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Teaching Kids Foreign Languages with Games

Updated on February 12, 2016

Teaching Kids Foreign Language

Teach your kids to say 'hello' in other languages!
Teach your kids to say 'hello' in other languages! | Source

Language Games for Kids

At a young age, kids can absorb more language skills as they learn to verbalize how they feel, what they are doing, how things look and so on. Teaching them high level vocabulary words at a young age gives them more words to use when verbalizing their needs and wants.

Children are also more likely to pick up words from other languages as well when they are younger. Why not teach them a foreign language and broaden their vocabulary and horizons?

Learning higher vocabulary words and a foreign language at a young age may help children become creative thinkers, more so than those who are adapt with a simple vocabulary and only fluent in one language. Adding in the foreign language also gives children the opportunity to learn about other cultures and can give them the edge when they focus on a foreign language in the later school years.

Bilingual Kids

Is your household bilingual?

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How to Teach a Language

Teaching a language does not need to be complicated if you do not regularly use high level vocabulary words or are not fluent in another language. If you can help your child learn even just a few words, you are doing a great service to him/her.

It is important that repetition be used when teaching any language. If the words are not repeated often, they will not be retained. Playing a game that uses words or language just once will not teach your child any new vocabulary words.

Practice new words as often as you can with your child. Lessons do not need to be formal; in fact, the more fun it is, the better the chances are that your child will retain the new vocabulary.

Use the Senses to Teach a Language!

Did you know that the more senses you use to learn something, the better that new information is retained? Simply looking at new information or repeating new information is often never enough to help retention.

When teaching your child a new vocabulary or language, try to engage as many of their senses as you can. They can say words, listen to them, touch words ( on a flashcard or the object itself), and see them.

The games below try to incorporate most of the senses to teach vocabulary or language to kids. Try them out and see for yourself how much new information even you retain!

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A simple game like a ball toss can reinforce letters and numbers in foreign languages.Use Hop Scotch to practice numbers in foreign languages.
A simple game like a ball toss can reinforce letters and numbers in foreign languages.
A simple game like a ball toss can reinforce letters and numbers in foreign languages. | Source
Use Hop Scotch to practice numbers in foreign languages.
Use Hop Scotch to practice numbers in foreign languages. | Source

Alphabet Activities or Number Activities

Ball Toss

A simple game to teach the alphabet or numbers is to play a game of tossing a ball. Players toss a ball and take turns saying the letters or numbers before tossing it to the next person.

Hop Scotch

Hop Scotch is a classic child's game using numbers. Players toss a small rock or bean bag onto the game board and hop across the numbers without hopping on the block where the rock or bean bag has landed. Players can announce their number aloud before they hop across the board.

Hide and Seek

What kid doesn't love to play hide and seek? It's another classic childhood game where one person covers his/her eyes and counts while the other players find hiding places. When the counting is over, the person runs to find the hidden players.

Instead of counting in English, count in another language! It's great practice for each player as they take turns counting and hiding.

Numbers 1-10 in Other Languages

Spanish Numbers
German Numbers
Japanese Numbers

More Vocabulary Words for Colors, Shapes and Sizes in English


Language Games for Colors, Shapes, Size, and Objects

I Spy

I Spy is a game that can be played anywhere at anytime. I like to play this game with my son when we are out shopping or at the doctor's office when I need him to be entertained. Usually, colors are the focus of this game, although shapes and sizes can be incorporated as well.

How to Play: One player takes a look around the room and says, "I spy with my little eyes something that is [color, shape, size]. The other person needs to guess what the object is.

Example: I spy with my little eye something that is blue and rectangular.

Example in Spanish: "Veo, Veo una cosa” (translation: I see a thing). The other player(s) says, “De que color?” (what color is it?). You then say the color: verde, rojo, negro, blanco, azul, amarillo, anaranjado, etc.

Language Games to Teach Action Words and Body Parts: Simon Says and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Simón dice…

This is the Spanish version of Simon Says. Players need to pay attention to what action is mentioned or what body part will be touched and whether or not the leader says ‘Simon says’.

Play the game in English and Spanish to make it more interesting!

How to Play: A leader, 'Simon' stands in front of the other players. Simon gives directions as the other players try to follow along. If Simon says the words "Simon says...", the other players must follow the directions. If Simon does not say that, then the players must resist completing the action.

Example: Simón dice, toque la cabeza. Simón dice toque los ojos. Toque los pies. Simón dice salte en el aire. Danza en un círculo .

Translation: Simon says touch your head. Simon says touch your eyes. Touch your toes. Simon says jump in the air. Dance in a circle.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

A great game to teach body parts is head, shoulders, knees and toes. Players need to listen and watch to see what body parts are being mentioned.

How to Play: A leader stands in front of the other players and touches the named body part as he/she leads the others in the song. Players take turns in the lead.

Example: Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies. Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies. Ojos y orejas y boca y nariz. Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies.

Translation: Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes. Eyes and ears and a mouth and nose. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes.

Action Words in Spanish (as commands)


These are just a few commands in Spanish.

