Imagine you could give your child one advantage that would help them in the future. What would you choose?
For many parents, the ability to communicate fluently in English is top of the list. Speaking English fluently will give your child the chance to get into a top university, or live and work in other countries. When children learn English from a young age, all those dreams can come true.
So, what’s the best age to start learning English? The younger the better. Until the age of 10, children learn English much more easily than people do after the age of 18.
The good news is, you don’t need to speak perfect English yourself to help your children speak English! The most important thing is playing and having fun. So, here are some fun activities for children to learn English.
Books are a fantastic way of introducing your child to English. There are lots of activities you can do with picture books to make English learning fun and engaging. If you’re reading aloud to your child, stop often and ask them questions about the pictures or what they’ve heard. Ask them to guess what will happen or how the characters feel to keep them engaged. As your child gets to know the words, let them finish the sentences, for example:
“Poor old Fox, Has lost his…”
The vocabulary in picture books is usually quite simple, everyday language, so you can reinforce it in your daily life. For example, when you’re helping your children get dressed, you can help them name their clothing in English. That way, they’ll connect the word “socks” with the item of clothing.
For older children or teenagers, choosing an easy recipe to make is a really fun activity for learning English. You can write a shopping list in English, and do a supermarket trip to pick up ingredients. Then, once you’re home, you can read and follow the instructions in the recipe. There are lots of opportunities to learn and practice simple vocabulary for ingredients, kitchen utensils and verbs related to food preparation, as well as numbers for measurements and simple phrases like ‘Can you pass me the …?’
Writing letters might seem like an old-fashioned thing to do but, for younger children, that could make the activity seem like more of an adventure. Do you have any friends or relatives who live in an English-speaking country? They could write to your child, or they might know another child who would make a good pen pal. There are also online communities like Kids for Peace or International Pen Friends, connecting children as pen pals.
Another good idea is to write to your child’s favorite English author. If they get a reply they’ll be super-excited to write again and you can add to the activity by going to the post office to post the letter.
For teenagers, the last thing you probably want is more screen time…but smartphones can be an amazing tool for communicating in English. If your child uses social media, encourage them to engage with English accounts, leaving comments and replying to stories in English.
Add the English keyboard to your child’s smartphone so the predictive text feature helps them spell out words and sentences correctly.
Children love songs. They are one of the best ways to learn a language, because melodies make the words easier to remember. There are hundreds of great songs to sing with children in English, from traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to modern songs like Baby Shark. Bookbug is a good resource for songs for children aged 0-5.
Once you’ve got your English playlist sorted, there are lots of fun activities you can do, from miming actions, to making up dances, to singing along, or playing games like musical statues and musical chairs.
For older children, audio versions of children’s stories in English are a great way to practice listening – especially if it’s a story or book they’re already familiar with, for example Harry Potter. That way, even if there is language they don’t understand, they’ll have a good idea of the overall plot and characters, which will help them to figure out meaning in context. And of course, watching films in English is a good way to practice listening for teenagers, especially if you put English subtitles on to reinforce the new language they’re hearing.
Speaking is probably the most important skill to practice with children and you don’t need to be fluent. In fact, you’re setting a great example for them by showing them that it’s OK to make mistakes and try your best.
Role plays are a fun speaking activity for children of any age and level. A role play you can do with young children is to hold a tea party with their favorite dolls or teddy bears. You can also use their favorite stories as inspiration, and act out English fairy tales like the Three Little Pigs, or Jack and the Beanstalk.
ELSA is a great way to encourage teenagers and older children to speak in English. ELSA is a powerful AI program that listens to their speaking and gives them a score for pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and fluency. It can also help them to practice their speaking with role plays and conversations, like a human tutor.
If your children have a high level of English, they’ll be able to use ELSA Speech Analyzer to speak in English and get feedback on their speaking ability. They’ll be able to work on their pronunciation, fluency and intonation, as well as receiving feedback on their grammar and vocabulary, pushing them to improve the next time. They’ll probably use it without you asking them to because they’ll enjoy it so much!
Keep it fun!
If you do it right, practicing English at home with your children will be a special memory to look back on. The key is to make learning English at home fun, so it doesn’t feel like a chore or homework. That’s why we haven’t recommended using textbooks or anything that feels like “school.” They’ll get plenty of English lessons at school over the years so they don’t need more of those!
The sooner you start, the better. It’s really important to lay the foundations for learning English as early as possible. That way, when your children learn English at school or in real life, they’ll have strong foundations to build on – all thanks to you!