I barely played video games growing up and even as an adult never found them very entertaining, at least, not compared to reading a book or, you know, hanging out with real live people or feeling the sunshine on my face. Yet my children love them and so I have come to appreciate video games as fun and often brain-building activities. I have even logged some time playing their favorite, Minecraft, though I have no idea what I am doing! It is quite humbling to have your 4 year old sigh as he explains something to you again. It seemed an apt metaphor for bilingual parenting, which is also incredibly challenging but rewarding. Here are the ways I have discovered that bilingual parenting is like Minecraft.
Z Is for Zombie: How Bilingual Parenting Is Like Minecraft
– Often the world you are operating in can seem very surreal.
– You find yourself doing things you never thought you would.
– You can still have lots of fun even if most of the time you don’t know what is going on.
– Some days everyone is building together peacefully (Creative Mode), while other days you’re being attacked constantly by strange creatures (Survival Mode).
– Your children often understand more than you do.
– You don’t really need a lot of gear, but it can help, though the wide range of choices can be confusing.
– You find yourself using vocabulary (like “OPOL” or “creeper”) that your pre-child self wouldn’t recognize.
– Some days you’re just happy if you know what your children are saying.
– You try to act like you’re the one in charge, but eventually you realize that you are part of a world your kids have created and you all have to work together if you want to accomplish anything.
– You are more likely to build something amazing (or survive attacks) if you have others helping you.
– Sometimes everything is going great, but other times you are surrounded by creatures (your children or nay sayers) that explode if you even look at them.
– You are humbled by how much you have left to learn, at the same time as you are proud of what you have managed to accomplish.
– Every day is an adventure that challenges your creativity and endurance, but that in the end is always worth it.
This post is part of the month-long series A-Z of Raising Multilingual Parenting, from the piri-piri lexicon. Be sure to stop by and see some of the other articles in this incredible collection about bilingual parenting!
Thank you to MommyMaestra for this post on 3 must-have resources for parents of Spanish-speaking preschoolers!
Many parents feel that the best time to learn multiple languages is when children are small and their brains are more efficient at processing language. And today, more and more parents are working hard to pass on their heritage language to their children. For Hispanics, that means Spanish tools and resources are in high demand, but sometimes hard to find. While children can learn languages simply through communication with family and friends, there are a few tools that parents should stock up on to help them make the learning process extra fun.
If you have Spanish-speaking preschoolers at home, check out these must-have resources.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
3 Must-Have Resources for Parents with Spanish-Speaking Preschoolers
Lucky for us, the number of Latino children’s literature is increasing (albeit slowly). But for preschoolers, there are quite a few exceptional titles that not only teach them basic skills such as numbers, colors, shapes, and letters, but they teach these concepts in Spanish! And don’t forget books with traditional nursery rhymes and fingerplays which were originally created to help children learn. Some of my favorites include:
There are so many great musicians who have recently come out with fun and educational albums in Spanish for children. Research shows that music is a great learning tool for children because the repetitive rhythms help children remember the concepts being taught. And it is easy to see how this works when you listen to the joyful songs available for kids. Make listening to music a part of your daily routine. And some of these musicians even have fun music videos to enhance your child’s learning. From dinosaurs to opposites, your children will move and sing their little hearts out to these outstanding albums currently available for purchase online as MP3 downloads or CDs:
While I strongly advise limiting your child’s access to tech, you might as well ensure that their time spent staring at a screen be educational. There are quite a few remarkable apps that are available for both iOS, Android, and Kindle. All of them are vibrant and engaging, but I encourage parents to sit with your child the first time or two to ensure that the app is appropriate for their age. Here are my favorite apps for preschoolers:
Monica Olivera is a homeschooling mother of two and a freelance education writer. Her site, MommyMaestra.com, helps Hispanic parents get more involved in their children’s education by providing resources, tips, and opportunities. She is also the co-founder of Latinas for Latino Lit and the content creator of the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, the first national, online program designed specifically for Latino families. Her education articles have appeared in numerous online sites such as NBCNews, latinamom.me, and PBSParents. To learn more, visit her About.me page.
