By Jo Blackmore, LearnEnglish Kids team, British Council

27 January 2024 - 06:18

Young boy plays a board game that helps him learn English language skills
Young boy plays a board game that helps him learn English language skills

How do I start teaching my kids English at home? 

Many parents would like to teach their children English at home but don’t know how to start. Firstly, it doesn’t matter if your own English is not perfect. The most important thing is that you are enthusiastic. Also, give your children lots of encouragement. Your child will pick up on your enthusiasm for the English language. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t start speaking English immediately. They will need some time to absorb the language. Be patient as you guide your children in learning English at home, and they will begin to speak English words, in their own time. 

1. Establish a daily routine to teach your kids English at home

When it comes to teaching your children English at home, it helps to establish a routine. It is better to have short, frequent sessions for your “English time” instead of long, infrequent sessions. Fifteen minutes of English time is enough for very young children. You can gradually make sessions longer as your child gets older and their concentration span increases. Keep the activities short and varied to hold your child’s attention. 

Try to do certain English language activities at the same time every day, this is a great way to teach your children English at home. For example, you can play an English word game every day after school or read an English story with your children before bedtime.

If you have space at home, you can create an English language corner where you keep anything connected to English, for example, books, games or crafts your children have made. Another essential tip for teaching your children English at home is repetition – children (and adults) often need to hear English words and phrases many times before they feel ready to produce them by themselves. 

2. Use this phrase to help your child absorb new English words

You probably already know children feel more comfortable and confident when they know what to expect. So, your child needs to get used to ‘English time’ language. It helps to use the same phrases with your child each time you start. For example. ‘It’s English time! Let’s sit down. Which song shall we start with today?’ 

Children will soon pick up English phrases such as please; thank you; Can I have …?; Where is …?; Point to …; What colour is it?; It’s …; I like …; I don’t like … 

3. Play games together 

Children learn naturally when they are having fun. Our free downloadable English language flashcards for children are a great way to teach and revise English vocabulary at home. You can use these flashcards to play games with your kids, such as Memory, Kim’s game, Snap or Happy Families. 

You can also try playing online games or singing songs together in English. Try these; 

  • Action games – for example Simon says, Charades, What’s the time Mr Wolf? 
  • Board games – Snakes and ladders, other traditional games 
  • Word games – e.g. I Spy, Hangman 
  • Online games – you can finish your English time with a free online game song or story from LearnEnglish Kids - this website from British Council English teaching experts has free online games, stories and activities to help you teach your child English at home.

4. Use everyday situations to teach your children English 

  • The advantage of teaching English at home is that you can use everyday situations and real objects from around the house to practise the language naturally and in context. For example: 
  • Talk about clothes in English when your child is getting dressed, or when you are sorting laundry (‘Let’s put on your blue socks’, ‘This is  Dad’s T-shirt’, and so on.). 
  • Help your child practice their English language vocabulary for toys and furniture when you help them tidy their bedroom (‘Let’s put your teddy bear on the bed!’, ‘Where is the blue car?’). 
  • Teach food vocabulary when you are cooking or going shopping. When you go to the supermarket, give your child a list of things to find (you can use pictures or words depending on their age). Revise this English vocabulary with them when you put the shopping away at home.

Free guide to your child’s English language learning journey - Everything you need to know to support your child’s English language learning
Download our free guide

5. Use stories to teach new English words to kids

Younger children love books with bright colours and attractive illustrations. Look at the pictures together and say the words as you point to the pictures. Later you can ask your child to point to different things in the story, like ‘Where's the cat?’ After a while encourage them to say the English words themselves by asking ‘What's that?’ 

Listening to stories will get your child used to the sounds and rhythms of English. 

The animated stories and English language videos on the LearnEnglish Kids website are an excellent way for children to develop listening and reading skills. Older children can complete the accompanying downloadable activities to check their understanding. 

6. Sing songs from LearnEnglish Kids website

Songs are an effective way for your children to learn new English words and improve their pronunciation. Songs with actions are particularly good for very young children because they can join in - even if they are not yet able to sing the song. The actions often demonstrate the meaning of the words in the song. 

There are many fun, animated songs on LearnEnglish Kids which you can listen to with your children. They’re designed by our experts in English teaching to help your kids learn English at home. 

7. Easy ways to teach English grammar to kids

With younger children, there is no need to explicitly teach grammar rules. Instead, get them used to hearing and using different grammatical structures in context. For example you can talk about ‘must and mustn’t’ when you are talking about their school rules. Hearing grammar being used in context from an early age will help your child to use it naturally and correctly when they are older. 

To help teach English grammar to your older children at home, you can use the grammar practice section on the LearnEnglish Kids website. Videos, quizzes and games help your kids to learn in a fun, relaxed way. 

It can also be very useful to encourage your older children to teach English grammar to their siblings or other family members. Explaining how to use grammar to someone else helps you to master it yourself. 

8. Which English words and phrases should you teach your child first? 

Consider your child’s interests and personality when deciding which topics to teach, and let your child help you choose. You may like to start with some of these topics: 

  • numbers (1–10; 10–20; 20–100) 
  • colours 
  • adjectives (big, small, tall, happy, sad, tired) 
  • the body 
  • toys 
  • clothes 
  • animals ( pets, farm animals, wild animals) 
  • food 

You can find lots of fun English language activities for kids on a huge range of topics on the LearnEnglish Kids website.  And remember, if you want to know how to teach English to your child at home, the most important thing is to relax, have fun and make learning English an enjoyable experience for both you and your child.