Learn Italian for Kids with 9 Terrific Tot-approved Tools
According to research, the ability to learn a new language tends to diminish with age, which might make a lot of you want to give your little ones a leg up in Italian as soon as possible.
While children can soak up the language by listening to the world around them and taking cues from natural speaking, it can still be extremely beneficial to get them using the right tools to guide their studies.
Read on to see my nine favorite online Italian learning resources to help kids learn Italian. These options are sure to capture any kid’s attention and teach essential Italian language skills!
- Gus on the Go
- Muzzy (Italian Edition)
- The Italian Experiment
- Rai Play Bambini
- Languages Online Italian
- Learn Italian by MindSnacks
- Beelinguapp Italian
- The Benefits of Language Learning at a Young Age
- How to Teach a Child Italian
Gus on the Go
Language programs geared toward children often have a very fun-centric interface that makes the experience feel more like a game than studying. One tool that does a great job with this is Gus on the Go.
This nifty little app follows the adventures of a big-eyed owl named Gus who’s making his way across Europe. In the Italian version of this app, he’s going to the Boot to learn something new about the Italian language and culture.
With colorful, cuddly characters and an easy-to-understand setup, Gus on the Go provides children with a friendly gateway to basic Italian.
The game provides native Italian audio to help guide students to pronunciation that sparkles. They’ll also be able to learn about culture as Gus travels to some of Italy’s most famous cities along his trip.
Gus on the Go is a great place to start with your little Italian student. With a simple, child-friendly interface and mobile availability, it provides fun first steps into learning a new language.
Muzzy (Italian Edition)
Muzzy has been an institution in early language learning for decades now. It was created by the BBC in 1986 to teach children different languages in a way that’s both entertaining and natural.
The program originally started as an animated film to teach English as a second language but was later dubbed many times over to allow English-speaking children to expand their language skills.
Muzzy has changed to fit the digital age and is now available on any of your devices with an internet connection. Once downloaded, the content can be viewed both on and offline, making it perfect for the car or long journeys on public transport.
The key to Muzzy’s success lies in its ability to immerse kids in the target language for effective learning. The animations they make are typically shown entirely in the language intended to be learned, spoken simply, allowing kids to take in languages as they might do when learning them organically.
Kids can watch in both English and Italian, allowing them to make associations and connect vocabulary.
The program includes two animated films along with a huge number of additional resources, such as nearly 200 games, weekly lessons, sing-along songs, an activity book and an online picture dictionary.
Muzzy provides a wealth of tools that can keep kids both entertained and educated, with characters they can grow to love. The program is also usable at all ages, which means even adults can benefit from tuning in.
The Italian Experiment
Sometimes, lessons that are plain and simple work best, and maybe your student is a little too old for some more cartoony learning tools. That’s okay, though, because there are still options for them to learn.
The Italian Experiment has a slightly more advanced, straightforward plan for teaching kids Italian. The site provides a number of free lessons on basic Italian terms and concepts, ranging from numbers to verbs. Along with cute illustrations, the lessons provide audio clips and vocabulary lists to help students along.
The Italian Experiment also has children’s stories with text and native Italian audio, which come with translations for each sentence. You can toggle these translations on and off one at a time, a feature meant to encourage learners to try and understand the sentences on their own, first.
It’s a step up from some programs in complexity, explaining the language in terms that are more suited for older children who might find other programs a bit too simple.
It also manages to not be too complex, engaging students and informing them in a way that isn’t overwhelming.
Rai Play Bambini
Rai (that’s Radiotelevisione Italiana) is one of the biggest media presences in Italy. They provide TV programs and radio shows across multiple networks, and Rai Bambini is the home for the network’s kid-focused content.
The advantage of using Rai Play Bambini comes in its immersive learning opportunities, as it’s made by and for native Italian-speaking children. The entire website is in Italian, but due to cognates and plentiful visuals, you’ll find it’s not difficult to navigate.
On this site, kids can play games, watch TV clips and find activities and print-outs to help absorb authentic Italian while having fun.
The downside of using this website is that it’s only available in Italy, which means you’ll need a VPN if you live outside of the country.
This might not be the first place to go when trying to teach an English-speaking child Italian. As everything is indeed in another language, it might be an overwhelming place to start. Rai Play Bambini is probably best used when a young student has already been engaged in learning Italian and is ready to move up the ladder to something a little more challenging.
At the core, of course, it’s highly immersive and a useful tool for any student.
Learning an entirely new way of speaking can be frustrating and daunting for even the most hardworking kids. It can help to have something familiar for kids to use as a path to learning Italian. One excellent option is to use their favorite Disney characters to get kids engaged!
Disney is just as beloved in Italy as it is in other parts of the world. The Italian Disney+ website has beloved characters that your kids will likely be familiar with, such as Disney princesses, heroes from the Marvel universe, the Jedi of “Star Wars” and so much more—with an Italian twist. All you need to view this content in Italian is a Disney+ subscription.