I love books that beckon children to travel and to imagine themselves as the heroes in great adventures. The travel books for kids highlighted below do this by focusing on particular cities – Kyoto, Paris, Mumbai, and London – and introducing young readers to the sights and culture of these noteworthy locales.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Travel Books for Kids
Learn about Kyoto along with a young girl traveling there with her grandfather in Megumi’s First Trip to Kyoto. This is a really lovely book. The illustrations are wonderful, and I love that through the story we learn language and culture as Megumi and her grandfather count the things they will see in Kyoto: 10 bonsai trees, 9 orange koi, and so on. Japanese words are sprinkled in throughout the story, with footnotes giving the meaning and pronunciation. At the end there are also fun facts, a map, and Japanese numbers 1-10. But beyond this, what really makes the book come to life is the close relationship between Megumi and her grandfather. The affection between them lends a warmth to this story and will attract young readers even as they learn more about this beautiful city.
Take your kids on a gentle adventure through Paris with Beep Beep In Paris. Beep Beep is an adorable little red car who has adventures throughout Paris with his friend Chocolat the Cat (who has a habit of disappearing to eat desserts!) Poor Beep Beep does have some minor mishaps, but he is always helped by Chocolat, who helps Beep Beep feel at home in this new city. I have read this book many times with my preschooler, who loves the curious little car and his feline friend. (I actually won this book a few years ago from a friend’s blog: read her review of the book!) This sweet bilingual French and English book is a great way to practice vocabulary and take a virtual tour of the major landmarks of the city of lights. Read it with a cup of hot chocolat!
I was excited that our friends that wrote a wonderful Diwali book are now back with a new Maya and Neel adventure! Let’s Visit Mumbai! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 2) is a fun, beautifully done story about two siblings from the US who are exploring Mumbai with their pet squirrel Chintu. Kids aren’t the only ones who will learn from this book – I never knew that Mumbai was originally a group of 7 islands! And did you know that Bollywood comes from Mumbai? There is even an “info zoom” spread about Bollywood as well as another on the famous dabbawallas who deliver food throughout Mumbai. The graphics are so colorful and engaging, and the story packs in a lot of information in a natural way. And I love that just as in Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! there is a visual recap of the adventure at the end of the story. My only complaint about this (and the other books on this list) is that they don’t come with samples of the mouthwatering foods they feature!
If you are looking for innovative travel books for kids and/or want one that is customizable in two languages, you need to check out Click! London. This fun-filled adventure is not only a fast-paced story for children about London, it is also fully bilingual, in the languages of your choice! (Right now Spanish, English, and Italian are available, with more to come). Come along as two children take a wild, somewhat surreal ride through the sights of London!
We love simple learning activities, especially ones that do double duty to teach English and Spanish. This bilingual letter craft for “Q” is easy but really makes an impact – plus it’s fun!
Since we are focusing on biliteracy (that is, learning to read and write in both languages), as my preschooler is learning his letters I am making sure he has some examples of words that start with those letters in Spanish. So “C” is not just for car but also calabaza(pumpkin), and so on.
So when we came to the letter “Q,” I came up with this simple bilingual letter craft that works well in English and Spanish. The main point of the lesson is that “Q” turns you into a detective (or scientist). In English, “Q” is for Question, while in Spanish “Q” is for ¿Qué? (What?) So when you ask a question (or say “¿Qué?”) then you are a detective solving a mystery.
First we practiced asking questions and trying to answer them (try to include some silly ones!) and I also had them point to various objects around the room and ask “¿Qué es eso?” (“What is this?”) Again, be sure to encourage some silliness! (They, of course, pointed at each other or the baby: “Qué es eso??” in mock frightened voices).
After a bit of this, we did our bilingual letter craft, where the “Q” is designed to look like a magnifying glass.
