Spanish For Kids
Do you want to teach kids Spanish? You’re in the right place! Learning a new language is a big goal, but I promise you’ll never regret getting started. This new Learn Spanish for Kids starter kit will give you the materials and resources you need to start teaching kids Spanish.
Spanish Learning Tips for Non-Native Speakers
Today I’m sharing some tips for parents who aren’t native speakers, or plan to learn while their kids learn Spanish. Spanish is a very accessible language for English-native learners, as English and Spanish share similar alphabets and a fair share of cognates.
There are also many, many language resources available to English speakers. So many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming knowing where to start to teach kids Spanish. If you take the time to make a plan, and do the hardest part, actually getting started, you can learn a lot as a family.
Teach Kids Spanish
Here are my tips for getting yourself started to teach kids Spanish.
Set Yourself Up for Success with Resources
It’s common to have false starts as we begin a new habit. In our excitement, we get started before we have the right resources, and then lose steam. I suggest taking time to gather resources, for Spanish for kids and yourself, to set up a strong start.
This “Learn Spanish for Kids” mini course for kids will include many useful resources and recommendations. Make sure to take a look at our Spanish Booklist for Kids, and our Language Resources where you can find lots of additional information.
When your kids see Spanish in all kinds of contexts, they’ll be more eager to learn and respond more positively to lessons. And when you have the materials you need at hand, you’ll be more likely to stay consistent and stick to your plan!
Make a Spanish Learning Plan
This can be very simple. (I am notorious for not following a strict schedule, myself!) Take a minute to decide how you will work Spanish into your family’s life and schedule. Think:
- Do you want to hire a tutor, sign up for a class, or learn at home?
- Will you try to study together for 15 minutes every day? Do you need to schedule a time twice per week?
- How can your kids learn Spanish naturally, throughout the week? (Hang up posters and label things? Put a book into the bedtime basket?)
- Can you separate one time a week for Spanish-only? (Saturday mornings are for Spanish music, cartoons, speaking at breakfast, etc.?)
- Can you shift some screen time to Spanish shows?
Outline Some Lessons
You’ve got your songs cued, apps downloaded, and a schedule written down. But how do you actually teach kids Spanish? Where do you start?
Well, start with the Spanish alphabet – PRINT THE IMAGE HERE
Here are some basic Spanish topics to Study which I will cover in the following lessons:
- Greetings & Introductions
- Basic Instructions
- Numbers 1-20
- Family Members
- Adjectives & Colors
- Activities and Hobbies
Here are some common Spanish phrases: PRINT THE IMAGE HERE
Focus on High-Frequency Verbs & Words
Though most languages have extensive dictionaries, we only use a fraction of them in everyday life. That fraction is key to communication!
If you only take away one piece of advice for teaching, it’s this: make high-frequency words the center of your lessons. High-frequency verbs, in particular.
You’ll notice I didn’t list high-frequency verbs with the other topics above. That’s because I don’t want you make flashcards and have your kids “study” verbs (though you can). Instead, work them in slowly and in context.
Here are 12 common verbs in Spanish: PRINT THE IMAGE HERE
You can also print all of my common verbs and words lists, and keep them handy. (Here’s a helpful guide to using and pronouncing top Spanish verbs, and gustar, specifically.) The most important thing is for you to be able to use them comfortably as you speak to your kids.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s say you are learning fruits and vegetables with your kids. There are many songs, games, and coloring pages to learn foods. But if you travel to Mexico, what’s really helpful is expressing what you like and want.
Instead of just memorizing isolated food names, work in activities that express liking and wanting. Do a chart of favorite fruits and or interview Spanish-speaking family members, so you can use “Do you like (¿Te gusta…?)” again and again.
Another example would be talking about pets. You can learn the names of common animals, but don’t stop there. Talk about which animals you or friends have or want. Show pictures and ask about them: “Is the cat big or small? It is black or orange? (¿El gato es grande o pequeño? ¿Es negro o anaranjado?)”
