If you read my bilingual baby post, you know that we are attempting to raise Baby J in a bilingual home. (Even though my husband and I are both native English speakers, and I am only an intermediate Spanish speaker.) How successful we will be remains to be seen!
The most important element of our strategy will be me persevering in speaking Spanish to Baby J. However, surrounding him with Spanish music and words should help both him and me as we grow together in our knowledge of vocabulary. (For example, when I read him a book about animals, I find new words as well. I didn’t have any reason to know that guinea pigs in Spanish were cobayas!)
I hope this list of resources we use or will be using is helpful! Most of them are for Spanish, but I’ll include a few from other languages. Even if you’re not going to teach your child to speak any language other than English, research suggests that children exposed to other languages may be better communicators.
Books and Music for a Bilingual Home (Spanish)
Most of these were bought on Amazon.
- ¿Dónde está el ombliguito? Un libro para levantar la tapita por Karen Katz (Spanish Edition) Baby J has responded to this board book with happy noises and kicks ever since he was only about 2 1/2 months old. It’s definitely a favorite! (The book consistently uses the child-friendly, diminutive form of words. Ombliguito for navel/belly button, for example, rather than ombligo. If that annoys you, move on to something else. I personally think it’s endearing.) Little windows open up inside the book (J’s favorite part probably.)
- ¡Cu-Cú, Bebé! (Peek-a-Baby) (Same author and style of book as the one described above.)
- A is for Airplane/A es para avion (Alphabet Books) This gorgeous bilingual board book is another favorite in our house. I like that it reenforces both English and Spanish by careful selection of similar words for the letters. (D is for desert or desierto, for example.) Its small size and thick board pages are also perfect for tiny baby hands just learning to turn the page.
First 100 Words Bilingual (Spanish Edition) A good choice for parents learning right alongside your child!
- Animals: Animales (Bright Baby) (English and Spanish Edition) Again, just right for tiny (and slobbery) hands!
- Bilingual Bright Baby Colors (Spanish Edition) This book of colors was one of Baby J’s Christmas presents. At 3 months old, he loved the pink pages best and would stare at each page for quite a while. Now, he’s a busy little bee who wants to turn pages.
- Bright Baby Bilingual Touch & Feel: Numbers Touch and feel sensory pages AND it’s bilingual! What’s not to like?
- ¿Eres Mi Mama? (Are You My Mother) por P.D. Eastman. The first time I read this book aloud was in an orphanage in Honduras. I guess it had been donated. In that context, this was a very sad story, because I realized that unlike the baby bird, most of the toddlers I was reading to would not find their mamas. However, they loved the book and wanted me to read it over and over. It’s a much happier story for you to read to your own child! (And how beautiful the finding-mama story is for your child if he is adopted!)
- La oruga muy hambrienta (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), Eric Carle. Our library has The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish! I was delighted to find such a beloved baby book in Spanish as well as English. Check your library for Spanish options. Many small towns in the United States don’t have much in this category, but it’s worth checking! (Eric Carle’s Very Busy Spider is also available in Spanish on Amazon: La araña muy ocupada.)
- Quiero a mi Mama Porque (I Love my Mommy Because) This bilingual one is on my Amazon wishlist!
- Buenos Dias, Bebe! / Good Morning, Baby! (Soft-to-Touch Books) DK Books are always among my favorites! There’s also a Buenas Noches, Bebe in the series.
- Oraciones de la Biblia Para La Hora De Acostarse (Bible Prayers for Bedtime) While I’ve found a couple small mistakes in this Bible storybook for children focusing on prayer, it’s been a perfect length for Bible bedtime stories. (I realize that any children’s retelling of Bible stories will not be exactly accurate like reading directly from the Bible. But I’d like for this one to be more accurate.) Something I really like here are the prayers at the end of each story. Because I’m not completely fluent yet, I need some help in teaching J how to pray in Spanish.
- Canciones Infantiles Lately I’ve felt like this album of nursery rhymes is the soundtrack of my life. “Los pollitos dicen, pio, pio, pio.” (The little chicks say, cheep, cheep, cheep.) Baby J loves the cheerful, lilting music and even David has taken to whistling the songs around the house. You can find many of the lyrics at this website. (Click on link.) We usually listen to this one by asking Amazon Alexa to play it. Alexa’s Spanish accent is atrocious, but she can find this CD.
- Le Canto This CD by Kari Jobe (the translated songs are from Kari Jobe, her first popular album) I also heard in Honduras first. We played it while trying to get the toddlers to sleep during naptime every day for a long time because it’s so soothing. I play it for J now to calm him.
- El Dios que Adoramos I love Sovereign Grace’s music, and the Spanish version is every bit as good. A Costa Rican who spent the weekend with us a couple of months ago told us that the lead singers of this Spanish live version are husband and wife and are Dominicans. (i.e. native Spanish speakers) This CD is not technically baby music, but it is something I can listen to and enjoy while still surrounding J with Spanish. (By the way, another wonderful singer who is a native Spanish singer who sings Christian music is Marcela Gandara. She has a bit different theological perspective than Sovereign Grace’s, but a stunning voice.)
