English learning for Kids: 7 Easy Tips for Parents
In today’s world, it is imperative to focus on English learning for kids from an early age, especially if English is not the native language. Speaking and understanding the English language is essential for the overall growth of your child and her future. English learning for kids is a complex topic. However, the single most important factor in a kid’s success with English is parents' interest and encouragement, regardless of the age of children. So, what can you as a parent do at home to support their learning? As a mother and an English teacher, I can guide you with a few tips which I generally follow with remarkable success:
1. Apply English in everyday life
It is important to get the child “exposed to English” first before making her “learn English”.
Exposure to the sounds and rhythm of English instead of explicit instruction is a great way of getting kids accustomed to it. As your child learns his/her first language, they go through a process of listening to everything around them and then using it. Use that to your advantage. Make sure that all your conversations around kids are in English. You can have TV, Radio station, or YouTube Channel in English tuned into and playing in the background. While the choice of content is yours, for kids you may want to try YouTube channels like Dave and Eva, Pocoyo-English, Cocomelon, Simple-Kids-Craft, etc.
2. Playful activities
To help your child get ahead with English learning, get them to play in the language. You can play simple games like hide-and-seek to communicate in English and encourage your child to respond in English. Your child would love any opportunity to get messy; they love sticking, pasting, cutting, painting, and baking things. So, encourage it - in English. The activity doesn't have to be about English, but should instead use English instructions to complete the task or activity. Your child might have a toy version of a favorite English-speaking cartoon character. For my daughter, it is Peppa Pig. Tell your child that this toy only understands English. Have a conversation with the toy yourself to encourage your child to do the same in private.
3. Do not correct mistakes upfront
If you want to correct your child, don’t correct every mistake they make. Also try not to interrupt your child when she makes any mistakes. If you stop to correct, it will be hard to build spoken fluency and can also lower the child’s confidence. Wait until they have finished speaking, then say the word or the sentence correctly and encourage them to repeat. Do not use negative phrases as “not like that” or “it’s wrong”; instead choose “Let’s try again”. Accept mistakes. The important thing is for your child to say English words without worrying.
4. Online tools and apps
You may also take help of various English learning apps available and install them on your mobile phone or tablet. English Learning Apps provide learners with a lot of colorful pictures, videos, and songs. Learning English is no longer limited to boring textbooks or simple printed sentences. You can take the help of online English courses for kids among other options. Vivid pictures and entertaining melody in the videos and songs will keep your child interested and help in learning how new words are pronounced. Try out apps like Lingokids, Monkey Junior, Fun English. You may also visit www.britishcouncil.org and search for Learning Time with Timmy which I personally have found to be very resourceful. You may also look at www.cambridgeenglish.org for your child to practice English with some interactive activities. For slightly older kids (age 7 and more), you can even try online English classes for kids, where a dedicated online English tutor will help improve the spoken English of your kid. Of course, the use of such apps should be monitored and restricted based on the age of your child and permissible screen-time.
5. Rhymes and singalongs
Music and rhymes help children to get used to full sentences, complex language structures, pitch, and rhythm, along with simply building confidence through the enactment that they do. Encourage them to take part in such activities. You may try using YouTube kids with curated selections of content, parental control features, and filtering of videos as a source of Rhymes and Songs for Children. Other options you can try are apps like KidloLand, ChuChu TV, Pinkfong Songs & Stories, etc.
6.Develop reading habits
Reading illustrated storybooks to your child in English is a great way to develop the language. The language is simplified, repetitive, and introduces features such as rhyme. Use storybooks in English. It will widen the vocabulary and encourage children to ask questions about the characters and the plot. Check out www.melissaanddoug.com for great curated content according to your child's age. Make bedtime reading a ritual in your family. This provides a great opportunity to sneak in some extra English time memorably!
A great alternative is to use audiobooks or online stories if you are less confident about reading out loud to your child in English. You may also try out smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home as an alternative.
7. Experiment with sounds
The more one is exposed to certain information at an early age, the easier it is to pick it up at a later stage. Similarly, exposure to the sounds from a young age is crucial to mastering any language later on. That is why Phonics programs have become popular across the world. Phonics programs are designed to support reading and writing through practicing sounds and identifying the symbol (letters) that go with it. Replicate activities like this at home. Sound out new words for children so they can hear the individual sounds like b-a-t, bat. Go on a treasure hunt and look for things beginning with ‘b’. Sound out simple three-letter words with fridge magnets and then change initial or ending letters, so bat becomes a cat, sat, or mat. You may also have your child try out the online phonic games at https://www.education.com/games/word-patterns/
Every child is unique. Some kids will find it difficult to speak in English. Some are shy. Some don’t want to make mistakes. Help your child feel more confident by creating a positive and encouraging atmosphere at home. Let them know that making mistakes is a part of life and learning curve. Everyone makes mistakes at times – it’s how we learn. Do not pressure them or show your disappointments. Do not forget that patience is the key to good parenting and English learning!