Language is always about expression, empathy, and communication. Here are 20 activities for toddlers to learn a new language. Though it is not always verbal there can be many ways to communicate like body language, breathing, reactions, touch, and signs. Eventually, as our little kids grow older they start speaking and they speak a lot. Helping them learn a language will shape a major chunk of their personality.
It’s an extremely long read. But I hope it gives you many important insights and easy to follow pointers to introduce new languages to your children around age 1- 3 years and help you make this a fun memorable experience for them. So please don’t bother to read it if you have less time. Go to end for free printables . Rather just check out the bingo and play along. But if you are committed to the growth and learning of your child read it with compassion and put your thoughts to each and every idea. It’s wonderful how every minute our kids grow, we grow with them too. Let’s make the most of it.
The first language of a baby
Even before kids are born. There is a connection between mother and child. This is the language of heartbeat, hiccups, kicks, and movements. There is a connection that helps mothers to understand how the baby is feeling inside her? If everything is okay?
It does seem natural that the mother understands what baby needs because of their physic connection. But when the baby is born the language is changed to the coos and cries of baby. This is the language of the baby to connect with everyone. This language is not just understood by his or her mother. But also by anyone who was taking care of the baby. A person whoever spends time with the baby and mother will empathize with them and acknowledge it.
Sign language – Toddler learning milestone
As the baby grows the actions, tantrums, movements of his or her limbs talk a lot more than them. You know it the baby is hungry when you see them rubbing belly or stomping feet. When this language is also learned through us. What and how we say becomes the sign for them to repeat. Like if you say pudding is yummy and smack your lips your child is going to do the same when asking for pudding. One more example when you say sorry you pull your ears so the kids learn it say sorry means pulling ears. I hope you are still interested in helping your kid to actually speak and make sense of the sounds and words.
Mother Tongue – Hindi
Our mother tongue is Hindi but we have been traveling a lot since my son was 9 months and he has been exposed to English a lot more than Hindi. So the first thing we keep in mind when teaching a language is the frequent use of language at home. My son spoke words of Rutoro (Ugandan language) and English merely at the age of 1 because he was constantly listening to the local staff and us interacting. He is 2.5 and still remembers a few of the Rutoro words but now we are mostly in India and Dubai so he has picked up a lot of Hindi and English words lately.
20 Activities for toddlers to learn a new language
We Are using these activities for teaching both English and Hindi. You can use it for any other language also. The idea is to make learning interesting and interactive
1. Narrate a native story
If you are in India you have tons of stories about gods, animals, families, ghosts and much more. My favourite is Panchtantra for Vaidik but he tells me his own version of it. He has got a knack for suspense I just tell. He is a captivating narrator. Use hints from mythology, religion, local stories, stories of rulers and freedom fighters. There is no dearth.
2. Sing a popular song or poem
Well for starters ask a local for popular songs and poems. When in south India we did lungi dance, in Africa it was a prayer song from church, in Bikaner, it was Nani Teri Morni. So you get it. The idea is to recite popular songs or poems because everyone knows it and will sing with
3. Learn daily phrases and sentences
This is the best way to start teaching language like you can start with greetings, salutations, welcome lines, morning prayers, parting phrases. Slowly integrate it with a few more words and help toddlers understand those words. Some easy one’s we used are – have a nice day, let’s do it, let’s do it once again, it’s okay to miss lets do it once again. Hope this helps. Write to me in comments if you want this to be covered in more details.
4. Practice everyday everything
Probably the most important thing. Practice makes a man perfect so yes do it every day at least twice morning and evening. Set up a revision folder or something for the quick parade. If we do it again and again we can start focusing on the how’s and whys a lot easier.
5. Learn new words everyday
Afterall vocabulary must be built slowly. Keep a target to teach 5 to 10 new words everyday. That gives the extra pressure on our toddlers brain to exercise. Don’t bother if it’s a tough word. You will notice all words take same amount of time to learn. So just teach new words .
6. Repeat 2 times a day
I keep mentioning it but it is key that kids revise and practise everyday at least two times one before going to bed and next immediately after waking up. These Are the best times for their brains to learn new new things, revise and make recall map strong for kids.
7. Sing a rhyme in the language
I discovered this in Uganda when my skin was always keen on listening to local poems and songs. He must have realised the local global concept. The local and vernacular rhymes have way to connect with humans with ease and it makes learning new language easier in rhythm.
