5 Games to Help Your Younger Child Build Fluency

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As the world becomes more globalized and interconnected the need for multilingual people grows一and it goes without saying that it’s simply cool to be able to speak more than one language. Nowadays many parents are enrolling their children in foreign language classes or tutoring lessons to develop fluency in a second or even third language. A special shout out to those parents一by doing so they are helping to shape future citizens who are welcoming and culturally aware of other people’s language, history and traditions.

Parents who understand the value of learning a foreign language for children also want ways to help reinforce their children’s learning at home – even if they are not fully fluent themselves. Since the basic foundation of language is vocabulary, one of the best ways parents can help is by playing some foreign language vocabulary games with their kids. While the examples in this article are in Spanish, these games are applicable to any language. You will need some basic knowledge of the language to lead these games, but you don’t need to be fully fluent. Don’t hold back because you’re worried you might make a mistake or mispronounce a word. Your child’s teacher can correct it, and the benefits of practice outweigh the risk. If you are currently participating in PandaTree’s Preschool Program along with your child, these are fun ways to reinforce the learning that both of you are getting.

1. Vocabulary Bubbles

If your child’s teacher or tutor is working on colors, here’s a fun game to practice: blow a bubble and see if your child can say and point to a color before the bubble disappears. Be sure to take turns blowing bubbles and saying answers. Children are more open to participate when others do it as well. 

Young girl blowing bubbles.

2. Passing the ball

Grab a ball and stand several feet apart from your child. Choose a vocabulary category such as shapes. You may start off saying, “triángulo” [triangle] and then pass the ball to your child. Then, your child is to come up with a new shape such as “círculo [circle]” and pass the ball back to you. Add a challenge by having your child use adjectives to describe the shape: “Es un triángulo azul” [It is a blue triangle]. This game is a great way to use Spanish to reinforce a child’s content knowledge on topics such as animals, foods, sports and more. Activities like this, which involve physical activity, have been shown to increase retention of new vocabulary.

3. Vocabulary Dinner Time

If you’re a busy parent and your child tends to hang out in the kitchen while you prepare dinner, it can be a perfect moment for your child to practice food vocabulary in Spanish. Do a countdown from five to one and then have your child identify a food you are using.  For example, “cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno”  and the child says, “zanahoria [carrot]”. Next, your child counts down and it’s your turn to say a different food word in Spanish. Feel free to extend the game by asking for descriptions or how it tastes in Spanish like, “dulce [sweet] o sour [agrío].” Look ups on Google Translate are allowed. P

4. Animal Scavenger Hunt

I promise you that your child will have a blast with this Spanish game. Gather at least 5 to 10 animal toys. Hide one of them in your backyard. Then, ask your child: Can you find the rabbit? [¿Puedes encontrar el conejo?]. You can give your child clues by saying if they are getting warmer or colder [frío], or give them hints like look left [ mira hacia la izquierda], or look up [mira hacia arriba]. When your child finds the animal, ask, “what did you find?’ [¿Qué encontraste?]. Then ask them to find the next animal, or better yet, have them hide an animal for you. If the weather isn’t cooperating, you can also play inside. Once all the animals are found you can have a little tea party.

5. Drawing night

Gather at the dinner table with paper, watercolors, color pencils, crayons, markers or any other artsy stuff that you might have at home. Then, each family member will draw or paint something, like a tree, the beach, an orange, the Statue of Liberty, etc.. Next, each person guesses what each other drew, in Spanish. This is a fun and relaxing family game. For intermediate-level Spanish students, draw a scene and ask the others to explain what’s happening. The person with the first correct answer earns a point.

Beyond the learning value from the vocabulary practice that your child gets during these games, your child is also having fun – with you – and creating a positive association with foreign language learning. And given foreign language learning is a multi-year journey, memories from fun games like these will help motivate your child along the way.

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Author: Kristina Klausen

Kristina Klausen is the Founder and CEO of PandaTree.com. PandaTree offers online foreign language tutoring for children with friendly, carefully vetted tutors.