The child is asked "Mal sehen, wer da wohnt. Wir klopfen einfach an" and encouraged to knock on the door page. All this knocking is a big hit with babies and toddlers! Open the "door" and the next page shows a scene from a room with lots to talk about. One time it's a family of rabbits eating dinner at the table, another time it's a little boy in his room. Each room leads to the next. ML learned his colors from this book and still loves to count the little bears and rabbits. The very last page takes you outside again to see the moon.

Not a whole lot of text but lots of great drawings and things to talk about.

Einfach süß...

Klopf an

Incorporating German Culture and Customs

I like to read books with my children that initiate discussions on German culture. The Lesemaus books do a great job of this in a very natural way. My favorite right now is Ich hab einen Freund, der ist Bäcker. This book transports me back to my student days in München and hot bread and pretzels from the neighborhood Müller Brot. Bakeries in Germany are ubiquitious and there's just nothing like them in the U.S.! This book has a picture of a bakery case and reading about the Streuselschnecken and Brötchen takes me back. My mouth waters and I wonder for a second if I've finished my German assignment for Frau Rischer! Will those college nightmares ever cease?!

Anyway, my two-year-old loves the images of kneading fresh bread dough and grinding oats into oatmeal and his big brother loves the thought of buying his own Pausenbrot. Come to think of it, we need to go make Brezen!

Some other great choices for German culture are:
Wir entdecken das Hotel
Welches Tier war das hier? (We love the hedgehog and dung beetle!)
Märchen, Fabeln, Sagen - Set of 8 Pixi Books - how can you discuss German culture and leave out fairy tales?
Conni am Strand I get such a kick out of the hairy middle-aged lifeguard in this book!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What language do bilingual kids dream in?

A thought-provoking post from Corey - you shouldn't miss it:


Friday, June 30, 2006

Deutschland hat's geschafft! Einzug ins Halbfinale. Weiter so!!!

We have our own little bit of Fussball Fieber here! No, this isn't our ML but it sure does look like him!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

ML doing geography work

ML (2) loves "building" the world! Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Geography lessons for little ones

We use a lot of Montessori materials in our homeschool and my little guy, ML (2), has really taken to the geography materials! I thought I might describe some of the things he uses which others might find useful during summer vacation with their children.

I love doing geography with my children because they make so many connections with the information they learn. It's so easy for NJ (6) to relate a location in a book we're reading with a place on a map or the globe. If it's a place he's not familiar with, we look it up. We're making this into a habit so it will become second nature.

The first thing I offered to ML was a continents globe - I painted an old 6" globe so that each continent was a different color. The result is a very simple representation of the earth - no text, no country divisions, just continents and blue for the ocean. Then we discussed a few things known to ML about each continent - we live here, here's where Oma and Opa live, here's where Felix went when he visited the kangaroos, etc.

Then I made a felt continents map. This is a large blue piece of felt for the ocean with each continent cut out of stiffened felt in it's appropriate color to match the continents globe. ML and I "build" the world map together. He loves this! He's so proud that he knows where he lives and his little tongue gets tied up when pronouncing "Nord-Amerika" and "Europa." And since he loves this game, he really remembers what he's learned! We also take different plastic animals and put them on the map according to where they live - alligators in Florida, elephants in Africa and India, etc. This is also a huge hit. Who knew learning could be such fun?!

My next big splurge will be a wooden puzzle map of Europe - Allison's Montessori has beautiful ones - and ML loves puzzles. This will be a great opportunity to learn the names and locations of the countries and again put our favorite storybook characters into perspective.

Also, Enchanted Learning has lots of coloring pages which are great for geography - I have managed to pull up an outline map of the Caribbean within 30 seconds! NJ has taken to coloring maps, flags, and state crests. They also have many printables in German which can help save a rainy summer afternoon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A week in Ancient Egypt

It's been a bit quiet here at the Alphabet Garten. The reason being, we spent the past week digging up a little piece of ancient Egypt right here in New Jersey. We were fortunate enough to participate in a homeschool archeology camp run by the fantastic group, The Archaeological Perspective. NJ (6) was knee deep in ancient artifacts, with stories and pictures of Egypt swimming through his head. It was an amazing experience. The kids learned the proper way to dig (no, NJ was a bit disappointed to learn that no pick-axes would be employed), how to map the finds, and most importantly how to put together a story about the people who left the items and how they lived. We had an engrossing lesson in history, geography, culture, with a little math, handwriting and phonics squeezed in by sneaky mom! ("NJ - there are 6 squares to dig in and 12 kids. How many kids will work in a square?!")

