The internet brings an endless amount of information to our fingertips.
Why not use that to teach the kids in our lives a new language?
Encouraging kids to explore Spanish websites won’t just help them develop language skills and, potentially, grow up multilingual—it can also build a range of other skills such as empathy and creativity, as we’ll discuss below.
In this article, I’ve compiled seven of the best (and often free!) Spanish websites geared for children.
- What Are the Benefits of Language Learning for Kids?
- The Importance of Immersive Learning Online
- Jumpstart Your Kids’ Spanish Learning with These 7 Fun Websites
What Are the Benefits of Language Learning for Kids?
There are many benefits that come from exposing children to a foreign language at a young age. According to linguist Noam Chomsky, young children and pre-teens may be in a “critical period” for language learning, where their brains are simply more receptive to learning new languages.
This is why it often seems like young children are a sponge for a second language, whereas a monolingual adult struggles much more with language acquisition. So, it’s important and helpful to expose children to a second language as early as possible—this may also help children acquire more languages as teens or adults!
Beyond that, bilingualism has many documented benefits. One study found that bilingual children have heightened problem-solving skills and creative thinking capabilities compared to their monolingual peers. What’s more, the study found that bilingual children possess a richer and deeper understanding of vocabulary. These skills, acquired at a young age, will serve children well for their entire lives.
Bilingualism can have emotional as well as cognitive benefits. Another recent study found that bilingual children tend to have superior social skills and a heightened sense of empathy.
Finally, exposing children to a second language at a young age can foster a sense of curiosity and global awareness that may carry through into adulthood. Knowing a foreign language gives kids a first-hand window into other cultures from around the world. In an increasingly globalized world, raising children in an environment where they learn about cultures other than their own is highly important.
The Importance of Immersive Learning Online
The internet can be a great way for children to learn Spanish in an immersive way. By clicking around Spanish-language websites, watching Spanish video or listening to Spanish audio, children train their brains to process Spanish just like a native speaker would. Rather than rote memorization, they’ll be picking up Spanish in the familiar environment of the internet, often without even realizing it.
This type of language learning will provide benefits such as increased fluency and comprehension skills!
Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition have found that immersion provides better results than traditional foreign-language acquisition, with no detriment to communication skills in the native language.
And according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, immersion helps the brain learn how to process foreign languages like a native speaker’s brain.
According to Psychology Today, language learning “in the wild” (i.e., outside of the classroom) can have very specific benefits for learners. It has to do with two different types of memory: implicit memory, which requires no conscious awareness, and explicit memory, which requires conscious recall.
Situational, non-classroom language learning (the kind you might get from playing an online game in a foreign language, for example) helps improve your implicit memory.
This skill helps learners achieve fluency in their target language, since they don’t have to stop and actively translate everything they want to say. Playing online games and watching fun cartoons in Spanish may not replace traditional classroom learning—but it certainly provides a good supplement to it.
The internet is an especially valuable tool for monolingual parents hoping to raise bilingual children. It allows monolingual parents to provide an immersive language-learning atmosphere outside of the classroom, without paying for expensive tutors or private classes. These online games, videos, songs and activities provide a fantastic supplement to classroom learning that kids can enjoy at home or on the go.
Some of the websites on this list, such as PBS Kids Spanish and Plaza Sésamo, are designed with native Spanish-speaking children in mind, making them especially helpful for creating an immersive learning environment that mimics natural language acquisition.
Jumpstart Your Kids’ Spanish Learning with These 7 Fun Websites
Best for Absolute Beginners: Rockalingua
Rockalingua bills itself as “music based Spanish learning” directed toward young children. While $10 a month (or $99 for a year) will get you full access to Rockalingua, many of their videos, games, songs, worksheets and vocabulary lists are available for free without signup.
Rockalingua’s videos emphasize the importance of repetition for vocabulary retention. This makes their videos a valuable resource for young children and beginning Spanish speakers. For example, their free-access video La Granja, Animales (The Farm, Animals) features a fun and rhythmic song about a farm and the animals that live there. We hear the names of each animal multiple times, accompanied by pictures, words and animal sounds to aid in comprehension.
Beyond the vocabulary words for animals, this short song also manages to sneakily work in a few grammar concepts!
Throughout the song, children can practice the construction hay un… (there is a…). When going over the animal sounds, they can work on the verb hacer (to do/make). The cute cartoon animals in the video and the catchy rhythm will make students want to watch the video over and over again until they have all the animal names down pat.
Rockalingua also offers a number of useful picture dictionaries, which can be accessed online or downloaded. They’re broken up into categories like Las partes del cuerpo (Parts of the body), Un día de escuela. Rutinas (A school day. Routines), La familia (Family members) and so on.
