Using Daily Routines to Teach Your Child a Second Language

Using Daily Routines to Teach Your Child a Second Language

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.

Simple ways parents can use daily routines they’re already doing to encourage second language development in their 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
  • Add a variety of print in your home to teach vocabulary – grab these Spanish/English home labels
  • Use real objects – learn new words as you do something together (fruit names while grocery shopping or art materials while doing a craft)

1. Get ready in the morning

  • Start your child’s day with a fun good morning song
  • Practice clothing words and body parts
  • Teach schedule words and time words: “After we get dressed, we have breakfast.  After breakfast, we brush our teeth.”  “At 7 o’clock, we wake up.  At 8 o’clock, we drive to school.”

2. Share a story

  • Read a Spanish book at naptime: “It’s nap time.  Let’s pick our Spanish book!  Would you like to hear _______ or _______?” 
  • Add a book at bedtime: “Time for bed!  I can’t wait to read in Spanish together!”
  • Talk and ask questions if you can: “What will happen next?  How did that part make you feel?”
  • Read and reread the same stories over and over

Simple ways parents can use daily routines they’re already doing to encourage second language development in their kids.
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3. Pick up toys

  • Start a clean-up time routine: “Clean-up time!  Should we start with the blocks or the cars?”
  • Play (or sing) a fun clean-up song to signal it’s time to stop what we’re doing and clean-up (try one of these: ¡A Ordenar!, A Limpiar, or A Limpiar)
  • Count the toys as you clean: “How many puzzles did we get out?  Let’s count as we put them away! 1, 2, 3, 4…”

4. Enrich meal time

  • Get kids involved with helping to make a meal once a day (or once a week)
  • Use Spanish as you cook together: “What are our ingredients?  What are their colors?  What dishes do we need?”
  • Or, as you eat together, try to use any Spanish you can: “Please.  Thank you.  Please pass the… I like it!”
  • Explore detailed ideas for this routine in the post “Language Learning with Kids in the Kitchen

Using daily routines to teach your child a second language.

5. Use bedtime

  • Name and talk about each of your nightly steps: “First we get on our pajamas.  Next, we brush our teeth.  Then, we go to the bathroom.”
  • Have a nightly chat: “What was your favorite part of the day?  What was a low part of the day?  What’s something you’re thankful for today?”
  • Bedtime reading together: “Let’s read the next chapter in our Spanish book!”

6. Have fun at bathtime (toddlers)

7. Enrich screen time

  • Make daily screen time language learning time by choosing a Spanish show, video, or game (check out my YouTube recommendations or other Spanish games/apps)
  • Talk with your child about what he’s watching
  • Ask him to guess what might happen next
  • 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
Using everyday routines to start teaching your child Spanish

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.

Discover more language learning ideas and resources by following Bilingual Balance on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook.

Find your balance,


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