Fun reading practice with Spanish games

I recently invested in a few games to promote reading in Spanish with my 5 year old. He’s only just starting to read and finds books a bit intimidating at the moment. I am aiming to use games and other activities to build up his confidence in a fun way. I’d love to hear about any games or puzzles you’ve found that support literacy in your minority language.

Race to Madrid

This is a board game aimed at people learning Spanish as a foreign language, aimed at age 6+. My idea was to adapt the rules for reading practice. The game, also available as a card game and in other languages, works by using cards to build sentences, gain points and then move around the board, passing through different Spanish cities until you reach the capital. In the original game you have to translate the sentences into English to gain points. In our version we are just reading the sentence aloud instead to practice. S enjoyed the game and wanted to play until the end although he was obviously tired (it was after school as as he’s new to reading it is tiring for him). We’ve only played once so far and the topics that came up were mainly to do with shopping and buying clothes (not highly exciting for a 5 year old boy). Nevertheless, is was an interesting way to do a bit of reading practice as well as introduce some of the main Spanish cities and their landmarks.


Flash cards

There are lots of Spanish flashcards available, but I wanted ones that I could use for reading practice. I decided to go with these Every Day Words in Spanish flashcards as there are over 100 two-sided cards with photo images. They have a good selection of words covering a range of topics like body parts, professions, food, colours etc. The words range from short simple ones like ‘el ojo’ and ‘la mano’, to longer ones like ‘la computadora’. I’m generally happy with the flash cards although they’re a bit thin and prone to getting bent by little hands! I look forward to trying out different activities with these cards. So far we have looked at the cards and read them together, noticing any words S didn’t know (see photo below). Then I turned over the cards and had him read them before turning them over to confirm his answer (video below – you can hear my daughter in the background too – learning a new word ‘vaca’). I am quite new to flashcards (this is my first ever set). I’d love to hear how use them.


Trilingual puzzle – colours and shapes

I was looking for Spanish word puzzles and came across this chunky trilingual puzzle set. It’s a good size and the pieces look well made and durable but unfortunately there were some errors in the Spanish text which was disappointing – it looks like someone used Google translate ūüė¶ Nevertheless, we were able to make corrections and S was able to read almost all the words and match up the pieces.



Easy Spanish literacy games/activities for emerging readers

To help him practice reading and writing in Spanish and improve his confidence I’ve been playing a few games with S which I thought you might be interested in. Here are three cheap, simple activities you can do at home. I have also ordered a few board games and puzzles with a literacy focus and will write up a full review once they arrive.


S loves colouring so this type of activity is perfect. He needs to read the colours in Spanish to find out what colour to use and reveal the picture. There are lots to download online – I just searched for dibujos para colorear con n√ļmeros. I prefer the ones where the picture is hidden as I think they are more fun.


Picture matching

This Montessori style literacy activity is matching words to pictures. Traditionally you start¬†with the pink¬†series¬†– which can be downloaded in Spanish here. I’m also using images from a lovely set of syllables posters I downloaded from Teachers pay Teachers. Here we are focusing on words starting with the syllable LI.

img_20180309_1753581529741422.jpgTreasure hunt

The activity involved both writing and reading practice as S helped me to make the game as well as playing it. Together we wrote on to small pieces of card the Spanish words for things like table, chair, and bed. I then hid the cards, treasure hunt style around the house. To play S had to read each card to know where to look for the next one, and so on until he had collected all the card and reached the prize. He loved the game and surprised me by independently writing and reading the majority of words.


Do you have any other ideas for simple literacy activities? Do share below.


Emerging bilingual reader – S at 5.5 years

S is now half way through his first year at school and is gaining great confidence in his reading in English, the community language.

We introduced reading and writing in Spanish at the same time through a variety of methods which we’ve been trying out over the last 6 months.

The main element is a weekly one hour individual lesson with a Spanish teacher. This is now every Friday during term time and I pick him up early so the class takes place during school hours.  The idea of this was the make it feel like a normal part of his school week and hopefully avoid any resistance which can occur with additional classes when they are added at the end of the school day.  The school have been supportive so far in allowing him to leave a couple of hours early and I hope this arrangement will continue as he moves into year 1 and beyond.