8. Play silly games and hand gives
I have to make honest confession we have tonnes of games and hand jives in India but they are for a little older kids like 4 years. But I am making my 2 year old play all these in the lockdown. Funnily he jas been very enthusiastic and very bold to try those out. Some of them are really cool tongue twisters
9. Learn alphabets and sounds
For any language, writing is equally as important as speaking. So yes learning a language can be a complete process only when we have been able to read, write, and understand it. For English alphabets, sounds are building blocks while for Hindi the Varnmala is the base. These can make the process of learning concepts a lot easier so this should be part of everyday revision and learning.
10. Watch a movie or cartoon
Yeah. It’s true and it is accepted scientifically also. So when we watch videos of people or cartoon speaking a certain language it is easy for us to copy the accent and learn words easily while watching these videos. This is also one reason why we see so many movies also created on this concept like English Vinglish, Tare zameen par
11. Learn food names
The best way to win hearts is through food. So yes if you want a language to become a key and parcel of your life you might want to start learning food names like fruits, vegetables, staples etc. Even local dishes and cuisine. It is a great way to get more insights of a culture and language
12. Do action songs and poems
It’s true when little kids bodies and tongue works together it creates and image with longer and stronger impact on their brains. Like ring a ring rosie is going to stay longer in their minds when you do the action. Similarly when you do twinkle twinkle with action they learn and understand the meaning and it is going to stay longer in those little brains than any thing else.
13. Spend time with fluent speakers
This I say from my experience. When in 2010 I stayed with roommates from southern India I learnt theory language faster listening to them rather than being or practising myself. And so I tried it with my son and I see he catches the tone, slang, pronunciations, usage pretty gast when we speak confidently and eloquently in front of him. So better way to teach kids is to teach ourselves the right way.
14. Language only hours
Now this is very tricky. With little kids you have to practice it with lot of patience and routine. Set up one hour or half an hour to start with where you will only converse in a particular language. Set up Hindi hours, English minutes or Tamil action only time. Give it a fun and exciting name. Set up rules and follow them. Include it in pretend play or games time.
15. Learn together
Little kids follow elders. So it’s always great practice to have siblings to do exercise together. They may fight but they will compete and learn faster or help each other and learn better. If you have one child learn with them. You will see instant improvements like development of sportsmanship, ownership developing along with language.
16. Play an online game
It sounds stupid but when you are in the competition mode everything coming in our way goes down. The same spirit is in our kids too. They want to win it everytime. Check out games where you can increase vocabulary like Buzzle, Tozzle, Puzzingo, Junior chef etc.
17. Make and use flash cards
My favourite for kids learning is flash cards. Since I have been travelling for more than a year I have found the flashcards are a great way to revise and play simple games during these times. Plus it’s fun to make flash cards with kids. They attach to it and love it a lot more like a pet. Use flash cards for alphabets, sounds, colors, shapes, words, animals, birds, vehicles, family, body parts. Whatever you think you can make it.
18. Play find or name things
It can be a very challenging game for little kids so please help and guide them through. Set up tasks or trails to find stuff in the house, or create a Find Puzzle page yourself and ask them to point things you name or ask them to name things you point at. It is very important to point with a finger or a pointer as it should early mark the thing. Use this activity to increase vocabulary.
19. Learn funny dialogues or sentences
There is a reason we all fall for dialogues like ‘ ek baar jo maine commitment kar di tho phir main khud ki bhi nahin sunta’ , in English it means once I make commitment then I don’t listen to myself, the dialogue is so powerful that I even learnt it in Tamil and Telugu ‘. Same logic stands for kids. They want to recite things like we and their role models say. So best way is to teach some powerful dialogues, funny or quirky ones too.
Finally, it is important to celebrate the little wins, big wins, tough wins, easy wins so everyday acknowledge and celebrate those exhilarating moments. Every now and then share your kids wins with extended family and friends. Show them how happy and proud you are. Show them how to be happy no matter how big or small the win is.
It was an extremely long read. And I am super grateful for your time and patience. I hope this gave you many insights and pointers to introduce new languages to your children and help you make this a fun memorable experience. Follow my blog and subscribe to receive free printables and activities for kids.
As promised here is a link for free language activities printable