10 Tips and Tricks for Raising Bilingual Kids
Inside: Practical advice and tips for raising bilingual kids, from the creators of Veoleo.
Raising a bilingual child takes dedication, consistency, and a lot of creativity. Here at Veoleo, we’ve broken it down to 10 tips on what you can do at home to help support your little one’s bilingual education. It feels like a daunting task, but start with one strategy and slowly add others to your daily activities.
You might feel funny narrating the task at hand, digging around online for obscure facts about monkeys, or trying to convince your kid to sing along with the greatest hits of the early 1980’s! But, stick it out and with time it will feel natural.
Remember: It is NEVER too early or too late to start teaching our children about our language and culture! Just like it is never too late for us to learn something new!
10 TIPS FOR RAISING BILINGUAL KIDS
1. READ, READ, READ
Studies recommend reading with our little ones 15-20 min daily to start instilling a love for language and help support their little brain’s development. Head over to the library!
Check out our Goodreads account for Veoleo’s personal recommendations!
Related: Spanish Children’s Book Lists
2. SWAP BOOKS!
Maybe you live in a place where there aren’t many options. Start a book swap with Spanish speaking friends to have a constant stream of books. Books become new again when they haven’t seen them in a while.
This is exactly what Moco & Baba has started in London. They have two very cute backpacks (¡la Biblioteca con Patas!) that travel from home to home every month! In order for a family to participate, they must add a book to the bookbag during their month. This not only helps strengthen their community, making sure they come together regularly for Spanish playtime but also helps spread the task of finding new books!
3. MAKE IT UP
If you have a hard time finding books, translate the ones you have as you go or make up new stories in Spanish based on the illustrations. Ask your little one for help as you create a unique story to encourage their imagination! Every story can become a choose-your-own-adventure type!
4. MAKE YOUR OWN MUSIC PLAYLIST!
Music is universal and watching your toddler groove is the best. Any moment of downtime (independent play, a car ride, dance party) raise the volume and enjoy songs in Spanish! Some of my personal favorite artists are Piero (Sinfonía Inconclusa en la Mar), Canticuentos, and Ana Calabrese, and 123Andres.
Check out our Spotify playlist for Veoleo’s curated playlist for kiddos!
As a bonus, check out our playlist of the greatest Spanish hits of the 90’s – if you love the songs you are listening to, the joy of singing in Spanish will be contagious! Enanitos Verdes, anyone? (which was just quoted and featured on a song on the latest album by JBalvin & Bad Bunny, to really make things come full circle but probably not kid-friendly!)
Related: Spanish Songs for Kids
5. SWITCH THE AUDIO
There are some awesome TV shows and movies available on a variety of platforms, including Netflix. Switch the audio from English to Spanish y ¡listo! My nephew doesn’t know that “Daniel Tigre” speaks English!
In the car, if you aren’t listening to songs in Spanish, why not an audiobook or podcast? Our audiobook is free and builds off of our first book, ¿Dónde está el coquí? And given the size of our book, it travels really well in the car.
A newer podcast we just came across thanks to Entre Dos’ podcast, is Tres cuentos. A truly wonderful way for your kiddo to become acquainted with Latin American folklore!
Storytimes are a lovely way to engage in a Spanish-only environment and meet new families. Check your local library and bookstores for offerings and if you can’t find any, suggest it or start one!
Our friends over at Entre Dos, a podcast on bilingual parenting, recently started hosting storytime, Picnic de Libros, in Houston!
7. PLAY IN SPANISH
Are you counting? Singing the alphabet? Making animal sounds? Putting together a puzzle? Building a tower? These are natural and engaging moments where we can interact with our little ones in Spanish.
8. EMBRACE THEIR INTERESTS
If you find your little one resisting play in Spanish or not responding back in Spanish, don’t worry! Identify their favorite topics and become an expert: if they love dinosaurs, trucks, the beach, or the jungle, spend some time making sure your vocabulary and knowledge is up to snuff. Seeing their eyes light up at a new fact will be the icing on the cake if it is also in Spanish! Remain consistent, keep it fun and light, and ask questions to encourage answers. We want our little ones to associate Spanish with love, patience, and excitement!
9. ꜟA COMER!
To learn a language is to learn a culture. What better way than to step out of the playroom and into the kitchen and prepare your favorite traditional meals? Talk about the ingredients, the things you’re doing, ask questions, and encourage them to observe and help in the fun process!
(Our fellow friend Nutrichicos has great tips for getting kids involved in an age-appropriate way.)
10. ¡A JUGAR!
Use local mom groups to your advantage – you might not realize just how many Spanish bilingual parents are around you. When we first posted in a mom group based in Atlanta, the interest was so great we started Cuentos in the Park to keep people up to date about our local storytimes and come together for playdates, without overwhelming the original group. We are now almost at 130 families when we first thought there weren’t that many at all!
Not only will you benefit from meeting fellow bilingual families, but the kiddos will start to feel that it is normal to speak and play in Spanish.
There is no base language requirement to join these groups – all Spanish speaking and Spanish learning families should feel free to drop in! Spanish learning kids will pick things up quickly when playing alongside Spanish-speaking kids, so do not worry about someone feeling left out!
11. BONUS! EXPLORE THE FRONTIERS OF YOUTUBE!
Once you are okay with your kiddo having some screen time, try to find programs produced in Latin America. We recently found these two and think they are amazing!
This one made me laugh so hard! Watch Los menurjes de Gildardo.
And this one was so incredible sweet: Cuentazos con efectazos.
Everything that turns up with this search is pretty amazing and you will guarantee that your kiddo is exposed to authentic Latin American Spanish.
Related: The Best YouTube Channels for Kids and Spanish Learners
And last, but not least: Speak in Spanish all the time!
Try your best to remain consistent, and speak Spanish throughout the day. Narrate what you are doing and what they are doing. The more you practice, the more natural it will become! Pro-tip: start by incorporating specific words or phrases in Spanish (hola, ¡buenos dias!, te quiero, ¡vamos!, perro, parque) and increase over time.
These tips are true for all languages and all ages! Janike and I both love learning new languages and regularly will flip the audio on Netflix shows, or seek out foreign movies and watch them with subtitles. I regularly peruse the Top 50 lists on Spotify, sorted by country. Knowing what is going on in different countries introduces you to great new music and makes you feel more connected to another country or your home country. Have you tried these? How did it go?
Alexis Ruginis is Veoleo’s co-founder. As an avid learner of languages, she deeply believes that language informs the way we see the world. After using her language prowess to forge a legal career, she is thrilled to be using it to shape young bilingual minds instead. For more information go to www.veoleo.co or email [email protected]. Find us on your social media of choice @veoleo_press.
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