Many parents would like to teach their children English at home, but don’t know how to start. Read our suggestions to find out!

By Jo Blackmore, LearnEnglish Kids team

How do I start teaching my kids English at home?

Many parents would like to teach their children English at home, but don’t know how to start. It doesn’t matter if your own English is not perfect. The most important thing is that you are enthusiastic and that you give your children lots of encouragement and praise. Your child will pick up on your enthusiasm for the language. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t start speaking English immediately. They will need a certain amount of time to absorb the language. Be patient, and they will begin to speak English in their own time.

Establishing a routine

Establish a routine for your English time at home. It is better to have short, frequent sessions than long, infrequent ones. Fifteen minutes is enough for very young children. You can gradually make sessions longer as your child gets older and their concentration span increases. Keep the activities short and varied in order to hold your child’s attention.

Try to do certain activities at the same time every day. Children feel more comfortable and confident when they know what to expect. For example, you could play an English game every day after school, or read an English story with your children before bedtime. If you have space at home, you can create an English corner where you keep anything connected to English, for example books, games, DVDs or things that your children have made. Repetition is essential – children often need to hear words and phrases many times before they feel ready to produce them themselves.

Playing games

Children learn naturally when they are having fun. Flashcards are a great way to teach and revise vocabulary and there are many different games which you can play with flashcards, such as Memory, Kim’s game, Snap or Happy Families.

You can find free downloadable flashcards on a wide range of topics on our website.

There are many other types of games you can play with your children to help them practise English.

  • Action games – for example Simon says, Charades, What’s the time Mr Wolf?
  • Board games – Snakes and ladders, other traditional games
  • Word games – e.g. I spy, Hangman
  • Online games – you could finish your English time with an online game from LearnEnglish Kids.

Using everyday situations

The advantage of teaching English at home is that you can use everyday situations and real objects from around the house to practise the language naturally and in context. For example:

  • Talk about clothes when your child is getting dressed, or when you are sorting laundry (‘Let’s put on your blue socks’, ‘It’s Dad’s T-shirt’, etc.).
  • Practise vocabulary for toys and furniture when you are helping your child to tidy their bedroom (‘Let’s put your teddy bear on the bed!’, ‘Where is the blue car?’).
  • Teach food vocabulary when you are cooking or going shopping. When you go to the supermarket, give your child a list of things to find (use pictures or words depending on their age). Revise the vocabulary when you put the shopping away at home.

Using stories

Younger children love books with bright colours and attractive illustrations. Look at the pictures together and say the words as you point to the pictures. Later you can ask your child to point to different things, e.g. ‘Where's the cat?’ After a while encourage them to say the words by asking ‘What's that?’ Listening to stories will get your child used to the sounds and rhythms of English.

The animated stories on LearnEnglish Kids are an excellent way for children to develop listening and reading skills. Older children can complete the accompanying downloadable activities to check understanding.

Using songs

Songs are a really effective way to learn new words and improve pronunciation. Songs with actions are particularly good for very young children as they are able to join in even if they are not yet able to sing the song. The actions often demonstrate the meaning of the words in the song.

There are many fun, animated songs on LearnEnglish Kids which you can listen to with your children.

Teaching grammar

With younger children, there is no need to explicitly teach grammar rules, but instead get them used to hearing and using different grammatical structures in context, for example ‘have got’ when you are talking about someone’s appearance, or ‘must/mustn’t’ when talking about their school rules. Hearing the grammar being used in context from an early age will help your child to use it naturally and correctly when they are older.

For older children, you can use the grammar practice section on LearnEnglish Kids. Videos, quizzes and games help kids to learn in a fun, relaxed way.

It can be very useful for older children to teach their siblings or other family members. Explaining how to use grammar to someone else helps you to master it yourself.

Which words and phrases should I teach first?

Consider your child’s interests and personality when deciding which topics to teach, and let your child help you to choose. You may like to start with some of these topics:

  • numbers (1–10; 10–20; 20–100)
  • colours
  • adjectives (e.g. big, small, tall, happy, sad, tired)
  • the body
  • toys
  • clothes
  • animals (e.g. pets, farm animals, wild animals)
  • food

You can find lots of fun activities on a huge range of topics on LearnEnglish Kids.

It is also important for your child to get used to ‘English time’ language, so use the same phrases with your child each time, e.g. ‘It’s English time! Let’s sit down. Which song shall we start with today?’ Children will soon pick up phrases such as please; thank you; Can I have …?; Where is …?; Point to …; What colour is it?; It’s …; I like …; I don’t like …

Whatever your approach, the most important thing is to relax, have fun and make learning English an enjoyable experience for both you and your child.

