Activities

Great Activities for Children Learning Spanish

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Raising Bilingual Children: Not for the Faint of Heart

I have committed to raising my children bilingually. I knew I would do so before my children were ever born, because I myself was raised bilingually. I didn’t think much of it and honestly, I figured it would be simple.

In the same way I assumed my children would learn sports, music and dance. In my mind, it would be super easy! Just like I assumed they would never complain about vegetables, bathed regularly, and helped me keep an impeccable house!

You see, before having kids, I knew exactly how I was going to be in order to be the perfect mom! ESPECIALLY when it came to speaking two languages. I mean, not only am I fully bilingual, but I am a Spanish teacher for goodness' sake!

Little did I know that my parents WORKED to make sure I spoke two languages. They took the time, made the effort, and made sure I had all of the opportunities and experiences that would drive me to be bilingual.

If you are on a journey to raise your children bilingually, then you know how much work it actually entails. And if you’re just beginning, I am by no means trying to dissuade you or trying to bring you down! The work and effort is totally worth it and fortunately, there are high-quality programs, books, games and ideas that will help you on this journey.

 

A Little About Me

If you have read my previous blogs, then you know about my story. But for those of you who don’t, I’ll give you the condensed version. I am Venezuelan-American and have spoken Spanish and English my whole life. I live in the U.S. and have three daughters (all under the age of 5) who I am raising to speak English and Spanish. I am a former High School Spanish teacher and currently teach Voluntary Pre-K in a bilingual classroom. I am also the Head of Development for Learn Safari and am currently working on two projects: Spanish Safari and English Safari, which aim to teach the aforementioned languages to children 4 to 9 years old.

As you may imagine, I began working on these two projects because I wanted to help my kids learn and practice their language skills. It’s been a great journey and my kids LOVE the games. However, since much of my creativity is spent on writing lessons for Learn Safari, I am often scrounging for good ideas to put into practice in my classroom or with my own kiddos.

That’s why I spend so much time in the community forums and language blogs that (thankfully) abound. Recently, however, Minerva Ortega of Reto Bilingue sent me a copy of a book she co-authored and it seriously gave me life! So, I wanted to share a little about it in a mini-review below.*

 

Spanish at Home

Written by Minerva Ortega, Erica Mirochnik and Elizabeth Garcia, Spanish at Home is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers who are working on teaching children Spanish. Although it is geared towards non-native adults who have at least a mid-level proficiency, it actually is a great resource for native speakers and professional teachers as well.

The book is jam-packed with ideas and activities that anyone can use to reinforce language with children. With each activity, you will also find a set of vocabulary and phrases that can be used in order to reinforce language.

The book has suggestions for music, books, apps, bogs, websites, holidays, and recipes. They have compiled some of the best resources for anyone to use in order to further enhance language acquisition and practice in Spanish.

The book is written in friendly and easy language so that it’s interesting, inspiring and a super quick read. But more than that, you can tell it was done by women who love language and who were inspired to do this work by their own children, students and their own language-learning journeys.

It’s a resource you won’t want to miss. I recommend that you put it on your shelf because I know you’ll keep going back to it over and over again. If you’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed (or maybe underwhelmed by the activities you have come up with), or just want to infuse new energy into your language learning journey, then this is a great book to check out.  It’s available in hard copy and Kindle version.

What is your favorite go to resource for language-learning? We would love to hear about your experiences so leave us a comment below! 

Feeling Resistance When Trying To Raise Your Child To Be Bilingual? Here Are 5 Tips To Get Skeptics On Board!

Photo credit: Jack Moreh
Photo credit: Jack Moreh

I always assumed I would raise my children to speak Spanish and English. I didn’t think about it much, because it is the way I was raised. With that assumption, however, came the ignorance of the many complications and difficulties I would face. Like I always say, raising children to speak multiple languages takes work! It also takes planning and support.

I come across stories of many parents who don’t have support when it comes to raising their children in more than one language. This is especially true when only one parent speaks the target language which they want their children to learn. Sometimes the spouse is not on board, or the grandparents aren´t supportive. At times it can feel like you are playing defense against family members who just don´t agree with how you´re raising your children! I’m not going to lie, I have amazing support and my husband WANTS my daughters to speak more than one language. He’s not only appreciative, but he’s enthusiastic about it! However, being that I am the only fluent Spanish speaker, and that my husband and inlaws don't speak Spanish fluently (if at all), I do have some insight on the hurdles that a Family can face when teaching their children a second language. Therefore, I'm going to share with you 5 tips for including non-target language speakers in your language-learning journey.