As you do this, you are constantly circling back to words they know and depending on high-frequency words to communicate. You all will also be able to understand authentic Spanish resources more quickly, from knowing these common words by heart!
Learn Question Words
This one is also for you, so you can provide more interactive Spanish input. I bet you did this naturally, when your own children were little! As you rode in the car or walked around town, conversations probably sounded like this:
“What’s that? Do you see it? Is is a train? What does the train say? Yes, it says choo-choo! Do you love trains? Me too!”
If you learn the main question words in Spanish, you’ll be able to expand your conversations as your kids learn Spanish. While you read books, look at pictures, or play games, you can ask the same little questions that helped your kids learn their first language.
Here are some basic phrases: PRINT THE IMAGE HERE
Focus on Input
Although it’s great to use the language when you are ready, practice isn’t actually the golden ticket to acquiring language. Input IS!
Your big goal as language teacher is giving your kids lots of Spanish they understand.
We don’t want to just flood them with Spanish; it should always be comprehensible. Every lesson, they should hear language in context, and speak when they are ready.
If your kids are resisting speaking, don’t stress too much. Focus on providing reading and listening.
Ask yes or no questions, either/or questions, or questions with one-word answers. It’s really important to create a feeling of fun and warmth around Spanish for long-term success!
This also means two things for you, as the parent-teacher:
- You need some input yourself, to stay a bit ahead of your kids and provide input for them.
- You need to find outside sources of good input (language in context) for the whole family, since you aren’t a native speaker.
Input can be just about anything, as long as it’s comprehensible. Spanish books, songs, cartoons, movies, stories, social media, podcasts, and videos in Spanish can help provide the language you need.
Don’t Get Stuck on Grammar
There’s a place for grammar, but I don’t recommend focusing on it as beginning or intermediate Spanish learners. Instead, focus on communication through everyday language.
Grammar can teach us about Spanish, but we want to immerse ourselves in comprehensible, whole language. You’ll be amazed at the useful messages your kids can produce, when they are given lots of useful input!
Since many of us experienced grammar-based lessons ourselves, it may be hard for you to picture what this is like.
Let’s say you have learned some common objects and are learning the colors. In Spanish, the verb ser (to be) is irregular, and adjectives have to agree in gender and number. You might come across these rules in your own study, but that doesn’t mean you need to do a big explanation, followed by a bunch of drills.
Instead, listen to and provide whole, correct language. Show a picture of two red chairs and a picture of two blue chairs, and say, “dos sillas rojas,” while your child points to the correct picture. Listen to songs about the colors and read a simple story, and your kids will naturally learn how to describe things in Spanish.
Provide Variety in Each Lesson
If you are new to teaching, you might be unsure of how to set up your Spanish learning time. For a 30-minute lesson, something like this outline could work:
- Review. Review songs, commands or words with gestures (stand up, sit down, listen), finding colors in the room, counting, etc. (5-10 minutes)
- New words. Introduce new words for the week or lesson. You might keep a little notebook together and write them down, show a picture, or repeat the words out loud. If you can, listen to or read the new phrases in context. If you don’t speak Spanish confidently, try to listen to a song, video, or read a mini-book together. (10 minutes)
- Play a game. Here are some favorites for practicing vocabulary and when working with younger kids. (10 minutes)
- Close with review. This could be something to color, or a simple routine like a good-bye song and saying thank you. (5 minutes)
That’s just a suggestion, of course! The main point is to always incorporate review, movement, songs, and games or hands-on activities to make the most of your time, as your kids learn Spanish (and you do too!)
Teaching Kids Spanish
Hopefully these ideas will help you set up a solid learning plan to help teach your kids Spanish, and get going on the basics. Look for more specific lessons coming soon!
This Teach Kids Spanish post is part of our Learn Spanish for Kids series hosted by Spanish Mama. You can find the rest of the series at Learn Spanish for Kids.