On a sunny afternoon stroll through the neighborhood, my then preschooler tugged at my hand and asked, "Can we play the 'Animal Family' game?" This whimsical wordplay was born one day when we embarked on an animal-themed exploration on our long drive to our homeschool cooperative. "What if all our family members had animal names?" I suggested. "Mama would be... Mama Mono! Grandpa would be... Abuelo Abeja!"
Whenever we play this game, we embark on a delightful journey through the animal kingdom. From aunts and uncles transformed into exotic creatures to friends and neighbors wearing animal alter egos, our imagination knows no bounds. As our preschooler got older, we began adding challenges to the game by turning it into a guessing game, “What Animal Family Member Am I?” using a mix of animal descriptions and phonetic descriptors like number of syllables, beginning sound, and word families.
Whether we're en route to school, waiting at the bus stop, or gathered around the dinner table, these ordinary moments become opportunities to infuse our bilingual journey with playfulness and learning. Word games, you see, are the keys to not only delighting kids but also engaging their growing minds. As they revel in these linguistic escapades, they sharpen their sound recognition, conquer rhyme identification, and build vital skills like attention and working memory.
In this article, we'll explore a collection of captivating word games designed to make learning a joyful adventure, perfect for families on the move.
Step into the shoes of intrepid explorers on an alphabet safari! Begin by selecting a letter, say, "B." The quest? Find objects or animals around you that start with the chosen letter. Your child becomes the safari guide, seeking out treasures like "butterflies," "bananas," or "birds." Not only does this game foster letter recognition, but it also encourages observation and vocabulary expansion. I’d recommend looking at books like Sonadores, a beautiful story of family, immigration, and books frequently featured in our subscription boxes.
Turn mundane moments into enchanting storytelling picnics. On a park bench, at a café, or waiting for the school bus, invite your child to craft a story using items or people in their surroundings. For instance, they might spin a tale about a mischievous squirrel and a friendly postman. This activity nurtures creativity, language skills, and the ability to weave narratives. Feel free to mix Spanish and English words when constructing these stories.
Rhyming games are a delightful way to boost phonemic awareness. In the park or during a drive, encourage your child to find rhyming words. For instance, if they say, "tree," you can respond with "bee" or if they say, “gato,” you can say “pato.” Challenge them to uncover as many rhymes as possible, making the world around them a canvas for linguistic exploration. If you run out of ideas for rhymes, a quick search on our website for rhyming books can help find a new favorite. For example, we love Señorita Mariposa, a captivating bilingual story that looks at the extraordinary journey monarch butterflies take each year from Canada to Mexico.
Last but not least, for younger children, take them on a sound scavenger hunt in your immediate surroundings. Ask them to identify sounds, like "horns honking" or "pajaros cantando." This activity enhances auditory discrimination and sound recognition while promoting active listening skills. They’re also practicing recognizing two languages and contrary to what some might say, it’s totally okay to learn two languages at once.
As a parent, you have the power to transform everyday moments into exciting opportunities for bilingual literacy. Whether you're on a cross-town adventure or simply waiting for the school bus, these word games infuse fun into learning. So, embark on your linguistic journey, explore the wonders of language with your child, and let the world be your classroom for bilingual discovery!
Karina Batchelor is a proud Latinx mama from Miami, la ciudad magica. She's a longtime educator, writer, and creative who holds multiple degrees in varied areas of study. Her qualifications have seen her excel across the US and the UK in various sectors of the education and theatre industry. You can often find her with a cafecito in hand at the nearest library, her homeschooling cooperative, or at the theatre, where she works as a professional dramaturg.