Bilingual Letter Craft: Q is for ¿Qué? and Question
Cardstock or thin cardboard
Tape or glue
For each student, cut out a circle and a stick to form the letter “Q.” (You can also have the students practice their cutting skills but cutting out these shapes themselves). You can vary the size of the letters, but you want them at least as large as a magnifying glass. (We made ours quite a bit bigger).
Have the students tape or glue the stick into the correct position to make the letter “Q.” The stick should be mostly on the outside of the circle, so that it looks like a handle for the magnifying glass.
Pretending to investigate an “injury”
Bilingual Letter Craft: Q is for Que and Question | Alldonemonkey.com
That’s it! Be sure to let them have fun being detectives and scientists with their “Q” magnifying glasses.
After taking a break last year due to the arrival of Baby #3, we are back with one of my favorite series, the 31 Days of ABC! You can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet.
I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their amazing ideas with us in the coming days. And this year for the first year we are also adding a giveaway, so be sure to scroll to the end and enter for a chance to win!
So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October!
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win this great prize package, open internationally!
3 month subscription to the Kidloland app, which includes 575+ interactive nursery rhymes, songs, stories, and educational activities to help children learn ABCs, animals, fruits, vegetables, shapes and more!
One of the most important ways we are passing on Hispanic heritage to our children is through teaching them Spanish. Helping them learn to read in Spanish (biliteracy) is a wonderful way to motivate them to continue learning the language, plus it is a great way to bond and show cariño to your kids!
What is biliteracy and why does it matter for your bilingual child? If you are like me, you have had many moments of feeling frustrated and perhaps downright discouraged about your efforts to raise your children to be bilingual. It takes much more work than you realized, and you’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. But at the end of the day you are left wondering exactly how much Spanish your children have absorbed, and whether they will ever speak more than a few scattered phrases.
We started our bilingual journey with the best of intentions, and it is clear that our children understand most of what is said to them in Spanish. Yet if we wanted it to go beyond passive bilingualism (where they understand but don’t speak the language), it was clear that we needed to up our game.
And so we have been focusing on teaching our children to read in Spanish. Our family loves to sit down together over a healthy breakfast and read, so now I make sure to pick out books in Spanish! Reading together in Spanish is not only great family bonding time, it also helps children really understand the language.
Biliteracy, or being literate in two languages, is fundamental to turning passive bilinguals into active learners. Here is why it is worth the effort:
Biliteracy: Why It Matters for Your Bilingual Child
Learning to read in another language…
…builds confidence. Sometimes bilingual children are actually more nervous to speak Spanish than a child encountering it for the first time. They know enough to know how much they don’t know! They know how the language should sound but not enough to speak it that way themselves. As one US born child once said to his Costa Rican mother, “Mom, me siento weird when I speak Spanish.” (“Mom, I feel weird when I speak Spanish.”) Gaining a new skill helps build their confidence in the language.
…slows the language down for them. Encountering the stream of spoken language can be overwhelming if you struggle to understand many of the words. When you read you can go at your own pace, even looking up words if you need to. It can also spark many “aha!” moments, especially since Spanish has so many cognates in English. These connections are often more obvious in the written language than spoken, such as “idea” which is written the same way in both languages but pronounced differently.
…actively engages the child with the language. Rather than just passively listening and then responding in English, reading forces the child to focus on the words, saying them either out loud or in their heads. This is actually a profound shift, as they are really paying attention to the language in a very new and more active way.
…expands vocabulary. As great as your own vocabulary is in the language, your child will run across many new words in books. This is a real boon for non-native speakers like myself, since I tend to use one word for a concept (for example, escribir, to write), when of course there are actually several ways to say the same thing (apuntar, anotar, numerar, copiar…).
…teaches grammar. When a child sees the words on the page, it is often easier for them to understand exactly what is being spoken and how sentences are constructed in the target language.
…opens up a world of literature. Once your child really begins to find his feet with reading in the language, he will have access to a whole world of literature, including favorite books (and comics!) that you may have grown up with.
