How do I start teaching my kids English at home?
Many parents would like to teach their children English at home, but don’t know how to start. It doesn’t matter if your own English is not perfect. The most important thing is that you are enthusiastic and that you give your children lots of encouragement and praise. Your child will pick up on your enthusiasm for the language. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t start speaking English immediately. They will need a certain amount of time to absorb the language. Be patient, and they will begin to speak English in their own time.
Establishing a routine
Establish a routine for your English time at home. It is better to have short, frequent sessions than long, infrequent ones. Fifteen minutes is enough for very young children. You can gradually make sessions longer as your child gets older and their concentration span increases. Keep the activities short and varied in order to hold your child’s attention.
Try to do certain activities at the same time every day. Children feel more comfortable and confident when they know what to expect. For example, you could play an English game every day after school, or read an English story with your children before bedtime. If you have space at home, you can create an English corner where you keep anything connected to English, for example books, games, DVDs or things that your children have made. Repetition is essential – children often need to hear words and phrases many times before they feel ready to produce them themselves.
Children learn naturally when they are having fun. Flashcards are a great way to teach and revise vocabulary and there are many different games which you can play with flashcards, such as Memory, Kim’s game, Snap or Happy Families.
You can find free downloadable flashcards on a wide range of topics on our website.
There are many other types of games you can play with your children to help them practise English:
Action games – for example: Simon says, Charades, What’s the time Mr Wolf
Board games – Snakes and ladders, other traditional games
Word games – e.g. I spy, Hangman
Online games – you could finish your English time with an online game from LearnEnglish Kids.
Songs are a really effective way to learn new words and improve pronunciation. Songs with actions are particularly good for very young children as they are able to join in even if they are not yet able to sing the song. The actions often demonstrate the meaning of the words in the song. There are many fun, animated songs on LearnEnglish Kids which you can listen to with your children.
Which words and phrases should I teach first?
Consider your child’s interests and personality when deciding which topics to teach, and let your child help you to choose. You may like to start with some of these topics:
- numbers (1–10; 10–20; 20–100)
- adjectives (e.g. big, small, tall, happy, sad, tired)
- the body
- animals (e.g. pets, farm animals, wild animals)
You can find lots of fun activities on a huge range of topics on LearnEnglish Kids.
It is also important for your child to get used to ‘English time’ language, so use the same phrases with your child each time, e.g. ‘It’s English time! Let’s sit down. Which song shall we start with today?’ Children will soon pick up phrases such as please; thank you; Can I have …?; Where is …?; Point to …; What colour is it?; It’s …; I like …; I don’t like …
Whatever your approach, the most important thing is to relax, have fun and make learning English an enjoyable experience for both you and your child.