- Cha, Cha, Cha (Spanish learning songs/Canciones infantiles) To me, this music is very reminiscent of old Mexican music, which I ardently dislike. I think it’s all the accordion and trumpet. [And, in real Mexican music, the tuba. And the changing rhythms…] Anyway, for me, the semi-annoying music is worth putting up with for the educational content of the songs.
- Las 20 Mejores Canciones Infantiles has much more enjoyable music to listen to, in my opinion and to my English-music-accustomed ear. Many of the songs will be the same as the nursery rhymes in the first CD I listed, just like in collections of English nursery rhymes. There are always a few favorites everyone wants to sing! (For a rather weird interpretive YouTube video of these songs, watch this (maybe without your baby).
Many of the following books are on my list either to buy or to search for in the library.
- Goodnight Moon / Buenas Noches, Luna, Margaret Brown. A classic.
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears/Ricitos de Oro y Los Tres Osos The wonderful thing about bilingual books is that when J requests they be read when he’s older, either of his parents can read them in the appropriate language. In this series are also The Little Red Hen / La Gallinita Roja and many other classics.
- Growing Up With Tamales / Los tamales de Ana Another bilingual book I found on a list of recommendations made by a native Spanish speaker.
- Bossy Gallito / El gallo de bodas Because why not add a Cuban folk tale to your child’s literary heritage?
- How Do I Feel?/Cómo Me Siento? Good way to introduce “feeling words” in the 2nd language. (One of those books that teaches me as much as Baby J.) This book’s translation is pretty forced/stilted. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve found a better one!
- My Colors, My World/Mis Colores, Mi Mundo Beautiful bilingual picture book by Maya Gonzalez.
- Pete, el gato I am so excited that there’s a Spanish version of Pete, the Cat, the optimistic fellow who loves his shoes no matter what color they are.
- Cantos Biblicos A friend of mine from Mexico told me about this CD. Remember all those songs from VBS/Sunday school? (Like, “Jesus Loves Me” or “The walls of Jericho came tumbling down”?) They’re in Spanish, too! 🙂 (Thanks, Marisol!)
- Cantos Bíblicos Con Acción More music from Cedarmont Kids. These are the action songs you might remember from Sunday school.
- De Paseo… Para Niños Silly songs sung sweetly by children. My alliteration was an accident until I got to “sweetly.” I just couldn’t resist. 🙂 These are more like the baby nursery rhymes.
- Baby Einstein – My First Signs This is for sign language; I actually bought a Baby Einstein DVD before J was born that has multiple languages on it, including French and Hebrew. I had to buy it used then and can no longer find it on Amazon. Right now, I just stick it in the computer and face it away from J. In my opinion and due to other research I mentioned in this article, he’s developmentally unready to handle television. This way, he can hear the other languages, although I question its effectiveness because of lack of consistency and my own inability to reinforce any languages other than English and Spanish. I think, to be honest, that the multilingual exposure makes me feel good more than it keeps his neurons from pruning themselves, which was my initial goal. 🙂 Just a note: a bilingual home is much easier to maintain than a multilingual home, for obvious reasons. 🙂
- Learn Arabic for Children: Animals Around Us: Baby Einstein Arabic I haven’t looked into this one closely yet, but Baby Einstein has several Arabic-learning options that aren’t Q’uran focused like so many of the Arabic language learning apps, for instance.
The easy thing about Spanish, French, and other languages that use the same alphabet as ours (with some extra letters) is that it’s so much easier for us to learn to read in those languages. There are books for other languages, but you have to have studied to be able to read them to your child. That’s why for Arabic, Mandarin, Hebrew, etc. I just play music/speaking in those languages. I think it’s wonderful for children to see other lettering systems, but for now I’m not going to confuse both Baby J and I with that. However, here are a few examples of books in other languages, including those that are impossible for us to read unless we’ve studied the language intensively.
The My First Bilingual Book a Day Series has several choices in English + another language, including:
- Italian (yay for easier to read! I’d eventually like to learn some Italian with Baby J because of his Italian heritage.)
- Chinese (I assume Mandarin? And I don’t know if this is the simplified Chinese used on the mainland, but that’s also what I would guess.)
I only chose one example from the series to link to in each language. There are usually several books available bilingually in each. (So feelings, numbers, vehicles, etc.)
Then, of course, there are the beautiful tiny children’s picture dictionaries from a couple different series:
(Look up individual languages on Amazon to see what you can find.) For older children, the Oxford Picture Dictionaries are wonderful. For example, this Haitian-Creole one. I used them all the time with my Level One ESL students. But I wouldn’t sit down with one of them and a drooling, grasping little baby like my J. 🙂
One Extra Step
We naturally talk to our babies and explain the world around them anyway. So it’s just one extra step to add another language. If you can’t remember the word for refrigerator, for example, in Spanish, stick a colorful Post-It Note with the word written on it to the refrigerator. Not only will you be teaching yourself, you’ll be reenforcing your child’s literacy in a second language as he grows up and sees you glancing at your household notes. In addition, you’ll have a very visually bilingual home. (Especially if you do the same with English words.)
Will the books, music, and videos help us in making a bilingual home? We’ll see! Wish me luck! And please share with me if you’re attempting the bilingual journey!