Teaching Toddlers a Second Language

Teaching toddlers a second language needs patience and commitment. Often, teaching toddlers is a whirl of excitement. That is lessons for toddlers convey a straightforward message.

The instructional part of teaching toddlers requires simple planning, lots of activities, and more hands-on exploration. Don’t expect toddlers to retain information easily as elementary students. However, don’t get discouraged! In fact, the more repetition there is in a lesson, the more they comprehend.

Here, I offer you simple, easy to carry-out techniques you might want to add to your lesson planning.

What are fun and engaging activities for teaching toddlers a second language

  • Use easy to read board books with large print
  • Try to find bilingual books in English and Spanish
  • Have rhyming books readily available
  • Add fun bilingual poetry between lessons
  • Use brain breaks in between readings to increase movement
  • Schedule outdoor reading time, if possible
  • Use nature walks to talk about simple vocabulary words
  • Add easy and engaging crafts after reading to make connections
  • Use storytelling time to develop literacy
  • Include short music videos to add movement
  • Show dramatic play as a fun way to read new books
  • Use finger puppet shows to illustrate stories
  • Involve children to tell their own stories with drawings or puppets
  • Integrate felt board for storytelling
  • Mix sensory objects with reading
  • Use audiobooks for reading dramatic plays or stories
  • Include clay, modeling clay, or finger paint for visual connections and literacy development
  • Add anchor charts of everyday word study around the room
  • Use non-allergic food items to recreate scenes from storybooks
  • Integrate bilingual mini-books where children choose to end the story

How do you continue the learning process?

One of the best times to start teaching toddlers a second language is between the ages of three and four years old. The cognitive development of toddlers at this stage is at its highest activity.

Toddlers tend to be more active and curious. At this stage of learning, it is an excellent opportunity to add literacy and foreign language. However, if you want your toddler to learn a second language, be persistent. A toddler is learning all aspects of life.

teaching toddlers

Exactly as they find out how to dress or share toys, toddlers are apt to develop language skills. Most importantly, don’t make toddlers pronounce or identify a word in another language when they don’t want. Unfortunately, the frustration escalates, and toddlers are not learning.

Perhaps, you ought to look for specific times to teach them. Are some toddlers better able to know in the morning or afternoon?

Also, you might want to consider nap time. Would it be better to learn after nap time? Perhaps, there are many ways to continue with the learning process to teach your toddler a second language.

But don’t despair. By the time toddlers become kindergarteners, they will feel more motivated to learn new things.

Other ways to explore teaching toddlers a second language at home

As toddlers start preschool or kindergarten, you might want to consider a more challenging program.

  • Many schools offer Spanish classes or even immersion programs.
  • But don’t rush to enroll them in a foreign language program.
  • The enthusiasm for teaching toddlers a second language is now a reality in a more structured curriculum. But make sure to ask the necessary questions.
  • It is ideal to find an immersion program that continues the language learning experience.
  • However, be on the lookout for programs that only focus on essential learning, more than language development.

Dual immersion programs are the best option for young children. How do dual immersion language programs help? These type of language programs prepare students in all core areas of learning, not just language. The most beneficial part is children carry on the learning to other subjects, expanding their language development. 

Besides, teaching toddlers a second language is a journey of more than learning a new language. It is time for toddlers to explore their natural sense of curiosity. What better to do so than with language development?

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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