We all know the importance of speaking early and as much as possible to babies, even while they are still in the womb. For me, it felt a little awkward in the beginning to be narrating my day to a newborn, who was just as interested in watching the washing machine go round and round as he was in hearing me speak. But I think it’s paid off! And now it’s just my habit to talk about what I’m doing (“I’m making your breakfast. Let’s pour some cereal, oops some fell on the floor, now add the milk,” etc. etc.) so much so that I catch myself doing it to my husband too.
Although young babies and toddlers don’t need a lot of toys, we found it helpful to have certain tools that eased the need to come up with fun, new vocabulary or topics of conversation. Babies are great, but having a one-sided conversation with them can sometimes get a little tedious. So I’ve compiled for you a list of some toys that we’ve enjoyed over the years and which provided (and continue to provide) great opportunities for language development. You may know by now, I don’t typically go for toys with bright lights, sounds, and buttons, but one or two can be a fun addition to your toy box.
I should also note that basically any toy can be a ‘bilingual’ toy. It’s all about how you play with them, what you say/explore with the toy, and how you interact with your kid while they play with them.
And of course, I encourage you to have books all over the place,Â to start reading to your kids from day 1, and incorporate books and reading into your everyday routine. Â Books have been a part of our nighttime routine since N was a newborn and he will only go to sleep now, at 4, if he has an adequately large pile of books by his bed to peruse when we leave the room. Â (This post includes some affiliate links.)
Fisher Price has a great line of bilingual toys and most of their best sellers, as far as I’ve seen, have the option for Spanish or English interactions. Â This puppy sings and talks in Spanish, if you use that setting. We have the Slovak/English version that my in-laws brought from Slovakia, which our kids have enjoyed. My daughter sometimes goes to sleep with it at night and wakes up at all hours to make it sing (which can be terrifying for a sleeping parent). And we’ve caught our son, who is sometimes reluctant to sing in Slovak, playing the music over and over so he can learn the words to the Itsy Bitsy Spider in Slovak. It’s a good way to reinforce what you’re already teaching them: colors, body parts, the alphabet, and music.
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