Raising bilingual children is very important for my family because knowing one language just isn’t enough in today’s world. I’ve personally seen the benefits of being bilingual. It’s also very important for my bi-cultural children to be able to communicate with our Mexican family, especially with my father, who isn’t bilingual.
When my husband and I decided to have children, we thought hard about the different approaches to becoming bilingual. I soon realized that consistency was key in raising bilingual children. Finding the right approach really depends on what feels right for your family or children. For my preschoolers, learning Spanish has to be fun, not forced.
Tips to Encourage Bilingual Learning
Flashcards: My kids learned their colors from bilingual flashcards when they were 2 and 3 years old. We played several games and took the cards everywhere. As with most flashcards, you teach kids by pointing, naming, and repeating. This transitioned us over to everyday use of language, such as being at the grocery store and saying, “Bananas are yellow — amarillo.”
Spanish Apps: Since the kids have learned to use technology gadgets, I wanted to give them an option for some bilingual learning fun. We recently tried a Rosetta Stone kid app. It’s a free app geared towards preschoolers three to six years old. It teaches words in a fun way, and it’s voice activated. My kids were learning Spanish without knowing that they were, and it was a very fun activity for them.
Destination Learning: If you can, travel to places where the language you are learning is native. This can be a huge influence and fun way to learn the language. My kids and I travel to Mexico every year. They are surrounded by only Spanish speakers and the amount they learn is incredible. It’s never too early to take your kids on vacation to learn. My kids not only remember the language, but they associate words to the experiences they had.
Crafts: I also use crafts to initiate conversations to learn the language. Learning Spanish by celebrating a holiday is very important and effective for us. Papel picado is one of our favorite crafts, and it’s also one we use for most celebrations in our home. Kid’s crafts have been the foundation to many bilingual milestones for our family.
Fun Learning: Anything fun that can be combined with the language works. My kids recently played with walkie-talkies, and they began a conversation in Spanish. They’d never done so before, and it was fun for them. It was just bilingual play, nothing forced. Think about what your kids love to do. Talk about the colors or the shapes. Soon this will all be second nature to them.
What are some of your tops ways to explore language with your children?