These picture dictionaries are great for early readers! Plus, when you click on a picture dictionary, you can also see related videos and activities, conveniently organized in one place.
Whether or not you consider Rockalingua useful enough to invest the $10 a month for full access, it’s definitely worth checking out their free offerings. The fun, cartoony style of the website makes it appealing for young learners, and repetition-based songs are a great way to work listening, speaking and vocabulary skills simultaneously.
Best for Authentic Content: FluentU
FluentU is an immersive language learning program that teaches through authentic Spanish videos with interactive subtitles in Spanish and English.
There are videos available for learners of any level, including cartoons and children’s songs. Kids can use the interactive subtitles to discover new words—once they click on a word, an in-context definition will appear along with visual aids and example sentences.
After they’ve watched a video, FluentU turns its dialogue into flashcards, quizzes and activities that’ll ensure your kids learn from what they watched.
This program works by exposing kids to the language as it’s used by native speakers right from the get-go. That means your kids will absorb correct pronunciations and form a Spanish accent without bad habits—this is especially useful for any parents or guardians who don’t speak Spanish themselves and wouldn’t know what pronunciation errors to correct.
While your kids tear through the Spanish videos, FluentU provides built-in progress tracking. You can keep track of the videos they’ve watched and their accuracy on activities or flashcard sets.
FluentU content isn’t filtered for kids, so I highly recommend that parents supervise their learning on this platform or use this with older children.
Best for Listening Practice: “Salsa”
This great series for Spanish language learning is produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting. “Salsa” offers 42 kid-friendly episodes that, according to its website, blend animation, live action, puppets and music to “create a unique experience for first-time learners of Spanish language and culture.”
The episodes, which are 15 or 30 minutes and entirely in Spanish, feature familiar characters like Ricitos de Oro (Goldilocks) and Caperucita Roja (Little Red Riding Hood). This blending of familiar stories and a new language makes “Salsa” accessible even to beginner or intermediate speakers.
The videos themselves are fun, interactive and dynamic. But “Salsa” goes above and beyond mere listening practice. Each episode is accompanied by a PDF transcript of the Spanish audio, presented side-by-side with English translations.
This opens up a world of opportunities for parents who don’t speak Spanish but want to be involved in the language-learning process! Use the English translation to follow along with the video. Or, with children who are beginning Spanish speakers, read through the English transcript together and then watch the videos for comprehension.
Each episode also comes with a related activity, downloadable in PDF form. Some of these activities are better suited to a classroom environment, but others can easily be adapted into rainy-day crafts or lazy Sunday projects that you can share with your child.
In Episode 102, Goldilocks makes soup that’s a little too hot. In the accompanying activity, parents and children can clip pictures from magazines and use them to make a poster-board of things that are caliente (hot) and frío (cold).
Alongside all of these resources, “Salsa” also offers a few simple games for young children. The game offerings aren’t as robust as those offered by other websites on this list—but they may be a good way to get in some passive listening during playtime.
Best for Interactive Games: PBS Kids Spanish
This PBS Kids site really takes the cake for interactive Spanish-learning games! Featuring fun and familiar characters like the Cat in the Hat and Curious George, these games work Spanish language skills while also allowing young children to practice other skills such as counting, colors and shape recognition.
PBS Kids Spanish offers games for all levels of Spanish speakers.
Absolute beginners might enjoy a simple matching game like How Do You Say…? In this game, children learn Spanish words and phrases through a picture dictionary, and then play a simple matching game to reinforce memorization.
Or, in a game like Lost and Found, children can learn Spanish in a fun and dynamic way by helping a bilingual group of friends discover lost objects.
More advanced Spanish learners can join Curious George in games like Igual para todos (Equal for All), a math game where children have to equally divide treats between a number of dogs. While the game doesn’t specifically drill Spanish vocabulary, all of the audio and written instructions are in Spanish.
Games like these are great for immersive learning—kids must work to understand a native Spanish speaker in order to figure out how to play the game!
Similarly, children can practice shape recognition and problem solving in El Jubileo suricata (The Meerkat Jubilee). This game features silly and fun Spanish videos intertwined with the actual gameplay, motivating kids to focus on their Spanish listening skills.
As an added bonus, many of PBS Kids Spanish’s immersion-style games are offered in English as well as Spanish! Let beginning Spanish learners play in English until they get the hang of the game, and then switch to Spanish for added language practice.
Best for Full Immersion: Plaza Sésamo
I’m sure many of our readers have already introduced their children to “Sesame Street”—perhaps some of you grew up with “Sesame Street” as well! But did you know that the “Sesame Street” brand also produces fantastic Spanish-language programming under the name Plaza Sésamo?
