Learning to count is one of the first skills toddlers work on, from counting as you go up and down (and up and down) the stairs, to spotting and categorizing and counting animals on the street, leaves in the yard, scooters at the park, etc. it can be easy to incorporate math into your everyday life. So I thought I would put together some fun and perhaps new-to-you math and counting activities that can help cement and encourage an early interest in math (and maintain/continue your Spanish!).
When N started preschool a couple of years ago, I was more nervous than he was. He didn’t speak more than a handful of words in English, we had just brought his baby sister home a few weeks before, and he was still very much a baby in my eyes. To prepare, we spoke and read a lot of books about school, how fun it is, and what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much his daily routine mimicked the daily routine described in the books we were reading and really think that helped him feel confident in school from day 1.
We also have a tradition of buying a new book for the start of the school year (and for each holiday and special occasion…clearly I don’t have a problem buying books…), so maybe you’ll find a new book for your young Spanish speaker to start off the school year!
We received La Primera Aventura del Ratoncito Perez by José Carlos Andrés and Betania Zacarias in our latest Sol Book Box and I cannot tell you how much I LOVED this book. Some of you may be familiar with the story of el Ratoncito Perez–I grew up with the tooth fairy, but I know many of you out there looked forward to losing a tooth so el Ratoncito Perez would leave a small gift in exchange. Whatever your household tradition, I think you’ll enjoy this book!
Here’s a great video of the ‘prequel’ to the Ratoncito Perez myth. My favorite part about the story is how cleverly the characters’ dialogue is written, which makes it easy to come up with new, silly voices. And the kids and I really enjoyed the illustrations, which you’ll also be able to preview here:
N is just starting to get into the idea of chapter books, though most nights he won’t let us leave without finishing the whole book (sort of defeating the purpose…). In any case, I like the new, more challenging vocabulary and the opportunity for more complicated plots afforded by beginner chapter books. These could also be a fun idea for older people who are learning Spanish, but aren’t quite ready for adult vocabulary.
Before we get into the list, I recognize that these are all translations of popular Spanish series, so if you have any suggestions for original Spanish chapter books, please do share–we would love to read them!
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, to start reading to your kids from day 1, and incorporate books and reading into your everyday routine. 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. (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. 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.