One of the best things you can do for your children is to teach them English from an early age. From social confidence to brain development, academic results to employment potential, the benefits are almost endless. Here’s how to introduce English for children through games and fun activities.
Why children need to learn English
Let’s begin by discussing why English for children matters in the early years of their education.
Over one billion people speak English around the world. And, unusually, more people speak English as a second language than as their mother tongue. English is the language of international business, diplomacy, education, finance and even aviation. In other words, it’s an essential life skill for the 21st century. However, these aren’t the only benefits of learning English for kids. Learning languages as a child is also very good for your brain.
Young children have an amazing capacity to absorb a vast amount of new information in their brains. This means that when it comes to languages and skills, they are able to pick them up more easily than adults. Research from Lund University in Sweden has proven that learning a second language can even make brains grow larger!
Children who learn English also have the opportunity to practise their communication skills. Through playing word games, speaking in front of a group and practising conversational routines, they gain social skills and confidence.
How to start teaching English at home
It’s never too early to start teaching English to kids. In fact, the earlier you start, the better!
However, it’s important to choose the right approach. Children at an early age have short attention spans and aren’t used to rigid classroom rules. Instead, you should make English for kids an enjoyable experience, with short activities and fun songs, stories and games.
In the next section, we’ve shared some tips for teaching English to early years children.
Tips for teaching English to young children
- Treat English as a fun game. Play word games, paper games or even playground games in English. Keep it short and sweet: ideally, your child should think of English as a fun activity that you do together, just like going to the park or doing crafts.
- Make English part of your daily routine. With small children, it’s best to learn little and often. And by incorporating English into your everyday life, you’ll create an immersion effect. Students often get better results when they learn English through immersion such as cultivating a habit of reading books together or discussing their day.
- Tell stories. Young kids love reading, hearing and telling stories. So it’s a great way to start teaching English at home! Initially it’s a good idea to read to your child but gradually they should be given the opportunity to read the story to you . You can do this by taking turns to read different pages in the book.
- Be careful and don’t be too pedantic. Remember, your goal is to make English for children seem playful and natural. Don’t worry about correcting your kid’s tenses or explaining conditionals to them! If you correct them too much, you may run the risk of stifling their confidence.
- Use songs and music. Most children love singing or playing music. Plus, singing is a great way to remember new words or practise correct pronunciation. There are lots of videos for early years English online which use actions and pictures as extra language support. Try these ones on the British Council LearnEnglishKids website: https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/listen-watch
English classes for young children
As well as learning English at home, you might decide that your child would benefit from an English class for kids.
These classes can speed up your child’s learning because they are taught by expert instructors and provide more opportunities to practise communication skills in a group. However, it’s still important to keep chatting, playing and singing at home!
The British Council in Malaysia offers a wide range of English classes for young children - including group courses and customised one-to-one courses.