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How to divide your singing practice

How the Best Singers Structure Their Singing Practice [Infographic]

singing practice infographic

You love to sing… and you know how important it is to sing every day… but is all that practice really helping? Here, Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T. shares how to make the most of your singing practice routine…

 

If you’re not sure how to balance your singing practice routine at home, you’re not alone! Many vocal students get overwhelmed trying to figure out how long to spend warming up, working on vocal technique, and running through songs. While your voice teacher should be your first resource for determining your specific practice routine, I’ve outlined some tips below to get you thinking.

Let’s look at a one-hour voice practice, typically for a high school or college student who is serious about pursuing music, broken into three 20-minute sessions.

20 minutes: Warm-ups

It’s very important that you start your practice singing session off right away with warming up your voice. Just as an athlete warms up his or her muscles and joints before a game or practice, singers need to warm up their vocal cords, tone, and range before a performance or practice. There are many different warm-ups a singer can do, including ones that work on:

  • Breath Support
  • Low Range/High Range
  • Arpeggios
  • Diction
  • Vibrato
  • Head voice/Chest voice

20 minutes: Song study

Use this time to work on that song you are trying to make performance-ready. This time should be spent on:

- Learning the melody and rhythm
- Memorizing lyrics, and working on good diction and pronunciation
- Mastering the vocal style and genre of the song, and making sure you are using the appropriate vocal tone
- Making the song your own by incorporating your own musical interpretation and acting technique

20 minutes: Vocal technique

Just as ballet dancers focus on their body technique, by perfecting footsteps, singers must work on their vocal technique by practicing different musical techniques. There are several ways to help you improve your singing, which will require studying and an open mind! These techniques include:

  • Improvisation (learning how to scat and sing a blues scale)
  • Solfege
  • Ear training
  • Harmony
  • Sight reading

Many singers do not take the time to learn these techniques, but the sooner you learn them, the easier they will become. If you can improvise and use solfege in your sight reading, and are proficient in ear training and harmony, you will be at the top of your game!

Are you more of a visual learner? Check out this handy infographic to learn how to break up your singing practice routine for maximum efficiency:

How to Plan Your Singing Practice

Finally, I would suggest taping or recording your voice with an iPhone, computer, or tape recorder, to hear how your voice is progressing each week, month, year, and so on as you’re learning to sing. I hope you take these tips into consideration during your next vocal practice — and if you would like more help on balancing and managing your time, book a vocal lesson with me online today through TakeLessons!

 

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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Tips for Singers - What to Pack in Your Gig Bag

Singers, Don’t Forget These 9 Items In Your Gig Bag!

Performing in front of a live audience is an amazing feeling! But to ensure a smooth, no-stress gig, preparation is key. If you’re looking for tips for your first gig — or just need a refresher — check out this advice from Saint Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...

 

For the performing singer, there’s nothing quite like having practiced your butt off for three weeks, spraying your throat every five minutes with that throat spray for singers, and running through your customized voice exercises, only to realize as you walk through those venue doors that you forgot your microphone at home.

As the lead singer of two Saint Augustine, Florida bands, I know that I’m part of a team. But I also know that I need to be responsible for my own stuff, and what exactly we need as performing singers, whether you’re a solo act or in a group, can get pretty specific. Whether it’s your first gig or you’re an experienced performer, you need to be prepared. Here’s my list of what every singer needs to pack in his or her gig bag.

What to Pack In Your Gig Bag

Throat Coat Tea and Honey (single-serve packets)
You might be skeptical of special teas and potions for the voice, like I once was. But trust me, after singing in a dry room for two hours, you’ll be thankful for the lubrication!

Great Microphone
My microphone is a Shure product. It’s not expensive and sounds great. What’s important is having your own, especially if you ever put your mouth on it. Germs, anyone?

Wind Screen
This is super important for protecting the investment that is your microphone. Strong wind, a drop on the floor, or even blowing air into it can cause damage. Your wind screen can prevent this.

