How to Teach a Child to Speak English at Home: Ideas from Experienced Tutors
Teach your child to speak English, and you’ll open up a world of opportunities for their future. It’s well-documented that English speakers , have access to the world’s top universities and enjoy greater opportunities for travel. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?
If you’re determined to help your child learn English, you’re probably considering getting some expert guidance, whether that’s through , or finding .
But as a parent, you’re probably also wondering “What can I do at home to support my child’s English education myself?” We asked Preply English tutors who specialize in teaching kids that very question, and this is what they said.
1. Sing songs with them
A number of tutors mentioned that music is a great way to capture a child’s attention, and help them remember new words without stress.
“For me, the best way is through singing and watching interactive videos. This has been tested and so far came out positive. Most children love songs and can easily retain things through music!”
2. Use English in daily life
If you are comfortable speaking English yourself, use it in daily life alongside your mother tongue. Early exposure to more than one language at home has dozens of perks for your child. To name just one, studies show in the long term.
Magdalini “Make the learning process as natural as possible. Don’t treat English as a foreign language but include it in daily activities, games and songs as you do with the child’s first language. While coloring, name the colors in English, while dancing, repeat the names of the moves in English, and so on.”
3. Set a regular learning routine
It’s well-known that kids love routine: it inspires a sense of security and helps them to develop self-discipline. It’s also really helpful for learning a second language!
“If you are teaching your children English at home, I would advise you to have a routine for your children! Set up a schedule that is consistent every week; schedule days and times in which your children will be studying English. Have them choose the topics or themes to study, to keep them interested. Give them fun projects to do; like drawing the solar system, the USA map, holiday pictures, etc., and record them doing a presentation about the project. They will feel important!”
4. Play with your child in English
Several of our tutors suggested you should encourage your child to use English whilst playing. After all, studying a language won’t feel like studying if they’re having fun!
“To help your child get ahead with English learning, get them to play in the language. At home, try playing dress-up games, hide-and-seek, Simon Says, charades and other popular games, whilst speaking in English. In other words, get them to learn the language in the same way they learned their first one!”
5. Ask them to act out something they see on TV
On the subject of play, one idea for a creative game is to have your child role-play an English-language commercial that you find on YouTube or the TV.
“Have them watch a commercial, and ask them to repeat it, as if they were acting in the commercial. This will help with their communication skills, and if they are shy, it will help them overcome their fear of making a mistake.”
6. Read comics together
If your child is slightly older, English-language comic books can be a great step towards reading English independently. Not sure where to start? are a classic starting point for those learning US English, and is great for teaching contemporary British English.
“I think comic strips are a great way to motivate a child to learn English, depending on their age and ability. If they read a comic featuring their favorite superhero, for example, they will feel excited to learn. Also, the pictures really help them to understand the language as they provide great context.”
7. Praise them!
Children thrive on encouragement and their parents’ encouragement above all! If your kid is trying their best to learn English, let them know that their effort makes you proud.
“Praise your child to create a sense of success, and encourage them especially when they keep going with difficult tasks. Create a reward system for when they work hard! It doesn’t have to cost anything – extra free time, more visits to friends or activities of their choice. Don’t criticize them too often or correct every mistake, it’s okay and very normal to make mistakes when learning a language. In short, PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!!”
8. Ask them open-ended questions in English
If your child is younger than ten, they’re probably always asking you “Why?” Now, it’s your turn to do this to them!
“My strategy in the classroom is to ask open-ended questions that allow my students to speak and express themselves as much as possible. Parents can do the same, engage their children in conversation which allows them to use the language as much as possible.”
9. Have a tea party in English
If your children are very young, a teddy bears’ tea party in English is a very cute idea that they’ll enjoy!
“The best way for parents to help young children learn English at home is to incorporate learning with play. With very young children, why not try to have a tea party in English? The child can invite their soft toys and the parent can come along, perhaps with younger siblings who won’t mind what language is being spoken, as long as they get to join in with pretend tea and cake!”
10. Create stories with them
Creative writing in English is a fun activity for little people with big imaginations.
“With older children, try writing a story together. As a tutor, I like to create stories with my young students about a toy they have brought to the lesson. The child is then involved in directing their learning from the start. Once the story is built up, we take turns reading it aloud. When the child reads the story back, they recognise the vocabulary, as these are the words they have just spoken. as these are the words that they have just spoken. Other keywords can also be added to make the story flow or to introduce new vocabulary. I use the story later on as a base for exercises or homework.”
11. Use puppets
Two of our tutors mentioned that puppets are a fun way to help younger children overcome their fear of speaking in English.
“I love playing games with my students using my puppet, Ziggy. Sometimes he hides part of a flashcard, other times he acts out actions for them to guess. When I ask a question and can see the student is unsure of how to answer, I ask Ziggy so they can hear his answer. It gives them the confidence to try the next one! We can correct Ziggy’s mistakes too — it stops them from being afraid of making mistakes which is so important and we can laugh together.”
Catherine Anne B “I am currently teaching English to Arabic children and I use puppets as my main tool in teaching English. I found the children loved the puppets and even put on puppet shows, demonstrating what they had learned.”
12. Talk to your child’s tutor
If your child has an online English tutor, it can be tempting to leave them alone during lesson time. Especially if your child is a little shy and you don’t want to distract them!
However, several tutors mentioned that children make much faster progress when parents check in with their tutors. It can help them stay up-to-date with what their child is learning, and practice it between lessons.
“My young online students who show the fastest improvement are the ones whose parents are actively involved in their learning and development. The parents who ask me to make videos of their children’s classes, to re-watch together afterward show rapid improvement. Children and teenagers who get little to no support from their parents during their language course show slower improvement.”
She was keen to stress that there is a lot that parents can do to help their children learn, even if they’re not fluent in English themselves.
“Parents who don’t speak English, but want to support their children/teenagers in their English studies, can attend my classes together with their children (at no extra charge) so they can learn too. This will empower them to help their children with homework, or to complete worksheets at home, since they have also followed the lessons, and learned the same things that their child did.”
She went on to deliver one final message which all parents will agree on.
“Love, showing interest, and giving support in the process of learning, are three of the most important contributions that parents could ever make towards their children’s development.”
The golden rule from our tutors? Make it fun!
We spoke to more than 30 tutors, and at least half of them pointed out that the most important advice for teaching a child English is to make it a process they enjoy. Don’t push them too hard to work on grammar exercises, and focus on playful activities and speaking skills. After all, they are still young enough to learn a language simply by being around it often, and it’s important to let kids be kids.
Give your child happy memories of learning English, and they’ll grow up with positive feelings towards the language. This will make them more likely to stick with it, and develop their skills to fluency! It’ll also be a much nicer experience for you and them.
“My biggest piece of advice is to make English fun! A child’s creativity and excitement will help him or her succeed. Practice spelling using games. Read interesting stories. Make a yummy recipe together in English! It isn’t just about the results; it’s also about the journey along the way. The more hands-on and interactive the learning becomes, the more the child will retain the information down the line.”
Hopefully, these tips gave you some inspiration for creative ways to teach your child english at home. If you’d like some more guidance, a few English lessons with can be a source of inspiration for bringing English into your home. Private tutoring doesn’t have to be expensive either, with prices starting from just $5 per hour (and half-hour lessons available for little people with short attention spans!).
If you’re reading this, you’re planning to do a very responsible thing for your child’s future. Being able to speak English is a remarkable gift, and will set them up for success later in life. It’s also much easier to learn a new language as a child than as an adult! If you start them young, by the time they need their language skills, they will have a high level of fluency, and speaking English will feel effortless.
This content was originally published here.