Bilingual developmental milestones: How I can support my child with Habbi Habbi?

Posted by Habbi Habbi Guest Contributor on

In this post: What developmental milestones should I expect with Habbi Habbi? We get this question all the time. Developmental milestones vary across children and especially for something like second language learning - where family situations (heritage, non-native) can be so different. That being said, we want to share an idea of the type of progression and stages you might see in terms of language acquisition and literacy. We hope this direction can help you craft modes of play, engagement and discovery that will grow and change to suit your child whatever their age may be.

Table of contents: 

  1. Overview of Developmental Stages
  2. Listening and Observing: Habbi Habbi with Infants (0-1)
  3. Early Exploration: Habbi Habbi with Toddlers (1-3)
  4. Intentional Play: Habbi Habbi with Preschoolers (3-5)
  5. Independence: Habbi Habbi with Early Elementary age children (5+)

Habbi Habbi books, puzzles and flashcards, along with the Reading Wand, let you challenge, engage and adapt with your little one at every stage of their development. From first words (literally, with the Book of First Words) to big feelings (Book of Emotions) there’s something tailored to match their needs every step of the way.

Overview of Developmental Stages


How to Engage 

What Caregivers can Do

INFANT (0-1)

Early language production - babbling.

Motor skills are limited

Primarily listening and observing

Your infant will be: Soaking up sensory information like a sponge

Model engagement - open the book, explore and “discover” together, tap for them and read aloud. 

Watch this teacher & mom use HH with her 6-month old 


Single word & short phrase production.

Fine motor skills start developing

Early exploration and play 

Your toddler might:

  • Use the Wand as a play tool (exploring motion & tactile feel)
  • Find music and sounds fascinating
  • Start repeating specific words 

Support emerging play 

Show how the Wand works, give effusive responses (smiles, laughter) to show that you are happy to play along 

See 18-month old Mina and her parents learn fun foods in Chinese


Blossoming vocabulary  

Gross and fine motor skills more clearly developed

Intentional play and learning

Your preschooler will:

  • Know how to use Wand 
  • Be in the sweet spot for interest and attention
  • Be building on prior foundations
  • Repeat words and phrases with more confidence 

Encourage a big leap in comprehension, curiosity, and independence

Ask questions, converse in the target language, find age appropriate songs and sing.

Watch 3YO Oriana gleefully share Spanish colors and animals 


Expanded vocabulary and improved grasp of grammar 

Other activities and development (outside language) may compete in terms of priorities 

Independence and self-direction

Your child can:

  • Direct their own learning based on personal interest and motivation
  • Find child-specific ways Habbi Habbi suits their specific interests (e.g. topics of books), habits (e.g. use in car, listen to playlist before bed, support lessons at school) 

Challenge, Continue, and be Consistent

Other priorities will be competing with your little one’s time. Support their development by continuing the habits you started when young. 

Watch 6YO Mia introduce herself in Spanish and co-play with her sister 

Watch 10YO speak perfect Chinese tones

Keep in mind that every child is unique, and every family has a different situation in terms of time and goals for second language learning - so consider these stages a “directional” rough framework - not fixed in terms of ages. 

Note: If you want to learn more about these stages (and more!), you can find a wealth of information from the CDC’s Developmental Milestones page. 

Listening and Observing: Infants (0-1)

Though they are not yet very mobile, infants can engage with Habbi Habbi books in a variety of ways with caregiver support. They are taking in the world and reveling in the sounds, scents and sights around them. 

Infants might enjoy:

  • Looking at the pictures - Sitting in your lap or tummy time are both great ways for them to watch and listen while you tap! 
  • Listening - Babies love the sound of your voice, so they will enjoy hearing you repeat the words you hear when you tap. 

Caregivers can model engagement:

  • Read aloud and tap - Read to your child and tap for them to explore the book together.
  • Repeat after the Wand - Model language learning and language production for your baby.
  • Point out familiar concepts - Highlight everyday objects for your baby and connect them to their own experiences.

