16 Easy Ways to Raise a Bilingual Child

Want to raise bilingual kids? There are lots of ingenious ways to sneak Spanish into their lives every day.
David Martinez; Renee Loiz

2. Get Emotional
Cut out circles from foam sheets, and use a waterproof marker to draw a face on each one that demonstrates different feelings (happy, sad, scared). Come bathtime, stick them to the tub wall, and ask your child to hand them over after you say the Spanish word for the corresponding emotion. (Ages 3+) 

3. Put on a Show
Conversational Spanish gets a workout when you play with puppets. Your child will copy words and language patterns she's heard before, honing her pronunciation skills and sentence structures. Make a theater from a cardboard box, and give your puppets Spanish names—it's showtime! (Ages 3+) 

4. Draw to the Beat
Each episode of the Dibujo Rí­tmico video series on MusicaLibre.com.co features kids drawing perfectly in sync to a Spanish song, combining meaning, movement, sound, and rhythm. Fun to watch and even more fun to try! (Ages 7+) 

5. Shout Bingo
Tackle your grocery-shopping list while your children play Dora's Supermarket Bingo. Printable cards at NickJr.com are filled with pictures of familiar foods next to their names in Spanish and English. As you find each item, kids can circle it and say the word out loud. The first person to get four in a row shouts "bingo!" (Ages 4 to 7, free; nickjr.com) 

6. Speak the Language of Laundry
Toddlers love to help around the house, and unloading the dryer (when it's not too hot) is a task they are actually good at. Use Spanish words for the articles of clothing—el calcetí­n, la camisa, el pantalón—to add new vocabulary to the chore. (Ages 18 months+) 

7. Ask for a Different Souvenir
Is your best friend visiting her home country soon? Ask her to bring back Operando or Conecta 4. It beats a T-shirt or mug any day! The packaging is easy to recognize, and your child will get a kick knowing that children in Latin America play the same juegos

8. Read Libros
Even if your child doesn't understand all the words, the language will sink in over time if you read to him every day. It's working for Maria O. Alvarez, a mom of two boys and the director of Latino Content at Common Sense Media, a resource for parents looking to check the suitability of kids' media. Here are some of her favorite books: 

  • ¿Hasta Dónde Me Amas? by Lulu Delacre: The award-winning children's-book author takes kids on a journey to all seven continents with this snuggle-time story. (Ages 5 to 7, $9?; leeandlow.com) Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match:
  • Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown: This bilingual tale stars a Peruvian-Scottish girl who wears stripes and polka dots and likes peanut-butter-and-jelly burritos. (Ages 4 to 7, $18; bn.com)¡Pí­o Peep!: Traditional
  • Spanish Nursery Rhymes:These 29 sweetly illustrated poems and rhymes celebrate childhood. (Ages 3 to 7, $16; bn.com) 

9. Bring on the Games
Give your favorite board games a new spin by playing them in Spanish. Twister, Trouble, and Sorry! are all great for color and number practice. Or try Spot It! Basic Spanish, which is a matching game that builds vocabulary and boosts word recognition. (Ages 6+, $13; amazon.com)

10. Sing a Song
Because songs are filled with rhyme and alliteration, they reinforce
the sounds of a second language. By singing along, kids realize how certain words are highlighted while others are minimized. Exercise their vocal cords with these compilations: 

  • Latin Dreamland - Take kids around Latin America with these calming tunes from Argentina, Colombia, and beyond. (Ages 1+, $15; putumayo.com) 
  • Coloreando: Traditional Songs for Children in Spanish by Marta Gómez - This includes songs you might already know ("De Colores") and some you might not ("Cucú cantaba la rana"). (Ages 3 to 7, $13; amazoncom)
  • Cha, Cha, Cha: Spanish Learning Songs by Jorge Anaya - Original songs such as "Los Dí­as de la Semana" encourages kids to raise both arms on Monday, jump on one foot on Tuesday, and so on. (Ages 3 to 5, $13; walmart.com)"‹

11. Build with Blocks
These beautiful wooden blocks feature the Spanish alphabet, including common couplets such as Ll and Ch. Go "bowling": Spell a word from top to bottom, like a tower, then knock it down with a rubber ball. (Ages 2+, Uncle Goose Spanish ABC Block Set, $43; unclegoose.com)

12. Make Virtual Friends

  • Noah: The star of the Web series Oh Noah! is a boy visiting his abuela in an area where everyone speaks Spanish. As he learns the language, your kids can too! (Ages 4 to 7; pbskids.org/noah)
  • Gallina Pintadita: Perfect for preschoolers, this show features a blue chicken with white spots who dances to catchy tunes while lyrics are highlighted onscreen. (Ages 3 to 5; Netflix)
  • Rosita: Sesame Street's bilingual Muppet comes from a big family in Mexico and enjoys playing the guitar and teaching her amiguitos simple words. (Ages 2 to 5; PBS)

13. Store Their Juguetes
Toy cleanup gets a language boost when you label containers in Spanish. Give your storage space a coat of chalkboard paint, and assign drawers for camiones (trucks), rompecabezas (puzzles), etc. (Ages 5+)

14. Spell for Your Supper
Spread a piece of butcher paper on your dining table, and label the foods you're having. If your child doesn't write yet, have her say the word while you jot it down. Older kids will like spelling out el pollo, los vegetales, la leche—and eating up too. (Ages 3 to 7) 

15. Say It Like Simón
"Simón Dice" helps toddlers and preschoolers improve their ability to follow directions. Use simple instructions such as "Camina de puntillas a la puerta" and "Tócate la nariz con el dedo." Listening for "Simón dice" adds to the anticipation. (Ages 2 to 5) 

16. Get App Happy
Popular with kids and adults, Duolingo is a free language app built like a game with different levels. Though reading is required, the prompts are both auditory and visual. (Ages 6+; itunes.com) 

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