Your Phone
OK, so you might not need to pack this in the gig bag, but be sure to take it. If you’re running late, you’ll want to let the venue know.

Mic Stand
Even if you’re the kind of performer who runs all over the stage with a cordless mic, you’ll need to keep that mic in a safe spot between sets. There might even be a song you’ll want to try with the mic in its stand!

Water
Even though I personally recommend drinking tea with a thicker consistency than water during performances, water will hydrate the body before and after you sing.

Potato Chips
I was skeptical about this one for a long time. But a music producer recommended them, and now, I always pack them in my gig bag. The salt reduces mucus, the oil lubricates, and the crunch helps relieve stress.

Your Merch
If you have any merchandise for your act, like T-shirts, CDs, cards for free downloads of one of your songs, or even just business cards, you’ll want to pack them in your gig bag. You never know who you’ll meet at a show, or what fans will ask for!

Extension Cord
Recently, my band had to make a really stressful and last-minute run to the local hardware store 20 minutes before show time, because our cords weren’t long enough for the new venue. Be prepared with a 50-foot extension cord. Oh, and make it an outdoor one, in case it rains!

Not There Yet? Here’s How to Get Gigs

Word of mouth is said to be the best way to get gigs for bands and musicians. But since the Internet is where so much is communicated nowadays, word of mouth means having a great social media presence. Make sure that you have a fresh, updated Facebook page with videos, reviews (even from teachers and fellow musicians), audio, and lots of photos of rehearsals and formal band photos, too. Make sure that you have a YouTube channel, so that potential clients and fans can watch you perform. Even if you only post great band practices, people can still get a feel for your sound! You can also make your own website for free at Wix.com, where you can post past and future gigs. (Here’s a great post from Wix about setting up your music website.)

Next, search your local paper or Google local open mics – these are a great way to get exposure and meet other musicians! You can also build a profile for free at websites like GigMasters and GigSalad. They’ll send leads for gigs right to your email and charge a small fee. Here’s a great round-up of those and other websites for finding gigs.

Tips for Your First Gig

Gearing up for your first gig? Congrats!

  • First, get as many details as possible from your gig contact, who’s probably the person who scheduled or hired you. Make sure that you know exactly what you’ll need to bring, what the venue already has and is willing to share, how early you’re allowed to set up your gear, how long you’re expected to perform, and a number for your contact at the venue on the day of the event, just in case you get caught in traffic or tied up, and you need to call ahead.
  • Second, if it’s possible, go to the venue yourself to check it out. How much room is there? (This’ll also help you feel more comfortable when you actually perform in the space.)
  • Third, rehearse as much as your schedule allows, and try to practice in the same physical set-up that you’ll be in the venue. Here’s a handy checklist for preparing for a gig.
  • Fourth, relax, but not by telling yourself not to be nervous… instead tell yourself that the nervousness is only excitement. It really is all about perspective and attitude.

All this considered, the most important thing to bring to a performance should be so big, that you couldn’t fit it into any gig bag. That thing is your amazing self-confidence. Remember that excitement you were feeling earlier? One of the best tips for your first gig is to use that excitement as extra energy. Because, let’s face it, you could drink all of the finest teas in the world and own the best microphones, but if you don’t believe that you belong up there, singing, you’re toast.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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how to be a better singer

Infographic: Check These 8 Things to Become a Better Singer

How to Be a Better Singer - The Singer's StanceAs you’re learning how to be a better singer, proper posture is bound to come up! Who knew so much could be affected by the way you stand when you sing? Take a look at the basics in this infographic by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R...

 

When you hear the word “posture,” what do you think of? A ballerina poised for action, or a military officer standing at attention, perhaps. Be warned: neither the ballerina nor the military officer has a good singer’s stance.

