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, thanks for your comment!
It's never to early to start teaching your child English as a second language. At the age of 1, your child will 'absorb' the language in much the same way that they absorb their mother tongue. The best way to start introducing English to a very young child is through songs, rhymes and stories. In that way they will get used to the sounds of the language. First they will listen, and as time goes on they will begin to join in with familiair words and phrases. Lots of repetition is essential. To avoid confusion, it's best to establish a routine for your English time. 
Have you seen our Top tips section?
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips
You'll find lots of useful advice for teaching your one-year-old English. You could try some of these:
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/english-time-home 
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/sing-songs-english-with-your-baby
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/learn-english-with-rhymes
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/top-tips/talking-your-toddler

You can also watch our Video tip to see how a family uses picture books with young children.
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/video-tips/picture-books

The most important thing is to have fun, and share your enthusiasm for English with your child.
I hope that helps!

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

i have no words to express my happiness that i can contact and use this site in order to help my baby to be fluent in English ,so many thanks for everyone has created this smart site,also i would like to mention that my baby is 6 months old,thus; i will discover a lot in this site to teach my baby.sometimes i got myself confused when i deal with the site ,but I'm trying to overcome this problem by your help

Hi
Actually I can't open audio and video files in this excellent site. I am so interested to watch them but I cant. please let me know if you have any solutions.
thanks all

Hi,
Thanks for your post. I'm sorry that you can't open the videos on the site. You could try using a different browser. If that doesn't work, please email us: learnenglish.kids@britishcouncil.org
and we'll try to give you some more help.

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

Thank you, Jo. My son and I are starting to learn English, we will follow your advice.

Hi Jo, Thanks for your advice. It will be effective on my daughters. I want them to talk English very well. So I will apply your advices to teach English to my daughters. They are five and two years old. But in the family, we use mother language. I worry that they will be strange to English. I let them listen and watch English song and cartoon now. They are often repeat the voice of song and cartoon movie. Is this a good thing, huh? So I will try with your way on them. Thanks.

Hi thanks for your post.
I'm happy to read that the article is useful for you. It's fine to speak your mother tongue in the family and to have a special 'English time' with your daughters.
Listening to songs and cartoons is a good way for children to become used to the sounds of the language, and if your daughters are repeating the songs or words of the cartoon, that's great!
Good luck, have fun and let us know how you get on.

Best wishes,
Jo
LearnEnglish Kids team

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

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