Cheering you on in your Spanish-learning journey

Learn Spanish Through Play: Sorting Toy Animals

Learn Spanish Through Play: Sorting Toy Animals

I am always looking for ways to teach my kids Spanish using items we already have on hand.  This sorting activity that we did below is SUPER simple and free!  All you need are some bins for sorting, tape, paper, and a Sharpie for labeling.

One day as we were putting our Beanie Baby toys away for the hundredth time it dawned on me that the animals could be sorted by habitats.  Then of course I started thinking about how to turn that idea into a Spanish lesson.  You can use any group of toys for a sorting activity like the one below, and use it to learn Spanish!  Group your toys by shapes, colors, size, beginning letter sounds, whatever subject you are currently teaching your kids or students.

We started by placing all of our Beanie Babies in a pile next to the toy bins they belong in.  (These bins are actually stacking bins for lockers I purchased at Wal-Mart last Back-to-School season.)

Next, I made some labels with the names of different habitats in which all the animals live.  I simply used scrap paper, a Sharpie and some tape.  We did this activity a while ago, and the labels are still there!

Your labels may look different than ours, depending on the toys you decide to sort.  If you need help finding the Spanish word for your sorting categories, just go to and use the English-Spanish dictionary to help you out.  Our sorting categories were: 
la granja = the farm
la casa = the house
la selva = the jungle
el bosque = the forest
el campo = the countryside/meadow
el aire = the air
el agua = the water
And since this picture was taken I have added a couple to the last label:
la hierba = the grass
la playa = the beach

You can see that I drew little picture clues next to each word label.  My boys are not of reading age yet, so this is a must for us.  

The great thing about this activity is that it can be repeated and adapted each time you put your toys away!  Do not be afraid to break the learning into small bits.  For example, the first time we played this sorting game I only made the labels and then our conversation went something like this: 
Me: “What animal do you have there?”
Jovencito: “A HORSE!”
Me: “Where does he live?”
Jovencito: “On the farm.”
Me: “You are right!  Look, here (pointing to the label) is the farm, in Spanish we say la granja.  Can you put the horse in his home, en la granja?”
I might have them repeat the word after me, or even teach them the word for horse (el caballo) as well.  Right now my Spanish goal for my boys is exposure.  I want to try to expose them to the language as much as possible.  If our Spanish play feels too much like a lesson they get overwhelmed with what they do not know or cannot understand.  However if we are having fun and I play games with them, their little brains do the learning for them.

That’s why, if you feel comfortable, you can model phrases like this as well (bold print is what you say out loud):
(Holding the animal yourself and speaking in a funny voice) “Hola!  Soy un caballo!  Yo vivo en la granja!”  That means, “Hello!  I am a horse!  I live on the farm!”

Then have the horse go cloppity-clop to the farm bin.  Simple as that.  

Here’s my little jovencito finding where the dog (el perro) lives.

We also played the game like this: 
Me: ¿Dónde vive el perro? (Where does the dog live?) ¿Dónde vive…? means Where does it live?
I made the “I don’t know” shrug and then pointed to the animal when I said its name.
Next my little jovencito walked the animal to its rightful home.  
Playing like this does not require any “work” from the kiddos and feels more like a game to them, yet they are able to hear, and understand the context of, full Spanish phrases.

You can also just make simple statements and point to where the animal goes:  “La cebra vive en el campo.”  In this instance I had to simplify some habitat names.  Zebras live in the savannas but that is so specific so you can use the word prairie or plain, which translates to la pradera in Spanish.  I chose el campo because that means field, countryside, or meadow.  Or to make things even easier, make one label that says zoológico, and any animal that you cannot observe near where you live can live at the zoo.
Depending on the labels you make, here are some example phrases you could use for the photo above:
“El gavilán vive en el aire.” = The vulture lives in the air.
“El pájaro vive en el aire.” = The bird lives in the air.
“El pájaro vive en el árbol.” = The bird lives in the tree.