The word “posture” has so many negative connotations that I don’t use it with my students. Instead, I use the word “stance.” Singing stance is actually the healthiest possible way to stand. It lines your body up in the most comfortable and efficient way, reducing tension, and maximizing your ability to breathe and phonate. By honoring your body’s construction in your stance, you gain the freedom and flexibility you need to improve your singing.

How to Be a Better Singer - The Singer's Stance

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Standing like this will feel weird at first. Use a mirror or ask your voice teacher to help you, since what you feel and what you are actually doing are often completely different. I tell my students to practice standing well whenever they remember: while waiting in line, cooking, or talking on the phone, for example.

As you get used to your singer’s stance, you may find that you feel more relaxed and better in general. That makes sense, since this is the way your body was meant to stand. Great posture is just one of the many wonderful benefits of voice lessons as you learn how to be a better singer; you will likely look taller, thinner, and more confident just by standing this way. Embrace your singer’s stance and welcome a more relaxed, poised, and musical you.

Elaina RElaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

 

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jobs for spanish speakers

30 Excellent Career Options for Spanish Speakers [Infographic]

jobs for Spanish speakers

You know the benefits of being bilingual, but how should you put your Spanish skills to the best use? Here, Jason N. shares several jobs for Spanish speakers to consider, from careers in health care to government positions to tourism coordinators…

 

Let’s start off with good news! If you are bilingual in Spanish and English, you probably aren’t struggling to find employment! Being bilingual clearly makes you a more desirable candidate in the workforce.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the number of Spanish-speaking people in this country continues to increase by the day — and businesses are learning that they can target a wider audience and serve more people if they expand their services and products to the growing Spanish-speaking public. The health sector in particular is realizing that an entirely monolingual English-speaking staff does not adequately serve the health needs of many Spanish-speaking populations.

Your command of Spanish makes you more hirable and qualified for higher-paying jobs in many industries. After showing you a bird’s-eye view of jobs for Spanish speakers, I will go into more detail about specific sectors that are currently on the prowl for bilingual hires.

jobs for Spanish speakers

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Jobs in the Health Care Sector

As the country’s Spanish-speaking population increases, the need for bilingual professionals rises. Conversational fluency is a key for this field, particularly because medical conditions and treatment often require specific and scientific language. The subtleties of meaning can be ‘lost in translation’ if the speaker cannot convey and understand the message.

Knowing the language also implies knowing certain cultural norms. Being of Hispanic origin or living in a Hispanic country for an extended period of time can offer insight into the family situations and everyday concerns of patients you will be dealing with regularly. As patients grow comfortable with the people they count on for their care, their quality of care increases.

Jobs in the Law and Law Enforcement Sector

Many Spanish-speaking immigrants need to work with law firms for immigration and other issues. If you speak Spanish, you instantly double the number of people you can represent, help, and serve. Law enforcement also addresses how people in public relate to each other. For instance, when residents cannot converse with local police, fear and resentment can develop between certain parties. This makes areas less safe for residents and the job of patrolling it more difficult for police. Predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhoods need bilingual officers to attend to both the English- and Spanish-speaking portions of the population regularly.

Jobs in Interpretation or Translation

Most industries need skilled translators who can communicate in Spanish to target a wider population and “spread the word.” Many translators have governmental jobs (Spanish is one of six of the official languages of the United Nations), or work freelance, with ad agencies, or with schools. Many courthouses employ translators and bilingual court reporters. In many cases, the job you already have may find you even more valuable if you become fluent in a second language — some companies are even willing to pay for schooling to learn Spanish!

Jobs in the Journalism Sector

With a growing Spanish-speaking public comes a need to deliver news and information in the primary language of a given community. Because they can speak to both the Spanish and the English public, bilingual reporters and writers have an advantage over the competition and subsequently increase their profitability, desirability, and marketability. With specialized Spanish-speaking networks and publications on top of the many English media outlets across the country, the need for bilingual journalists is greater than ever before.

