How To Build Language Vocabulary Using Look and Find Books For Toddlers

It’s never too early to start pre-reading activities with your kids, and at Casa Pura Vida, we have tried to instill a love of reading from birth by making books constantly accessible to the girls at all times. There are books everywhere in the house – even waterproof ones for the bath and the pool! Our favorite activity is reading, and even Little Sister, after she wakes up and nurses in the morning toddles straight over to the bookshelf in her room and reads until we finish making breakfast. Big Sister constantly serenades us with rousing and creative renditions of her version of favorite books. We are a [email protected] family, and that means we read in Spanish as much as possible. We are also, however, realists on a single income, and we have to get creative about how we use hand me down books to support the Minority Language since we can’t always buy new books in Spanish. The Seek and Find books are great because not only do they contain rich content and illustrations that toddlers love, but we also often see the at thrift stores or discount stores such as Ross and T.J. Maxx. You can also find them on Amazon, I found most of the ones pictured in this post for a penny!

Nothing like a newly-minted toddler enjoying a solo Look and Find session with Thomas the Tank Engine!

Nothing like a newly-minted toddler enjoying a solo Look and Find session with Thomas the Tank Engine!

When Big Sister was about a year old, we inherited a bunch of the Seek and Find books. During this time, I worked a LOT of hours at a high performing charter school, and needed a few minutes of quiet to myself before the bedtime/nursing routine. My husband was charged with reading to her each night while I cleaned the kitchen and listened to some quiet music. Of course, because he speaks to her only in Spanish, and because she couldn’t identify any written words yet, he was extremely creative with how he used the books to teach new vocabulary. His strategies are now a staple in our home, and we wanted to share them with you!

So, here are several easy techniques for building Spanish language using Seek and Find books in English! We want to note that this entire process should be child-directed, and FUN for everyone. The overall goal is for your child to feel comfortable with books and reading, not to do things “right” or “wrong.” Also – don’t speak a second language? Just do this stuff in English! Any literacy skills are great, and the time you spend establishing a love of reading will pay off!

From 12-24 months

  1. Parent says every word that the child points to. With an emerging skill of pointing appearing at about one year, our kids love to point to things in the books that interest them, and have us say the word in Spanish.
  2. Parent says the word, and the child points to the object.  It is easy to tell which words they comprehend and which they do not. Simply say: ¿Dónde está ________? And wait for your child to point. You can then respond with an affirmation: ¡Sí, excelente mi amor! Or correct erroneous thinking: No, ese es un ______. Aquí está el __________.
  3. Parent points to the word, and says it. Then, the child repeats it. This is a great way to get your child speaking, especially since between 12 and 18 months of life children love to mimic what others are saying, even if the word would be unintelligible outside of the context of this activity.

From 24-36 months:

  1. Sit with your child and allow him or her to say a word and you point to the corresponding picture.
  2. Ask your child to find a specific picture. We start by using the picture prompts for seeking from the book, and then mix in a few that aren’t in the margins. It is so fun to hear them exclaim in joy when they find the picture!
  3. Ask your child to point to a picture AND say the word.  We love to mix this up by “feigning ignorance” whereby we would point to a balloon and say “¡Mire qué bonito árbol!” and letting our girls correct us. (No es un árbol, ¡es un globo!) Kids love nothing more than to call out their parents when they are wrong….

From 36-48 months:

We admittedly don’t use the Seek and Find books as often during these months, but they do reside in Big Sister’s room so that she can look at them in the morning when she wakes up before she is allowed to come out of her room. She loves the autonomy of being able to find everything herself, and her self talk usually consists of:

  1. Using the words she finds in an original sentence (at this age “imaginary” relationships begin to emerge, and this is a perfect dovetail)
  2. Making up a story about the page and narrating it while pointing to the pictures on the page.

And that’s it! Have you used English books to reinforce a second language? How so? Chime in!

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Look and Find Reading Activities for Toddlers Using Spanish

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  • Reply
    Amanda Love
    June 23, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I remember when Madison was a baby, we tried teaching her French and I’m sorry I stopped. She was doing well with it too, she could identify fruits and objects by me saying it in French. I got the books and the videos and then I got lazy. I blame myself because who else can I blame? but the best time to teach a new language is when they’re young.

    • Reply
      June 30, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Amanda, it is so great that you started teaching Madison French so young! Any language exposure to kids actually re-wires their brain pathways to think in more flexible ways, so you have already made her a smarter baby by what you did! Also – it’s NEVER too late to pick back up and work with her. I often tell parents to just start with one part of the day… reading, mealtime, whatever, and commit to speaking French then. It’s phenomenal how quickly they will pick it up! I also encourage you to check out our #BilingualWe Episode #004. My co-founder, Heather, is speaking to her son in Spanish – but just a tiny bit. It’s encouraging to see a mom example of someone who is doing what she can to introduce second language in her house. Glad to have you visit the site!

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