Tips for Teaching Kids Spanish

Updated
Are you looking for fun and easy ways to teach kids Spanish?

If you want to teach your kids Spanish, there is an almost limitless number of ways you can do it. From formal, structured lessons with a professional teacher to messing about in the kitchen, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way to do it.

If you need a little creative inspiration, consider one of our tried and tested ways for teaching kids Spanish. Better yet, combine several for a personalized language learning program to suit your family.


What Age Is Best to Teach a Child Another Language?

As babies, we can hear all of the consonants and vowel sounds of all of the world’s languages. But somewhere between 10 months and one year, we start to tune into those sounds we hear most frequently (1).

That’s why it’s easier to instinctively learn multiple languages if we grow up hearing them. We focus on a broader range of consonant and vowel sounds and adapt to them without thought.

However, while your child is likely to learn more quickly and easily in their first few years, it is never too late to begin teaching your child another language (2).

The Benefits of Teaching Kids Spanish

Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world and has the second-highest number of native speakers (3). At the most basic level, teaching your child Spanish opens up the number of people with whom they can speak. When you teach kids Spanish, it can also:

Broaden Horizons

If you teach your kids Spanish, they can enjoy a broader range of books, media, and other language-critical experiences. This exposes them to a broader range of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives.

Give An Academic Advantage

Children who speak Spanish will be at an advantage if their school has Spanish classes. In high school, they can take Spanish as an “easy course” and devote more time to another subject. Teaching your child a second language can even give them an advantage for college applications.

Enhance Travel

Visiting a country is greatly enhanced when you speak the language. If you vacation in a Spanish-speaking country, your child can converse with locals and have a greater understanding of displays in museums, art galleries, and other attractions.

Confidence

Knowing a second language can be an enormous confidence-booster for children. They may see themselves as smart and capable. And when you believe it, you can be it.

How to Teach Kids Spanish

There are numerous ways to teach your kids Spanish, and few of them involve lesson type learning. While lessons are an important piece of the learning puzzle, actively experiencing the second language in your day-to-day life is an excellent way to develop understanding and fluidity of speech.

Here are some great, fun methods for teaching Spanish.

1. Speak Spanish At Home

Whether your child is a baby, a toddler, a tween, or a teen, speaking Spanish at home is an excellent way to help them link foreign language vocabulary to real life.

It is an especially low-pressure way for anxious or sensitive children who may be reluctant to speak another language for fear of making a mistake and becoming embarrassed.

2. Learn Together

If you can find parent and child Spanish lessons, both you and your little one can learn together. Some adults are surprised to discover that when they attend this kind of class, their child can end up helping them as much as they help their child.

In addition, this type of class often focuses on vocabulary that is relevant to kids, their interests, and their activities.

3. Explore YouTube

Online videos are a free and readily available resource for teaching kids Spanish. You can make use of videos that are formatted explicitly as Spanish lessons. These videos allow you to concentrate on the Spanish words for specific items, such as shapes.

You can also enjoy videos of family favorite characters, shows, and songs, dubbed in Spanish.

4. Try Language Teaching Apps

Take a look at which apps for teaching Spanish to kids are available for your smart device. Some, such as Lingokids, offer both free versions with limited content and a more comprehensive paid version.

We found that trying out several free options helped us work out which type of app our kids enjoyed most. This way, you do not waste money buying an app that isn’t best suited to your child’s learning style.

5. Watch Cartoons In Spanish

Watching any cartoon with limited verbal language can be an excellent way to help your child learn Spanish.

However, what we find to be particularly useful is watching cartoons to which our kids know all the dialogue. This allows our kids to hear the Spanish language as it is naturally used and absorb their new language without consciously learning it.

6. Play Learning Games

Games such as KLOO are designed to help you learn Spanish.

In this card game, players must make sentences from the word cards they are dealt. The longer the sentence, the more points you can earn. The cards are color-coded to help beginners structure sentences correctly.

This makes a handy, travel-friendly resource for those who have moved past learning single words but are not yet confident enough for longer conversations.

7. Use Labels

It is easy to find or make labels for everyday objects with either the English and Spanish words for the item or with just the Spanish word. If your child hasn’t begun to read yet, you can look at and read the labels together.

Not only does this help you both focus on the kind of day-to-day vocabulary you use, but it will also support your child learning to read and write in Spanish.

8. Seek Out Native Speakers

If you are not fluent in Spanish yourself, seeking out native or fluent Spanish speakers will give your child opportunities to practice their new language skills.

The only word of caution for this hint is to ensure anyone they speak with will be supportive of their learning and not someone who will correct them in a negative or unhelpful manner.

9. Make It About Culture

If your child struggles with traditional styles of learning, a change of perspective can help. Rather than sitting down to formal language lessons, take a more holistic approach.

Research Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries together, and let them pick the language up as a bi-product of your cultural explorations.

The two of you can take a trip to your grocery store, identify imported foods, and decode the labels together. Then go online and look for recipes in Spanish, using those same ingredients.

10. Consider Formal Lessons

So far, we’ve focused on more relaxed approaches to teaching your kids Spanish, but that doesn’t mean that formal lessons are a terrible thing.

While some kids struggle in this environment, others flourish. This is especially true if you find an instructor who teaches in a way your child responds to.

11. Read Bilingual English/Spanish Books

Seek out children’s books that are printed in both English and Spanish.