Jobs in the Hospitality Sector

Hotels, restaurants, spas, bars, and any other places tourists frequent on vacation or for business require professionals who can communicate both with locals and international travelers. Specific areas where there are a higher number of Spanish-speaking residents — such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, and Miami — require Spanish skills more than others. This is an additional plus to pursuing a career in the hospitality industry, since these are also some of the most attractive and warmest parts of the country.

 

Polishing Your Spanish-Speaking Skills

As you can see, there are many jobs for Spanish speakers to consider! The benefits of learning Spanish are vast — not only for your career path, but when it comes to your personal life, too. Learning Spanish can help you make new friends, stay mentally sharp as you age, and even save you money as you travel.

Already started learning? You’re well on your way to all these benefits. Need some extra help? Search for a Spanish tutor near you here!

JasonNJason N. tutors English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

 

 

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How to Make Scales and Arpeggios FUN

4 Ways to Make Practicing Piano Scales FUN! [Infographic]

Tired of practicing piano scales over and over… and over again? While repetition is great for your muscle memory, getting bored won’t do you any favors. Here, New York, NY piano teacher Nadia B. shares four ideas for how to practice scales in new ways…

 

It’s no doubt that learning the fundamentals of piano — like major and minor scales, arpeggios, and so on — make a huge impact on your success as a musician. However, these exercises are often avoided at the piano, out of fear that they will be boring and useless. How many times have you done all your major scales, over and over, in the same rhythmic pattern and tempo, two hands at a time, two octaves, and with the same articulation? Practicing in this way can leave little motivation to repeat this sequence every day, as it can be boring, unmusical, and stiff.

Fortunately,  there are many different ways to practice that can really shake things up! Piano practice should be deliberate, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring!

The following ideas will show you how to practice scales and other piano fundamentals in a way that is fun, inspiring, and useful. And once you see the door that scales and arpeggios open, you will want to “play” through them, over and over, deepening your understanding of the fundamentals and the musical expression they enhance.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to practice scales in new ways…

4 New Ways to Practice Piano Scales

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Take pleasure in your exploration of your scales and arpeggios; as your fingers and brain become more nimble, it will feel more and more like play at the piano. You will be able to express more and more musically with less effort.

nadiaBNadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

 

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benefits of being bilingual

15 Stats That Prove Being Bilingual is Awesome [Infographic]

Are you thinking about learning a new language? Having the ability to speak and understand two languages—also known as bilingualism—has its fair share of perks. Besides the obvious social advantages, there are many other benefits of being bilingual. For example, speaking two languages enhances your cognitive skills, improves your mental health, and even boosts your salary.

Don’t believe us? Check out these 15 statistics that prove being bilingual is awesome!

bilingual infographic

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It’s never too late or too early to start learning a new language. While it can be difficult and frustrating at times, the benefits of being bilingual are worth it. So, what are you waiting for? Make the commitment to learn a new language today!

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Is Your Child Ready for Piano Lessons This Infographic Will Help

Quiz: Is Your Child Ready for Piano Lessons?

You’ve no doubt heard about the benefits of music education for kids, often leading to higher math and reading scores, improved memory and concentration, and even higher SAT scores later in life. Plus, learning how to play an instrument is just plain fun!

If your child is already showing an interest in music, perhaps you’re considering signing up for piano lessons, a common introductory instrument for kids. However, you’ll want to consider a few important things before booking the lessons. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the right age for piano lessons, a few factors come into play. The infographic below will help you decide, “Is my child ready for piano lessons?”

Is Your Child Ready for Piano Lessons

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So, how did you do? If you think your child is at the right age for piano lessons, the next step is to find a great piano teacher. Need some help? Begin your search here!  

Not quite there yet? Don’t fret — there are still opportunities to engage your child in music, including playing rhythm games, dancing, and singing along to songs – in the meantime. Music is a lifelong adventure — enjoy it together!

