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Teaching Kids Foreign Languages with Games
Teaching Kids Foreign Language
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.
Is your household bilingual?
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!
Alphabet Activities or Number Activities
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 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
More Vocabulary Words for Colors, Shapes and Sizes in English
Language Games for Colors, Shapes, Size, and Objects
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
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)
Body Parts in Spanish
el ojo / los ojos
la oreja / las orejas
el hombro / los hombros
el brazo / los brazos
la mano / las manos
Foot / Feet
el pie / los pies
la pierna / las piernas
el codo / los codos
la rodilla / las rodillas
Games to Practice Vocabulary
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:
- Word Search
- Crossword Puzzles
Blank Worksheets for Games
- Word Search Generator :: Make your own printable word searches @ A to Z Teacher Stuff
Make your own word search puzzle. Link on page to make other puzzles as well.
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.
Shabooinary Vocabulary Game
- Fun Game to Learn and Practice High Level or ESL Vocabulary Words in the Classroom: Shabooinary
Need a fun vocabulary game to play with your classes? Try Shabooinary! It's a great game to learn and practice vocabulary words of all levels along with ESL vocabulary. Will you Shaboo?
Make Your Own Flashcards for Learning Language!
Make your own flashcards!
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!