Plaza Sésamo offers great videos, audio resources, games, stories, songs, articles and printable activities. Even better, these resources are specifically geared toward a native Spanish-speaking audience.
This means that the resources available on Plaza Sésamo may be difficult for beginning Spanish speakers—at first. But the benefit of this Spanish-language programming is that it offers a fully immersive learning experience for young children.
In other words, Plaza Sésamo may not specifically drill vocabulary or grammar concepts, but it’ll teach young children to absorb Spanish media designed for native speakers. This will lead to quick gains in Spanish literacy and comprehension skills.
Plaza Sésamo’s website features tons of great printable activities, including crafts with directions written in Spanish. Are you not a Spanish speaker? No worries! Most of the crafts are self-explanatory enough that you’ll be able to understand the directions just from the pictures.
Use this opportunity to ask your child to explain the craft to you based on the Spanish instructions. You’ll have a chance to assess your child’s Spanish abilities, and he or she will get a chance to show off their newly acquired skills! Getting to teach you something for a change may prove to be a super fun and motivating experience.
Additionally, on Plaza Sésamo you’ll find great videos, songs and interactive games—all in Spanish and designed for native speakers. True to the “Sesame Street” brand, these resources are also great because they teach important values and lessons about acceptance, tolerance, health, social consciousness and environmental awareness.
Kids can play interactive games like Compartir es querer (roughly translated as Sharing Is Caring), or watch body-positive videos like Tu cuerpo es genial (Your Body Is Great)—all while learning Spanish.
Not enough on this site? Univison.com also offers online clips from its show “Sesame Amigos” (“Sesame Friends”).
Best for Gamification: Duolingo
You might already be familiar with Duolingo’s language learning app, but maybe you never thought that it could be a fun and kid-friendly site for Spanish students.
When I worked as an au pair, my nine-year-old constantly asked to play Duolingo as a reward at the end of our lessons. Duolingo is a language-learning course, but it plays like a video game, where kids can work to build up a streak or race against the clock.
This sense of “playing a game” and competing against oneself makes Duolingo super enjoyable and motivates kids to continue practicing Spanish. Those catchy animations certainly hold their attention, too!
If you’ve ever used Duolingo yourself, you know that it relies heavily on repetition to help learners naturally memorize new words and verb conjugations. This is especially useful for getting kids to learn in an immersive way. Young ones certainly don’t want to drill grammar worksheets any more than you do—getting them to absorb Spanish through repetitive but fun games can be much more effective.
Another cool feature is that you can track your young student’s progress over time. The website starts at absolute beginner and allows young learners to access progressively more challenging material.
Best for Self-guided Learning: BBC Primary Languages Spanish
BBC’s free Spanish language resources are great for slightly older students who are more comfortable exploring a website on their own without parental guidance.
While still attractive and kid-friendly, BBC Primary Languages Spanish loses the cute cartoon animals and sing-along songs, offering a Spanish-learning experience geared more toward tween learners than young children.
The BBC website is fantastic for beginner and intermediate learners looking to improve the breadth of their vocabulary, as well as practice vocabulary retention and recall.
The website is divided into a variety of headings such as All About Me, Food and Drink, Our World and Culture. Each heading encompasses a variety of vocabulary topics, presented in a way that’s relatable and fun for young learners.
For each topic, you’ll find a Spanish-English word list with a clickable pronunciation guide, plus topic-specific videos, photos, songs and games.
Although the BBC Primary Languages homepage looks simple at first glance, it actually contains a wealth of information and resources. This makes it great for older students who can navigate the web without direct parental guidance. Let the student pick the topic that most appeals to them, and then allow them to click away from there—exploring the vocabulary and then applying it to games and other activities!
Because the BBC is based in the U.K. rather than the U.S., their website is more geared toward European Spanish than Latin American Spanish. The focus on Spain allows young students to learn alternate vocabulary as well as learn about a new culture that might not be familiar to them!
For example, under the subheading Culture, students learn basic facts about Spain’s culture, history and society—all while practicing Spanish! The songs and videos in this section highlight typical Spanish customs, celebrities and musical genres.
One of the most important benefits of language learning is that it opens young minds to the world beyond their home country. BBC Primary Languages Spanish takes full advantage of this, using Spanish language learning as a vessel to introduce children to the beautiful and rich culture and history of Spain.
Supplemental language learning doesn’t have to mean spending an arm and a leg on tutors and extra classes. Children can work their Spanish language skills in the comfort of their own home—often while having fun exploring games, songs and videos online.
Not a Spanish-speaker? No worries! Virtually all of the sites on this list are navigable even if English is your only language. Plus, even if you can’t understand the words, you can still enjoy the fun videos and songs with your child. Maybe you’ll even pick up a little Spanish, too!