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ideas for teacher appreciation week

The ABCs of Teacher Appreciation Week [Infographic]

May 4th is just around the corner. Do you know what this means? It’s almost Teacher Appreciation Week! Between May 4th and May 8th, you’ll have a golden opportunity to show your teacher how much you care for all that she or he does. And sharing a gift with a fun note or card can be the perfect way to express your appreciation! Are you or your child taking lessons from a private music, sports, singing, or language instructor? Then there’s no better time than Teacher Appreciation Week to show your gratitude for all the hard work that your teacher does.

So, what to get for that extra-special teacher in your life? Don’t sweat it. Coming up with fun gift ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week can be easy as ABC! Check out some great ideas below to spark your creativity in showing thanks to your beloved instructor. These gifts are easy to make (and fun for kids to help out with, too)! Finally, be sure to check out the links to these ideas at the bottom of this post for even more inspiration from some gift-giving experts!

ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

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Sources

All Thing Apple

Brainy Bookmarks

Clever Candy

Dynamo Drinks

Eloquent & Earthy House Plants

Fancy Floral Arrangements

Groovy Gift Cards

Heartfelt Handwritten Notes

Inexpensive Gift Ideas

  • “I Couldn’t Have Picked a Better Teacher” Strawberry Pack - Dixie Delights

Jam-Packed Gift Jars

Keys & Accessories

Let’s Get Physical!

Magical Gifts for Musical Teachers

Necklaces, Bracelets, & Charms

Outdoorsy Gifts for the Adventure-Seeking Teacher

Quick & Easy Gift Ideas

Resources for Teaching

  • “Thanks for Being a ‘Staple’ to My Success” Stapler –  Desert Chica
  • “Thanks for Sticking With Me!” Tape Gift Pack - Confetti Sunshine
  • “Thank you for pushing me to do my best!” Push Pin Gift Pack - Liz on Call

Super Soaps & Sanitizers

Terrific Tech Gadgets & Gear

Upcycled Gifts

Vital Presents for Voice Teachers & Acting Coaches

Wonderful Writing Utensils

Xtra-Ordinary Gifts

Yummy Goodies & Treats

Zany Gifts for the Quirky Teacher in Your Life

Have more fun ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week? Leave a comment below to share what you’ll be getting for your favorite teacher!

 

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Pre-performance checklist flowchart

Checklist for Singers: How to Prepare for an Upcoming Gig

Are you a singer gearing up for an important gig? If you’re feeling nervous about singing, don’t sweat. Here, online voice teacher Tyler J. share his timeline for success…

 

The gig is booked, you’ve invited your friends, and you realize on the night of the show that you haven’t even rehearsed yet. Your heart rate speeds up, your stomach turns, and you break out in a cold sweat. “I’ve barely rehearsed, I’m totally going to screw this up” repeats over and over in your mind as you pace back and forth counting down the hours until downbeat. Have you ever been in this situation? Of course you’re going to feel nervous about singing in this scenario.

It’s something that many performing musicians have experienced, but it fortunately can be remedied well in advance. Following the checklist below is a great way to know you’re well prepared, and will help you confidently take the stage when the time comes.

Checklist for Singers

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While at first this may seem like a lot of work, when you space it out over a few weeks it’ll seem much easier. I highly suggest working through this checklist with your vocal coach (and if you don’t have one, look no further than right here on TakeLessons.com!). These are just some of the tips for singers that will help you become an amazing performer. Your teacher can also provide honest criticism of your performance, help you memorize lyrics, and help to keep your voice feeling strong and comfortable. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to step on stage with confidence and deliver an excellent performance.

Need help finding a vocal coach near you? Start your search here!

Tyler J

 Tyler J. teaches multiple styles of singing and guitar via online lessons. He recently earned a Master of Music in Commercial Music from California State University Los Angeles and can also help students with composition, music recording, and audio engineering. Learn more about Tyler here!

