La cumpleañera at 2!

lighted candles on cupcakes

Photo by Pixabay on

E will be two in a couple of weeks and she’s in a period of language explosion! Spanish is definitely her strongest spoken language at the moment but she does understand a lot of English too. I couldn’t begin to count her words but I am sure there’s over 100.

She uses lots of everyday words like household items, greetings, clothes, toys, numbed, parts of the body, food, animals, feelings, vehicles, colours, people’s names. She’s also using phrases such as vamos, siéntate, muevate, dame, ayudame. She’ll put words into short phrases too such as: calecetines quitar, triste gato, papa llegó, camisa papa, turno mamá, paleta rica, mas pasta, vaso leche, gaviota robó pan, tengo paleta, gatos pelos, camisa loros donde esta? She’s also beginning to use verbs correctly of the most common being caei, and cayó. In fact, she’s using new words every day now in Spanish.

In English she says: today, I do it, ready go, let’s go, what’s this, this, that and a few animals like cat and pig. What I’ve noticed recently is if I’m reading and I stop before the end of the phrase, she’s able to complete it.

She’s also starting to sing along to songs in Spanish and French including Los Pollitos Dicen, Fait Dodo and Sur le Pont d’Avignon.  She loves books and we read everyday in all three languages. I’d love to hear about your 2 year olds too! Do share your stories.


On the hunt for second hand books



At 50p per children’s book –  you can’t really go wrong at Bookbarn International! It is an immense warehouse full of second hand books, there’s a large children’s sections with toys and a cafe.  The selection of books for children in other languages is small but worth checking out.  They don’t have a catalogue so you don’t know what you’ll find til you get there!  So far I’ve only found French books but I will keep hoping some Spanish ones appear too!

I’ve also used eBay and Gumtree to look for deals on Spanish children’s books in the UK. Do you know of any other places? I’d love to hear about them!

DIY bilingual picture books

We have lots of picture books in English. Paperback picture books are relatively cheap in the UK and you can easily find deals and offers as well second hand books.

I’ve been trying extra hard to expand our collection of Spanish books since reading How to Maximise your Child’s Bilingual Ability.

I’ve bought a few Spanish book bundles on eBay and Gumtree and from a local Spanish speaking mum I know. And I’ve visited Bookbarn International on several occasions (unfortunately I’ve yet to find any Spanish books but it’s been great for French!).

Although it’s quick and easy to order books online from Books in Spain are considerably more expensive than here, with each picture book costing 12-15 euros. For example for the price of one Julia Donaldson book in Spanish I can get a set of 10 in English!

My daughter is nearly 2 and loves books. She can concentrate well and enjoys stories with quite a lot of text. She’s particularly into Julia Donaldson at the moment. We have most of her books in English. To buy all the Spanish versions it would quickly add up to over £100! Similarly I’d love to get all the Mr Men & Little Miss books in Spanish too. In the UK you can buy discounted box sets of the whole collection. However I’ve contacted the publishers and they don’t offer box sets at all in Spanish. I’ve not yet decided whether to buy the set in English or slowly collect the Spanish ones individually.

My latest plan to bring more Spanish reading into our lives is to create bilingual books myself for free!

I do this by searching online for the translated text of books we already own and copying then into our English versions. YouTube is a great resource people often film themselves reading children’s stories. I’ve also found some pdf documents to download on Scribd. It’s digital service I’m trialing for free for 30 days.

Once I’ve found the Spanish text, I’m trying out different techniques depending on the book. Sometimes there’s space to write the Spanish text alongside the original words. For other books with more text I’ve just printed out the words and stuck the Spanish over the original text using masking tape. If you don’t want to write directly onto the book you can use masking tape or stickers.

Another advantage of making your existing books into bilingual versions is the space you save! I’m constantly trying to find new places for all our books! It’s also a change to read the stories in another language – as you know toddlers just love to have the same story over and over again!

Here’s a list of my DIY bilingual books so far :

  • What the ladybird heard
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Gruffalo
  • The day the crayons quit
  • Can’t you sleep, little bear
  • We’re going on a bear hunt
  • Dear Zoo

What are your favourite picture books? I’d love to discover more!

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 😦 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 a few 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 números. 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.


Treasure 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.


Spanish rhyming snap

I wrote pairs of rhyming words on cards for this quick and easy snap game.

DIY Spanish Pictionary

I wrote out some cards with words which are both easy to read and easy to draw such as mano, ojo, bruja, falda, tren, música etc. S loves drawing so this game was a big hit.


This classic pen and paper game can be played easily and is a great activity to engage emerging readers. I found S quickly understood the game but it will take practice to begin to recognise which letters are more likely rather than just blind guessing. I like hangman because he was able to fully participate independently, choosing the words leche and rosa during his turn and completing the letters without help. As his reading skills improve this game can easily become more complex and competitive.

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 Aquí 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.

41VS2Siy+IL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_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, águila, popo, pipí, más, nieve, agua, adegee (mantequilla), loro, oso, hola, pie, gidegee (calcetín), bici, weewee (pingüino), barco, búho, bébé, bus, pizza, pez, árbol, 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.