Other things we’ve tried included a weekly after-school club for bilingual children called Aqu√≠ Estoy, set up by an Argentinian mum who also runs¬†Grupo Mamarracho¬†who put on Spanish language children’s theatre, puppetry and drama workshops in Bristol. Although the after-school club seemed perfect on paper, S didn’t enjoy it (despite having a friend attend too) and as it was on the other side of the city it also proved a little complicated logistically.¬† The classes seemed well organised and interesting but I think perhaps he was a bit tired after school and just wanted to play instead.¬† There are plans to extend the offering in the future and I hope we can try again when S is older as it would be great for him to learn as part of a group.

We also tried out a new Saturday school called La Escuelita, aimed at 1 to 6 year olds, but unfortunately it was very busy and noisy and he didn’t take to it either!¬† Such a shame! You can make all sorts of plans, and find all sorts of activities but at the end of the day the children have to want to take part – I don’t want to force him to attend reading and writing lessons or any kind of activities at this age.¬† The positive thing is that there were lots of parents and hopefully this means there will be more groups and activities opening in the future for both my children as they grow up.

As well as structured activities I’ve started to introduce a small amount of reading at home using some very short simple bilingual books by Scholastic and a few games. I will go into more detail about the reading materials, games and literacy activities in future posts but first I am excited to share this video with you of my son reading in Spanish. He’s now nearly five and a half.

E at 20 months – first words

E is now 20 months old and saying quite a few words although most of the time she babbles away in her own little language as well as an expanding repertoire of animal noises. Her comprehension is pretty good too in both languages, although she understand a lot more words in Spanish. I recently showed her some flashcards that I used with S a few years ago, and out of interest I tested her to see if she understood the words on the cards. She got them all correct in Spanish and only a few in English. She can now nod and shake her head for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, so you can ask her simple questions and be fairly confident of what she wants (or doesn’t).

I thought it was time to make a list of the words she uses before there are too many to count.


As with S when he started to talk there is an interesting and eclectic mix of words. E is a real book lover, and is already able to concentrate and listen to relatively long stories with a fair amount of text and pages. She loves nothing more than to sit on someone’s lap and be read to book after book after book.

I find it fascinating to watch how toddlers pick up certain words from books (such as name of George the dog from Oh No, George or the word for eagle from the illustrations in The Snail and the Whale) for example, yet don’t even try to use some words for familiar everyday objects or names.

Here’s the list:

English: Alphablocks, teeth, shoes, Mummy, mine, me, ubble (Hubble), bye bye, Nanny, George, duck.

Spanish: Mama, Papa, √°guila, popo, pip√≠, m√°s, nieve, agua, adegee (mantequilla), loro, oso, hola, pie, gidegee (calcet√≠n), bici, weewee (ping√ľino), barco, b√ļho, b√©b√©, bus, pizza, pez, √°rbol, otro, casco.

Animal noises : chicken, tiger, cow, sheep, cat, crow, seagull.

What words do your toddlers use? Are there any quirky ones? Do they invent words too? I’d love to hear from you.

Minority language magazine subscription: a review of Caracola. 


We’ve now been subscribed to Caracola, a monthly Spanish magazine aimed at 4 to 7 year olds, for six months. ¬†Time for a review!

Firstly, the quality of Caracola is well ahead of most magazines aimed at children in the UK. ¬† These tend to be spin-offs of children’s TV, full of ads, wrapped in plastic with a free toy stuck to the front.


Here’s a quick snap of the children’s magazines from our local shop¬†

Caracola is fun and educational with a good selection of fiction and non fiction reading material and activities. ¬†I find it’s pitched at just right level for my nearly 5 year old bilingual boy.

Each edition starts with a fully illustrated story, like you would find in a picture book. This was a big selling point for me as it is effectively like having a new book each month. This story is also available as an audio track, which is a great idea. However you have to access the audio through a specific app and you can’t save the files for later or transfer them to another device. Unfortunately, this means that the audio book version isn’t very practical to use so we don’t often listen to it.


A page from one of the cover stories, el √Ārbol¬†de Julia

One of our favourite sections are the illustrated features on non fiction topics, such as animals or science. My son loves non fiction books but we’ve mainly got English ones so it’s great to get regular Spanish content. I often learn new facts and vocabulary myself!



