Introducing a second language to your toddler.

Our primary language is English, but my husband grew up learning Spanish from his Grandparents. We want to raise our boys bilingual as well, so I’ll be learning Spanish alongside them. When introducing a second language to a toddler, it may seem confusing at first, since they are just beginning to learn their first language, but research suggests it is the best time to do it.

As a primary trained teacher, I know the importance of play in early childhood. So we will be taking a play based approach to learning Spanish too.

The concept of another language is quite hard to comprehend when you are still learning your first, so to introduce the concept we talked about our world. I hand painted a simple world outline on cardboard, but if you have a poster or atlas you could use that. You want to look for a simple one with minimal colours/details so as to not overwhelm your toddler.

Introducing a Second Language – The How To:

How to introduce a second language. step 1: show land and sea and name significant countries.

Lesson 1: Show your child a world map. Point out the sea and the land. Tell your child the land parts are countries with different names. Point out where they were born/live and where significant others were born/live. If they are still showing interest and engaged move to lesson 2, if not end the “lesson” here till another time.

Sort animals by country

Lesson 2: Briefly remind them that the blue areas are sea and the green are countries. Tell your child that different animals come from different countries. This makes the connection to something toddlers are already familiar with – animals. If you have animal figurines or pictures of animals, choose a few to show your child where they live. E.g Kangaroo on Australia, Lion on Africa and so on. If they are still showing interest and engaged move to lesson 3, if not end the “lesson” here till another time.

Introducing a second language, Explain that different people come from different countries.

Lesson 3: Briefly remind them about the sea/land and how different animals come from different countries. Now tell them that people come from different countries. If possible, read a picture book that discusses this (the one shown above is “Look & Learn- People” by National Geographic Society). Then match a few photos of different people to the countries they come from. Explain to your child that these people eat different food, might wear different clothes and speak a different language. E.g Say “hello” in a few different languages, and point out where each is on the map. Tell your child that you are going to be learning how to speak in Spanish (or whatever language you chose) as well as English.

Now, your child should have a basic understanding of the concept that different people groups speak in different languages. My aim is to post more about our Spanish lessons in the future. If there is anything specific about a second language you would like to see or know about, let me know in the comments below :). I’d also love to know what language you are learning in your home and any tips you might have!

Till next time,

Stay joyful


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