…shares heritage and culture. So much of heritage and culture is passed down in books, whether Don Quixote or Mafalda. While of course you may also end up reading translations of their favorite books from English at first, as they gain confidence and interest, you can introduce them to other books as well.
…encourages togetherness. Just as anytime when a child begins to read, it is a team effort and can lead to some really sweet bonding time as you explore together. My favorite times of day are when we read together over breakfast (or sometimes my oldest reads to his brother!).
A video posted by Leanna || Parenting Blogger (@alldonemonkey) on
I love how easy it is to give my kids a healthy breakfast with Cheerios! I know I’m giving them something good for them that they’ll both enjoy, plus it leaves me more time for snuggling up with them to read. Cheerios also makes a great snack to fuel homework time!
Whether your children are fully bilingual or just speak un poquito español, there is a new Spanish app for kids that is a wonderful way to teach them about Hispanic culture and the Spanish language! I highly recommend Mundo Lanugo: Juega y Aprende as a fun app to teach heritage through games that also build kindergarten readiness.
Not so with this new app from Mundo Lanugo! This amazing FREE app is simply irresistible. It has become my go-to resource if we have to wait in a doctor’s office, etc and I’m too busy with the baby to entertain my older kids – voilà! Mundo Lanugo to the rescue!
Even if you don’t speak Spanish but want to support what your kids are learning in school, this is a great app for your family! The visuals are so easy to follow that kids don’t have to understand every word to play along, and as they go they will hear the language spoken in context, reinforcing their understanding and teaching new vocabulary.
But this app does not merely help with language learning. In fact, that’s not even its main purpose! What it does amazingly well is teach about the rich cultural heritage of Latin America through games that also promote kindergarten readiness. So in the “kitchen” kids learn to make dishes like ceviche and arroz con leche, and dress up costumes include one for Day of the Dead!
This integration of culture into learning activities is important for all children, but especially for Latino and bicultural children like mine, to nurture a genuine pride and identification with their heritage.
Thank you, Mundo Lanugo for getting my kids excited about Hispanic culture and language with this wonderful Spanish app for kids: Download your copy today! Available for Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Have you seen all the articles on the importance of teaching your kids another language but feel frustrated because you feel you aren’t fluent enough to do this? Maybe your child’s school doesn’t offer foreign language classes, or perhaps your child is lucky enough to be enrolled in one and you would like to know how you can support it at home. This article is for you! Here are 7 simple ways you can teach your kids Spanish – even if you don’t speak it!
Please note that I am not trying to diminish the importance of qualified Spanish teachers. Far from it. I’m merely acknowledging the fact that not all children have access to Spanish classes, or they do but their parents aren’t sure how they can support this language learning at home.
Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of ¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish! for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
7 Ways to Teach Your Kids Spanish Even If You Don’t Speak It
1. Ask the Experts
If your child has a Spanish teacher and you’d like to support their work at home, just ask! This may seem obvious, but often we forget to simply ask the teacher what you can do at home to reinforce what your child is learning at school. If your child is not enrolled in a program, you can contact a local school or look online for resources. Two of my go-to websites are Mommy Maestra and Spanish Playground, both of which include materials for a range of abilities.
A photo posted by Leanna || Parenting Blogger (@alldonemonkey) on
One interesting approach for older kids is that used in the well intentioned book ¡hola! Let’s Learn Spanish POD: Visit New Places and Make New Friends, which I was recently sent to review. The story is mainly in English, with Spanish words gradually sprinkled in. Through repetition and context, the reader is able to understand the meanings and begin to incorporate the vocabulary. The book also includes fun activities to practice the new vocabulary and learn more about the culture of Mexico.
While I admire the purpose of the book and its pedagogy, I can’t fully recommend it because its main story relies on stale images of Mexico as a place of sombreros and jumping beans. As stated in this wonderful article about moving beyond cultural stereotypes of Mexico, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with these images, just that we need to look deeper to see the richness and variety of the culture, particularly when teaching children who may not have been exposed to authentic Mexican culture before.
