How can you help your kids become bilingual in Spanish faster? There’s a short answer to that question: PRACTICE.
Now when we say “practice” we’re not talking about prodding them to do Spanish vocabulary drills all day. That might feel like you’re enabling them to make progress, but it’s not actually doing much to help them become truly fluent in Spanish. (you didn’t do this in English when they were 3 and 4 years old, right?)
Instead, the right kind of practice gets your kids speaking Spanish in real-life situations. The more they hear the language spoken in conversation, and the more they have to respond in Spanish, the faster they will gain fluency.
For that reason, one of the best things you can do to help them learn Spanish is to give them opportunities to use the language outside of whatever classes they’re taking. Even better? Make those opportunities fun. We’re all more motivated to learn something new when it helps us do something we enjoy.
That’s why we wanted to share some ideas for turning your kids’ next party, play date, sleepover or other get-together into a way to get more Spanish-language conversation practice — while still having an awesome time.
Explore Piñatas and Other Party Traditions
Today in the U.S., it’s not uncommon for even non-Spanish speakers to have a piñata at birthday parties, holiday celebrations or other festivities. For your young Spanish learners, though, piñatas (which are most closely associated with Mexico) aren’t just a way to score some candy and trinkets. They can also inspire language and cultural learning.
First, before everyone starts swinging, you can help your kids and their friends learn some of the rich history of piñatas. Another way to add some learning to the fun is to add some Mexican candies to the piñata or just teach your kids the Spanish names for the treats they already love, whether they prefer a barra de chocolate or chicle. Finally, it’s time to teach your kids and their guests the traditional piñata song to sing in Spanish when each person takes their swing at the piñata.
While we might know piñatas best here in the U.S., there are many other traditions from Spanish-speaking countries you could incorporate into your kids’ next celebration. Here are a few more links to explore for ideas:
Play Party Games en Español
The right games can get kids of any age so engrossed that they don’t even notice they’re improving their Spanish as they enjoy some good, competitive fun. If your kids have some friends who are also learning Spanish, they can get together to play board games they already love while building their fluency. Scrabble and Clue are just a couple of games available in Spanish-language versions.
If your kids prefer card games, check out Kloo. In this game, players get points for learning words and making sentences in Spanish. Or you can just incorporate Spanish into the card games your kids and their friends already know and love. For example, introduce a couple of phrases like “te toca,” which means “your turn,” or use the Spanish names for numbers. (Need a refresher on numbers? Our guide to counting in Spanish has you covered.)
Another idea for a “new” game that doesn’t cost a thing is sending kids on a scavenger hunt in Spanish. Write down the Spanish names of a few things in and around the house and tell your kids to find them.
Get Crafty and Learn Spanish
Are your kids and their friends always creating something when they get together? Then they might be into practicing their Spanish while crafting or cooking.
For the crafters out there, Rockalingua has some easy templates you can use with young kids who are learning Spanish. For older kids, look for Spanish-language videos on YouTube that teach how to do different crafts. Hearing the instructor speak Spanish while seeing what they are doing is a great way to reinforce learning.
If your young Spanish learners are more interested in sugar and spatulas than glue guns and glitter, you can help them have fun in the kitchen while building their Spanish fluency. Let them choose a meal or a special treat they would like to make together. While you’re cooking with them, use the Spanish words for ingredients, tools and appliances.
Crafts and cooking aren’t just a chance for kids to build their Spanish language skills. These activities can also cultivate their appreciation of other cultures. In the kitchen, they can learn how to make a dish from a Spanish-speaking country. One easy idea: our recipe for leche quebrada (brown sugar fudge). You can also find lots of ideas online for traditional crafts from Spanish-speaking countries. For example, here’s a video on making corn husk dolls that also teaches some Spanish.
Pump Up La Música
Whether they’re toddlers or teens, most kids love having some tunes playing when they get together. If you’re entertaining young kids, try leading them in a singalong of Spanish songs. (Trust us: It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune. You just have to be enthusiastic!) The rhythm and repetition — not to mention the fact that they’re having fun — will help them remember the new Spanish vocabulary words they’re using. When kids are a little older and, um, less appreciative of your vocal stylings, you can still put some Spanish-language songs on the party playlist.
However you decide to make Spanish a part of your kids’ parties or get-togethers, just remember one thing: As long as you make it fun for them, they’re going to be motivated to learn and increase their fluency. So get creative in tailoring opportunities to practice Spanish to their interests.
Want to give your kids even more practice with Spanish? Consider Spanish language tutoring to supplement any classes or programs they’re already a part of. At TruFluency Kids, we focus on conversation in Spanish immersion classes. To learn more, contact us!