How to Teach Spanish to Preschoolers

It’s no secret that learning a second language can have a myriad of benefits for children — but did you know it can also help them better understand their native tongue?

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to helping educators like you get the training you need to set your students up for success, both in and out of the classroom.

That’s why we’re sharing our top tips on how to teach Spanish to preschoolers, and why exposure to Spanish words for toddlers the language can be so beneficial for your students.

Why should you include Spanish in your curriculum?

Enhanced language skills aren’t the only benefit your students can gain by learning a second language. Studies have also shown that bilingual students have better problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities and abstract thinking skills.

Additionally, students who learn a foreign language early in life tend to perform better in math, reading and standardized testing later on.

Finally, toddlers who pick up a second language are more likely to develop increased empathy skills. In fact, when you expose your students to a new language, you’re also exposing them to other cultures and building a backbone for future lessons on cultural awareness and diversity.

What should the lessons look like? 

Start with the familiar

The easiest and most effective way to start Spanish lessons in your classroom is to introduce a few words or phrases for terms your students already know and understand. For example, if your students are already familiar with colors, start them with a lesson on the Spanish words for colors. This will help them more easily connect the new vocabulary with their existing understanding. It will also help provide them with context that can help with comprehension.

Include physical props

As you’re introducing new Spanish words for toddlers, try incorporating real objects or visuals that you can show your students in-real time. Going back to the color example, have different colored objects (or posters) that you can point to and pass around as you introduce the word. If possible, use these props the first two or three times you introduce a word to your kids to help them with comprehension and recollection.

Rely on repetition

Repetition is an important concept in preschool classrooms, and Spanish lessons are no exception. Start each new lesson with a review of your previous terms and concepts to help students become more familiar with the vocabulary and confident in their knowledge. This can be done through group review sessions or individual review activities/worksheets.

Get your students moving

To keep your students engaged and active, incorporate movement into your Spanish words for toddlers lesson plan for when possible. For example, if you’re teaching your students the Spanish words for different parts of the body, have them stand up and point to the body part as you say the word. This will keep them engaged in the lesson and will help them put the word in context with its meaning. You can also incorporate movement by taking regular “wiggle” breaks during the lesson. During this time, students can get up from their seats, jump and wiggle about, and then return to their seats feeling focused and ready to learn more Spanish words for toddlers.

Incorporate unique activities

Once you’ve introduced a set of Spanish words for toddlers to your classroom, guide your students through unique and fun activities that involve the words from their lesson. These activities can include songs, games, videos, stories – whatever you think will best resonate with your kids. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to keep it short (so you can keep your students’ attention) and try not to pick the same type of activity every time. We’ve found that the most effective and enjoyable lessons include a combination of individual/quiet activities (like worksheets) and movement-based activities.

Find a routine and stick to it

As an early childhood educator, you know firsthand how important routines are for your students and your program as a whole. Your Spanish lessons are no different. Set aside a specific time each day (or each week) that will be dedicated to helping your students work on their Spanish. Then, try to structure each lesson as similarly as possible. For example, you could open each lesson with a quick review session, then go into new word introductions, then into a group activity and round it out with an individual activity. This will help your students know what to expect each time they start a lesson.

What are some popular activities to include?

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most effective tips for how to teach Spanish to preschoolers is to include engaging activities that allow them to put what they have learned into practice. Some of our favorites include:

  • Spanish Color Word Mats: These interactive mats from Look We’re Learning are a great way for your students to practice matching Spanish words with the colors they represent. The best part? They also double as a fun fine motor skills activity!
  • Spanish Yoga: With these yoga cards from Fun For Spanish Teachers, you can help your little ones work on their Spanish, practice mindfulness and get active all at once. Each pose represents a different word that can be called out in Spanish for your students to recognize and then mimic.
  • Bingo: Once you’ve introduced your students to the Spanish words for numbers, create randomized bingo cards using the numbers 1-10. Then, create pieces of paper with the Spanish words for each number and call them out. Your students can practice comprehension and mark off the numbers on their bingo cards as you call them out.
  • Sing-alongs: Get your students singing and dancing with videos from Canticos, a free channel with bilingual songs made just for preschoolers.
  • Storytime: Bilingual board books are a great way for your students to hear the vocabulary words they’re learning in context and understand a story in both languages. Some of our favorites include ¡Me gusta cómo soy! by Karen Beaumont, Me gusta cuando . . . by Mary Murphy and ¿Cómo estás? by Angela Dominguez.

How can parents help?

Parents can be a helpful resource when it comes to helping your students master Spanish. To show families how they can get involved and to encourage active participation, we recommend creating “How to teach your child Spanish at home” packets that you can give to each student. Inside the  “How to Teach Your Child Spanish at Home” packet, include a rough timeline for when the students will be learning what sets of words, activities they can do with their child at home and links to resources they can take advantage of (including YouTube videos, songs and more).

Want to learn more about timely classroom topics like how to teach Spanish to preschoolers and how to create a multicultural environment? Or perhaps you’re a parent and want to know how to teach your child Spanish at home? Our online courses can help! Click here to explore our catalog of over 150 courses in Spanish and English.