3. Listen to Music in Spanish
Music is such a fun way to teach your kids Spanish! Not only do kids learn the rhythms and sounds of a language, moving to music is great for active learners like mine. We really love ¡A Bailar! Let’s Dance! from Whistlefritz as well as Mister G, especially Los Animales, and I dare you not to sing along to the title track on Chocolalala! (Read my full reviews here and here). Great music and great language learning!
Keep yourself motivated by creating a support network of other families who are teaching their kids Spanish. These could be other parents from your child’s class or those you meet through a moms’ group or hanging out at the library! You could also look for local homeschooling groups or search online to see if there is an existing group. If not, your local library may be able to host a get together of interested parents.
Many areas offer immersion programs during the summer, which can be an invaluable way to really teach your kids Spanish by surrounding them with native speakers and other Spanish students. I have not tried Concordia Language Villages, but it is a well known program of immersion camps. (They offer them for adults, too!) You may even be able to find a local program such as the one described by this mother.
I can’t emphasize enough how much travel motivates children (and parents) to learn another language by making it more fun and relevant. It also creates very positive associations for them that will keep them interested in learning, plus it helps them place the language within a larger cultural context that will make language learning more meaningful.
Above all, know that what you are doing matters! Every bit of exposure to another language is helpful. Even if you aren’t fluent yourself, you are still giving your child a tremendous advantage in their own language learning plus you are showing them how much you value learning another language by making an effort alongside them. Keep it up, and share your tips in the comments!
Do you live in a bilingual household or simply want to teach your kids a little Spanish? Bilingual board books are a wonderful way to introduce your children to Spanish at an early age, and the text is simple enough for kids (and adults!) that have only a rudimentary understanding of the language.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of Lil’ Libros books; however, all opinions are my own.
It doesn’t matter what age your children are, they will be instantly drawn to Lil’ Libros board books. The artwork is incredibly engaging: colorful and eye-catching without being too “busy.”
Lil’ Libros produces beautiful “first concept” books: in other words, books that teach about basic ideas like numbers, colors, body parts, etc. As your child is mastering these early concepts, why not teach them in Spanish as well? You don’t need to be a fluent speaker to teach your children at this level. You are introducing simple vocabulary with self-explanatory illustrations, so you can learn right along with your child!
And if you are bilingual yourself, you will appreciate how high-quality these books are, and the fact that they teach culture right alongside the language. Thankfully these days it is getting easier to find Spanish children’s books here in the US; however, the vast majority of these are translations from English. So even as you worry about how good the translation is going to be, you know that the book will likely teach your child nothing about Hispanic culture.
Lil’ Libros solves this dilemma by brilliantly making use of prominent aspects of Hispanic culture in their books. For example, children learn about body parts through pictures of Mexico’s famous lucha libre wrestlers (brilliant!) and learn their numbers with representations of artist Frida Kahlo.
I highly recommend Lil’ Libros books to anyone wanting to teach their little ones Hispanic culture and beginning Spanish vocabulary.
Are you worried about the lack of diversity in children’s literature? So were Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. That’s why they created Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a unique event whose mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.
Young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
Doing activities related to a theme is fun way for children to learn Spanish. They learn new words and hear them used naturally as they sing, do crafts and listen to stories. Below you’ll find a set of activities for a theme I call All About Ants. Try them with kids, and soon all of you will be talking and singing about hormigas.
Learning All About Ants in Spanish
Choose words you want to focus on as you do the activities. For beginners, start with just a few words. You can add more when those are familiar. You can also download a printable All About Ants vocabulary list.
Incorporate basic concepts like numbers and colors. It’s fun to count ants in Spanish!
Short activities are usually better. Adapt the All About Ants activities to help kids understand and keep their interest.
Spread the activities over several days, and come back to All About Ants at a later date. This will help kids remember what they learned.
