Has teaching your child a second language been a challenge because according to them it’s “TOO BORING”?
Are you trying to find AWESOME ideas to spice up the learning?
You have come to the right spot! Continue reading to find that perfect game that sparks that excitement to learn a second language.
I have a toddler and fully understand the frustration of short attention spans. This makes teaching a language a little bit of a challenge if you approach it by the normal techniques we are familiar with in our required high school language class. I will take a bet that you don’t remember much from that class am I right? There were a few words that have stuck with me and it is because they were used in a game or special activity.
This is not a post to bash on any high school language teachers, I am sure there are many wonderful ones. In my experience, learning is more exciting and accepted by children (and adults) when it is engaging and interactive (not ALWAYS workbook activities). Let’s get going and have some learning adventures!
1. Take a Spanish Safari
This can be adapted to any language and for younger age groups. Gather your child’s stuffed animals and “hide” them in your backyard (or inside if bad weather). If you are feeling extra crafty you can create a fun safari car out of a cardboard box and let your child decorate it. Either with or without a special car, announce to your child that you will be going on a safari. You will then head out to the “safari” and name animals in the desired language and practice the sounds for younger children. I love this activity because it can be really easy to set up and with a little imagination, can be a blast for your child.
2. Mine Field
Mine field would be a fun activity after learning the words for: left, right, forward, stop, etc. I think ages 5-12 would for sure enjoy this. The goal of the game is for one person to direct the blindfolded person to “safety”. Use two line markers to show where the “mine field” starts and ends. Within the playing field you will set up different obstacles that the blindfolded person must avoid (i.e. a soccer ball, a pair of shoes, or anything else you have at home).
The group is then divided into teams of two and explained that the quickest team through the field will be the winners. Each team will have a player (blindfolded) and a leader (gives the direction commands). The player is lined up at the start line and the timer starts as soon as the leader begins giving directions. If the player hits any obstacles, they must start again (but timer is not restarted).
3. El Restaurante/The Restaurant
The idea behind this is to order your meal in the desired language that is being learned. For younger children you can simplify and just require that they say “I want…a taco”. To make it more challenging for older children and adults you can ask them to specify that they would like a glass of water not just water. If they just ask for water you can bring it ready to pour on their laps or the same thing with the food items. Don’t over complicate things, have fun with it.
4. Memory with a Twist
Dust off that set of memory cards that you have and get ready for a bilingual challenge with this game. You will play the game as directed with the exception of how a match is won. The player who gets a match must correctly name what the image is before they can gather it as a win. If they don’t get it correctly or can’t answer then the set is placed face down again and the next person takes their turn.
5. Shopping Scavenger Hunt
This game works great to practice words of items that aren’t in your home. Make a list of 5-10 items that could be found in the store. You can have some fun with it and use odd things like “a lady with pink curly hair” or “a runaway bird”. The child then has to say “I found the…” in the desired language before they can check it off their list. Who knows, it may kill two birds with one stone and make the shopping trip more enjoyable for all.
*You can also substitute objects with colors or numbers.
6. Improv Palace
A great activity for ages 5-18. One leader is selected and calls out an action word (in the desired language). The group or an individual must act out the meaning of the word. It may also be fun to split into teams and keep score. Here are a list of words that could be used: Sneeze, wiggle, spin, cry, laugh, smile, pull, push, wave, frown, taste, itch, blink, sleep, crawl, sing, chew, kiss, jump.
7. Keen Animals
Similar to “Simon Says” but in this game Simon only uses animals and their matching qualities. Here are some examples:
- Simon says hop like a rabbit
- Simon says fly like a bird
- Simon says moo like a cow
- *Simon says meow like a duck
If a child does the one like the last one, they would be out.
Do you need a little motivation yourself? Here is a FREE printable to jumpstart your language learning.
8. Poor Little Puppy
Players are seated in a circle. One player is chosen to be the “puppy”. The puppy crawls to other players randomly and acts like a puppy. That player has to pet the “puppy’s” head four times and say “poor little puppy” (in the desired language). If the randomly selected player laughs, then he/she becomes the new “puppy” and the first “puppy” joins the other players in the circle. The object of the game is trying not to laugh when the “puppy” comes up to you.
9. Circle of Words
This can be a group or individual activity. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and player choses a word to begin with. Write that word at the top of the circle. Then the player must use the last letter of the first word and write a new word that begins with that letter. For example, if you start with “go” the next word could be “out”. Repeat this pattern around the circle. The last word must follow the same pattern but also end with the same letter that the first word begins with.
Here is an example:
10. What or Where is…?
My toddler loves this game because he can’t quite speak complete sentences. I ask him where things are like: his shoes, his nose, his mouth, daddy, etc. and he will point it out or go look for it. You can modify it for older children by asking what something is instead.
11. Part of a _______ ?
Say a word or show a picture of an object and have children say what the object can be a part of. Some examples include:
- A wheel is part of a ____ ?
- A buckle is part of a _____ ?
- A page is part of a ____ ?
- A button is part of a ____ ?
12. Twenty Questions
One person will think of a noun and the other person will ask yes or no questions to determine what they are thinking of. The person asking the questions gets twenty questions before they have to guess what the noun is or lose. A great way to practice question structure!
13. Blindfolded Artist
As per the title, the artist is blindfolded after they receive their drawing tools (pen/pencil & paper). They are then given instructions to draw different shapes or lines and create a masterpiece. For example the person giving the instructions could say “Draw a small circle. Directly under that circle draw a slightly larger circle. Underneath the slightly larger circle draw a larger circle….” In this example you can see the person giving instructions is trying to get them to draw a snowman. They could continue and add the buttons, the face, a hat, etc. The result is usually quite humorous.
14. Tongue Twisters
I am not sure if every language has some fun tongue twisters to try but it is a great way to practice pronunciation. Here are a few English and Spanish tongue twisters:
- She sells seashells by the seashore
- Stupid superstition (x3)
- Tres triste tigres
- Pablito clavo un clavito en la calva de un calvito. En la calva de un calvito Pablito clavo un clavito.
15. Nature Walk
Another favorite of mine because it doesn’t require anything (except possibly a stroller or bike, etc) and it is exercise! Take a walk through your neighborhood or another fun path. Along the way you can pick up, show and tell your child what it is whether it is a leaf or a pinecone or even point to the object. It does everyone good to get out and get some fresh air.
What fun activities have worked for you and/or your children? Comment below!
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