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

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

Hi, Jo
Your article is very helpful for me. I'm so happy I found your page.
I have 9 years old son and we came to America from Korea which is non -English country about 1 year ago. My son attends elementary school here but he is in Korean-English dual language class. So the teacher and friends can understand Korean quite well. But the problem is my son's English skill doesn't seem like improve . He barely speaks and read English. He can't write a English sentence by himself yet. I think he needs to work with basic English skill like phonics. The school doesn't provide basic curriculum for him. So I want to change his class to non- dual language and start to help him in English at home. How can I start to teach him English? He knows alphabet and some phonics but not all. It's kind of hard to choose teaching material for him because he is not toddler of kinder. I think some of them are too babyish for him. But he needs to learn from basic. Could you advise how I can start teaching with which material?

Thank you for reading. I'm not good at English either.

Hi, thanks for your post.

I'm happy that you found the article helpful!

I'm afraid that without knowing your son and his specific needs I can't advise about his class. I would suggest talking to his teachers to find out what they think is best for him.

Regardless of your decision about his class, it's definitely a great idea for you to practise English with him at home. Of course, the materials you use must be suitable for his age for him to feel motivated.

Our Word games section includes lots of games on many different topics and would be suitable for his age. All of the games have audio, so he can listen to the words as he plays.

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

You may also like to try our grammar practice and grammar videos sections which are aimed at older children:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-practice

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-videos

For your son to feel enthusiastic and motivated, it's important for him to choose topics which interest him. Have a look at the A-Z of topics on our home page.

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en

You could also have a look at the LearnEnglish Parents facebook page.

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

You'll find lots of suggestions for teaching children English at home. You could also post on the page - maybe some other parents have been in similar situations and could give you some advice.

 

Good luck!

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi joanne!
I have 2 monts daughter and i wish she start speaking with english but im not too good in speaking english so how can i taught her and how can i improve my english with speaking her... plz guide

Hi Emo,

Thanks for your post. Your two-month-old daughter can already start getting used to the sounds of English.

I think that songs and rhymes are probably the best way to begin at this age. Have a look at our top tips for learning English with rhymes:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/learn-english-with-rhymes

and singing songs in English with your baby:

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/sing-songs-english-with-your-baby

Our top tip about talking to your toddler could also be useful:

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

You can watch a video tip of a parent using songs to help their child learn English:

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

 

If you would like to improve your own English, you can visit the British Council's LearnEnglish site for adults learning English:

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en

 

I hope that helps.

 

Best wishes,

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Thanks Jo these articals are really helpful for me...

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.

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