10 Ways to Boost Your Bilingual Child’s Spanish Skills at Home
Engage little language learners with these bilingual movies, audiobooks, sing-alongs, and shows worth streaming, plus tips from real moms on how they’re teaching their kids Spanish.
By Damarys Ocaña Perez
Looking for ways to have fun and keep your child learning Spanish at home this summer? Keep their bilingual education progressing at home with these entertaining activities and toys from some of our favorite media pros that are fun for kids—and easy on you!
1. Play Bilingual Bingo
Lotería gets a kid-friendly makeover with this Lil’ Libros version that builds memory and matching skills and expands vocab thanks to some familiar characters like la sirena, el músico, and la dama. Ages 3+
2. Turn Up the Bilingual Tunes
¡Bailamos! Get the familia on their feet with the Latin Grammy Award-winning children’s album Buenos Diaz from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. It’s packed with bilingual tunes, such as “Como Se Dice,” an upbeat rundown of words, and “Zapatitos,” which gets kids counting. All ages
“My 10-year-old daughter, Paloma, loves music and dancing, so I signed her up for mariachi band and ballet folklórico classes that are in Spanish.”— KIM QUINTEROSS, SAN FRANCISCO
3. Sing- And Dance-Along in Spanish
Lucky Diaz loves grooving to these songs with his daughters Ella, 16, and Indiana, 4.
“¡Alegría!” The cumbia-tinged song about a girl who finds joy all around her repeats stanzas twice so children can get the hang of new phrases.
“Calaverita” Kids cuckoo for Coco will enjoy this joyful ditty about Día de los Muertos. “It has amazing word play,” says Diaz, who is Mexican-American, “plus a super-catchy chorus.”
“Frontera” This anthem about a border-free world has a rhyming structure that young ones can mimic, as well as beautiful symbolic language—like “una estrella del alba”—that parents can discuss with older kids for deeper learning.
“Amor, Amor de Mis Amores” With lyrics that roll off the tongue, this playful love song is performed as a duet, so children can alternate parts.
“Nubes Azules” “Spanish-language lullabies are so nurturing,” says Diaz, and this one is no different. “Kids connect with the emotion and are likely to learn words like lluvia, luna, and sol much faster.”
“My 10-year-old son, Hermes, has so much fun cooking Cuban food with his abuela. She gives him instructions in Spanish, and if he gets something wrong, she pretends to be horrified until he figures out what she’s saying!”— KIM BERLANGA, COOPER CITY, FL
4. Learn with a Music-Book Combo
Puerto Rican rockers Waldemar Reyes and Yayra Sánchez are the husband-and-wife duo behind the children’s music band Canciones, Raíces y Alas (C.R.Y.A.) and parents of an 11-month-old son, Matéo. Their latest Spanish release, El Maravilloso Mundo, comes with a book of lyrics for young readers and an illustrated short story about friendship, for even more Spanish learning. All ages
5. Stream Spanish Shows
On their podcast Entre Dos, hosts and moms Paula Niño Kehr, who is Colombian, and Monika Leal, who is Puerto Rican, regularly dish out advice on raising bilingual children. They’re big fans of these TV series that teach kids Spanish:
Atención Atención The Puerto Rican variety show for preschoolers covers everything from the ABCs to body parts. “My daughter, Zoe, who is now 6, fell in love with the tropical music and how the actors inspire children to get up and move with directives like ‘mueve las caderas!'” Leal says. Ages 3+ Stream on YouTube
31 Minutos “Kids will laugh out loud at this early-2000s, puppet-led news show from Chile, with its cast of intrepid furry reporters, zany segments, and songs about relatable topics like losing a tooth,” says Niño Kehr, who has a 7-year-old daughter, Emilia. Ages 5+ Stream on YouTube
Las Leyendas Scooby-Doo fans are sure to get wrapped up in this Mexican animated series about teen sleuths who solve mysteries involving creatures like Quetzalcoatl. “It’s great for expanding the language and learning about traditional folklore,” says Leal. Ages 7+ Stream on Netflix
6. Engage Kids with Audiobooks
Keep kids engaged on car rides short and long with these Audible Latino books.