If you ever have the chance to work with Geoff "Big Dog" Purcell of The Archeological Perspective, you must jump at the chance! He's a gold mine of knowledge and an inspiring teacher. And guess what else? He speaks German! He runs camps year-round. For more information, visit

Toddler Language Awareness, Part 2

I wrote recently that ML (2) has begun to show an understanding that there's a difference between German and English and that not everyone speaks both languages. I got more proof the other day! He was bringing my (American) mother upstairs and said to her "Come to my (long pause) room." This is huge because I've only ever heard him use the word Zimmer for his room. I could just see the wheels turning in his little head - Mema speaks English ... we're going to my room ... say room and not Zimmer. How cool is that? I'm so glad I didn't miss it :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Toddler Language Awareness

I basically assume that ML (2) doesn't make much distinction between German and English since he mixes freely right now - he'll say "You're krank" and "I go draussen". Pretty common stuff for a bilingual this age. Of course I address him in German, even when we're out in public and we've gotten some funny looks lately from the kids in NJ's karate class. So it was a lot of fun when Emma, who is 8, asked for me to tell her some phrases in German. She then repeated them to ML - "Setz dich hin", "Komm her", "Werf den Ball." He was delighted! He thought it was hysterical. So I guess he really does know the difference since he didn't expect Emma to be speaking German to him.

Proud of the Language

Since Opa has returned to Germany, we've been experiencing an interesting development from NJ's (6) language skills and interest level. He is now very aware of the fact that speaking German is a valued skill and he wants to tell everyone about it! He addresses complete strangers in the library and at the store in German! And he's even using the formal to do it! Verstehen Sie Deutsch?, he'll say. And the people will look at him because they think they just misunderstood him. He'll repeat himself in German and then I'll explain for him. It's quite bizarre. :) And he's fond of disciplining his little brother in German. Hmm, I wonder where he got that idea. Perhaps I need to use a little more English when telling someone to stop doing something.

His vocabulary is still quite lacking but he's comfortable using the words he knows - pretty cool!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Unsere Woche mit Opa

Thanks for everyone who wished us well for Opa's visit. I'll write more about it later but suffice it to say that we had a great time. We of course spoke lots of German, including my older son, 6, who made a true effort and seemed to enjoy using his skills. He's got a lot of work to do in terms of increasing his vocabulary but he can make himself understood and he had no problem goofing off with Opa!

I think the week was also useful from my father-in-law's perspective because having only heard second-hand about the challenges we've been facing with NJ's sensory integration dysfunction, I think he and my mother-in-law were under the impression that a little more strict parenting would remedy the picky eating and other troublesome behaviors. Now, having seen it up close, Günter could tell that NJ isn't a bad kid and that his problems are not simply due to too much time in front of the TV or too much junk food. I think that he, too, will be a little less judgmental. Plus, he could hardly fault NJ for being picky since he choose not to eat about 90% of what we ate! It's all relative, isn't it? :)

Luckily, he didn't mind cooking for himself which was fortunate since I am not talented in the cooking department and am no Lilo Mueller. She had the menu planned out for his return and I'm sure he's enjoyed being back home again.

We do miss him and it was fun to have him around for a short visit.

Multicultural Living Magazine

The latest newsletter from the Bilingual / Bicultural Family Network is out and has many great articles on multi-culturalism and bilingual kids. Check it out!

Bilingual Families Connect

Tips and advice for bilingual families.

Monday, May 08, 2006

In Praise of Libraries

So I snuck out tonight early after our little guy was in bed, leaving my husband and Opa for some quality time. Where do I go on my cherished time alone? The public library, of course! I was wandering around with my large empty bookbag, kind of enjoying all the possibilities on all the rows of shelves, when a librarian asked if I needed any help. Not being one to hide my emotions, I blurted out, "No, I'm just enjoying this - it's all so wonderful!!" Thankfully she didn't laugh at me, but instead we got to talking and apparently she shares my love for libraries, even going so far as to check them out when she's on vacation.

