5 ways for kids to practice Spanish (screen-free!) while traveling this summer


 AL (of H&AL) | Mom of 2 
Grew up in the US | Native English Speaker | Used to speak French
Non-Native Spanish speaker, learning Spanish with my kids in hopes of raising them bilingual!

Summer is here!  Our bags are packed and we are heading to Maine for lots of sun, sand, lobster and quality time with the grandparents.  It’s definitely our happy place… but it’s also a big change from our kids’ immersion school and nanny share environments, where they get the majority of their Spanish exposure each day (we are an English-speaking household… and I am a Spanish beginner!). So I tried to think about a few travel-friendly, easy habits. They’re nothing huge, but I wanted to pick a few things that I know I could consistently do - to try to keep their Spanish (and mine!) going. 

1. Speak: Add choiceful *summer vocabulary* into our everyday routine 

Time: n/a [Just replacing some English vocabulary we use]

Since I’m a beginner too, I try to learn some new vocabulary words that I can easily use with my kids on a daily basis (e.g. using agua, leche, pan during mealtime instead of water, milk, bread) The two books we ‘go to’ most for this are our In My Home & Foodie Friends books. But now, I’m adding some new vacation words to our daily rotation -- like el bloqueador solar, la playa, el traje de baño instead of sunblock, beach, swim suit. These are words that get repeated a LOT… so it should be good practice for all of us, and there’s nothing to pack!

2. Sing: *Spanish songs* everyday on our walk to camp 

Time: 5 minutes daily [as a fun habit, practice each morning on way to camp]

Each morning, we will have a short walk to drop my older son at day camp.  I picked a few easy Spanish songs that have a lot of repetition and I plan to sing those with my boys as we walk.  For example -- ¡Colores, colores! is fun for practicing colors and names of different jobs; the song traditionally just talks about Dad’s jobs, but we use papá or mamá, and since we will be visiting family, we can also use abuelo, abuela, tío and tía!  Another song that’s fun, easy to repeat and has some good summer vocabulary is 10 Pececitos (10 little fish).

3. Environment: Set up their spaces to encourage using Spanish instead of English, with *Spanish books* and labels

Time: 5-15 minutes [set up the environment to replace English options with Spanish], more environmental but we will encourage them to pick from these books during story time and keep them in visible places for them to pick for independent play

My parents have a great reading nook in their kitchen, and my kids love curling up with them in a big comfy chair for story time. But my parents are not about to pick up a monolingual Spanish story book (and I’m not quite there yet either!). So, we’re packing a few books that sprinkle in some Spanish, without being intimidating. One of our favorites is Say Hello! By Rachel Isadora. We also just got (and love!) Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz and Micah Player. Both of these are summer themed, too (helado y paletas - ¡Que rico!). And of course, we have our Habbi Habbi books & Reading Wands. My parents keep a full set of Spanish Habbi Habbi books at their house, plus a Wand for each grandchild.  We will keep them in places that are visible and accessible to the kids (e.g. a low shelf), and encourage them to choose them for story time and independent play.

When we get there, we are also going to cut out and (using non-marking tape!!) tape up these cute flash cards of household objects. It’s a fun activity… and will remind us (mainly me!) to use the Spanish names for certain objects throughout the house. I’m also hoping that it will help my soon-to-be-kindergartener with his site words and reading.

4. Community: Engage and learn from Habbi Habbi Summer Reading Club

Time: 5 minutes daily [Overlaps with our independent reading time - and keeps me accountable to hear from other parents!]

Continuing on the Habbi Habbi theme… we are also going to do the Habbi Habbi Summer Reading Club.  The cousins already love playing with the Wands & books “freestyle” -- tapping, making up games, dancing to the music.  But I also want to increase their community of Spanish speakers (and/or learners!) -- especially while we are away from our nanny share and immersion school. So, we are participating in our first Summer Reading Club to encourage the boys to use their Spanish each day, and also get some ideas for more ways to use the Wand & books from other families who are participating.  It should be a fairly low time commitment, and we can sprinkle it in throughout the day -- e.g. before bed, around mealtimes -- so I think it will be fun and manageable. 

5. Play: Utilize Printables for further tangible play and learning

Time: Ad-hoc and great time filler [on the plane, when looking for an activity, etc!] 

My kids are at an age where they LOVE to color and draw (the chant at breakfast this morning was “¡Más arte!”), and crayons/markers and paper are SO easy to pack!  They’re a great way to practice Spanish… not to mention reading, writing, math and more.  Before we leave, I’m printing a stack of free printables for the plane. Some of our favorites come from this set. In particular - we love this interactive math printable (we use raisins to complete the math problems, which my kids adore).

We don’t always follow the directions on the page - but that means we can use the same printable in lots of different ways.  For example, this vehicles printable can be used for coloring and matching, “I spy”, or even a silly “Name that truck sound” game.

We wish you joyful, safe travels (or staycations!) this summer.  If you have any questions, or other helpful tips to share - I am always looking for ideas to help us learn! - please do share. And Happy Summer! 

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