1. Share Articles, Studies & Blogs On The Benefits Of Multilingualism 

Sometimes, people don´t understand how beneficial learning a second (or even third and fourth) language is. The old-fashioned notion that children will become confused and not learn any language well is still believed by some. Even those who support bilingualism are often worried that their children´s speech will be delayed by learning more than one language. As advocates for bilingualism, it falls upon us to educate them! There are many articles and research reports that highlight the many cognitive, social, and professional benefits of bilingualism. Let your family in on this knowledge and they will become your allies in the language-learning journey you have chosen.

2. Teach Them Bits & Pieces Of The Language 

Include others in the process. Teach them some of the language or better yet, have your child(ren) teach them! Some family members may want to study the language intensely, while others will be satisfied with learning just a couple of words.

My husband, who as I said before is very enthusiastic about Spanish, knows and understands a lot (more than he lets on actually). But he often asks me how to say certain things so he can teach our girls something new. For a period of time we even had vocabulary words posted all over the house so that he could practice! It was really cute and a great topic of conversation when people would come to visit.

3. Include Them In Cultural Celebrations 

Another great way to have people become interested in a language is by teaching them about the culture. Any teacher knows that the key to getting students involved in class is teaching

them about the people, places, foods, music and customs of the places that use the target language. If you want your children to become not only bilingual, but also bicultural, it´s important to participate in these types of celebrations. Whether you are making a cultural meal, hosting a celebration, or attending one, including family members is a key way to making them more understanding and supportive of your goals and of who you are as a family.

4. Don’t Leave Them Out Of The Conversation 

This is often a point of contention. Some people think it´s rude to speak another language in front of people who do not understand and others are not willing to compromise on their language goals in order to accommodate others. Now, it is very important that your child(ren) often hear and participate in the target language, or they will never fully learn! However, it´s just as important to remember that the goal of language is to have people connect. It´s not fair to family members and friends to feel like they cannot connect with your child.

That being said, there are ways to make sure people feel like they are a part of the conversation when you are around. You can speak to children in the target language and then translate for others around or even have your child translate for them. Remember to be aware of your setting. It is one thing to have a one on one conversation with your child in the target language, even if others are around, and it´s a completely different thing to dominate the dinner table with a conversation that others do not understand. Be aware of people´s feelings and as long as you have plenty of time together in your target language, translating for others and encouraging your child to communicate with others will not hurt one bit! In fact, it will help others feel like they are a part of your journey.

5. Be Sure To Emphasize That Their Language Is Important & Valuable Too 

Often, one of the biggest determinants of whether family members will support your language choices is whether they feel like they are being left out or not. Parents and grandparents want to be important to children and if they feel like their contributions are being undervalued they will resist you. A father who feels like he can´t communicate with a child or a grandmother who feels like she is unappreciated and unwanted, will often lash out against the idea of a child being bilingual. It´s important to emphasize that their language, culture and traditions are just as important. Encourage communication and have them spend time together. Balance your child´s experiences and they will become well-rounded and be able to navigate in both of your worlds. I hope this piece was of encouragement to you. It´s important to have allies when you are raising your children to be bilingual. It´s hard work enough without having to constantly argue and defend your choices. Including family members, even if they do not speak the target language, will offer you much needed support and encouragement.

We want to hear from you! Have you come across resistance to your language goals for your children? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below.

keli-blog
keli-blog

About the AuthorKeli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Bilingual Dough Creatures Game - Teach the Parts of the Face in Spanish to Kids with this Fun Language Activity (Free Printable Included)

Teaching the Parts of The Facein Spanish with a fun language activity (Free printable)
Teaching the Parts of The Facein Spanish with a fun language activity (Free printable)

We are so excited to present this activity by Kids Activities Designer Rodrigo Macias * It is a wonderful and fun way to practice the parts of the face in Spanish with your kids and/or students. We promise, they will not get bored with this one! Enjoy! 

cover-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Teach-Face-Parts-in-Spanish-and-english-to-Kids-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias
cover-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Teach-Face-Parts-in-Spanish-and-english-to-Kids-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias

Activity: Practice the vocabulary for the parts of the face in Spanish by rolling the “face parts dice” and then choosing from a mix of different kinds of dough eyes, noses, mouths and ears to form different kinds of funny creature’s faces.

What do you need?

  1. The Bilingual Creatures’ Face Parts printable
  2. Scissors
  3. Any kind of glue or tape

Set it up:

  1. Print and cut out the face parts and dice provided in the free printable.
  2. After bending in the gray lines on the dice, use tape or any kind of glue to stick the flaps andform a steady cube shape.
  3. Layout the base face template and place the face parts around it.

(Video) Stop-motion with face examples

How to play:

  1. Roll the English dice and select a matching face part from the pool.
  2. Do the same, but now using the Spanish dice.
  3. Keep alternating the dice until the creature’s face has all 6 parts (left/right eye, left/right ear,mouth and nose).

- To keep the game fresh during many different rounds, rotate the base face template between rounds to make different kinds of creatures (see example video above).