Example: Watch how this teacher & mom uses Habbi Habbi with her 6-month old

Early Exploration: Toddlers (1-3)

Toddlerhood is a great time to use Habbi Habbi books with your little one. They may sometimes latch on to the music and sounds effects more than the words, and that’s fine. Each child follows their own path of exploration - and they will get curious about words and phrases in their own time, too!

Toddlers might enjoy:

  • Exploring - Toddlers will likely start with random tapping all around the book and engage with what interests them most. They may prefer to skip ahead to a certain page or get captivated by a certain word or phrase. Let them linger wherever their attention leads.
  • Repeat tapping - Toddlers might tap something over and over for fun. They may enjoy the motion or tactical feel of the wand - feel free to let them explore to their heart’s content.

Caregivers can support emerging play:

  • Take turns tapping - In the infant phase, you were holding the Wand and tapping on your little one’s behalf, but they are now refining both the gross motor skills for grasping and the fine motor skills for tapping a specific point, so let them flex those muscles and tap for themselves. You can take a turn first and then guide their hand or bring the book or flashcard up to meet them halfway to make it a collaborative effort.
  • Follow along and emote - Demonstrate your interest and give your toddler a lot of positive feedback when they tap an image: clap your hands, repeat the vocabulary after the Wand, smile and let them know they are catching on to how it all works. Make the experience rewarding and enjoyable. Play = Learning.  
  • Build a bilingual environment - Create easy access to their books and Wand (for example, the article on setting up a Montessori-style shelf) and make time in their day to sit down and practice.

Example: See 18-month old Mina and her parents learn fun foods in Chinese 

Intentional Play: Preschoolers (3-5)

Once children approach preschool age, their language development begins to really blossom. This age comes with big feelings and big changes, so it is a great time to focus on developing the tools for self-expression and self-direction.

Preschool-aged children might enjoy:

  • Focused tapping - Preschoolers will begin to tap with more intention and listen to the wand.
  • Repeating words and phrases - Preschoolers will be able to repeat and speak with more confidence.  

Caregivers can encourage a big leap:

  • Incorporate vocabulary into daily use - Use the vocabulary you are hearing with your preschooler and encourage them to do the same. 
    • You can use key vocabulary in a sentence for your preschooler, even if it is embedded in English (e.g. your preschooler taps a helicopter; you can ask, “What color is “el helicóptero”?) 
    • You can also integrate the flashcards around your home (e.g. Home Vocabulary Bilingual Flashcards can be displayed to remind children  of the vocabulary as they use the object, for example, the flashcard 牙刷 . yáshuā . toothbrush can placed by the bathroom sink). 
  • Build on what they’re learning in preschool - Some of your little ones are in preschool now and working on concepts that are also in Habbi Habbi books. Leverage the books and draw on that connection. For example, preschool appropriate concepts like - the difference between black and grey, introducing some harder shapes (e.g. hexagon), discussions about emotions can all be found in Habbi Habbi books. 
  • Maximize this phase of language growth - Enjoy this phase of rapid growth in language competence! Give your little one as many opportunities as you can to flex their language and communication skills as often as possible. Maximize exposure, practice, play, learn, and grow!

Example: Watch 3YO Oriana gleefully share Spanish colors and animals 


Independence: Early Elementary (5+)

Elementary-aged children are more independent - they have interests and are busier! With the onset of formal schooling and usually a flurry of activities (sports, arts, etc) - what we find is that second language learning can often take a backseat. 

Caregivers can help older, more independent children by helping them create their own learning goals and encouraging the consistency in routines and behaviors so that kids are still playing and practicing their target language. This may mean that you change how you use Habbi Habbi (e.g. listening to audiobooks vs tapping, motivating them to use it by including their younger sibling, cousins or friends, and finding new creative times or places to use Habbi Habbi, like in the car). 