Talking about photos helps kids learn new words. Point to these pictures of ants as you describe them. You can find more fabulous photos online because lots of people love ants!
I tell parents that music is language glue. It sticks language into kids’ heads.
Las Hormigas by Jorge Lan is perfect for this All About Ants theme. You can hear a clip of the song on iTunes. We learn the song and then play follow-the-leader as we march and sing:
Vamos marchando las hormigas.
Vamos marchando sin parar.
Vamos buscando comida y esta al hormiguero nos la vamos a llevar.
Using pictures cards and playing games helps children learn new words. These printable activities fit the All About Ants theme and are focused enough for beginning Spanish learners. Try the size sort, the pattern activities and roll-an-ant game in this packet: Free Printable Ant Activitites by A Teaching Mommy
Size sort. I add ant hills to this activity. We cut 3 ant hills out of construction paper – small, medium and large. We sort the hormigas pequeñas, medianas y grandes into the different ant hills. This gives kids practice using size words and the word hormiguero.
Pattern activities. Kids practice colors in Spanish as they copy the patterns. We also count the ants.
Roll-an-ant. Kids can learn the parts of the ant with this game. You can also use it with beginners to practice numbers.
This cute animated video has basic ant information and repeats key vocabulary. Beginners can tap the table each time they hear the word hormiga. They will be tapping a lot! Watching this video, kids will learn all about ants and learn Spanish too.
Start at 0:33 to skip the theme song. You may want to watch just part of the video with beginners.
Crafts are excellent language activities. Choose one that lets you repeat the words your child is learning.
Doing this simple craft from Muck Monsters you will use the words hormiguero and hormiga. (Of course, you won’t write A is for ant on the picture.)
There are lots of crafts for making ants online. These egg carton ants are Pink Stripey Socks. You can talk about the parts of an ant as you make them.
Kids can help make an ant snack. You can make traditional ants on a log, or search ant snacks on Pinterest. You will be amazed at the possibilities!
Picture books about ants will have more language than young Spanish learners can understand. With my students, I read the wonderful book Arriba, Abajo instead. The illustrations have plenty of ants. You can find them, count them and talk about them.
You may also want to tell a simple version of the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper. In Spanish, the story is called La cigarra y la hormiga. You can tell the story in your own words pointing to illustrations to help kids understand.
Try sentences like these for beginners: Hace sol. Es verano. La hormiga trabaja mucho. Lleva comida al hormiguero. La cigarra no trabaja. La cigarra juega. No le gusta jugar. etc.
You can also act out the story with stick puppets, or with ants you made as a craft.
By the time you have done a few of these activities, there is a good chance you will ready to talk about a new topic! Choose a theme your kids will like and look for songs, activities, and crafts to do in Spanish.
All About Ants Photo credits:
CC Image by Katja Schulz
CC Image by M M
CC Image by Emma Wallace
Jennifer raised her three children speaking English and Spanish, and she has been teaching Spanish to other young world citizens for over twenty years. On her blog Spanish Playground, she shares resources for parents and teachers of Spanish language learners.
I am always on the lookout for fun activities I can do with my kids to learn Spanish, and what is more fun this time of year than Halloween? Here are some of my favorite Spanish Halloween activities to help you and your kids have some learning fun getting ready for el día de las brujas!
Note: Most of the activities and printables included below are free. Those few that are paid are very inexpensive and well worth it!
Spanish Skeleton Song – Spanish Playground: My kids and I have already been having fun dancing to Los esqueletos thanks to this post! It is great for practicing numbers, time, action words – and of course, your best skeleton dance moves!
Of course, Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in Latin America, though it has become popular in some places in recent years. From what I’ve heard from my Costa Rican family, for example, it was something of a fad a few years ago! Just for fun, you can share with your kids how people have started celebrating Halloween in Spain! (Day of the Dead – or el día de los muertos – is not just a version of Halloween but an entirely different tradition, though it also stems in part from All Saints Day).