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5 Tips for Raising Bilingual Children Using The Time and Place Approach

In this post, guest blogger Corrie Wiik, from Mama Llama Linguist, will share five tips on how she uses the Time & Place bilingual parenting approach at home with her two children.

A huge thank you to Lorena for inviting me to guest post on her blog at Bilingual Beginnings

I’m Corrie, a former Spanish high school teacher, turned Spanish blogger and content marketer at Mama Llama Linguist.

Like Lorena, I’m a non-native Spanish speaker raising bilingual kids in a little cottage in San Diego, CA. We are calling it our Spanglish dream!

My passion for the Spanish language truly blossomed over a decade ago when I got to spend a year teaching in Seville, Spain. The culture, the food, the people, the language- I was totally hooked.  

My children are aged 5 and 3, and I always knew I wanted them to experience the joy of bilingualism, too.

My husband (also a non-native Spanish speaker) and I are now three full years into our bilingual parenting journey… so if you did the quick math, you will notice we didn’t start at birth with our first. 

I wish we had, but I spent most of that first year of motherhood in a fog and trying to survive! So, establishing a language plan just wasn’t on my radar!

Then when I did commit (when he turned 2 and my daughter was born), and I was much more comfortable and adjusted to mom-life, I made many many mistakes and almost….almost gave up.

My why was strong though and I am so relieved we pushed through because, 3 years on, we are finally seeing the fruits of the labor! 

Our Family Language Plan:

Early on, I realized that my toddler was very much a passive bilingual- meaning he understood when I spoke to him in Spanish, but would respond only in English.

Code mixing (mixing the languages) occasionally happened later- which I would count as a win since he was using at least some Spanish!

That was when I realized we needed a family language plan  and strategy if we were going to have long term success with our children becoming active bilinguals. 

Passive Bilingualism Quote

If you are raising a bilingual child, you may know that there are a number of different strategies to navigate language use in and outside the home. They are called Family Language Policies. 

In summary, these are MLAH (Minority Language at Home), OPOL (One Parent One Language) and Time & Place.

It’s the latter that my family embraced in the second year of raising little linguists and that I have the honor of sharing with you today here on Bilingual Beginnings. 

Tips on Using the Time and Place Bilingual Parenting Approach

How We are Raising Bilingual Children using Time and Place:

Time and Place is essentially choosing to speak English at home, but using Spanish (the minority language) strategically at specific times of day and in certain places.

This strategy is often heavily rooted in routines, language learning materials and external input. 

Here are just a few of the ways we raise bilingual children using Time and Place:

Time and Place Bilingual Parenting Approach Quote

Time and Place Tip 1: Car rides

Tally up your minutes running errands and  getting to and from preschool etc. each week, and you will be surprised how much of our time is spent in a car.

We now take advantage of this sedentary time to listen to Spanish Nursery Rhymes on Spotify or tune into our absolute favorite podcast Eat Your Spanish.

Time and Place Tip 2: Read Alouds

We read in Spanish every single day. I could share a whole post with you on the power of reading aloud to your children!

I am a huge literacy advocate and our bookshelves are overflowing but that is truly our happy place. 

For toddlers and preschoolers it’s important to select books that are beautifully illustrated to engage our listeners, and repetitive in nature.

Reading is extremely important in time and place bilingual parenting approach to reinforce vocabulary

One of our favorite series is the Toca Toca collection from Usborne Books & More. 

Poetry and nursery rhymes are also wonderful options for language acquisition. 

Time and Place Tip 3: Spanish Activities

We weave in ‘Spanish Hour’ to our routine (usually early afternoon). This includes Finger Plays, Puppetry, and dipping into our Spanish Homeschool Curriculums. I share a round-up of our top picks here.

Time and Place Tip 4: Native Speaker Exposure

Finding opportunities to engage with native speakers allows our child to put their language learning into context. It also gives it meaning- something that they need especially in the early years.

My children attend a Spanish immersion preschool 3 mornings a week. This is target language input outside the home and allows them to experience listening to native Spanish speakers.

I realize this is not always available, or affordable for every family. Fortunately, there are many online options now for more affordable Preschool Spanish Immersion classes. My top picks being Bilinguitos and Spanish Playdates.  

5. Screen Time

We leverage screen time as much as possible by using Spanish apps like Gus on the Go and Spanish School Bus.

Apps require the child to engage and respond. This is much better than simply watching a TV show in Spanish as they are actively participating in the experience. 

The Time & Place strategy works really well for my family because my husband and I are both non-native speakers. We tried OPOL for a time (with me speaking Spanish and my husband speaking English) but it was too intense for us. 

You have to consider your family’s language goals, your relationships and choose the language plan that will work best.

So, you can see there are many awesome tools and strategies out there for raising a bilingual child even as a non-native speaker!

Whether you are fluent in the minority language or a beginner yourself, you CAN raise a bilingual child! 

The secret is establishing a language plan with internal and external input, gathering the best resources and staying consistent! 

Corrie Wiik guest blogger shares tips on using the time and place bilingual parenting approach

Corrie is a blogger at Mama Llama Linguist where she shares content devoted to raising bilingual children and Spanish resources. You can also connect with her on Instagram @mamallamalinguist and follow her on Pinterest

In this post, guest blogger Corrie Wiik, from    Mama Llama Linguist   , will share five tips on how she uses the    Time & Place       bilingual parenting approach    at home with her two children.