In this post: You’ve started (yay!) but now you maybe wondering - how do I keep going, so I can achieve my language learning goals? In this post, we discuss how to sustain a passion for language learning with your little one. You can find helpful tips on how to fold Habbi Habbi books into daily play by meeting your child where they are, participating as parents, and tapping into their developing interests, so that language learning will be second nature for your toddler or preschooler as they grow.
Table of contents:
- Understand your purpose and goals: Learn how to set ‘SMART’ language learning goals for your little one.
- Tailor your approach to your little one: Meet your toddler where are in their learning journey - by relating it to school, hobbies, games they enjoy, and more.
- Be an active champion and participant: Let your enthusiasm about the language and culture set the tone for engagement.
With Habbi Habbi, the journey to language proficiency can start with an act as simple as a single tap - but of course, as with any big dream, there’s a lot more effort that comes in after that. Use SMART goals and an active approach to stay on course with your little one.
Understand your purpose and goals
SMART goals are a familiar topic in the world of business productivity, but the concept can easily apply to our personal lives as well. For an undertaking as nebulous and frankly overwhelming as second (or beyond) language acquisition can be at first - it makes sense to break the task down into smaller chunks that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. But how does that look with a toddler or preschooler in mind?
- Specific - Use this word as a reminder to really narrow your focus and hone in on exactly what you want to bring to the forefront of your little one’s language learning journey. You might have a specific language in mind already - like French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Hindi, but it might help to zoom in even further, for example, specific aims like “greet grandparents and use appropriate terms of address for family” or “understand key vocabulary for meal times” are great because you can target exactly what situations your toddler or preschooler might encounter. Once you have tackled one scenario, you can refocus on another specific aim.
- Measurable - We spend a lot of time with toddlers and preschoolers counting from one to ten, so measurable should certainly be in our shared lexecon. But while it might be tempting to measure by simple word count, this method misses progress that happens right under the surface. Children have much larger receptive vocabularies than expressive vocabularies,which means they understand a lot more than they can produce as spoken language. Instead of output (which your little one will do on their own schedule) measure input or repetitions - which is something you can actually control. For example, the measurable goal might be to find 5 new vocabulary words this week and repeat them 10 times each day. Frequency counts for a lot in all forms of learning, so parameters like “daily” and for 5-10 minutes are easy ways to add quantifiable dimensions to your shared learning goal.
- Achievable - Young learners have an amazing advantage and an astonishing capacity for language acquisition, so the sky is truly the limit, but remember that they are going to be tackling many incredible tasks at once - so give them room to surprise and impress you, but also keep the goals bite-sized, especially when they are in the pre-production phase of language development. For example, an achievable goal for a toddler or preschooler might be for them to understand when you offer them leche that this means milk, even if they are also getting help from context clues like a familiar sippy cup or bottle. From fluency to having a head start for learning languages at a later stage, you can (and should) wish for the very best outcomes for your little one, but plan to include a few easy wins along the way.
- Relevant - Make sure your goal matters in the big picture, whether that’s the overall goal of raising a happy, independent, curious young person or reaching a certain level of fluency to be able to communicate with friends, family and (future) co-workers. Your SMART goal will be one small piece of the puzzle - it has to be in order to stay achievable! - but you want to make sure that piece fits into place.
- Time-Bound - If you have ever helped a toddler or preschooler put on shoes, you know that time-bound is practically antithetical to their mode of being. So instead of setting time-bound goals that relate to their progress, consider this means of subdividing the goal for your own peace of mind. As parents it can be easy to feel like we are never doing enough, but by putting clear checkpoints on our goals, we give ourselves a chance to reassess and refresh. For example, a good time-bound goal might include a window of time, like “for this month, I will focus on activities with shapes and colors” or a deadline, like “I will pack Things that Go into our travel bag before our next trip.”
Tailor Your Approach
What topics do they love?
Although you are the one who will be setting the broader goals, you should always let your little one lead the way when choosing topics to explore: there’s nothing more powerful than natural curiosity.
