No matter your heritage or where you live, speaking Spanish can be a useful skill, with benefits including a better understanding of other cultures, improved ability to think creatively, and more opportunities in the future. By starting with your kids when they are just toddlers, children are likely to pick up the language and remember it when they are older.
There are several ways you can make Spanish for kids fun, by incorporating it into all sorts of daily activities and games. Here are a few ideas to try:
1. Go Slow
As your toddler will be learning English at the same time as Spanish, be careful to avoid confusion. Limit the number of words you teach your child every day..
2. Read Together
Pictures aid understanding and enable children to connect words with objects or ideas. Plus, reading books in Spanish is one of the best ways to help children pick up the sentence structures of the language.
3. Watch Spanish TV and Movies
Kids learn a lot of language through watching children’s TV shows and movies, and watching television in Spanish provides the exact same benefits. If you don’t get Spanish language channels on your TV, you can select Spanish audio on DVDs, use YouTube videos, or find movies in Spanish for kids on Netflix.
4. Play Outdoor Counting Games
Teach your toddler numbers in Spanish by playing any outdoor games that involves counting, such as catch, jump rope, hopscotch, or soccer.
5. Expressions in the Mirror
Sit in front of a mirror and ask your child to make a face to represent an emotion. You can try happy (feliz), sad (triste), angry (enojado/enojada), and confused (confundido/confundida).
6. Play “I Spy”
A great activity for long car rides, play “I Spy” in Spanish to help your child learn both the alphabet and more vocabulary.
7. Sing Along to Music
Another good option for livening up car rides is singing songs in Spanish. This is one of the best ways to practice speaking in full sentences, and at the same time your toddler will hear a native speaker singing the language to help with proper pronunciation.
8. Play Simon Says (Simón Dice)
The imperative is a little more complex in Spanish than in English, but even toddlers can learn to respond and produce commands with this game. Simon Says (or Simón Dice) is also an ideal opportunity to practice words for body parts and movement.
9. Celebrate a Tradition from a Spanish-Speaking Country
Even if you don’t have a connection to a particular Spanish-speaking country, you can celebrate a festival in your home. There are plenty to choose from, including Día de los Muertos from Mexico, Fiesta de la Candelaria from Peru, and Las Fallas from Spain.
Just remember: keeping up with your child’s level of Spanish may soon become difficult if you are relying on the vocabulary and basic grammar you learned in high school. Consider brushing up on your own knowledge by booking Spanish lessons with a private tutor — or, as your child gets older, find a language tutor for him or her. Speaking a second language is a lifelong skill that will open up tons of opportunities for your child — academically, personally, and professionally.