My husband and I are both native English speakers, but when it came time to hire a full time babysitter (which, it turned out, would cost about the same with much more flexibility than two full-time daycare tuitions in our area), it seemed like a great bonus to be able to choose someone who could give our kids the benefit of early foreign language exposure. So, for the past year or so, our kids have heard mostly Spanish while with the babysitter, and despite the fact that my then 2-year-old had no prior exposure, he’s really picked up a lot. He understands more than he’s willing to respond in Spanish to, but his Spanish is definitely beyond your typical counting, hello & goodbye, and colors, that I remember getting from early Spanish classes in school.
Anyway, this decision has been a learning process for my husband and me.
At first I bought expensive videos intended to teach your children Spanish, from the really quite good (Little Pim) to the unintentionally (?) psychadelic (DinoLingo) to the ones I like but my son so far hasn’t really gotten into like Whistlefritz. We bought series of Sesame Street (Plazo Sesamo) in Spanish for the iPad from iTunes.
Noticing this, however, our babysitter informed us of an awesome free resource for current, voluminous Spanish-language kids programming: Planeta U (Univision kids programming in Spanish) and Disney Junior in Spanish. Our TimeWarnerCable bill isn’t cheap, but it includes these standard. (I wonder if it will be the same when we finish the move out to Nyack). The bonus is that many of the shows help me work on my oral comprehension as well.
My order of TV show difficulty is as follows (easiest to hardest):
1. Pocoyo – great introduction and even if you have very little Spanish you can figure out what is going on, so perfect for a kid new to Spanish.
2. The Jungle Book & Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
3. Backyardigans – great for kids who love songs.
4. Reino Animal – live animals and information about them, in Spanish
I’ll have to update that as we add more shows to our repertoire.
We also have a ton of kids books in both Spanish and English, like the Oso en un cuadrado (Bear in a Square) series, which are great for when you are learning yourself so you can read with understanding. My pronunciation is definitely not perfect but I have learned a lot of new words this way and they are great for the toddler.
Since I have gotten more comfortable with books only in Spanish, we have especially loved the Combel pop-up books series like this one (“The lazy lion”) for reading with both kids (preschooler and toddler) together. Even before she was a year old our baby could appreciate the fun pop-up illustrations and bright colors.
You can buy a lot of these books on Amazon, but there’s nothing like taking the kids along to choose their own. Idlewild Books in Brooklyn is a great place to take your child to pick out books in Spanish (or French or Italian…) or to take classes yourself (2 classes and I have been able to speak, in broken and error-filled but apparently comprehensible, Spanish with our babysitter). The Barnes & Noble on Court St. in Brooklyn has a surprisingly good selection of Spanish-language books too. There is a Spanish-focused bookstore in East Harlem, La Casa Azul, that has great events including some for kids, but we haven’t made it up there in person yet because of the trek from our old place in Brooklyn. Similarly I’m looking forward to trying Teatro SEA when our son is a bit bigger.
I loved Spanglishbaby. Even though they aren’t actively posting anymore they’re still a great resource for links and apps.
I’m looking forward to finding good resources out near Nyack/Rockland County/Westchester County. Maybe one of you readers can post some in the comments, or I’ll have to update this post.