Language-Reinforcing Activities to Do With Your Bilingual Child
You may be sure that bilingualism is a journey you want to embark on for your child’s benefit and future, but perhaps you aren’t so sure how to squeeze language-learning time into your busy day. While helping your child learn a second language may very well be a priority for you, you may feel discouraged by the idea that it’s a time-consuming effort that requires hours of dedication. But, here’s the good news- this doesn’t have to be the case! While fostering bilingualism does indeed require effort and patience, it can naturally form a part of your routine and day-to-day activities. In fact, incorporating language practice into your child’s routines is highly suggested as repetition and exposure are key components of language learning and retention.
Here is a list of simple, time-conscious activities you can do with your little ones that are fun, easy and will help them excel in their bilingual journey:
Cooking together is a fun bonding experience for kids and their families. Along with other benefits that come from involving children in the kitchen like getting them to try new foods or practicing skills like measuring, language learning is another beneficial outcome of communicating with your little ones as you cook a recipe together. A fun and effective way to introduce vocabulary while cooking is by introducing the ingredients in the target language as you prepare the dish. For example, as you crack the egg, you may tell your little one, “Tenemos que agregar un huevo”, “We need to add one egg”. Ideally, the more you cook together and repeat new vocabulary, the more your little one will associate it with the activity and learn its meaning. Another helpful practice is to narrate your actions in the kitchen as you cook. When it’s time to put the cake in the oven, for instance, you would say, “Vamos a meter la torta en el horno”, “We are going to place the cake in the oven”. If you are not fluent in the target language, pointing out simple words that you can learn before the activity, like “torta” for “cake” or “horno” for “oven” is still a great way to teach your child the meaning of new words. This is also a great time to repeat and practice words that your little one may have already been exposed to in his or her bilingual children's books.
As an added bonus, cooking can also help teach little ones about different cultures as you cook recipes from around the world. While you and your little ones are learning about new cultures, you can also use this opportunity to introduce new vocabulary words that are relevant to the culture conversation!
Play Music and Sing Songs
Singing songs and playing music is such a simple and affordable way to incorporate language learning into your routine without taking up too much of your time! Music is a powerful way to learn a second language because not only do children love and gravitate towards songs they enjoy , but they also reinforce rhyme and repetition and allow kids to practice pronunciation. Rhyme and repetition help children learn and practice new vocabulary, sounds and language structure. As they rhyme the words in a song, they learn to differentiate between similar sounds and letters and to develop phonemic awareness. Hearing these songs that they enjoy over and over again also helps them retain the words they are learning! It’s so easy to include music in day-to-day activities like reading musical books, like Binibi's interactive musical books for toddlers and babies that feature Spanish songs for kids, driving, cooking together, play time or even during bath time. Try acting out the words to a song (like “The Wheels On The Bus” from our Los Pollitos Dicen book) to further reinforce the definition of new words.
The good news is, countless kid-friendly playlists are readily available in virtually any language online! For example, you can find plenty of Spanish kids songs on YouTube sung by Hispanic artists! You can even select your child’s favorite songs and download versions in the target language to peak their interest a little more. Take advantage of this often-free tool that goes a long way in language learning!
Schedule a bilingual playdate or class
If you’re looking for additional ways to expose your little one to the target, minority language, then scheduling a bilingual playdate or extracurricular class is a great option to consider. Language learning is best facilitated through meaningful interactions that children are interested in, so finding time for playdates where only the target language will be spoken for your child to be exposed is an easy way to squeeze language learning time into your day! Your child will naturally be interested in interacting with other children, so hearing them speak in the minority language will expose them and hopefully, encourage them to do the same. You can also consider enrolling your little one in after school activities that are conducted in the target language so that they are exposed while doing an activity they enjoy.
The key is essentially to provide your child with opportunities for exposure, so any interaction that will achieve this is effective! Other possibilities include hiring a babysitter or nanny who is bilingual or primarily speaks that minority language in an effort to help your child get accustomed to talking and listening in another language. While finding these individuals requires a bit of extra effort, it’s an easy way for your child to effortlessly pick up a second language and get additional exposure!
Offer Limited Screen Time in Minority Language
If screen time is a battle in your home, you aren’t alone! It can be challenging to balance and manage screen time with children who are eager to play with the phone, iPad or watch TV every moment of the day. The reality is, screen time is inevitable! But, when monitored and offered in limited amounts of time, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing, especially when it comes to language practice! In fact, screen time can serve a productive purpose if you choose to show your child content in the target language. When paired with other forms of interactive content, screen time is a great way to get your child more exposure to their minority language while they are engaged. You can feel less guilty knowing your child is gaining exposure that may help them learn new vocabulary!
Read Aloud As Often As Possible
Reading is one of the best ways you can consistently expose your child to a second language using the images and sounds in a book to make the meaning of new words clearer and start a dialogue that engages your child and allows them to grasp new vocabulary. If you’re having a hard time finding free time to read in the day, bedtime is a great moment to read with your child and create a special bonding moment while also practicing the target language. Here at Binibi, our passion is providing parents with fun ways to interact with their little ones while making it easier to practice their second language. Through our fun and engaging sound books, parents can embark their children on a language learning journey that is pleasant and exciting rather than tedious. In addition to our unique bilingual books for kids, we also provide complementary resources for families seeking to foster bilingualism at home with our online educational guides, blogs and social media channels where we share a bunch of helpful tips!
There is no right or wrong way to go about providing language-enhancing activities for your child! The important thing is to find opportunities for exposure whenever you can. Whatever your personal routine looks like, try to include regular activities that work for you where your child will be exposed while also having fun!