The benefits of learning English for children ages 4 to 6 are many: better memory skills, richer vocabulary, more thinking flexibility, better critical thinking skills, and more. Children in a preschool age can become bilingual naturally and effortlessly with the right resources, and this can contribute greatly to a child’s overall development.
Barbara Lust, developmental psychology and linguistics expert, professor of Human Development at Cornell University, says that “Cognitive advantages follow from becoming bilingual”, so learning English as a second or foreign language favor for the little ones from their upbringing to their adulthood.
“These cognitive advantages can contribute to a child’s future academic success”, Lust says, hinting that learning a new language like English at an early age can prove to be beneficial on the long run in various aspects of a child’s life.
There are several milestones associated with English for Kids . Each year, children develop different skills that can be put into practice through specific activities and exercises. To choose the best options for your little one it’s ideal to know the English learning milestones that your child can achieve at 4, 5 and 6 years of age.
From this age forward, a child’s language increases dramatically. Your little one will probably start using more complex sentences and grammatical structures -not completely correctly, though, but this is part of the process-, and will also be better at identifying objects in both English and his or her native language. Also, at this stage your child will likely:
- Start enjoying more the use of books and audiobooks in English , since they can hold them better, can easily turn the pages, and are entering the pre-reading phase.
- Identify more sounds and letters in English. They will be able to recognize rhymes while singing songs in English.
- Differentiate their native language from English while speaking.
- Improve their vocabulary by adding new words about a variety of objects, and even start talking about their uses.
- Produce scribbles resembling letters.
- Identify simple questions in English , especially those that refer to their daily activities.
- Understand quantities and the concept of some simple prepositions of places such as “next to”, “behind” or “between”.
- Ask simple yes or no questions in English using the “to be” verb.
For a child, the difference between having 4 years and 5 years of age is enormous. This is also true for the milestones that a child can achieve at 5 years-old. By this time your child will likely be able to:
- Use more descriptive language to ask questions, to convey information or to give more detailed answers to questions or better explanations.
- Recognize starting sounds of words in English and count the syllables in simple words. This is the first stage for spelling and both of these are important pre-reading skills.
- Understand the use of pronouns and use them more efficiently.
- Know how to form the plural of nouns and use them frequently.
- Start learning the past and continuous tense by using word endings like -en and -ing, even though that they might use it incorrectly at times.
- Use the articles “the” and “a” more clearly.
- Use the possessive pronouns and forms to talk about ownership.
- Comprehend various relationships between objects and show it by using words like first, last, right, left, up or down.
- Use prepositions in English more accurately as they understand them better.
When a child is 6 years old, their communication skills are quite good. By this stage, your child will probably use both English and their native language more efficiently, being able to give opinions and even discuss ideas. Also, by this time your child will likely:
- Easily recognize words that rhyme.
- Identify the last sounds of words in English.
- Use the past tense, but this time in irregular verbs.
- Recognize some English words by sight, since their reading skills are more advanced.
- Start learning the ordinal numbers in English.
- Ask for the meaning of words they don’t know or don’t fully recognize.
- Identify auxiliary verbs such as “to have”, “to do” or “to be”
- Identify the third person in English when talking in Present Simple.
- Use adjectives in English more efficiently to describe objects or situations
- Understand concepts related to time such as yesterday, today, tomorrow, or last week.
- Be better at spelling simple words
Now that you know all the milestones that your little one will likely achieve at these ages, it’s time to choose activities that will allow them to learn English naturally and efficiently.
The main focus point at this age is to use repetition. However, this doesn’t mean to do the same exercise over and over again but instead to go over the same concept using different tools like worksheets, songs, or videos.
Also, it’s really helpful for young children to learn through story-telling. Make sure to use exaggerated gestures and expressions, since these will likely be more entertaining to your little one and will help them remember the story better.
Additionally, since at this point children are better with rhymes, make sure to use lots of different songs in English for kids so they can practice the sounds of words to improve their fluency in this language and their pronunciation as well.
Children nowadays are quite in tune with technology, so don’t be afraid to try some kid-friend-learning software and apps to help them learn English. Make sure to set a specific time a day to practice so your child can learn in a total immersion environment.
Finally, traditional methods such as flashcards, worksheets, books, and audiobooks in English are important at these stages, since they will be perfect to improve your child’s reading abilities and will help also with their writing skills.
A mix between old methods and technology can do wonders for a child’s English learning path!