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.

评论

Hi,
I am so glad to find this web site. and I expect to follow your suggestions for the development of of my two kid's English ability at home.Thank You.

Hi, 

Thanks for your comment. We're happy that you find our site useful. Have fun practising English with your children!

 

Best wishes

Jo

LearnEnglish Kids team

Hello everybody, I'm so glad I found this site! I have a nearly 5-year old baby who is attending an English summer camp this year, for the first time. She is really happy about it and I would like to help her by promoting English language also at home ( in the evening and on the weekend). I do not know if it's a good idea to offer the new words/sentences in a random way (when the occasion happens) or it would be better to define a slot during each evening where we can play and read together. I see she is enchanted by me when she hears me speaking but I am afraid a random/casual proposal might be insufficient to fix the new words. In any case, all the activities I found in your site are wonderful and I'll try to use them all at the best, thank you! ☺

Hi!

Thanks for your comment. We're really happy to read that you find the information on the site useful. It's great that you're going to continue practising English at home with your daughter. I think that, if possible, it's good to establish a routine for your English sessions. As you say, an evening slot to play and read together sounds ideal. However feel free to take any opportunities that arise at other times of day - it certainly won't do any harm!

Good luck and have fun!

Best wishes,

Jo (LearnEnglish Kids team)

Hi! I'm glad to find this web.
I have a son whose age is 10 years old and a daughter of 1 year old. I really want to teach them English. We are Indonesian and we speak Indonesia in our home. What is the best way to teach English to my son and my daughter? Because I guess I have to use different methods for both of them. Thanks for web and the advice.

Hi novalin,

We're happy to read that you find this website useful and it's great that you're planning to teach your children English. Yes, you're right, the methods you use will be different for a one year-old and a ten year-old. Very young children absorb a second language in much the same way as they absorb their mother tongue. You can find some tips about this in our Top tips section:

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

These tips could be useful:

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

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

You can watch videos of families practising English in lots of everyday situations in our Video tips section: 

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

 

We've got lots of resources for your 10 year-old son on LearnEnglish Kids. Have a look at our topics list together and choose something that interests him. Children tend to be more motivated when they are part of the choosing process. 

 

The LearnEnglish Parents Facebook page is full of useful links to help support your child's English learning. You can also ask other parents questions about their experiences helping their children.

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

 

You may also be interested in the British Council's free online course, English in Early Childhood, where you can learn all about how very young children learn English as an additional language.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-in-early-childhood 

 

I hope that helps and that you and your children will enjoy learning English together.

 

Best wishes,

Jo (LearnEnglish Kids team)

 

Hi! My native language is Vietnamese and we have a daughter of 2 years old. I can speak English very well and I want to teach English for my child early. She is now learning Vietnamese well. The matter is that we wonder if it affects her language development? Thanks

Hi!

It's great you're planning to speak English with your child! The vast majority of children manage very well with learning a second language from a young age. Our free online course, English in Early Childhood, looks at this topic and has a lot of useful information. If you join, you'll be able to ask questions to both British Council experts and other parents in similar situations.

You'll find all the details about the course here:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-in-early-childhood

Good luck!

 

Best wishes,

Jo (LearnEnglish Kids team)

Hi guys, so glad i have found this website. Do you happen to know what age is ok to teach kids (even toddlers) english? I am thinking of bilingual-like environment.

Hi Anatasia_13,

I'm happy to read that you've found our website useful. 

Here at LearnEnglish Kids, we think that it's never too early to start teaching kids English! And in a bilingual situation I would say that the sooner you start the better. Babies are capable of acquiring two languages simultaneously. 

I think the most important thing is to be consistent. For example using the 'one person, one language' approach. Or always speaking in English at a particular time or in a particular place. Children need to know what to expect in order to feel secure and avoid confusion.

You'll find lots of useful links and discussion about bilingual children on the LearnEnglish Parents facebook page

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

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jo (LearnEnglish Kids team)

 

 

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