Facts for curious minds

There are regular comic strips too, about a little space hero called SamSam, a little brown bear and a family.  S enjoys all these sections and looks forward to the new magazine each month.


Comic book strips

As well as reading material there are always craft type activities to do and large busy pictures where you have to find certain objects. ¬†S often doesn’t want to complete these sections, but prefers the reading, however I’m hoping he’ll try them one day and then we’ll have all the previous editions to work through!


Juegos: puzzles, games or crafts

Overall I’ve been really impressed with Caracola. ¬†I think a quality children’s magazine subscription is a great way to get new monthly reading material in the minority language. ¬†We’ve signed up for a year’s subscription with international shipping to the UK and will definitely be renewing. The publisher, Bayard, produces a range of children’s magazines for all ages. We will try the next one, Leo Leo, when S reaches seven. ¬† The magazine is printed on high quality paper and should last well. ¬†I am to keep them all for my daughter when she’s old enough.

Do you subscribe to any children’s magazines in the minority language? I’d love to hear about any others you would recommend.


Building Vocab

vocab building

S is now a little chatterbox. ¬†At home he’ll mostly be chatting away in Spanish, with some English along with made up words and sounds mixed in. ¬†Recently he’s been asking me for the English word for the vocabulary he knows in Spanish. ¬†This morning, while we were stuck in traffic on the way to nursery and I was complaining about us being late, he asked, ‘C√≥mo se llama tarde, Mam√°?’, which is his way of asking how to say something in English.

When other children come over to play he’ll switch into English and address me in either Spanish or English. In this case he is mirroring my behaviour as I tend to speak to him in English when we are around other English speakers, but not always!

He continues to make up words in English by applying English grammar and sounds to the Spanish he knows. ¬†For example, when he couldn’t think of the word umbrella, he called it a ‘par-ah’ ¬†– ¬†the word ‘paraguas’ without the Spanish sounding endings.

Occasionally he makes something up that does actually exist. ¬†He was playing with his pirate ship with his friend and I heard him say he was looking for a ‘pistol’. ¬†I thought it was strange that he knew this word. ¬†It’s quite old fashioned and I didn’t think we’d read it in any books. Then it dawned on me he was just saying ‘pistola’ without the a!

It’s really interesting how he’s using each language to build the other.

Starting to use languages in the right context

imagesIt’s been a while since I last posted.¬† S is now 32 months (2 years and 8 months) and his language skills have come on brilliantly since the start of the year.¬† As well as increased fluency and range of expressions in both languages, on of the main development has been him starting to use a particular language according to the situation or person.¬† Until recently he just used a mixture of Spanish and English in all places with a lean towards more English.¬† Now he is definitely more conscious of the languages being spoken around him, and he is showing a strong preference for Spanish when he narrates his play.

Now at home he rarely uses English and we’ve seen his Spanish vocabulary grow rapidly.¬† He’s a true little parrot, constantly copying what he hears and trying it the sounds.¬† He can repeat back almost any words now, even if it takes him a while to get the sounds in the right order (Guadalajara is particularly tricky!)¬† He’s no longer limited to short simple words but those with several syllables, compound words, little phases and making up his own sentences. He’s also beginning to conjugate verbs correctly in Spanish. ¬† Although he no longer calls himself ‘tu’ (you) directly, he still uses the tu form of the verb instead of the first person . He say ‘quieres agua’, literally ‘you want water’, to tell us he’s thirsty, and another funny one is ‘quieres hambre’, literally ‘you want hungry’.¬† He thus comes across as a very polite toddler, always checking what other people want.

It’s interesting to see him swap into English (as we do) when we have English speaking visitors at home or when we are among an English speaking group. One particularly noticeable change is him addressing us as Mummy and Daddy in English. We are always Mam√° and Pap√° at home and occasionally I’m Mummy too but he had never called L Daddy until we had some Australian visitors a few weeks ago, and now he uses Daddy quite often when we are out and about.

When did your toddlers start to understand which languages to use where and when? Does anyone else have a little one who thinks ‘you’ means ‘I’?¬† I’d love to hear your stories!