Body Parts in Spanish

Body Part
la cabeza
el ojo / los ojos
la oreja / las orejas
la nariz
la boca
el cuello
el hombro / los hombros
el brazo / los brazos
el estomago
la mano / las manos
los dedos
Foot / Feet
el pie / los pies
la pierna / las piernas
la espalda
el codo / los codos
la rodilla / las rodillas

Games to Practice Vocabulary

Bingo is a great game for learning and practicing new vocabulary in other languages.
Bingo is a great game for learning and practicing new vocabulary in other languages. | Source

Vocabulary Activities


Bingo is not just for the elderly playing to win prizes. Bingo is a fun game for learning too! Numbers don't need to be the focus; new vocabulary words or words in other languages can be used in the boxes. This is also a great game to practice antonyms and synonyms with kids.

How to Play: Give kids bingo cards with new vocabulary or foreign words already written in. When calling out the words, use the definition or English meaning of the word so that the kids need to find the corresponding words on their card.

Example: You would say, "I'm looking for the word that means 'pencil' in Spanish." Kids would look for 'el lapiz' on their Bingo card. OR You would say, "I'm looking for the word that is the opposite of minuscule". Kids would look for the word 'gargantuan' on their card.

Other Games to Practice New Vocabulary

Here are some other games to practice new vocabulary or foreign words:

  • Memory
  • Word Search
  • Crossword Puzzles

Vocabulary Game that Uses Movement and the Senses: Shabooinary

When I was a teacher, I had to teach higher level vocabulary words to my students. They were bored with the usual games, so I decided to come up with my own. The result was a game we named, "Shabooinary". It's a mix of charades, Taboo, Pictionary, and a few other games.

It is a fun game! Kids are required to use multiple senses when playing this game, helping them to remember what they learned, especially when they played the charades or Pictionary cards. Cards include Act It, Draw It, Ti Lleps (Spell It backwards...), Synonyms, and Antonyms.

For directions and how to play, click on the link in the box below.

Make Your Own Flashcards for Learning Language!

What to Do When You're Not Playing Language Games with Kids

Even when you're not playing games with your kids, you can be teaching new vocabulary or foreign language to your kids. It's as easy as talking or reading to them!

Don't be afraid to use 'big words' around kids. If used correctly and with context clues, kids will pick those words up and use them.

Example: Billy, can you indicate to me, or tell me, what you would like to drink? (This sentence uses a synonym or restatement clue to give the meaning of the word indicate.)

Example: Tina, don't be so aloof from the group. Come over here and join us! (This uses an antonym or contrast clue to give the meaning of the word aloof).

If you come across high level vocabulary words as you're reading with your kids, help them find the meaning by using context clues. That is great practice for when they need to use context clues in school to find the meanings of words or phrases!

Any amount of language practice you give your children will benefit them later on in their school years and beyond. Remember: have fun with language and keep on practicing!



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    • profile image

      nicole dziedzic 

      5 years ago

      Awesome way to teach the kids another language, my kids love Dora, great for learning Spanish.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from United States

      Rhonda, I haven't used that site, but thanks for the suggestion. Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Rhonda Johnson 

      7 years ago

      Thank you! Very useful. Have you used for search words, also? Its probably my favorite one out there.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      IntroduceCroatia, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

    • IntroduceCroatia profile image

      Ante Rajic 

      8 years ago from Croatia

      Neat, I'm going to bookmark this an article for further study.

      Voted up!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      angela_michelle, my son is the same way with his vocabulary, mostly because his mom was an English and Spanish teacher. ;) Your daughter would love to practice Spanish with you! The games would be perfect for both you and her as you have this new adventure together.

      Good luck, and thanks for reading!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      My daughter has a very large vocabulary, because my husband uses big words. I actually am going to start learning spanish next year, and thought it would be fun to share my knowledge with my daughter. Some of these games may come in handy.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      Uninvited Writer, thanks! French is a fun language; I know a few things, but I too wish I learned more as a kid. :)

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Excellent advice. I wish I had learned French when I was a kid.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      momaoak, absolutely start mixing in Spanish! The more words you introduce to Jacob before he speaks, the more vocabulary he has to work with when he does speak. My daughter isn't fully talking yet, but I speak to her in other languages. I often use the context clues in English and model what I am speaking about, and she seems to get it. :) Thanks for reading!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      randomcreative, thank you for your comment! I like keeping things simple; if it's too hard to follow, then learning and teaching becomes frustrating. :)

    • momaoak profile image


      8 years ago from Greenwood, AR

      Wonderful hub as always. Thank you for the tips. Jacob isn't speaking yet, so do you think I should still start mixing in Spanish, or wait till he is speaking?

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      What a great resource for both teachers and parents! I love how simple so many of these suggestions are.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      summerberrie, thank you very much! :D

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, ThePracticalMommy! What a wonderful go to place for resources. Voted up and useful!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      teaches12345, thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment. :D

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      You have listed all the perfect methods for adopting a new language using fun techniques. Your hub is very well written and will help others in teaching children.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United States

      Anna Marie, thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad you found the hub useful. :)

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting and useful information here!!! I love finding new ways to encourage my kids to grow and learn. Voted up!!


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