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Teaching a second or foreign language to a child is no easy task. During childhood, children go through many changes that can be easily differentiated according to their ages. This is why structuring the lessons in English for children ages 2 to 4 is so important. Thanks to this, parents can make sure the activities they choose are the appropriate ones according to their children’s development stage.
During the early years, the little ones begin to develop their language skills, improve their fine and gross motor skills, and get acquainted with social cues and overall communication. However, there are a few variations in the milestones children achieve at different ages, and these are useful to encourage language learning during childhood.
According to Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, D.C., “A young child’s brain is wired to pick up language naturally”, that’s why it’s a great idea to start learning a second language such as English just as the first one is being introduced.
Young children have the ability to retain a language easier than adults, especially if it’s being done in a total immersion environment that’s also fun and motivating. To improve learning, you can take advantage of the cognitive milestones that children have throughout their development to pick the best English for Kids´ activities and games for children that can adapt to your child’s age and cognitive stages.
There’s just a short time difference between these ages, but 2-year-old children tend to learn a language differently than 3-years-old and 4-year-old kids. During this time kids grow rapidly and, even though each child has their own pace to develop, it has been noted that as they grow up, there are particular sets of milestones that kids reach at the same time.
At this younger stage, your child is likely to show an improvement in their cognitive, language and motor skills, since they can :
- understand what’s being said to them in their native language
- identify names of everyday objects, relatives, or body parts in both languages
- use two to four words sentences with nouns and simple verbs in English
- enjoy imaginative role play using characters and simple situations
- organize toys by size, color or type
- sing songs for children in English and repeat some words
- start to remember their favorite books in English
- solve easy puzzles
- use basic pronouns and plurals in English
Once the second year has passed, there comes a new wave of learning for the little ones. By age 3, these are things that you can probably expect from your child:
- speak using sentences in English of five to six words
- create more complex fantasy roleplay, tell simple stories and remember parts of them
- name familiar colors in English
- answer simple questions
- compare sizes and understand the idea of two objects being different or the same
- understand counting and count the numbers in English and their native language as well
- have a clearer speech.
Besides the obvious fact that your child must be taller and more coordinate by now, 4-year-old children tend to be more independent, self-confidence, and, overall, creative. By this time, your child should be able to:
- sing simple songs in English, use rhymes and made-up words
- talk about what they’re thinking
- follow simple directions
- understand the difference between reality and fantasy
- understand about consequences and think using logical steps
- pronounce most of the sounds correctly in their native language and some in English
- understand abstract ideas related to size or time
- ask about words they don’t understand or haven’t heard before in both languages
- draw basic shapes and write some letters
Keeping these milestones in mind, you can introduce English to your child by picking activities that can help them reach the goals set for their age. Of course, your child is not going to master the new language immediately, but a steady learning pace goes a long way!
Since young toddlers are just starting to learn the sounds of the letters and words, it’s helpful to use children’s songs in English that help them make the connections between sounds and letters, and learn more about them through rhymes.
Additionally, having simple activities like worksheets for coloring and tracing words can be beneficial as well. Through coloring, young children will develop their fine motor skills, which will come handy when it’s time to learn how to write.
Also, you can also choose to play simple games using words in English so your child can build of their vocabulary. This will help set the foundation for more complex tasks like creating sentences in English and expressing themselves as they grow up.
Finally, remember that at these ages, children are more eager to learn through games and fun activities that engage them, so don’t forget to have fun!
Here you'll find downloadable worksheets in English for printing, so your kids can keep learning through these exercises.