In this post, guest blogger, Jenna Vislisel, will share 9 outdoor language learning ideas for bilingual kids. To learn more about Jenna Vislisel, please see the end of the post.
Summer has almost arrived, and it is the perfect time to take language learning outdoors! In this post, I will offer 9 outdoor language learning ideas for bilingual kids.
As a bilingual teacher and mom of three young children, I’m always looking for fun and simple ways to integrate Spanish learning into our daily routine. This summer we’ll be taking advantage of family time outdoors in nature – and weaving in new Spanish vocabulary as we make memories together.
Language learning isn’t just about the quantity of language input our kids receive – it’s also about the quality of the language interaction.
Our kids need to be engaged in real-life, meaningful, and high interest activities in the minority language. Creating enjoyable moments using our target language should be a top priority as we raise bilingual kids.
The good news is we can build in quality, playful experiences in easy ways! As Adam Beck says in his book “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability,” “It’s vital to maintain a strong sense of humor and playfulness – particularly through the younger years – so that your children will come to feel positivity toward the minority language and be willing, even eager, to make this long journey with you.”
Today I’m sharing with you my favorite 9 outdoor language learning ideas for kids. So you and your family can prioritize Spanish learning as well! I hope you’ll utilize these ideas to get outside, have fun, and nurture a love of Spanish language learning in your kids.
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1. Explore a theme
As you naturally plan exciting outdoor adventures, take time to explore a theme around where you’re going or what you’re doing.
If you’re going to the farmer’s market this weekend, read some fun books about produce, farming, or markets around the world. Before a trip to the zoo, head to the library to find interesting nonfiction texts about animals.
When you’re heading to visit a relative in a new city, introduce your child to vocabulary words related to that city that they don’t know yet. The key is utilizing a fun family outing for intentionally teaching your child new themed Spanish vocabulary!
In her book “Bilingual By Choice,” parenting expert Virginie Raguenaud encourages us to “keep speaking the language daily – during fun and varied activities and outings to broaden our children’s vocabulary.”
2. Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt in the minority language
Outdoor scavenger hunts are always a big hit with my kids! And this idea can be used multiple times this summer! As you go on a walk around your neighborhood or explore a local park or nature center, choose a focus for a scavenger hunt.
Get creative to challenge your kids with whatever Spanish learning goal is right for them – whether it’s colors and shapes vocabulary or insect names. Your scavenger hunt might be for items in a rainbow of colors one day, ten different types of leaves another day, or fifteen different creatures the next time.
3. Make an outdoor nature journal in the minority language
With a simple notebook, your child can enjoy creating a nature journal this summer! It can be a resource all summer long for art and literacy activities in Spanish. Take the nature journal outside for some observation and note taking.
One day, your child might like to do some birdwatching and sketch the unique birds they see. You might even check out a book about local birds from your library to name them all – don’t forget to learn their Spanish names together as well! How about drawing animals they see, describing treasures they collect, or writing about a gemstone collection?
4. Integrate science
Science learning will come naturally as you explore in nature. To maximize science fun, think about your child’s interests and what would be most appealing for them. Would they like to study rocks and minerals, find out how to compost, or learn about summer weather patterns?
Pick a science topic and go for it! How about a flower study? You might gather different types of flowers to name, sort and describe with colors, shapes, and sizes vocabulary. Your child could draw or glue them in the nature journal, press them into flower bookmarks, or use them for crayon rubbings.
5. Make an outdoor language obstacle course
Every summer, my kids and I create dozens of obstacle courses in our yard and on the sidewalk. You can too! Take some chalk and draw a course on the sidewalk. Don’t forget to label the verbs in Spanish!
You might draw lily pads for kids to jump on, then a bridge to cross, and a flat ladder they have to climb. My oldest loves to use his rollerblades, so I’ll make zigzags for him to follow, and lines for jumps.
In the backyard, give simple Spanish instructions for the obstacle course (or let your kids design it). “Circle around the tree, then run to the fence, hop all the way to the garden boxes, and finally crawl underneath the swings.”
6. Use family vacation time
If your family takes a vacation this summer, use it for Spanish language learning! Before the trip, pick out a book or two from the library about the place you’re going to learn some key Spanish vocabulary. On the way there, your child could take advantage of car time for a Spanish game, audiobook, or podcast. And don’t forget about enjoying catchy Spanish music on the trip!
When you’re there, whether you can use Spanish the entire trip or not (my husband doesn’t speak Spanish!), you can choose a time or activity to prioritize Spanish. This could be as simple as choosing an outing – like a morning at the beach – to use Spanish. Think of all the beach-themed language learning you could do with your child!
Or it could be using Spanish as you seek out unique cultural resources at your vacation destination (a restaurant, museum, market, or cultural neighborhood…). Truly, one of the best things about raising bilingual kids is the opportunity to cultivate awareness and appreciation of different cultures!
7. Plan a picnic
Make your picnic time Spanish language learning time! A picnic is an excellent opportunity to learn new food and cooking vocabulary. Involve your child in planning, picking out ingredients, making the picnic food, and assembling it all in a bag or basket for your outing. Discover some new books about food and cooking around the world.
Enjoy the meal speaking the minority language together, talking about the foods you’re eating, and your beautiful outdoor surroundings. If you can take your picnic to a local park, give your kids some playground time and review some park-related vocabulary.
8. Take reading and writing outside
Choose an easy activity – take story time outside! Grab a picnic blanket and a stack of books to read to your little one outside on a beautiful day. Or encourage your child to do their own reading and writing outside in a shady spot in the backyard. Find helpful reading resources and a free summer reading bucket list here.
Take out a favorite book to read – add a stuffed animal and a beach towel for extra fun. They can grab a notebook to write a story, poem, or list of all the sights and sounds around them. Or, they can use a sketchpad to draw a picture of something that catches their eye outside!
9. Create outdoor language learning memories
As Naomi Steiner, M.D., & Susan L. Hayes say in their book “7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child,” “Kids learn better and retain more of what they learn when they’re interested and engaged. So when it comes to kids and language input, the attractiveness of the activities is every bit as important as the sheer number of them.”
Summer is the perfect time to weave minority language learning into exciting outdoor family adventures! And it’s especially significant if you can capitalize on your child’s interests this summer as you plan in – or spontaneously create – quality learning opportunities!
I hope you’ll give one of these outdoor language learning ideas a try with your kids!
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- 93 Spring Activities to Add To Your Bucket List this 2022
Find more language learning tips and bilingual parenting ideas at bilingualbalance.com.
Jenna Vislisel has been a dual language teacher and elementary reading specialist in three different states. She is teaching her own three kids Spanish and English and is a bilingual parenting blogger. Jenna is passionate about inspiring parents and teachers to make language learning fun and meaningful for kids. Jenna shares advice, ideas, and resources to foster a love for language learning at home. You can find her website at BilingualBalance.com