1. Introduce new words in sets of three. Work with those words, and then introduce two or three more. A total of five or six new words at a time is plenty.
2. Use objects, pictures or actions to make the meaning of new words clear and to incorporate movement into the learning process.
3. Touch or move objects as you say the words.
For example, use toy animals or pictures to teach dog, cat, and bird. First, give your child the dog and say “el perro.” Then ask for it back by extending your hand and saying “el perro, por favor.” Do it again, and then do the same with the other animals. You can use any action that associates the word with the object – El perro is going to kiss you! or El perro is going to jump to you!
Then, with the objects or pictures in front of you, touch each one as you say the word. Have your child touch them with you. Mix up the order – el perro, el gato, el pájaro, el gato, el perro, el gato…etc.
When your child is comfortable with the three new words, introduce two or three more the same way.
4. Play games and do activities that let you repeat the words.
Memory, the game where you turn over cards to make pairs, is perfect for learning vocabulary. When you turn over the picture of the dog, say “¡El perro! ¿Dónde está el otro perro? ¿Aquí? No, no es el perro. ¡Es el gato!” We made our memory cards using 3×5 cards cut in half. Drawing the pictures for the cards is another great language activity.
Read books together and point to the pictures, saying the words. Ask ¿Dónde está el perro? and then point and answer your own question – ¡Allí está el perro! Your child will quickly understand the phrase ¿Dónde está..? and will join in the game.
5. Learn songs and rhymes with your child. Songs and rhymes use the vocabulary in correct structures. The rhythm makes them easy to memorize and lets children produce more complicated sentences. These teach the deeper grammatical structure of Spanish.