In addition to classics such as A Treasury of Curious George and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you can find plenty of books that reflect the culture of the Spanish-speaking countries from which they come. We recommend these titles: A Mexican Food Alphabet Book, Be Bold! Be Brave!: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History, and What Can You Do with a Paleta.

Books can also be found for every age range from baby and toddler books, such as Love You Baby, to books for older children such as Code 7: Cracking the Code for an Epic Life.

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12. Find Extra-Curricular Activities

In larger urban and suburban areas, it is not unusual these days to find extra-curricular activities hosted in Spanish.

However, we do have one word of caution. If your child is easily overwhelmed, don’t enroll them in an activity with a steep learning curve unless they are already competent Spanish speakers.

Learning a new skill and a new language at the same time could be the opposite of enjoyable.

13. Listen To Audiobooks

Audiobooks, either on their own or paired with a printed version, have an underappreciated benefit when teaching your children Spanish.

You experience the language in its grammatically correct, formal manner during narrative parts of the book. But when characters are speaking, you can experience a more informal language structure.

14. Seek Out A Pen Pal

While we have the ability to talk with others online, there is still something special about sending and receiving letters.

As well as being a low-pressure way to practice written Spanish, a pen pal provides the opportunity to connect and get to know another child with whom they wouldn’t usually cross paths.

15. Look For Immersive School Programs

Spanish immersion programs and schools conduct the vast majority of, if not all, their lessons in Spanish rather than English.

It may sound frightening to send your child off to school where they will be speaking minimal English. However, these programs are specifically designed for children with few, if any, second-language skills, and they have proved to be exceptionally successful.

16. Explore TeachersPayTeachers

If you have basic Spanish speaking skills yourself and are looking for ways to practice with your child, TeachersPayTeachers.com is an excellent place to find what you need.

Anyone can join the site. It’s free, and you can download no-cost and low-cost lessons, worksheets, and other resources created by teachers. Search for either Spanish lesson supports or for different subjects in Spanish.

17. Don’t Forget Flashcards

Flashcards are not a bright, glitzy, or exciting way to learn new things, Spanish included, and they should not be at the center of your learning strategy.

However, that’s not to say they don’t have a place. Spanish language flashcards are useful for spontaneous practice, vocabulary drills, and test preparation.

18. Play Spanish Scrabble

While you could try to play Scrabble in Spanish with an English word game set, the frequency of letters used in written Spanish differs from that of written English, making gameplay difficult.

The Spanish-format Scrabble not only has the special squares on the board printed in Spanish, but it also has different numbers of each letter to reflect letter frequency in written Spanish.

19. Sing

The pleasure and joy of music can make learning Spanish a more enjoyable experience.

Using music as a way to learn can help new knowledge “stick” more easily. The combination of rhythm, rhyme, and repetition is almost guaranteed to help you remember, without the stress of “having” to remember.

20. Remember, Subtitles Are Your Friend

If you have children who are confident readers, consider Spanish language movies and TV or dubbed English language media with subtitles.

This will allow them to experience a wide range of speaking styles and structures, that mimic the ways in which real people speak. Meanwhile, the subtitles provide an accessible reference point if they need some quick translation help.

21. Play

There is no shortage of bilingual toys on the market.

Toys such as the LeapFrog Little Office Learning Center allow children to explore words, colors, and music in both English and Spanish. This option in particular combines printed English and Spanish with spoken language while teaching your child the traditional toddler basics.

22. Fingerplay

Basic kindergarten and preschool fingerplays are a fun way to teach your kids Spanish using multisensory learning.

We found this technique was especially successful when used in a group of children who were a mix of English as a first language and Spanish as a first language speakers. It allowed all of the children to participate while learning new vocabulary in a relaxed environment.

23. Write in Spanish

Some children struggle to absorb grammar, noun forms, verbs, and other formal, structural elements of a new language through reading and speaking. However, those same children may find success when writing in their non-native tongue.

Something about trying to figure out the correct usage for themselves can help the second language stick in a way that other methods cannot.

24. Explore Via The Internet

Go online together and visit some of the world’s great museums, art galleries, attractions, and historic sites in Spanish-speaking countries.

Using the Spanish language of websites will provide a way to immerse yourselves in the language while pursuing subjects of interest to your child, such as dinosaurs or space. Any issues with understanding can be easily resolved by switching to the English version of a site for clarification.

25. Cook

Find some old favorites or new recipes to try, and work through the Spanish ingredients list and instructions together.

Not only is this a good way to learn practical vocabulary, but it is also a wonderful way to spend time together and have fun. Oh, and don’t forget the bonus benefit — you’ll have something tasty to enjoy at the end of your Spanish cooking session.


Posibilidades Infinitas

Today, if you have access to the internet you have access to resources that help teach your kids Spanish. However, that doesn’t mean your child has to spend their time at a desk, or viewing a screen.

No matter what your child enjoys doing, there is likely a way for the two of you to enjoy it in Spanish.

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About the Author

Patricia Barnes

Patricia Barnes is a homeschooling mom of 5 who has been featured on Global TV, quoted in Parents magazine, and writes for a variety of websites and publications. Doing her best to keep it together in a life of constant chaos, Patti would describe herself as an eclectic mess maker, lousy crafter, book lover, autism mom, and insomniac.
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