Follow their lead and keep the learning tailored to their current interests, for example:
- Select books with that cover their favorite topics:
- Haddie & Lulu's Dinosaur Dissertation - A must for all prospective palaeontologists!
- Maps of the World - This book covers practical geography and highlights cultural landmarks, delicious food and natural wonders to tantalize tiny globetrotters to-be.
- Global Celebrations - Have an upcoming celebration on the horizon? Global celebrations will help prep your toddler or preschooler for the fun ahead.
- Book of Seasons - From first snow fall to the excitement of autumn leaves, this book appeals to the naturalist in all of us.
- Rotate books: If you have an open shelf (see 9 Tips on Setting up your Baby's (or Toddler's) Bookshelf for ideas on how to arrange a welcoming reading space) remember to switch out the available books.
What are they learning in school?
Your toddler or preschooler (or early Elementary aged little one) might already have a curriculum that you can supplement with related materials.
- Augment their math curriculum with Apples & Arithmetic to practice counting and basic math problems.
- Read and discuss Haddie & Lulu and the Bad Grade to give your toddler or preschooler a head start on the complicated feelings that can arise at school.
- Brush up with the Book of First Words - which has basic colors and shapes - if your kids are of an earlier age.
Can you match their life context?
Give them exposure to the target language in a context that is familiar to them and matches their experience. If they already have a frame of reference for the vocabulary, it will be much more likely to stick.
- Use the Book of Emotions to explore emotions in a hypothetical way.
- When planning to visit family, turn to the Book of Family to review how to address different family members.
- Pull out Healthy Habits to talk about ideal routines during big life changes, like starting preschool or kindergarten.
- For exploring around the house, use In My Home to identify the objects all around you.
Play and learning are inextricably linked: from encouraging repetition to fostering positive associations, play gives a certain joie de vivre or exuberant energy to any activity.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate Habbi Habbi and play:
- Incorporate Habbi Habbi books and flashcards into your little one’s imaginative play. Are they playing a game with toy cars? Check in Things that Go for the appropriate vocabulary to play alongside them.
- Use flashcards to create an ‘I Spy’ treasure hunt throughout the house or ask them to find specific images or items in the book they have at hand - for instance, “Can you spot something red in Haddie & Lulu and the Color Conundrum?”.
- Spice up the classic game “Simon Says” with your Habbi Habbi books by using the target language(s) and vocabulary (e.g. Simon Says, tap la manazana (the apple), Simon Says, make a trieste (sad) face).
- Design your own game - Invent your own game! Use the resources like free printables on the Habbi Habbi website to come up with activities of your own.
Be an Active Champion
Have you noticed how toddlers and preschoolers mimic our actions and mirror our moods? If we demonstrate that we as parents also care - care about the target language, the culture, context, and including it in our daily lives - our kids will also respond with interest and enthusiasm.
Play with the books yourself: Pull out a book and start tapping. Your attention is a hot commodity, so if you are interacting with the Wand, chances are very good that your toddler or preschooler will be eager to join in. And if not, don’t worry, odds are that at the very least they will be observing you and will participate on their own terms when they are ready.
Use the target language: Pick a word or two from your favorite book and try to use that word in your daily life. Whenever you need to refresh your memory, you can get out the Wand and tap away. Turn to the Habbi Habbi resources for blog posts from parents and experts that have ideas for songs, books and other immersive materials to make your target language a feature in your daily life.
Share why you care: Take the time to your toddler or preschooler about why you care and what the language means to you. So the language you practice together is not just “Chinese,” but something that can mean heritage, family, food, interconnectedness, and so much more. They have much less context and exposure than us, so we have to provide that bigger picture for them.
If you liked this, you may also appreciate the following:
- How to make the most out of your Habbi Habbi set: Tips from a speech therapy mom - A treasure trove of practical ideas for incorporating Habbi Habbi books into your day-to-day life.
- 5 ways for kids to practice Spanish for non-native families - Valuable tips on how to create an immersive environment without native-level proficiency.
5 Toys & Games that Make Learning to Read Fun - Even more options to incorporate play into your routine.
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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.