- Each face part can also be rotated to form different looks. This encourages the kid’s creativity as well as giving more dynamism to the activity.

Game twist:

Forget the base face template and let the kids add the face parts to any random objects (you might need tape to do this). Below is an example using a roll of toilet paper 😛 .

toilet-paper-face-for-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias
toilet-paper-face-for-Bilingual-Dough-Creatures-Language-Game-and-printable-learn-safari-rodrigo-macias

PRINTABLE’S DOWNLOAD PAGE

About the guest author:

author-photo-rmacias-rodrigo-macias-kids-activities-designer
author-photo-rmacias-rodrigo-macias-kids-activities-designer

Rodrigo Macias is the creative behind The Box of Ideas (his website) where he merges his experience working in Childcare, Design and Languages to produce free high quality printables and playful-educational activities for kids.

Rodrigo’s social outlets: PinterestTpT InstagramGoogle Plus

All About Bugs! Awesome Activities For Young Language Learners (Printables Included!)

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Version 2

Experience is the best teacher. The more children hear, see and do; the more they will learn. One of the best ways to teach language is to create engaging and fun experiences in which children can use all of their five senses.

When preparing activities for my young students, I love working with themes! They are a great guide for the activities and books you choose. It's also very fun when you can change the learning environment to go along with the theme.

Since Learn Safari's first project is focused on learning Spanish, all the activities are prepared in English and Spanish. However, these activities can be easily prepared to work with your target language.

Theme: Bugs

Let's face it. Kids love bugs! They are interesting, readily available for observation (just step outside), and they provide so many opportunities for learning.

Books

There are a lot of wonderful books about bugs! Two of our favorites are The hungry Caterpillar (La OrugamuyHambrienta) and the Grouchy Ladybug (La MariquitaGruñona), both by Eric Carle.

I have these books in both English and Spanish. For language learners, it is important to read the same book several times. Children love repetition and they love knowing what is going to happen next in the story. Feel free to read the book of your choosing every day for a few days.

You can actually find these books read out loud on Youtube. Although nothing beats having children hold and page through the physical book, it is very fun if they can also see it on video! It also  provides a change of pace for them (and a break for your tired voice). This is very convenient for parents trying to use OPOL (one parent, one language) or those who are introducing children to a language that they do not yet master.

Reading non-fiction books is also very important for learning. Many children have no exposure to non-fiction books prior to kindergarten and I have consulted with Teachers who say this is a problem. I always try to include them into my lessons and I find that children really start getting into them. La Vida de Una Mariposa, by Dona Rice is a great non-fiction reader on the life cycle of a butterfly.

Memory Game

Memory is a great vocabulary building game! You can make two copies of this printable in order to play the game. The vocabulary includes Oruga(caterpillar), Mariposa (butterflies), colors, and sizes.

Comparing Caterpillars

Use the caterpillar printable to compare and contrast the caterpillars. The vocabulary used includes larga(long), corta (short) grande (big), pequeña (small), gorda (fat), and flaca (skinny). Remember, the word for caterpillar, orguga, is femenine, which is why all of the adjectives end in 'a', but if you were to talk about masculine nouns, you would change the words to an 'o'. E.g. Un pájarogordo (a fat bird).

After you have talked about the caterpillars, find other things in your environment that you can describe using the same adjectives and compare and contrast them to the caterpillars.

Color Butterflies

Use the butterfly printable we talked about above to practice colors in Spanish. The colors are written right on the cards. Ask children to find other items in the same color or ask them to draw their own butterflies using the colors you call out.

VeoVeo

Basically, this is a game of I spy. You are supposed to say "Veo veo un...(fill in blank with a color, or noun."  The The Pleasantest Thing is a website that actually has a great The Very Hungry Caterpillar I Spy Activity that you can use. We have a list of the vocabulary in Spanish that you can pair with it in order to turn it into a fun Spanish language activity.

Bug Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of different bugs and go outside with magnifying glasses in order to search for them. This is a great time for exploration! Nature and language are two things that kids need to discover through experience and this activity is sure to bring on a lot of opportunities for conversation.

Venn Diagrams

For those children who are a bit older and have greater grasp of language, Venn Diagrams are a great activity in which you can draw out rich language and scaffold new vocabulary. Compare and contrast two different types of bugs (For example, mariquitas(ladybugs) and hormigas (ants). You can do this activity one on one with children or you can do it with a group of children on a big dry-erase board or sheet of paper. It's great to see how they can brainstorm collectively.

Remember, learning language is about communication and the best way to get children (and people of all ages) communicating is to provide them with reasons and opportunities.

Do you have any fun bug-related (or not) activities to help with language development? Share them with us in the comments below!

Don't forget to follow @learnsafari on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for great info and ideas on Spanish language learning.