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By Julia Solovieva – Language teacher with more than 10 years of experience in teaching English as a second language. You can follow her on FB on Random English.
On the surface, Legos don’t seem to be directly connected to language learning, not many toys do. But there can actually be a lot of great tips on using Legos for learning a new language with your kids.
As you probably already know, young children learn everything through play, and language is no exception. This is how we learnour mother tongue – and a foreign language can be learned practically the same way.
And the truth is, almost any toy can be used to learn a foreign language with a few tweaks to how you play.
Legos offer many benefits to children and parents in general, and using them for language learning, in particular, can be extremely beneficial, too – read on to find out the details!
Why are Legos great for language learning?
Legos are a so-called open-ended toy: they don’t have one fixed purpose, like, say, a puzzle.
And Legos can be used in a wide variety of ways – both for regular play and for learning a foreign language.
There are lots of great open-ended toys out there – check out this list for a few good examples.
Here’s a quick list of main benefits of Legos for language learning:
- A vast variety of possible topics – almost anything can be built from Legos and talked about
- It is a collaborative toy that encourages speech
- Legos promote overall creativity, experimentation, and problem-solving, which benefits language development as well
- They can be used with children of different ages: there are Legos for babies, Legos for 4-year-olds, and kids of all other ages
- Legos are a fun toy – and having fun when learning a language makes it more effective
Useful tips on using Legos for learning a new language
There are many different ways you can use Legos to learn a language with your toddler – here are some of the best ones.
Start by learning the alphabet
The alphabet is one of the first things you will learn with your child in a foreign language. And as you can build almost anything out of Legos – why not letters and words?
Some Lego sets will have ready-made blocks with letters on them.
You can also put stickers on blocks yourself, or use the blocks to build large letters together – involving the child in actually building the letter can make it much more memorable.
Learn names of objects
Depending on the Lego or Duplo set you have, different figurines will be included: trees, animals, cars, people of different professions… It’s a great way to learn some vocabulary!
You can start by simply naming the objects in the target language when playing Legos with your child.
As they memorize new words, you can move on to slightly harder tasks: asking your child to repeat the words after you, asking them what this or that object is called, and even interacting with objects only when they are named in the foreign language.
Learn simple concepts
Colors, shapes, sizes, concepts like big and small, close and far – Legos are great for learning that.
Before introducing the foreign words, make sure your child understands the concept itself – and you are good to go.
A lot of action is involved in playing with Legos, which makes them a perfect tool for learning verbs.
First, you can learn the verbs that are needed for players to interact with each other during play: asking your child to pass you this or that part, connect or disconnect parts, move them in different ways.
Second, you can learn lots of verbs connected with each particular play plot-line: tractors driving, trains moving, people running or dancing, farm animals making sounds, and so on.
Make sure to always introduce the new verbs while demonstrating the action to make the examples clear.
It is also important to repeat them regularly, so try not to switch back to your mother tongue right after introducing a new verb or concept.
Even small Lego sets can be used in many different ways to tell lots of different stories. Make the most of these stories for language learning with your child!
You can use Lego play to practice the vocabulary you have already learned as well as learn new language units.
Don’t rush and overcomplicate things: simple stories and simple words will work best, especially at the beginning.
Follow your child’s lead
If there is one thing a toddler is better at than their parents, it is play.
Watch the way your child plays with Legos – you may see some ways of playing you haven’t even thought about.
Pay attention to the things your child does most often and enjoys most – they will work best for introducing new vocabulary in the foreign language.