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

I found this article helpful. Thank you Jo

I want to teach English to My 7 yo son, mainly speaking, but I don't know where to start. Should I start by teaching him the alphabet or make him memorize and understand basic English words by using what you mentioned "English time"?
Is there a topics road map for English teaching as a second language?

Hi, thanks for your post. I'm happy to read that the article was helpful.

I think that the best thing to start with is some simple songs or stories, to get your son used to the sounds of the English langauge. 

If you want to teach the alphabet, you could try one of our alphabet songs or stories. Then your son could play an alphabet game.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs/the-abc-fruity-band

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/short-stories/abc-zoo

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/games/alphabet-antics

 

To help him learn and memorize basic English words, you can use our Word games section. 

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/word-games

Children tend to be more motivated when they are having fun, and also when they feel part of the choosing process. Let your son choose a vocabulary game on a topic that he's interested in.

 

On the British Council's TeachingEnglish website you will find lots of lesson plans for teaching children. There are lesson plans for all levels, including many younger primary levels. 

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-kids

You may like to try some of these:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/alphabet

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/farm-animals

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/food

 

You may also find some good ideas on the British Council's LearnEnglishParents facebook page.

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

 

The most important thing is that you both enjoy the English sessions at home. So try to follow your son's interests, give him lots of praise and encouragement, and have fun!

 

I hope that helps. Let us know how you get on.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi my name is Asma I have 3 years old son.. He has language delay problrm now he is improving.. We don't speak English at home but we speak with him in English now.. He knows alphabets, phonics, object name, colors name. he goes to nursery where he does not speak English he keeps silent his teacher complain about not speaking please help me how I encourage him to speak English.

Hi Asma,

Thanks for your post.

Firstly I would say that three years is still very young, and I don't think that you should worry that your son isn't speaking in English yet. All children are different, and some need longer than others to absorb language before they are ready to produce it themselves. It's perfectly normal for them to have a silent time when they are just listening. 

The most important thing is that your son feels at ease. Feeling relaxed will help him to speak in English. The best thing you can do to encourage him is to have fun English sessions with him at home. Songs are a great way to get children to produce language. Playing games and reading stories together are also good ways to motivate children to use English.

Have you looked at our Top tips section and our Video tips section? You'll find lots of practical advice and ideas for activities at home.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips

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

Give your son lots of praise and encouragement, help him to relax and have fun, and give him the time he needs to absorb the language...I'm sure that he will be saying his first words and phrases very soon!

I hope that helps.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi Jo,
My name is Inna and I am so happy that I found your website it is awesome :)
My daughter is now 1 year old, we live in Israel and I would like to start teaching her English. My English is very good (almost native speaker) however it is very hard for me to only speak English with her since it is I am lacking various "baby/child" terminology (and I don't want to miss out having a good mother daughter relationship with her) as well as the fact that her primary environment is Hebrew speaking.
Do you have any tips on how should I introduce English to her? Should I spend certain time of the day speaking English during play time, reading English books etc.?
Also, do you believe it is effective to do so? I understood that in order for a baby to pick up a new language at least one of the parents need to speak it all the time.
Thank you so much for your help, much appreciated

Hi Inna,

We're happy to read that you find our website useful.

I think it would be a good idea to introduce English with daily English playtime or storytime sessions. These sessions should be part of your daughter's routine so she knows what to expect.

Have you read this article in our Helping your child section? It gives some advice on how to talk to your child in English.
https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child/speaking-english-home

It's difficult to say how effective English time sessions will be for your daughter as each child/family/situation is different. But being exposed early to English will certaily be beneficial for her. Don't expect too much and remember to be patient - children need a long time to absorb the language before they produce it themselves.

Good luck and have fun! Let us know how you get on.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi Jo,

I have a 1 year daughter and we are native Arabic speakers however we live in Dubai where English is the no. 1 spoken language. I wish to start teaching my daughter English in a more planned way as I am planning to introduce her to a third language in couple of years. At home we always speak Arabic.
I have already started with videos like wheel on the bus etc when she was 6 months and as soon as she turned 1 year I started introducing more videos related to colors, numbers , phonetics etc . She is very attracted to the videos and always bring me the TV remote to play the songs for her.
Could you please advise if i am on the right direction and what should I do next ?

Hi, thanks for your post.

I think that you are definintely going in the right direction with your daughter. Continue with the songs as it's definitely one of the best ways for young children to 'absorb' the language.

You can also use picture books with your daughter. Look at the pages and talk about the pictures. Ask her questions like "where is the ...." and encourage her to point to the correct picture. When she is ready, she will say the English words herself.

You can watch a video of a family using picture books in our Video tips section:

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

Or read more about this in our Top tip:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/using-storybooks

You can also use all sorts of every day situations to introduce English vocabulary and phrases to your child. You can find lots of ideas in our Top tips section:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips

Here are some Top tips which could be particularly useful for your one-year old.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/talking-your-toddler

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/doing-the-laundry

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/practise-english-everyday-situations

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/imaginative-role-play-with-young-children

Also, if at all possible, join an English-speaking playgroup to increase your daughter's exposure to the language.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/english-speaking-groups

And of course the main thing is to give lots of praise and encouragement, and show your daughter that you enjoy speaking English, so that she will too!

I hope that helps.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

 

Hello!'

First, thank you for the useful info and resources you provide.

I have questions regarding teaching English to young children aged 7. What recommendations do you have for teaching English to children when one parent is a native English speaker at home, but the child attends a school where the primary teaching language is not English?

Specifically, we live in Spain and our son attends an Italian school, where they are being taught in Italian and Spanish. English is only one hour a week. However, I'd like to supplement his "formal" English learning so it can be aligned with his Italian learning, while not be too disruptive to him. At home, I speak English to my son and he also speaks Italian to his mother, and he also speaks Spanish.

Look forward to your reply.

Thanks!

Hi, thanks for your post.

I think that the most important thing for your son is consistency with the different languages, so that he feels secure knowing which language to expect in each different situation. It's great that you speak English to him at home. Try to give him as much exposure to the language as possible, for example you could try to join an English-speaking group:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/english-speaking-groups

You can definitely supplement your son's English learning. Try to pick subjects which interest him, this will increase his motivation. You could use our A-Z of topics which you see on the right of the page and choose together.

For example if your son is interested in pets, look at our Pets topic.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/category/topics/pets

You will find all sorts of different activities and resources, for example online vocabulary games, stories and songs. You can also print out flashcards and use them to play games to learn vocabulary in a fun way.

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

You can encourage your son to practise writing in English on our Your turn pages

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/your-turn

The most important thing is that your son has fun, so that he will feel positive about the learning experience.

 

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

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