Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spanish lessons at home

Are you trying to incorporate Spanish learning into your child's everyday life? Would you like some new ideas to keep the language learning alive? As parents who are trying to raise their children in a bilingual household, my husband and I love to hear what other families are doing to make language connections with their children and to enrich their development. Please feel free to share any idea ( big or little) that you use with your child. The first 10 people to respond will receive a Hola/Adios t-shirt ( available in youth and adult sizes, red or purple). Gracias!

* Play Memory: This is a great activity for vocabulary development and reinforcement. When have a couple of different sets that have different thematic pictures, so it is a great way for our children to practice various grammatical structures. We always ask ' dónde está....? or qué es?, as we look for the specific picture.

*Cooking: my kids love to help in the kitchen when we are preparing meals. We are sure to tell kids " es la hora de español" or ' ni una palabra de ingles", as we begin our cooking adventure. I tell my kids to find certain items in the pantry and refridgerator in Spanish. It is a great identification practice. My 6 year old is able to help pour and measure, so all commands are given to her in Spanish as helps with the recipe. When cooking in Spanish, we are intentional to keep the conversation going, incorporating questions such as: ' te gusta...?, quieres probar...?, cuál es tu favorito?, etc.

* Mirror Mirror on the wall: My children love looking at themselves in the mirror! We often play ' make that face'. We give our kids the Spanish word for a specific emotion, and they have to make that face. Then they give us the commands for enojado, triste, feliz, etc. When kids can see themselves as they hear or say the word, it helps to make a language connection.

By reinforcing the language through activities that are relevant to children's lives, we are giving our children a great head start in their development and acquisition. Tell us what you do at home!


Becca said...

This may post twice if it does...sorry!

At least twice a month, I take my son to the library. He is a prereader so we check out a variety of books. I include bilingual books. I have fun looking for them. I grew up speaking Spanish due Spanish only speaking grandparents and other relatives. My parents spoke English and Spanish. My siblings and I learnde both. I would have loved bilingual books as a kid. I love reading with my son and sharing the bilingual stories is fun for me too. I'm learning more too.

Maestra Jen said...

Great idea! We absolutely love books and including bilingual literacy in your child's daily routine is a great way to introduce the language. Whenever I go to the library with my children, I also check out their language section. Books with Cds are also a great tool.

Ida i Québec said...

Hi! I just found your website through the Multilingual Living magazine and I am really impressed with what you do. I teach Swedish to francophones (I live in Québec, Canada) and have found two activities that they really enjoy:
1. The schedule. I use a big spreadsheet schedule for each child and he/she puts in all the activities/school subjects that he/she has for a full week. In Swedish, of course. This is to learn new verbs, the clock and the weekdays.
2. A memory game where each pair consists of one image and one word. After they turn one tile they always have to say what it is - if it's an image, they have to say the word in Swedish, and if it's a word they have to say word in French. It is sort of the same idea that you published on the blog but I still wanted to share it! :)

Good luck with everything! Maybe one day I'll dare to do something similar with Swedish... :)

Ida i Québec said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that we collect books for my child. For Christmas and our son's birthday we always ask for books - both from my family and friends in Sweden and from the family and friends here in Quebec. That way, we build up a little trilingual library of our own right here in our home. Eventually (my son is only one year old) I hope we'll create a routine of reading to him in all three languages. It is especially interesting to read about different traditions and cultures as well as singing songs.

I only wish there was a cheaper way to get the Swedish books... postage is expensive! Thanks again!

Maestra Jen said...

I love the spreadsheet idea! Thanks!

Contact me at I would love to send you a shirt! :)

Susan Stephan said...

Before I started teaching my son Spanish, I was a classroom Spanish teacher. The following games were popular with little kids, as well as high school kids.

Mata Moscas (literal translation--Killing Flies)
On a big piece of butcher paper or a chalk board, write words in Spanish all over the board. I would usually keep the vocabulary thematic--clothes, food, activities. Two students are to compete against each other. Each kid is given a fly swatter, and the teacher or parent calls out one of the words in English. The students have to find the word in Spanish. The first one to find the word in Spanish, and slap it with their fly swatter, gets the point. I would allow other students to help out by yelling things such as arriba (up) enfrente (in front), etc. This Activity can be adopted at home too. The vocabulary words can be written all over a sheet of paper, and the first kid to put their finger on the word gets the point.

I also love Pancho Camancho which is verbal hot potato. Each kid should be holding a vocabulary card or an actual object. Let's use fruit as an example. Start with three or four kids with a different fruit. Set a timer for three to five minutes. The parent or teacher starts the game by saying.

Pancho Camancho tiene la manzana.
(Pancho Camancho has the apple.)

The child who has the apple is "it" and must make someone else it by saying.

No, yo tengo la manzana, Pancho Camancho tiene la pera.
(No, I have the apple, Pancho Camancho has the pear.)

The child who has the pear must then make someone else it by saying--

No, yo tengo la pera, Pancho Camancho tiene la fresa.
(No, I have the pear, Pancho Camancho has the strawberry.)

The kids continue to verbally pass "it" back and forth until a timer rings. The child who is caught being "it" when the timer rings gets a point. The kids want to avoid being it because the child with the lowest score wins.

I also purchased the Game of Life, Monopoly, and Scrabble in Spanish from The kids loved playing these games in Spanish especially since they knew them in English. I had a sheet with useful vocabulary for the students who did not speak as much Spanish. The use of English resulted in a fine (multa) paid to the student who caught them using English.

I also love Diez Deditos (Ten Fingers) by Jose Luis Orozco. The book and the CD are wonderful! The finger games are very popular with children. Even my high school kids got a kick out of The Eensy Weensy Spider in Spanish.

Your local community may also have some valuable resources. I take my son to bilingual storytime at our local library and we will be going to a Mami y yo (Mommy and me) class hosted by Families Costa Mesa and the MOMS resource center. I will also be attending a Spanish meet-up group hoping to find other moms that are trying to raise bilingual children.

Jen--Which books with CDs can you recommend in Spanish? I have been looking for some without much success.


Maestra Jen said...

Hi Susan,

Great activities! Thanks so much for your input! I totally forgot about Pancho Camancho! I used to play that w/ my high school kids as well. Thanks so much for the reminder.

We always are looking for books w/ cds for my daughter. She absolutely loves them. Our library has a decent selection. Most are just translations of familiar stories ( frog and toad, amelia bedelia, etc). I have found some very nice cultural books by Barefoot Books that have cds along with them. We love Cha Cha Cha en la Selva. I also found the book and audio recording of Alexander y el dia terrible, horrible, espantoso, horroroso. I haven't found a great site yet that sells what I am looking for either. Have you tried your library's juvenile international section?

Contact me at I would love to send you a t shirt! Gracias!

Tse Family said...

Hola Amiga! I have loved reading these inspiring stories as we go through our own linguistic journey. I actually read and understood one of our French Franklin books to Nathan the other night. It was far less painful than the first time I attempted to read in French! Celebrating progress little by little!
Miss you guys!

Vanessa said...

Great great ideas! Thankyou!
Vanessa from