Inside: How to learn Spanish with kids, at home.
“Oh, I would love for my kids to learn Spanish. Your kids are so lucky!”
I hear this one often. Really, ask anyone if they’d like their kids to speak a second language and the answer will be YES. Of course we would. But then-
We barely remember high school Spanish. I took German. We can’t afford a tutor. I have no idea where to start.
Don’t let excuses like this stop you from learning Spanish with your kids! The goals can be simple: exposure, fun, some new songs and new words. The earlier you can start, the better.
Beginning early attunes the ear to new sounds, hard-wires the brain differently, and sets words and patterns into the long-term memory. It is one of those few things where the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to learn. Most students in the U.S. show up to their foreign language class in high school with zero practice– and what could be their most enjoyable, practical subject becomes something they are scared of and forget two years later. It’s never too late, either: learning a foreign language has amazing effects on adults as well.
Before I share my ideas, here are some don’ts.
- DON’T be self-conscious. Learning a language for adults can feel awkward, but set a relaxed, fun tone anyway.
- DON’T give up if you miss a week or two. Those songs and words stay in little minds longer than we think.
- DON’T make perfection the goal. Do what you can. A little bit every day is great.
So, where to start? Here are some simple, easy ideas to teach your kids Spanish at home without spending money!
1. Learn Spanish with Kids Through Songs
If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be this one: learn and sing songs in Spanish. Songs are the BEST way for non-fluent parents and children to learn, and will keep sounds and phrases in the long-term memory longer than any App or game could. I have lists of songs on YouTube by theme, and recommend these CDs:
You can know zero Spanish yourself, and still learn words, pronunciation, and phrases along with your kids. It’s much more important for children to know the sounds of the language than how to read it (Spanish phonetics are far easier than in English) and this is the very best way for them to develop an ear for the language. If you learn one song a month, you will have over 10 songs memorized in a year. Watch them together, and sing them in the car or as part of bedtime.
2. Find Spanish Resources Online
Use free apps and websites to learn and practice. DuoLingo App is great for older students who can read and perfect for busy adults, in case you want to stay one step ahead. I’ve also collected awesome lists of free online Spanish resources for kids, free online Spanish resources for older students and adults.
3. Go By Topics in Spanish
It can be overwhelming not knowing where to start. Choose a theme that interests you (food, colors, animals) and learn the words that go with it. It’s okay if you only do 3 or 4 topics a year! Learn some greetings, numbers 1-10, colors, and some foods. I have boards by topic on Pinterest so you can find links, activities, printables, and more by theme. Lingo Hut is a free site where you can search by topic, and at Quizlet you can make study lists and hear the pronunciation.
4. Learn Through Spanish Children’s Books.
Invest in some books or check them out from the library. If you took some high school Spanish but don’t feel comfortable producing language on your own, books are a good start. These two are my favorites:
You could also check out my list 50 Authentic Books in Spanish for Kids:
5. Set Specific Language time to Speak Spanish as a Family
Pick a certain time during the week (maybe dinnertime on Thursday nights), where the whole family is specifically trying to practice what they’re learning. It could mean saying please, pass me, and thank you in Spanish, and using the food terms you know. Don’t wait to use Spanish because you aren’t fluent! Use what you know.
6. Use Props to Learn Spanish with Kids
Kids learn best when using real objects. If you are learning fruit, practice with the real thing. Another way to use props is to get a new stuffed animal or puppet, and introduce it as a Spanish-speaking ________. Have conversation or puppet play this way. This can sometimes help with a resistant learner or shy student who would rather act out speaking Spanish than speaking it directly.
7. Play Games in Spanish
I love games! Learning Spanish with young kids should be a pleasant, successful experience, not stressful. I like using picture cards so English isn’t even part of the game. Play Bingo, Go Fish, or Memory. I have some game sets by theme for sale here, or free download here. If you feel uncomfortable saying the words in Spanish, practice your pronunciation at Lingo Hut, or cue up the words at SpanishDict. For extra practice, call out the words and have your kids draw the pictures themselves.
8. Teach Your Kids Spanish with My Free Lessons
So far I have created three units in a series I names Español in the Jungle (I set the characters and stories in the Amazon rainforest). I designed these for parents (homeschoolers or families supplementing school) who are not native speakers, but remember a bit of high school Spanish or are willing to do a little prep of their own. Remember, speaking a foreign language is good for us adults too!
9. Make a Notebook to Track New Words
Let your kids make notebooks where they store what they’re learning, if they’re old enough. Use a composition notebook or three-ring binder and record new words and activities so it’s all together. I also have a Blank Pictionary and Illustrated Words Book that you can purchase to create personalized illustrated dictionaries.
10. Learn Spanish with Kids through Movies and Shows
I hope this helps! It takes some work to get a Spanish routine going in your family, but it’s worth it. Learn Spanish with your kids, and you’ll never regret your decision to get started!
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