Remember you will get the chance to try this activity each time you put the toys away, so don’t get too overwhelmed with all of the possibilities.  Start simple.  Even if you just learn a few animal names to start out and do the rest in English!  And as you get more comfortable, add more words or phrases each time you put the toys away.

A bonus is that your kids won’t feel like they are cleaning up, but that they are playing a game.

So you can learn Spanish and have a clean play area when you’re finished!  No matter what, just make sure you are having fun!  I’d love to hear what games you have come up with to learn Spanish with your toys at home.  Leave a comment or a link below to share.  Feliz sorting!

Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Shapes! w/ FREE PRINTABLE

Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Shapes! w/ FREE PRINTABLE

Learning through play is the way to go; engaging all the senses makes learning “stick.”  And if your children are anything like my boys, we accomplish more learning when they do not know it is happening.  That might be because they are boys, or it might be their age–who knows?  We have been visiting parks all around our area lately and I have been trying to sneak in some learning where I can.  Every time I see a shape I point it out, like “Wow!  Look!  There is a cuadro!”  or “Do you see that giant círculo?”  I thought it was not really working, until one day at the park Jefe pointed out to me!  

Take a look at this chart to learn the Spanish shapes you can teach your kiddos at the park!  You can print off the pictures below too for some shnazzy flash cards (is shnazzy really a word!?).  Also, see below for some fun Spanish phrases to try as well and a FREE PRINTABLE shape scavenger hunt.


Circles are even better if you can climb on them, right?

As you can see it took several trips to the park to find a variety of shapes.

Triangles were hard for us to find!
Spanish Phrases for Learning Shapes
Veo, veo un __________.
VAY-oh, VAY-oh oohn SEER-koo-loh
I see, I see a/an ____________.
¿Dónde está el _________?
DOHN-day ehs-TAH ehl
Where is the ____________?
Toca un _____________.
TOH-kah oohn
Touch a ___________?
¡Mira un ___________!
MEER-ah oohn
Look a ____________!
As always, do not be afraid to speak Spanglish!  If you are just learning Spanish yourself and you do not feel comfortable using the phrases above, ease yourself into it by using English and only inserting the Spanish shape word.  For example, “I spy a …”  or “Can you find a …?”  However, if you do want to use the phrases above, try these games with your kiddos:
  • With the “Veo, veo…” phrase once you say the shape you see, have your child run as fast as they can to find it.  When they find it they can shout “aquí.”
  • Try the same game but asking “Where is the…?” in Spanish.
  • If you have more than one child you can turn it into a race by saying “Toca un…”  The first child to touch the shape you name wins!
  • Or if your kiddos are still too young for these ideas (like my little Scachemo) just point out the shapes you see in an excited, exaggerated voice: “Mira un….!”
  • And last but not least, print out this FREE PRINTABLE to do a shape scavenger hunt!  There is a place where your child can check off shapes they find, a column to draw the shapes they find, and a column to write where they found it (e.g. on the fence, in the monkey bars, etc.).  This part they can write in English or Spanish, or if they do not write yet, they can draw to object that has he shape.
I hope you have fun discovering Spanish shapes all around you!!
Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Actions (Verbs)

Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Actions (Verbs)

In this post we learn about Spanish action words (verbs) that we use at the park.

What’s playing at the park without lots of action!?  And what is language without verbs?  Just think how that last sentence would sound if we did not have verbs: And what language without verbs?
I am Kali would become I Kali.
We ran around the park would become We around park.
I like to swing would become I like.

You get the idea.  Verbs compose a major part of what we like to express through language on a daily basis.  In Spanish, verbs can seem a little tricky–compared to English verbs they seem more complex and complicated.  So for this exercise we are going to stick to the infinitive and the gerund forms of the verbs.  Do not let those grammar terms scare you away.  Just trust me that those two forms are the easiest to use when starting to learn Spanish.  You can learn how to use them below, and you will simply plug words into a formula.  I promise you can do it!!!