Elementary-aged children might enjoy:

  • Listening to more developed stories - Whereas toddlers are delighted by the music and sounds of the words, older kids engage with stories. They might find the Haddie & Lulu story series interesting and also have fun watching and listening in Audiobook / Animated format (30-min playlist of stories here in Chinese, Spanish, and more); these can be played at home with the screen or in the car as audio only.
  • Using printables: Elementary-aged children love to create. Leverage our Free Bilingual Printables to reinforce vocabulary and concepts in a proactive way - make a Thank You / Mother’s Day / holiday card … Try a more extended activity like the Family Tree - or - Building their own Passport as you discuss family travel … or just do a simple coloring or matching exercise. 
  • Use the books in a very specific way to support their individual learning goals - At this age, there will be a wider range of goals and capabilities for kids depending on their family situation and prior learning. Therefore, they will use the books in different ways. 
    • Some newer learners will use the books more specifically to reinforce basic vocabulary they are learning in school (e.g. colors in Spanish). 
    • Some more advanced speakers (e.g. heritage families) may use the books as their own instructional material, pretending to be a teacher to their younger sibling.  
    • Some kids also use it for English learning. A parent shared with us a discovery she made when her daughter was struggling to read: her daughter could practice reading aloud by saying the word she saw on the page and then using the Wand to tap and confirm that she got it right (put it on English only mode of course for this type of play!); it was a rewarding and low-pressure way for her to practice recognizing sight words. 

Caregivers can challenge their young learner to help them stay on target:

  • Identify their stage and learning goals - Don’t expect them to play in the same way they did as a toddler. Basic word books may not interest them, unless it is helping serve their specific learning goal (e.g. if they are learning about geography and the US States in school). Identify where they are and what might interest them. You may:
    • Decide to display the story books - to capture their interest in stories, reading and discovering with them. 
    • Ask them what they are learning in school - and use the books to support that vocabulary. 
    • Identify books that suit their interest - topics like dinosaurs, global celebrations, or maybe your family has been discussing personal habits 
    • Leverage behaviors they exhibit - maybe they like reading in the car (place books there) or a specific type of pretend play. Integrate the books in those activities.  
    • Build on their specific learning modes - some kids are more auditory listeners (listen to our playlist to help them absorb their vocabulary), learn through teaching (ask them to teach their sibling), or vocal learners (ask them to tell you the story and perform). 

  • Keep up habits to ensure consistency - Languages are a muscle. If you don’t use it, you will lose it. And this is an age where new activities and priorities - from school to sports - enter. Step back and ask yourself - where are the times I can ensure language learning can be consistent? This may mean you engage with Habbi Habbi differently. For example - 
    • Playing with it in the car or on the go (at a restaurant) since you are on the go so much more now. 
    • Listening to the audiobook playlist as your preferred form of media when they ask to watch YouTube. . 
    • Focusing on books with bigger discussion topics you and your child can engage in like - I Am Kind, Healthy Habits. 
    • Leverage different Habbi Habbi products like the Flashcards to ‘test’ (through play) recognition of words and vocabulary. 

  • Show interest yourself - Don’t forget that one of the most important indicators of success in bilingual learning is the value the family and household places on it - not just the child. 
    • Make sure to give context to the language (why our family thinks it is important) with real-life experiences (immersion, travel, food, music, media, culture, friends). 
    • For Habbi Habbi, engage in joint play. Listen to a story together or leverage the books as a launching pad for bigger discussions - e.g. Haddie & Lulu and the Bad Grade can be a great starting point to talk about the pressure of self expectations, Haddie & Lulu’s Bash on a Budget for topics like resourcefulness.

Example: Watch a 10YO speak perfect Chinese tones and learn Spanish with Habbi Habbi 

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Images of children of various ages reading Habbi Habbi books.

Check out more bilingual resources from Habbi Habbi

We have lots more (fun stuff!) here at Habbi Habbi. You can explore our free resources such as bilingual printables, resource blog, and audiobooks. Of course, we also have our much loved magical Reading Wand, bilingual books, puzzles & flashcards. Our tools are currently available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Korean, and Hindi.

About our lovely guest contributor 

Rose is a librarian by training and a freelance writer by trade. She hopes to raise an English-Spanish bilingual daughter, or at the very least pass on her love for language learning and exploration on to the next generation. She has a Master’s degree in Information Science and a to-read list a mile and a half long.

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