Did you know your local library can get just about any English book in print for you and it's basically free?! They will even go to museums and universities if necessary to find what you're looking for. All you have to do is ask. With our homeschooling, I'm constantly, almost obsessively on the look-out for great books for the kids and this may help cut down on my book budget. Of course it is much harder to get German books, although many libraries do have German collections.

So the next time you go to the library, chat with the librarian. You won't regret it!

Pretend I'm a Farbe...

ML (2) is in a stage of much language mixing. His latest gem: "Pretend I'm a Farbe. I'm grün!" How can you not love this?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My kids never cease to amaze me

As I posted a couple days ago, we are currently enjoying a visit from Opa, our first in several years and it's the children's first true German immersion experience. I wasn't surprised to see ML (age 2) interacting with Opa in German since he tends to do that with everyone, whether or not they understand him. But NJ (6) has completely floored me! He is quite consciously aware of the need to speak German with Opa and is successfully doing so most of the time! I can see him searching for words he wants to use and picking up new ones throughout the day. My father-in-law is gently teaching him new words and has been wonderfully patient with NJ's attempts to communicate. I had expected NJ to be a bit shy about speaking in German but so far, this hasn't been the case. Interestingly enough, he can't really translate back and forth, even when I know he knows the word in both languages. Perhaps that's the difference between someone who learns the language formally in a classroom setting, like me, or someone who picks it up along the way, the way NJ has done.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Der Opa kommt!

We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Opa from Germany! He's on an airplane as we speak. All week long the kids have been talking about what we'll do with him. We were having breakfast this morning which we usually do in English so we can sneak in a little schoolwork which is mostly discussed in English. Niklas said "C'mon guys, let's speak German!" Love that enthusiasm! My mom is looking forward to using her newly minted German knowledge with Guenter as well.

Ein schönes Wochenende!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Crazy for the Magische Baumhaus

My kids are completely hooked on the German Magische Baumhaus (Magic Treehouse) series of books. In each book, Phillip and Anne travel to a different time or place in history and accomplish a task set for them by their friend, Morgan, who is the librarian from King Arthur's court. Along the way, they learn about the place and time they're visiting and they make new friends.

My son, NJ, likes these books so much, he begs for more chapters at bedtime and as soon as we finish one, he's ready to start another. The language is a little beyond his German comprehension but it doesn't seem to bother him and he asks lots of questions. He and ML both enjoy the pictures scattered throughout the book. So far, we've been to ancient Egypt, the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, a rain forest, visited with the dinosaurs, been to the moon, and just today attended a one-room schoolhouse on the prarie during the 1870's.

NJ likes these books so much, he has demanded I get the whole series - there are over 30 titles to date - yikes! So I will be adding more to the Alphabet Garten catalog very soon. Here is the current listing.

Interestingly, we tried reading one in English and NJ refused to listen to it. My mother had gotten him one about the first Thanksgiving in English and he was so disappointed it wasn't in German that I had to translate on the fly. Very tricky stuff - how do you say Pilgrim in German? I have no idea :) He's a particular kid and likes things just so.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Book Review: Frederick

Frederick is a little mouse who would rather collect colors, words, and sunlight while his fellow mice are busily gathering provisions for the long, cold winter. The other mice are quite nice about his not helping to collect nuts, berries, and wheat and when the food begins to run out, they turn to Frederick and he feeds their minds with visions of colorful leaves and plants and warms their hearts with the sunlight he's saved.

My kids enjoy the simple illustrations in this large German picture book. The text is limited to 1-2 sentences on most pages so there's lots of time to take in the pictures and not too much German vocabulary to digest. The poem about the four seasons at the end of the book is a peaceful and joyous ending and we could identify with the little mice looking forward to the goodness of Spring.

Here's an excerpt:

"Macht die Augen zu" sagte Frederick
und kletterte auf einen großen Sten.
"Jetzt schicke ich euch die Sonnenstrahlen.
Fühlt ihr schon, wie warm sie sind?
Warm, schön und golden?"