Here are the verbs we used on this particular trip to the park. (Pronunciation guide provided at the end.)

Esconder = to hide
Deslizar = to slide 
Sentarse = to sit
Columpiar = to swing
Escalar = to climb (a mountain)
Subir = to climb / to get up on
Bajar = to get down / to go down
Tocar = to play (an instrument)
Jugar = to play (a game, or just play in general)

When you look at these vocab pictures, notice the verb is written in blue in two forms.  The capitalized one is the infinitive, which in English is when we say verbs with the word “to” before them.  For example “I like to swing.”  To swing is in the infinitive because like is also a verb.  Does that make sense?  So basically, when two verbs go walking, the second one is in the infinitive.  This happens because the subject of the sentence (in our case above the subject is I) is already doing one action, in our case, the subject is liking something–doing the action of liking.  So the second action needs to play a supporting role, and we call that supporting role the infinitive.

If all of this grammar hurts your head, just scroll down to the part where I give you the sentence formula, and you can plug the words in where needed without thinking about it.  My brain, however, likes to ask “Why??” so every now-and-then I answer the whys of grammar for those of you who are like me!  (This is why math never worked for me, because I wanted to know why we do that in algebra, and you cannot really understand that without trigonometry or physics or whatever.)

Back to the park.  So the capitalized word is the verb in its infinitive form and the verb in lower case is in its gerund form.  The gerund is like our English -ing form: walking, riding, playing, swinging.  Here are some sentences you can plug these new words into!

For the first set you use the infinitive (the verbs in caps), and for the second set you use the gerund (the verbs in lower case).

¿Quieres ___________?  (key-AIR-ehs ______________?)
Do you want _______________?
Quiero ___________________.  (key-AIR-oh _____________.)
I want __________________.

Estás ________________.  (ehs-TAHS _______________.)
You are ________________.
Estoy __________________.  (ehs-TOY _________________.)
I am ____________________.
Try some of these sample sentences:
¿Quieres COLUMPIAR?       (Do you want to slide?
¡Sí! Quiero COLUMPIAR.       (Yes!  I want to slide.)
Estás deslizando.        (You are sliding.)
Estoy escalando.        (I am climbing.)
Refer to the guide below for help with pronunciation.  Feliz parking!
to hide
to slide
to sit
to swing
to climb (a mountain)
to climb (steps, or get up on)
to get down, to go down
getting down, going down
to play (an instrument)
to play (a game or play in general)
Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Things (Nouns)

Learn Spanish through Play: AT THE PARK // Things (Nouns)

In this post we are learning about Spanish words and phrases you can learn and use at the park!

Okay.  Two things I love about blogging (I love more than that, but two things I cannot help but mention right


ONE:  I love that blogging motivates me to be a more intentional mother/educator.  It helps me organize my thoughts and ideas, making them more successful and productive.

TWO:  I love how, through my blogging journey, I have begun to develop a little niche in this world–a little corner where I feel really happy, enthusiastic, and creative.  I have found a little groove that runs through my parenting, my personal life, my lifelong pursuit of education, my professional goals, and makes me feel connected, put-together, planted.

Most of this excitement stems from a new installment of my series “Learn Spanish through Play” that I am quite excited about: AT THE PARK.  We have been blessed with an absolutely perfect spring and summer here in my neck-of-Missouri.  (My heart goes out to all those who have experienced loss and/or tragedy due to extreme weather conditions here in the Midwest, all over the country, and most recently Arizona.)  This great weather has led to lots of pleasant outside-play for me and my kiddos (happy mamma smiles).  As we have played, I have collected a copious amount of pictures having in mind to share with you all what great Spanish lessons can be learned at the park.