Since Disney is a worldwide phenomenon, much of its robust library of shows and movies are available in other languages, including Italian. Of course, not every title can be watched in the language but in many cases, you will be able to switch the audio and subtitle language to Italian.
Unfortunately, the Italian version of the Disney+ website automatically switches to English if you navigate to any of its sister sites like the shop and the park pages. However, you can see information about all the shows available on the service in Italian. You can also view trailers and teasers in Italian for many of the shows and movies without an account, so you can always check those out to get kids interested in the content!
Disney also has Italian YouTube channels that provide popular cartoons such as “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Doc McStuffins” translated into Italian. Disney Junior’s channel is perhaps the best place to start, as it has clips meant for preschoolers and therefore, the simplest language.
This is another authentic Italian resource that might need some getting used to. Even if kids don’t understand it at first, though, it’s a solid way to get them interested in the language by harnessing the characters, movies and shows they already enjoy. A lesson plan might not be so exciting, but sitting a kid down to sing “Let it Go” in Italian very well could be.
DinoLingo is a super popular website for language learning packed full of games, books, flashcards and learning video content. It’s world-famous and a favored choice when it comes to kids’ language education.
DinoLingo is a language-learning program that teaches kids Italian through the point of view of cute and engaging dinosaurs. Your kids or students will quickly fall in love with the animated dinosaurs, colorful video content and engaging games that form the basis of the Italian lessons.
The program relies on repetition, interval recall (in other words, SRS) and subtitles. If that sounds too much, don’t worry, as the vocabulary is added slowly and it’s very well-paced. Some savvy parents have even reported picking up a word or two as they help their little ones navigate the wonderful world of Italian on DinoLingo.
It’s fun and games for everyone!
In addition to videos and games, the program also teaches Italian through songs and books. And all your child’s learning is recorded in “My Report,” which allows parents to keep track of their child’s progress through the lessons.
DinoLingo supports parents in other ways, as well. There are a few key tips that parents can use to better implement the program, and there are even downloadable lesson plans to take the learning to the next level.
The program is self-paced, making it a great option for a bit of after-school fun (and learning). You can sample one lesson for free, but a full account requires a monthly subscription.
Languages Online Italian
Don’t be fooled by the simple layout and lack of flashy media. This Italian resource website from the Victorian Department of Education is packed full of all the basics to teach Italian to your little ones (and possibly even learn a little yourself).
While the materials are targeted toward teachers, they’re super flexible and can easily be implemented in a household setting.
You can choose from themed topics such as clothes, numbers, basic phrases and even the present perfect on this website. Each theme comes with printable worksheets (and answers). Unfortunately, the interactive activities are no longer available due to the sad end of Adobe Flash player. That being said, these activities can easily be replicated with apps and weren’t even what made the site great.
The site is awesome because of the fun and very cute vocabulary posters and simple flashcards, which you can download and print. As the parent or teacher, you’ll have to take an active role in the administering of these lessons, making language learning a family activity.
There’s also a song section with lyrics that links with the main topics to help drive home the vocabulary and key takeaways from the lesson.
If you’re a more hands-on teacher or parent, then this is the resource for you. Plus, since these resources were produced by a government agency, you know they’re high quality and rigorously checked for accuracy.
For additional help, you can check out the teacher’s portal. While some of the information might not be relevant due to location, many of the educational kits will be applicable all across the globe.
Learn Italian by MindSnacks
I have two close friends who are raising their children in a dual-language household. And while they tell me that they feel guilty handing over their mobile or iPad to their little ones from time to time, they feel a lot less guilty if the kiddies are learning something from this “screen time.”
Learn Italian by MindSnacks is a handy gamified app that was designed for the iPad—packed full of attractive colors, cute images, innovative games and useful vocabulary.
I like the app because, unlike many others, the focus isn’t on flashcards. Instead, your little ones will be introduced to the equally important gender forms of Italian words, verb conjugation and other Italian components through fun games.
As an adult language learner, my view on these components is straightforward—the earlier you’re introduced to them, the better. But, of course, there’s still a big focus on building a functional vocabulary base with the games, as well. This means all the bases are covered!
Please note that your kids will need a basic level of reading and listening comprehension skills to get the most out of the app. Therefore, it’s a good choice for younger learners with some previous exposure to Italian.
Remember in the beginning how I suggested some reading time to help the little ones level up their Italian skills?
Well, as a final suggestion, a reliable reading-based resource is something you simply can’t do without.
I feel confident recommending this for a few reasons. Firstly, I personally use it for language learning. And while it has some more adult sources like news and contemporary articles, there are plenty of reading selections appropriate for the little ones, such as fairytales and kids’ stories.