Comments

Hi everyone!
My little girl is one and half year old, we're not native English speakers, but I'd love to teach her British English, at the moment we use to sing together some nursery rhymes every morning and read story books at any time during the day, I would like to do some other activities with her, but I don't know which ones would be suitable for her age, or when should I start using flashcards, or videos, or in which order the topics should be introduced?

Thank you in advance for your help!
Best wishes,
Dunia

Hi Dunia,

It's great you're introducing English to your daughter! It sounds like you're doing all the right things at the moment for her age. There's no fixed schedule or order as each child is different, so we suggest just observing her interest in and response to different types of activities and acting according to that. So for example if videos are engaging her, then definitely start letting her watch videos in English, or if she responds to flashcards then you can start to use those.

 

In terms of topics, children learn through the world around them, so colours, numbers, toys, family members, basic actions, simple daily routines are all relevant topics that you can start with. At this age she will be mainly listening to you and absorbing the sounds and the words and phrases, so talking to her as much as possible about these topics that are part of her daily life is really useful, as the article above mentions.

 

You might like to check out our Learning Time with Timmy video series on YouTube. This is designed for children from the age of 2 but if your daughter is already interested in videos then you might like to try it:
https://www.youtube.com/LearningTimeWithTimmy

 

There are also some Learning Time with Timmy apps:
https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/apps

 

Good luck!

 

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi everybody,

My brother and his wife's son is 1 year old. My brother and I are of English decent (50%) and my brother's wife is English (100%) so my brother and his wife wish to teach British English to their son but they have not time for it because of their jobs. So, they have asked me to help them to find materials for learning British English. it is difficult for me to help them beause we currently live in France. One more thing. Our parents do not help us.

Where could I find some materials (websites, books etc.) that explain how to teach British English to a 1 year old child step by step and where could I find some materials (websites, books, smartphone with Google Play etc.) for learning British English for
a 1 year old child ?

There are a Getting started page and Parents section on the LearnEnglish Kids website where I can find lots of ideas and advice but you think it is ok because I currently live in France?

I'd like to thank you in advance for your help.

Best wishes,

Frances

Hi Frances,

Thanks for your post. Firstly it's great to read that you're going to help your nephew learn English - I'm sure that you'll both really enjoy it. 

The advice and tips that we give in the parents section of LearnEnglish Kids can be applied anywhere in the world! 

I'm afraid that we can't give specific recommendations for course books. I would recommend using picture books / story books with your nephew at this age. Our video tip and article will give you some ideas about how to use them:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips/picture-books

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child/learning-english-through-picture-books

Do you have any English bookshops near you? They will be able to advise you about which books to choose. 

The British Council has a series of apps designed for preschool children learning English: Learning Time with Timmy. You can find more details here:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/apps

Also, if you are interested in finding out how young children learn English, you may like to sign up for the British Council's free online course: English in Childhood: Language Learning & Development

https://www.britishcouncil.fr/en/events/english-early-childhood-language-learning-development

 

I hope that helps. Good luck!

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi Jo,
The information provided was really useful. How can I download songs from the site?

Hi, thanks for your post. I'm really pleased to read that the information is useful for you.

I'm afraid that for copyright reasons, our videos can't be downloaded. The audio versions of some of our songs are available for downloading. If you see 'download audio 1MB (right click and save)' in the documents box under the video, it means that you can download it. For example, the audio for the song 'Ten little aeroplanes' is available for download:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs/ten-little-aeroplanes

I hope that helps!

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hello. My son is 4 years old. he can recognise all the capital letters and know the alphabet, numbers until 100 and colors, shapes and some animals, body parts and goodmorning etc...
How can i help him, because he realy wants to learn. iw there any book or downloads that i can use?
Thanks in advance.

Hi,

Thanks for your post. It's great to read that your son is keen to learn English!

I'm afraid that we can't recommend any particular books, but you may like to read our article on Learning English through picture books to get some ideas about the type of books to choose.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child/learning-english-through-picture-books

You can also watch our video tip of a parent reading an English book to his children.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips/picture-books

 

Have a look at the British Council's LearnEnglish Parents Facebook page, where you will find lots of great ideas for helping your child to learn English.

https://www.facebook.com/LearnEnglishParents.BritishCouncil

You can also comment, and ask other parents for their ideas.

 

I hope that helps.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hello
Just joined "Learn English Kids". Feeling bad that I could have found this earlier. Now my son is 4 year old. He can understand but not started speaking English. It is ok to follow the above steps to make him fluent in English?

Hi,
Thanks for your post. It's never too late to start practising English with your son! It's great that he already understands some English, and in his own time he will start to speak. This is certainly a good time to start practising English with him and I hope that the advice in the article will help. 
Don't expect too much too quickly. Children often need a lot of time to absorb the langauge before they begin speaking themselves. The main thing is to be patient, give your son lots of encouragement and to show him that you enjoy speaking English. If you are enthusiastic, he will be too! 
I hope that helps.

 

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

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