How about we start with things (nouns), or should we say, cosas (sustantivos).  A great book for learning nouns is First Thousand Words in Spanish: With Internet-Linked Pronunciation Guide.  I use it in so many of my classes and at home with my kids–it offers a thorough foundation of “getting-started” Spanish vocabulary.  Here is a link to the free pronunciation guide the book offers for el parque (the park).  The pictures below show what fun cosas (COH-sahs) we found on one of our trips to el parque.  I have also listed them all in a chart with pronunciation guides and English equivalents.

Things (Cosas) You Find at the Park
la acera
lah ah-SEHR-ah
the sidewalk
el árbol
ehl ARE-bowl
the tree
el césped
ehl SEHS-ped
the lawn
los columpios
lohs koh-LOOM-pee-ohs
the swings
las escaleras
lahs ehs-kah-LAIR-ahs
the stairs
las letras
lahs LEH-trahs
the letters
el parque infantil
ehl PAHR-kay een-fahn-TEEL
the playground
la roca
lah ROH-kah
the rock (as in boulder)
el tobogán
ehl toe-boe-GAHN
the slide
**Notice: el, la, los, las are all words for “the” in English

What did you find at the park today?

Try some of these phrases as you are learning the words for items you see and find:

“Mira __________.”  (MEE-rah ________.)  This means “Look at _______.”  Just fill in the blank with one of the words above.  Do not forget to also say el, la, los, or las before it.

You could also say, “Vamos a ____________.”  (VAH-mohs ah _______.)  This means “Let’s go to _________.”  Just fill in the blank with the Spanish word “the” and the item you want to go to.  The only trick with this one is if you are talking about an item that has el before it (like tree), then the a after vamos becomes al.

One more phrase to try is “¿Dónde está el/la _________?”  (DOHN-day ehs-TAH ehl/lah______?)  This means “Where is the ________?”  Use that question for singualar items and this one for plural items: “¿Dónde están los/las __________?”  (DOHN-day ehs-TAHN lohs/lahs _______?)  It means “Where are the __________?”  To both of these questions your kids can answer “¡Aquí!” (ah-KEY) which means “Here!” or “¡Allí!” (ah-YEE) which means “Over there!”

So here are three examples of sentences you could say using the chart and phrases above:

Mira el árbol.  (MEE-rah ehl ARE-bowl.)  Look at the tree.

Vamos a los columpios. (VAH-mohs ah lohs koh-LOOM-pee-ohs.) Let’s go to the swings.

¿Dónde están las letras? (DOHN-day ehs-TAHN lahs LEH-trahs?)  Where are the letters? 

Have fun at the parque today!  Leave your comments about what kind of Spanish adventures your family is having.

Check out our other Learn Spanish through Play series here, and here, and here.

Same or Different? // Learn Spanish through Play: CARS

Same or Different? // Learn Spanish through Play: CARS

And now for the second installment of our Learn Spanish through Play: CARS series! My intention was not to come across as a cheesy game show host, but I think I failed.  Our previous post in this series taught some Spanish colors with a fun sorting game.  Try playing this “Same or Different” game while sorting your cars by color.  I am sure we all remember that song from Sesame Street: “One of these things just doesn’t belong here…One of these things just isn’t the same.”  Comparing differences helps us to understand concepts like shape, size, and color.
Mr. Big Stuff (my oldest son) just turned three and loves to be contrary.  Our Parents as Teachers lady on one of her visits suggested providing times when he can say “NO!”  This game is perfect for that.  Hold up two cars that have different colors or a different shape.  Say, “Are these cars the same?” to which your child can answer a silly “NO!”  Have the kidlets make funny matches and ask “Are they the same?”  Everyone can say “NO!” together, or “No, that’s silly!” (You can switch this around and hold up two cars that are the same and ask, “Are these different?”)
Try the “Same of Different” game in Spanish!  The word for same in Spanish is igual.  The word for different in Spanish is diferente.  In Spanish, describing-words (adjectives) have to be plural if the object you are describing (the noun) is plural.  In other words, if you are asking about more than one thing then your adjective has to match that.  When you ask about two cars then, change igualto igualesand change diferente to diferentes.

