So you want to teach your toddler Spanish?
Well you are in luck! The toddlers years are a great and exciting time in a child’s life for so many reasons. It is particularly fun because during this period a language explosion happens for most kids. This is exciting for bilingual parents because we are so deeply aware of our children’s vocabulary in their respective languages.
Given how special this time can be, you want to help our little ones to maximize their vocabulary development for this stage so you can teach your toddler Spanish.
Let’s take a look at what you may expect from your bilingual kids during this time:
For the one to two year olds, you may hear them:
- Say more words every single month – how exciting!
- Progress from one to two combinations
- Say one to two word questions
- Use different consonant sounds at the beginning of words
For the two to three year olds, you may hear them:
- Use 2 to 3 word sentences
- Have speech that is understood by those closes to the child
- Ask why a whole lot!
- Potentially stutter
Now that we know what we can expect, let’s talk about how to help our little ones make the most out of this time.
Strategies to teach your toddler Spanish
Narrate your day
Simply narrating what you are doing as you do it to your little one can go a long way. It seems so silly but kids learn a lot from narration. Tell your child what you are doing when you are making a snack, doing the laundry, brushing your own hair, etc. To spice it up, you can fluctuate the tone of your voice to make it more interesting. Repeat certain target words and see if your child imitates them.
Place particular attention to the tasks that you do every day because the repetition will help your toddler. In addition to using your own daily tasks, it can be fun to play them out so your toddler can also pretend to be a big person just like you. Doll houses like Fischer Price Little People Surprises allow you to replicate even simple things like going “UP” the stairs and “DOWN” the stairs. A baby doll, is also fun! Brush their hair and put on the clothes to find relatable vocabulary for your little one.
Copy, copy, copy
Toddlers do their best learning while playing. They love imitating their loved ones so let’s create situations where they can do just that. Simple toys are the way to go here think of something along the lines to this Drop and Roll! I grab the ball and say things like “Ready, set, go!” and find my kids shortly after introducing the activity copying my “go!” (I say it in Spanish of course but you get the idea).
You can start off simple by just working on the target word “ball” or “pelota” and once they have it mastered move on to the next word. Copying can work wonders to teach your toddler Spanish, try it out!
Before kids are ready to produce words, they will produce sounds. Making repeatable sounds can be more fun with toys. My kids have both loved water and so we have a lot of fun “splashing” around. I say “splash” and they repeat after me. It can make them create the connection between the action of splashing and the sound itself. This Splish Splash Sink is fun for that reason. You can always use your tub but kids also seem to be attracted to toy kitchens and so this sink helps to make the fun of splashing around more portable. My son also LOVES blocks. I make a sound as I stack them up which he imitates and then a big sound as he knocks it down which he also imitates. He can do this for what seems like forever.
Expand the vocabulary
Once your toddler learns a word, they will probably be saying it often. Now it’s time to help them expand their vocabulary a little more. Let’s say they can say “ball” we can help them expand by saying “big ball.” I have found that the key here is just to tap into words that they already know well. Follow their interest and just expand.
One of the best ways to teach your toddler Spanish is through reading. For this stage, keep the stories short and if possible repetitive. Their attention span is short so keep that in mind. “Where’s spot” by Eric Hill is available in several languages and kids love it. Another family favorite is “Peek-a Who.” They are quick, they are fun, they are interactive and just perfect for little toddlers.
Point at pictures
Toddlers really enjoy pointing at the things they know. My son will actually jump up and down as he points at a picture of a pig and says “Oink Oink.” Pictures are perfect for this group again because of that short attention span. They are quick, they are easy and they are colorful. I love Touch and Feel Flashcards. That touch aspect makes it very enticing for toddlers and helps them build connections. Another family favorite is the book “B is for Bear.” There arE now words, just pictures and we use it every.single.night! In fact, it’s been used so much that unfortunately it’s falling apart! A sure sign that it’s been a great learning tool in my home.
Which skill do you think you can work on next with your toddler? Interested in strategies for introducing Spanish to a baby, here are some of my favorite ways of doing so!