By: Leo Lionni
Format: Hardcover, 20 pages

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Bilingual / Bicultural Family Network

Have you seen the The Bilingual / Bicultural Family Network (BBFN)? They have tons of articles, tips, and advice for bilingual families. It's a must-see for parents of bilingual kids.

I am fortunate to be a contributor to the BBFN April newsletter! I've written about our struggle with passive bilingualism and sensory integration dysfunction. While the two are not necessarily related, they both have a very real impact on our family. I hope you enjoy the article. Let me know what you think!

Viele Gruesse,

Monday, April 03, 2006

Toddler Favorites

Dear Sarah,

My son is 21 months and enjoys his german books immensely. His
favourites are "Ich kenne alle Farben", it has a colour wheel that he
enjoys turning. Also from the Mini Lesemaus series, he enjoys "Meine
", as we are learning all about animals. The illustrations
are delightful, and the text is uncomplicated. Fantastic books!

- Kim

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

When do kids start speaking German in an immersion environment?

Dear Sarah,

I am an "Oma" taking care of her grandson since his birth. I have him 12 to 13 hour per day-his parents are doctors in a residency program and work horrendous hours.

I always speak German to him. His receptive language is the same in both English and German but he says more English words. He is now 21 mo. old. Sometimes I say something in German and he says it in English. Ex. I said "was tust Du" and he said "What doing?" "Siehst Du den Voge?" He says "Bird". He is too young to decide to only speak English, I think. What has been your experience with your bilingual children. Did they start out speaking English?


Dear Inge,

Thank you for your message! How wonderful that you're able to care for your grandson. It really varies with the child as to what they start speaking. It's quite common for a child to respond in English even though he's getting so much German input. In fact, it's interesting that he is translating what you're saying - a lot of kids have a hard time doing this even if they are fluent bilinguals. I would say that it's not so much a case of him consciously choosing German over English but rather he's just saying what comes naturally to him. At this age, I don't think kids can really differentiate between the two languages. My two-year old often tries to speak German with my English-speaking mother. I think you'll start to see more and more German words come from your grandson, especially since you do spend so much time with him. My two-year old also mixes languages quite a bit, i.e. he'll say "I'm krank" and "I mach' das". This is also quite normal for this stage. Please see for more information on toddler language development.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I'm enjoying the responses from my latest newsletter.

Viele Gruesse,

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Will two languages confuse my toddler?

Liebe Sarah,
My mom is from Germany and watches my daughter, Gabriele, while I work. She speaks only German to her, but then when I come home, all she hears is English. (my husband and I don't speak German - I can a little, but not very well.)
What is your opinion about this situation? Do you think Gabriele will become confused?
Vielen Dank,

Hallo Ingrid,

Thanks for your message. Honestly, I think your daughter is in an ideal situation! She has a very clear deliniation between German and English - Oma speaks German and Mom and Dad speak English. Lots of bilingual kids grow up with much more complicated arrangements, like the one we strive for in my house - my husband and I speak German to the kids and sometimes to each other but frequently switch to English. When my mother's around (she only speaks a few words of German), we'll switch to English except with my younger son with whom I always speak German regardless. Of course, as I mentioned in my newsletter, we speak far more English at home than I'd like so there's less consistency with our language pattern. But I hear time and again that kids just sort it out. My older son (almost 6) very clearly understands the difference between the two languages and never mixes unless it's intentional. The little one mixes all the time but he's still sorting things out and I'm truly not worried. I believe if the child does speak in the second language (as opposed to just understanding it) age 3 is about when she can distinguish and choose between the two consciously.

How old is your daughter? I assume she's not speaking yet? I guess some confusion might arise from you wondering if she's said something in the other language or was it just something in English you didn't understand. My mom has this problem with my toddler right now - "Was he speaking German or was I supposed to understand him just now?"

I think your daughter is very lucky to have your mom to teach her German from the start. I'd love to hear how it's going. I hope you don't have any well-meaning busybodies telling you your daughter is going to be disadvantaged by learning German in this manner. :) See for some myths about bilingualism.

Viele Gruesse,