Toddler Time: Bilingual Colors Activity With Straws

Teaching Tuesdays: Toddler Time  

In my efforts to incorporate more teaching experiences on the blog, I am going to start a series called Teaching Tuesdays. Today’s post focuses on using straws to teach color words to toddlers. For us, this is a bilingual colors activity, but it could be a monolingual activity, too. In this series, I will alternate between posts about my middle school Spanish classroom and posts about my bilingual teaching efforts with my toddler and infant.  

As I wrote my letter to the day care teachers a few weeks ago, I realized the main thing I have really dropped the ball on is my quest for my children to be bilingual. I knew it would be hard. But y’all. It is sooo hard for me to stay in the target language given that I am not a full-blown native speaker. Yes, I grew up in a bilingual home and I am a Spanish teacher, but English is definitely my majority language.

It is an overwhelming feeling to know that all efforts to make my girls bilingual fall on me. The day care teachers can’t bail me out on this one. My husband can’t let me coast on this one. The only person who can help me here is my mom and, of course, the rest of my huge Panamanian family. Unfortunately, my parents live a few hours away and the rest of the family lives further away than that. That leaves me to bear this daunting task.

Since it is summer, I do feel more of a responsibility to incorporate learning activities and lots of language into the days since we spend so many more hours together this time of year. And at 2 1/2 years old, Scooter Britches is such a little sponge. Aside from speaking in the target language as much as possible in our daily conversation, I am challenging myself to try to put a bilingual lesson into any activity we do. I came across some awesome English-based activities shared by Vicky at Mess for Less. The hands-on, low-budget activities she shares are perfect for busy little toddlers.

I decided I would use this idea to reinforce color words in Spanish. SB knows her colors in English. And, at one time, she did know some of the colors in Spanish. I fear she may have forgotten the words since it has been so long since I really put forth the effort to practice them with her.
This toddler activity with straws activity is super simple and easy to put together whether you want to do have a bilingual colors activity or practice one language.

I found a box of colorful straws in the pantry. They are neon. This is okay, but I would have rather used primary colors. There were five different color straws, and I cut up two of each into two-inch sections. I tossed all the straw pieces into a plastic bowl. I found a pair of kid-friendly kitchen tongs (made of silicone) and a small bowl.


SB lit up when she saw the colorful bowl of straw pieces and was immediately fascinated with the tongs. Of course, I had to demonstrate to her how to hold the tongs for the best control. Once she was able to operate the tongs, she immediately started picking up the straw pieces, moving them one-at-a-time to the other bowl. After she had the hang of it, I started to give her instructions in English.

“Pick up a blue piece.”

“Great job! Now, try to get a pink straw.”

After a while, I switched to Spanish, giving the same instructions.

“Escoga una pajilla.”

“Escoga el azul.”

“¡Buen trabajo! ¿Y una pajilla rosada?”


Sometimes, when she had only 2-3 in front of her, I would say something like, “Which one of those is yellow?

“¿Cuál es el amarillo? ¿Cuál es el verde?”

As expected, there was some initial confusion with the switching. Eventually, she seemed to understand the questions easily in both languages, though she still tended to answer verbally in English – as I anticipated she would.

Little One was at the table with us during the activity. I want to include her in all of our bilingual play times.

SB played with the straws and tongs several other times throughout the day, including while I was making dinner. I would glance over and give her an instruction in English or Spanish.

SB really enjoyed this activity, and I feel like I was back in the game with the bilingual push.

Bilingual baby steps – truly!

Sharing this fun bilingual colors activity with everyone at these parenting link ups this week!


  1. The Gifted Gabber says:

    Thanks, Deana! I know it may not be something she will appreciate until she is older, most likely. But I hope someday she does because there is a lot of extra thinking and stress involved on my end. lol

  2. Deana says:

    This is an awesome idea! How smart! I love that you are teaching your little one at such a young age to be bilingual. That will be a gift one day!

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