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 Jo, As a teacher your resources and methodology have been of great help to me.Your site really facilitates easy acquisition of language skills. I would appreciate if you can provide us videos of more classroom - like practical sessions.Though we wouldn't like to be copycats it would help us follow a proven methodology.

Hi,
Thanks for your comment. We're pleased to read that you find our site helpful.
Have you visited the British Council's TeachingEnglish site? You'll find lots of articles, resources and lesson plans for teaching kids.
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-kids
There is also a great video tips section which explores different areas of teaching.
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teacher-development/video-tips
And don't forget the video tips section on LearnEnglish Kids to see families practising English at home.
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips
I hope that helps!

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi everyone, Answering to Gabriela and Huisc, My only son is 18 months now. We always have spoken to him in English at home. Everybody else but us speaks to him in Spanish. At the kindergarden they play with cards in English for a while every day. As you can see my English is far from good, but we do not give up. The kid has already started speaking English, words like come or up when he wants to be hold in my arms, parts of the face pointing at them, see a bus on the street and name it, animals, turning his face when I say please look at me, ..It is very encouraging and really funny. Try to find nursery songs on internet, he loves them, buy books in English, and speak English with him all the time while cooking, putting on their clothes, ...I have just discovered British Council webpage and I am delighted with all the resources they offer, we are going to have a lot of fun at home ! and in my humble opinion, the sooner the better. and also important, teaching him give us beans to study English a little bit every day. All the best, Victor

Hi Victor,
Thanks for this positive and encouraging post.
It's great to read about your experiences of speaking English to your son at home.
I hope that you and your son will have fun using the resources on LearnEnglish Kids.

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

First of all thanks for this very useful site. I am teaching English to my 4_year_old boy. I speak in English to him at certain times, playing, reading stories and watching tv since last year. Now he has started speaking some words and even sentences in English. The English I teach him is spoken, because I don not want to interfere with school. He is learning the letters some words in Spanish and Catalan.The question is how can I introduce written English having in mind the big difference in phonics for Spanish and English. What would you recommend?

Hi,
Thanks for your post.
It's great to read that you are teaching your son English at home. It sounds as if you're doing a great job!
I think that 4 years old is quite early to begin writing in English but you could start to introduce it gradually by teaching your son the English letter sounds.
You can use the Sounds section on our website:
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/sounds
There are fun action songs which help children discover English phonemes. There are also activity sheets attached to each song which your son could try a little later, when he is ready.
You could also teach him the English alphabet, using our alphabet songs:
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs/the-alphabet-song
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs/the-abc-fruity-band
Don't worry if it takes a while for your son to recognise and learn the shapes of the letters.
Try to keep the learning fun. You can play games like 'I spy' with your son, using objects or toys that you have at home. Try to use words which he knows already in English (rather new words) and start with CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words which can be sounded out phonetically, e.g. c-a-t; p-e-n, d-o-g. Use the letter sounds rather than the alphabet names and say "I spy with my little eye something beginning with c". Once he can recognise the first letter sounds , you can encourage him to sound out the whole word.
When he can do this with ease, you may like to encourage and guide him in writing some CVC words himself.
Although there may be some confusion at times between the English and Spanish or Catalan letter sounds, with time your son will recognise the differences between the languages. Be patient, don't expect too much (the process of learning to read and write can be longer when the child has more than one language) and above all give your son lots of encouragement and praise. It's better to have frequent short sessions rather than fewer long ones.
I hope that helps. Let us know how you get on!

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

Hello,
First of all, thanks very much for your job, I'm very pleased of it.
Too, I'm just arrived here.
One question, Is it good for my sons (6, 4 and 1 years old) that they listen to me? I'm not a native (of course) and perhaps I could trasmite a bad influence, therefore my grammar and pronunciation.

What do you think?

Thank you very much.

Hi,
We're pleased to read that the information on this site is useful for you.
It doesn't matter at all if your English isn't perfect. The most important thing is that your sons hear that you are relaxed with the language and that you enjoy speaking it so that they develop a positive attitude to English in early childhood. Any mistakes which they hear can be corrected in later life. Try to expose them to as much English as possible, for example by listening to songs and stories.
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/short-stories
Above all, have fun together with the language and be sure to give your kids lots of encouragement and praise.
I hope that helps.

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

i have two kids (boy 's age 6+ yrs,daughter 's age 4+ yrs) , i want them to learn english more, my son can read english sentences & books , but in speaking is not good..please help me how will i start to learn speaking english more..
Thanxs

Hi,
Thanks for writing to us with your question.
Young children usually learn best through play, so I would suggest using games to encourage them to speak English. Have you watched our video tips? You can see families playing two popular games, Memory and Simon says:
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips/memory-game
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips/simon-says
Children also love role-playing and using their imagination. You will find some ideas on how to practise speaking through role-play in our 'Motivating your child' article (see point number 6):
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child/motivat...
Songs are also a great way to help young children's speaking skills. By listening to and singing songs, the child is getting used to the sounds and rhythms of the language in a fun, relaxed way. We have lots of great songs for kids in our Songs section.
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/songs
Let your children choose a song that they like and try to learn it together!
I hope that helps.

Can other parents share their ideas on how to encourage young children to speak English?

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

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