 

 

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Spanish Vocabulary for Kids

19 Easy Spanish Vocabulary Words to Teach Your Kids

Spanish Vocabulary for KidsLooking for some creative ways to incorporate more Spanish practice into your child’s daily routine? Here, language teacher Joan B. shares some Spanish vocabulary for kids, and some great ideas to make Spanish part of your day… 

When it comes to introducing kids to Spanish, the key is to keep it simple and fun. Although the best way to learn Spanish is with a tutor, there are certain things you can do at home to reinforce what your child is learning during Spanish lessons. Use the following words to incorporate Spanish vocabulary in your daily activities.

Hola/Adiós (Hello/Goodbye)

These words are useful when you greet friends or part ways with a neighbor or acquaintance. With repetition, these are easy words for kids to learn.

Por favor/Gracias (Please/Thank you)

Kids should learn please and thank you in any language, since these words reinforce good manners. It’s easy to find ways to use the Spanish words in everyday situations. For extra practice, try using these words during mealtimes. You can use por favor after a request, but you can also use it at the beginning of a sentence: “Por favor, escúchame” (please listen to me). There are also many different ways to use gracias. You can use it as a stand-alone thank you, or with more detail:  ”Gracias por la ayuda” (thanks for the help).

Me gusta(n)/No me gusta(n) (I like/I don’t like)

These two phrases are extremely useful when it comes to Spanish vocabulary for kids. Me gusta(n) ___ literally means ___ is pleasing to me, but in English it’s translated as “I like.” Because of the literal meaning, we must add the -n if the item is plural. Similarly, if you don’t like something, you can say, “No me gusta(n).” To help your son or daughter practice, ask him or her, “¿Te gusta(n) ___?” (do you like __?). He or she can reply, “Sí, me gusta(n) ___,” or “No, no me gusta(n).” (“Sí” means “yes” and “no” means “no” in Spanish; those are two other necessary vocabulary words!)

Lo siento (I’m sorry)

No vocabulary list is complete without the phrase “I’m sorry.” This expression is very useful for kids playing together, or if a child needs to show sympathy or apologize.

Necesito/quiero/ No necesito/quiero (I need/want/ I don’t need/want)

These words help kids express their needs and desires. Kids can use these words to communicate basic ideas like quiero jugo (I want juice) or no necesito ayuda (I don’t need help).

Gato/perro (Cat/Dog)

No basic vocabulary list would be complete without including some words to describe kids’ favorite members of the family. You can use the sounds cats and dogs make to reinforce the meaning of the Spanish words, and you can ask questions like “¿Dónde está el gato?” (Where is the cat?). Aside from pets, other essential Spanish family words  include madre (mother), padre (father), hermano (brother), and hermana (sister). Practice using these words with questions like “¿Cómo se llama tu hermana?” (What is your sister’s name?).

Pequeño/Grande (Little/Big)

Size is omnipresent in a child’s life, from a small bug they see in the garden to a big hug they want after taking a fall. Use pequeño and grande to make your descriptions more specific: “¡Qué grande el perro!” (What a big dog!)

Bien/Mal (Well/Badly)

These adverbs come in handy to describe the way that something happens. With kids, you could use them to describe feelings: “Estoy bien” (I’m fine.)

Alto/Adelante (Stop/Go)

These two are great for a game of “red light, green light” in Spanish, or for getting kids’ attention on the street. Alto and adelante are frequently used in Spanish, and can allow you to be courteous (stopping to allow someone else to go ahead, or inviting someone else to go ahead).

Test Yourself

Spanish Vocabulary for KIds Try to use these words frequently so you can help your child commit them to memory. Most of all, have fun introducing your child to Spanish. You can use this list of Spanish vocabulary for kids to have lively, descriptive conversations.

Looking for more ways to help your child learn Spanish? Find a private tutor in your area!

Interested in Private Lessons? Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up Joan BannaJoan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Joan aims to help students improve on tests and increase their conversational ability when traveling to Spanish-speaking countries. Learn more about Joan here!