When people find out that we’re raising our kids bilingually or that our son goes to a Spanish immersion school, I often hear, “Oh we could never do that.” Or just as often, “I took some Spanish in high school, but I couldn’t teach it to my kids.”
But you can do it! Are you looking for some easy and fun ways you can add in some language learning at home? Whether you’re learning a little of the language with your child, or are just getting started introducing another language, I hope this post will give you encouragement.
These are simple ways parents can use daily routines they’re already doing to encourage second language development in their kids. They will help you add a little bit of language learning to your child’s day – every day! Add in the second language in just one daily routine, and who knows, you might keep adding in a little bit more as you become comfortable using the second language at home.
Routines are activities we do each day – like cooking a meal or going to bed. Routines provide structure to our day and are an excellent way to foster language development (whether in one language or two!). They give us a daily opportunity to repeat and practice language. Repetition is so important for kids – and for language learning. These ideas are for a range of ages: from toddlers to probably nine years old. You’ll see that some are better for toddlers and some are more appropriate for older kids.
General language learning tips:
Use speech that is slow and clear to model for your child
Use gestures when you can to help with meaning-making
Repeat back what your child says to show that you understand, and to validate their language use
Ask your child questions and give two simple choices to help her know how to answer
Talk about the characters: “What are their names? How are they feeling? What do they look like?”
8. Choose a song or poem to learn together
Each week (or month), pick a fun Spanish song to learn together and listen to it at the same time each day
For young kids, choose a short song or nursery rhyme
Or, find a simple poem, print or write it out, and put it on the fridge
Read or recite it together at a certain time of the day
Have older kids read it, write (copy) it, or draw a picture to go with it
9. Play a game
Use a daily car ride to play a language game
Play the I Spy game in which one person picks something they see and the other person guesses what it is
Person 1 “spies” something, picks it, and says “I spy something ____” (giving a clue like “something green,” or “something that begins with B”)
Other plays take turns asking questions to figure out what it is, like “Is it inside the car? Is it a plant?”
Person 1 answers yes or no
When person 2 thinks she knows what it is, she guesses, like “Is it my sunglasses?”
Play the similar 20 Questions game in which one person thinks of an animal/person/thing in a named category and the other person asks questions
Person 1 thinks of an animal (for example)
Person 2 asks yes/no questions to find out which animal it is: “Is it a mammal? Does it have wings? Does it live in the water? Is it bigger than me?”
Person 1 answers yes or no until the animal is guessed correctly or 20 questions are finished
Remember, it’s okay to start small, and even a little bit of daily language learning is a great place to start. I hope these ideas for using one of your family’s everyday activities can help you get started learning a second language together as a family. And if you need some ideas for keeping up with your own Spanish, check out easy ways to continue practicing Spanish as an adult.