Language learning is more than memorising words and grammar rules. Children learn best when they don’t feel like they are studying! But learning a second language is easier said than done – it’s not as easy as just picking up one’s native tongue. That’s why we’ve compiled some ideas and tips for the best ways to make language learning fun for your little ones, from your little tyke to a growing teen.
Infants & toddlers
The language of infants is complicated. Many of us struggle to listen and understand what they might be communicating. It’s also natural to get frustrated at the lack of communication when these little ones chain no more than three words at a time. At this stage, parents also get worried that their child may not grow to be good communicators. Well, if you are one of those parents, you can put your worries to rest.
At this age, it is normal for infants and toddlers to babble incoherent words. What they are doing is trying to string the verbal cues that they hear around them into words! It might take a while for actual words to form, but parents can provide the support that their child needs by introducing them to music, nursery rhymes, and storytelling.
Simply speaking to them and engaging them in conversation will introduce them to different tones, sounds, and nuances that we use in daily life. You don’t need to put a halt to your everyday conversations; expose them to commonly used vocabulary that they can adopt in the future.
Kindergarten is one of the most active stages of your child’s life. Children at this age cannot seem to sit still but instead, are perfectly content with chasing an insect around for hours. Asking them to sit for a prolonged time, reading books to develop their reading skills might be a form of torture.
Instead, parents could try to incorporate what children love with learning – and without a doubt, that’s play! Striking a balance between physical activity and language learning might be the way to go. You could even incorporate craft and drama elements into their learning. A classic example to follow would be to dance to the rhyme ‘Ring Around the Rosie’. The music and dance elements are sure to keep children engaged while they learn how to make words rhyme.
Primary school is where your child will spend his formative education years, right from the 1st grade age. This stage is where you can start incorporating reading, writing and listening comprehension to build up their foundational knowledge in the language.
So you’d want to shift from play to the actual development of sentence structure and daily conversations. Put it into practice: this can include speaking to other native speakers of the language such as food vendors and holding a conversation with their peers.
At the start of their primary school years, themed lessons and games can be fun to expand their vocabulary. Then, as they move towards upper primary levels, there could be a more intense focus on writing and sentence construction across various topics of interest.
Tweens and teens
Upon leaving the Primary School level, your child’s learning needs will change as well. They will try to seek new opportunities to expand on the knowledge and vocabulary that they already have. It’s time to give them the extra push and let them focus on the written application of their language skills.
The best way to build on their strong basis and capabilities would be creative writing. All children love stories, and most will love to tell stories of their own. So bring out their inner storyteller by encouraging them to write their prose and short stories. You could also get them to explore different genres through books and topics they seem drawn towards.
Knowing the age-appropriate ways to engage your child can make language learning more fun and effective for them. Of course, having the support of a rigorous language education programme in school will also help. Whether you are looking for robust language education or bilingual programmes, do consider attending the open houses of international schools in Singapore to get an idea of how they run the programme to assess its suitability for your child.