25 Cuentos Clásicos by Marc Donat and Ricard Zaplana
Listeners will get lost in this book of fairy tales, such as Hansel y Gretel, with its slow-paced and easy-to-follow narration. Ages 5 to 7 Buy this book on Amazon
Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J. K. Rowling
Actor Carlos Ponce’s telenovela voice is perfect for dramatic scenes but also clear as a bell, so children will have no trouble keeping up with Harry Potter’s magical wizard adventures. Ages 8 to 10 Buy this book on Amazon
Coco: La Novela by Disney Press
Captivate little imaginations with this beloved story about Day of the Dead and the importance of family. Ages 5 to 7 Buy this book on Amazon
7. Follow Our Favorite YouTube Channels
You might recognize Michele Lepe’s soothing voice from the TV show Nina’s World and the YouTube channel Story Time With Michele! “YouTube has a treasure trove of Spanish-language content for kids,” says the mom of two daughters, Gia, 9, and Bianca, 7—”if you know where to look!” Her girls can’t get enough of these top picks:
Pocoyó en Español The Spanish series features just a few characters and a narrator who describes their actions. “Kids will get it even if they don’t fully understand the language,” says Lepe. Ages 3+ Stream on YouTube
Super Slime Sam Get cooking and crafting! This channel has step-by-step instructions for making monster potato chips, hamster taxis, and more. Ages 5+ Stream on YouTube
Super Simple Español It features hundreds of music videos about everything from colores to camiones. “You’ll never run out of songs,” Lepe says. Ages 1+ Stream on YouTube
8. Download Educational Apps
As the cofounder of the bilingual education site MamaLinguaGO.com and the app MamaLingua Go!, Aileen Passariello-McLeer knows a thing or two about teaching Spanish. The Venezuelan-American mom often turns to these apps to sharpen the language skills of her 9-year-old son, Simon, and 7-year-old daughter, Alexia:
Endless Spanish Kids can drag new words into incomplete sentences, which are then acted out by monsters in a funny animation. “It’s silly but very engaging for children,” Passariello-McLeer says. Ages 4+ Download app on Amazon
Epic! Browse Spanish-language e-books, audiobooks, quizzes, and learning videos on the digital library app. Users can also translate unfamiliar words and save stories for offline reading. Ages 4+ Download app here
Leo Con Grin This game gets children practicing consonant-vowel blends and building words one syllable at a time to form entire phrases—all with the assistance of an adorable alien. “The app focuses on fundamentals and is a good next step after kids master alphabet sounds,” explains Passariello-McLeer. Ages 4+ Download app on Amazon
9. Have a Spanish Family Movie Night
Known for voicing Mama Imelda in Coco, Puerto Rican and Mexican-American actress Alanna Ubach immerses her 3-year-old son, Thomas, in Spanish through kids’ films.
La Leyenda de la Llorona Brimming with humor, this animated comedy follows a group of children trying to escape the clutches of La Llorona (who, spoiler alert, is depicted as much more empathetic than usual!). Ages 7+ Stream on Amazon
Tesoros The whole family (abuelos too!) will want to watch this movie about kids searching for treasure in a Mexican beachside town. Ages 7+ Stream on Amazon
Anina Little ones will get swept up in this Uruguayan-Colombian film about a girl who gets “the weirdest punishment in the history of weird punishments” after a playground fight. All ages Stream on Amazon
“All of my family is in Panama, and we keep in touch by FaceTiming almost every day. My kids—Matthew, 13, Megan, 11, and Michael, 7—talk to their cousins and grandparents in Spanish and even play bingo together via video. They have a blast.”— PAULETTE GOTI-BOWMAN, RALEIGH, NC
10. Settle in for Spanish Storytime
“I’ve been reading to my kids in Spanish since they were babies,” says David Heredia, the Dominican-American author and illustrator of Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a Big Difference and dad of Josefina, 10, David Jr., 8, and Elisa, 7. “It’s a wonderful way to introduce your culture.” Here are a few of his faves:
Si Yo Fuera by Ana Galán
This delightful series of board books gets kids wondering what life would be like if they were a different animal, like a flamenco or a jirafa. The simple narrative, illustrations, and photos are perfect for new learners. Ages 5 to 6 Buy this book on Amazon
Poemas Familiares Para Cada Dia de la Semana by Francisco X. Alarcón
A beautifully illustrated book that celebrates family, it features a poem in Spanish for every day of the week with translations on every page. Ages 7 to 12 Buy this book on Amazon
Esperando el Biblioburro by Monica Brown
In the mountains of Colombia, a child eagerly awaits the arrival of a roving librarian, who travels the country on a donkey laden with stories for kids. “The side-by-side Spanish and English help children learn new words,” Heredia says. Ages 5 to 8 Buy this book on Amazon
This article originally appeared in Parents Latina’s June/July 2020 issue as “Summer in Spanish.”
Updated by Damarys Ocaña Perez