Here is a quick pronunciation guide.  Make your voice stronger on the syllable with italics.
iguales: ee-gwal-ehs
diferentes: dee-fehr-ehn-tays

In the pictures below, follow the conversation guide in the word bubbles.  The red text is what you say, and the black text is the answer the children give.  ¿Son iguales o diferentes? means “Are they the same or different?”  Son (pronounced sohn or sewn) is the word for they are or are they.  You can ask this question, or if you want to play like above so your child can answer “NO!” just ask: “¿Son igual?” if they are different and “¿Son diferentes?” if they are the same.

Are they the same or different?

Are they the same or different?

Are they the same or different?
Same AND different!

Same or Different? // Learn Spanish through Play: CARS

Quick & Easy Spanish (Pre-K) // Learn Spanish through Play: Cars

The benefits of learning a foreign language are endless!  From social skills, to fighting dementia, to increasing brain activity and scoring higher on ACTs–bilingual is best.

You may have taken Spanish in high school and forgotten it all; you may know a little Spanish from Dora or Sesame street; you may speak a little Spanish from your restaurant days.  That is awesome!  Keep going!  Below is a quick and easy Spanish lesson that you can slip right into your playtime at home with your kidlets, with your students in your preschool class, or even to teach yourself.  Thinking like a kid is the best way to learn Spanish and it is spelled F-U-N.

This is the first post in the series Learn Spanish through Play: Cars

Get out your favorite bucket’o cars and dump them out in a wide open space for sorting.  They are already on the floor (always the case at my house)?  Even better.  First off, as the parent or educator, acquaint yourself with these Spanish color words and their pronunciations.  Note the emphasis goes on the syllable in italics.

negro (nay-grow): black
blanco (blahn-koh): white
gris (grees): gray
plateado (plah-tah): silver (color)
dorado (dor-ah-doh): gold (color)
café (cah-fay): brown
rosado (roh-sah-doh): pink
morado (more-ah-doh): purple
rojo (roh-hoh): red
anaranjado (ah-nah-rahn-hah-doh): orange
amarillo (ah-mah-ree-yo): yellow
verde (bare-day): green
azul (ah-sool): blue

Many ways exist to sort cars.  If you have kidlets, I am sure you have sorted your toy cars thousands of times–and it is still fun!  You may want to grab some index cards and have your children write out the name of the Spanish color with a crayon of that color.  If they have not mastered writing yet, write it out for them in marker, and they can color a swatch on top with a crayon of the corresponding color.  As you are coloring or writing, practice saying the color words together.  Never be afraid of making mistakes.  Think about babies.  If they never tried something new for fear of messing up or looking silly–well, you get the idea.

If you do not have index cards, just set a car of each color in a designated area and talk about the word for that color in Spanish as you set it down.  You can even try these phrases:

¿De qué color es? (day kay koh-lore ehs) when asking about one, and
¿De qué colores son? (day kay koh-lore-ehs sewn) when asking about more than one (if they are all the same color).

Once you all feel comfortable with the words and have designated an area for sorting, get to it!  Lead the activity with lots of animation and excitement–that way the kidlets will really catch on and pay attention.  When you grab a car say, “Hmmm, what color is this one? Oh! Verde!”  Or, “Now how do you say this color again in Spanish?”  Act like you are stumped and see if your kidlets can think of it: “Do you remember?”  When they think of it be sure to show how impressed you are.  Fun and affirmation will go a long way with learning a new language–or anything new!  Create an atmosphere where kids feel safe to try at something new without worrying about mistakes.  
Looking for some videos to help you practice colors in Spanish and pronunciation?  Go here to a playlist I have created on my YouTube channel.
Feliz colorizing!