In addition to this, the app works by providing side-by-side reading materials of both Italian and English, which means if you’re not an Italian speaker, you’ll still be able to help by seeing the translation of vocabulary or the text.
Finally, it can be a great exercise to get the kids familiar with cognates between Italian and English in the context of stories. It really opens their eyes to the similarities between the two languages and can help their confidence.
Plus, the excellent stories make learning more fun!
What’s awesome and particularly beneficial for the kiddies is that the materials are also narrated by a real voice actor who brings the text to life—there’s no robot speak here.
Of course, some basic reading skills are required, but keep in mind there’s a massive range of content on the app, so even beginners can find something they can work with.
The Benefits of Language Learning at a Young Age
We’ve already established that language learning tends to be easier for kids. But why should they bother?
There are many benefits to teaching kids new languages.
Not only does it broaden their cultural horizons, but it can also actually keep their brains healthy well into adulthood—one long-term study showed that kids who were bilingual at 11 years old saw higher-than-average intelligence and reading skills when they were in their 70s!
Further research has shown that kids who learn a new language enjoy many benefits, like improved memory, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. It might even make them more creative and better able to think outside the box.
Some caretakers worry that introducing a second language will confuse a child who’s still learning their native tongue. But there’s no need to worry! Children are wired to learn languages. In fact, another study showed that just one hour of Italian learning per week over the course of six months helped children learn their primary language more effectively than their monolingual classmates.
Plus, learning with your little ones offers an opportunity for some family bonding and helps keep you on track in your own Italian studies as you work with your pint-sized study buddy.
There are even some programs that aren’t strictly for kids but would make excellent learning opportunities for families together. Take FluentU, for example. This immersion program infuses authentic videos with learning tools, making it easier for learners to approach native content. This method is meant to harness the natural way that kids learn—by listening to the language and picking up new information through context—and bring it to adult language learning.
There’s content for all ages in the FluentU program library, but you can filter by topic, format and level, to see only videos good for kids. For example, you’ll find colorful animated children’s songs, Disney song hits, trailers and clips from children’s movies and more.
FluentU adds learning tools to these videos, like interactive subtitles with on-demand definitions, vocabulary lists and flashcards, personalized exercises and other useful ways to interact with what you’re watching.
So gather around the screen (whether that’s iOS, Android or a browser) and get learning, together.
How to Teach a Child Italian
So, you’re ready to teach Italian to your little one. But where do you start?
It can be tough to teach a new language to even the most patient of children, especially if you’re not fluent yourself. The key is to move away from direct instruction and act as a facilitator, instead.
Let’s look at some top strategies to give the little linguists in your life a lesson in Italian.
Make small changes around the house or classroom
You don’t have to go for total immersion and completely transform your home or classroom into little Italy. Some minor adjustments can make a big difference in a kid’s Italian language acquisition.
Take a look at a few possible options below:
- Swap English cartoons for Italian cartoons (or switch on the Italian subtitles and dub). For instance, “Peppa Pig” has an Italian YouTube Channel!
- Stick some labeled post-it notes around the house or classroom and play vocabulary games such as a treasure hunt with them.
- Play Italian music, audiobooks, podcasts and other Italian media throughout the day.
- Upgrade bedtime to “Italian time” with Italian storybooks or reading apps.
- Teach your tykes the Italian versions of popular nursery rhymes.
Use many pictures and images
Pictures, flashcards and storybooks with cartoons or other visual content are going to be your best friends for teaching a young learner Italian.
As a language teacher and instructor, much of the focus of my classes with children is on using images and picture representations of vocabulary. Images give a clear visualization of language and vocabulary, which can sometimes be too abstract for a young learner. They’re also engaging, fun and memorable!
It can be as simple as printing some basic images with the Italian vocabulary written on the back or making posters with key illustrated vocabulary words. Italian picture storybooks are also a must-have and make a great gift!
Leverage their interests to Italian-learning advantage
One of the most effective ways to teach a new language is to do it through the students’ interests. You can do this both in the classroom and at home, often in ways that’ll get the kids learning without even realizing it.
One excellent option is to introduce some top Italian YouTubers or TikTokkers into the mix. A popular choice is the Key Kids—Canzoni Per Bimbi Channel, which is full of cute animated stories. Or, if they’re a bit older, they might like to follow some age-appropriate vloggers or content creators.
Another fun option for language learning is to download some mobile games and apps to allow for learning during downtime. These don’t have to be language learning apps, but could be fun apps and games that just happen to be in the Italian language.
As a final tip, search for opportunities to change the language to Italian wherever possible. For example, switch the language on the devices and apps your kids use to Italian. These small changes can lead to big results!
It’s never too early to introduce the kids in your life to the beautiful Italian language. Boost their brainpower and cultural knowledge, while teaching them a language they can use for the rest of their lives.
Start with our favorite resources above for a fun and effective introduction to Italian learning for kids!