7 Activities to Teach Family and Descriptive Words in Spanish

Ready to learn how to describe your family with family vocabulary and some basic descriptive words in Spanish?

Below I’ve described how I used the activities for the first chapter of my book ¿Dónde está el chocolate? to teach immediate family members, some descriptive words, and the verbs ser, hay, and tener.

Here is the suggested schedule, what is taught, and a list of the activities:

You can buy the bundle with the parent instructions and activities here.

How I Taught My Kids Family Vocabulary and Descriptive Words in Spanish

Total Physical Response and Flashcards

After Aidan and I drew pictures on the flashcards, we used them for the Total Physical Response (TPR) lesson. If your kids don’t like to draw, you could have them find pictures in magazines or newspapers or print pictures or clipart from the internet.

My kids aren’t too interested in TPR, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I grouped the flashcards into three categories: adjectives, house/room, and family. I said each word in each group and had the kids touch or pick up the card.

Then I repeated them. Even though they didn’t completely know the words, they were familiar with them for our conversation (PQA).

So if your kids aren’t into the TPR part, no worries! Do the best you can with it and then do another activity that they will like and get repetition that way. For instance, Aidan asked to play Memoria with the flashcards, so I know we’ll get lots of repetition with the words through that game.

I also used the labels included with the bundle and put those on things in their rooms.

There isn’t a sign for “is” in ASL, so we just practiced “tiene” with an action.

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Conversation and a Mini-Story

To practice hay, es, and tiene I have statements and questions in the conversation script. This is where you talk a lot in Spanish so kids can hear the language in context.

I discovered my kids don’t like Skittles, so I bought m&ms for Aidan and Mike and Ike’s for Alex. Because Easter candy is in stores now, I lucked out with Easter m&ms and was able to include questions with rosado and morado.

I put some candy on two plates and then used the script from my lesson to ask them a bunch of questions for the vocabulary word hay. They were so squirrely! I let them eat a few pieces here and there since it seemed kind of cruel to make them look at the candy but not eat it.

It ended up being funny because our conversation went like this:

Me: ¿Cuántos m&ms amarillos hay?

Aidan, shoving m&ms into his mouth: zero (yep, I let them talk in English. 😊 I just want them to understand me at this point.)

Me: ¡No hay m&ms amarillos!

Aidan: they’re in my stomach

Me: ¿Cuántos m&ms hay en el estómago?

Aidan: 2

Me: Ooo, hay dos m&ms en el estómago.

If you are relatively comfortable with Spanish, you will probably want to improvise a little bit and not just stick to the script. It will be more fun for you and your kids. Just sticking to the script works too especially if you’re learning Spanish or getting back into it after a long time.

When I was first learning this method, I was super awkward because you have to think on your feet a little bit with this method. That is not my forte. And I’ve discovered most teachers feel awkward when they first start using PQA in their classes. So if it feels uncomfortable, don’t worry about it. Just keep going and it will get better.

We spent about 10 to 15 minutes with questions using hay. Waaaaaay too long, but most of that time they were goofing around.

We spent another 10ish minutes on questions with tengo, tienes, and tiene. I had them put candy in their hands for part of it to differentiate between hay and tiene, and I followed the script to ask them questions first about the candy then about our cat.

I didn’t use tengo as much as I would like so we will probably play the dreaded Peces (Go Fish) 😂 with a deck of cards. I will probably take out the face cards and aces to keep it simple with just the numbers.

They need to review the numbers, but using the flashcards with this unit’s vocabulary would also work well. As much as I hate playing Peces, it will give lots of opportunities for me to model tengo and tienes.

There is one more verb in the lesson to cover, but there was no way I could keep their attention anymore. I ended the lesson with a mini-story about our cat based on their answers. It’s part of the Silly Spanish Stories booklet in the bundle.

I also made a short video with this mini-story for listening practice.

There is an outline in the lesson, so you and your kids can make your own mini-story.

I gave them the choice of drawing the story or acting it so I could see how much they understood. They both chose to act it, and it was hilarious to watch! 🤣

I said one sentence at a time, and they had to act it out before I moved on to the next sentence. Their actions showed what I said without them looking at the vocabulary list or me translating, so I’m happy!

After we did the Poco story, we finished conversation with the script using es, eres, and soy and the listening part of Movie Talk. I used my phone for the video and don’t recommend it. The screen was too small, and it was hard to pause the video at the right time.

Even though I did this lesson separately, both boys answered the question ¿Cómo es Poco? with travieso. For fun I asked them, “¿Por qué es travieso?” and they both answered because he meows a lot.  

So true! I feel like he’s constantly yelling at us. Don’t feel like you have to ask questions with por qué, though; answering that can be more challenging and will inevitably bring up words they don’t know yet. If you don’t want to overwhelm them with vocabulary (or look up extra vocabulary), skip por qué.

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I was adding more descriptive words like tonto (dumb, silly), inteligente, and gordo (fat) to increase their interest. I asked them, “¿Eres tonto como Patrick Starr o eres inteligente como Sandy Cheeks?” since those are easy to act while saying the word and, therefore, easy to understand.

As soon as Alex and I were done with the lesson he immediately started saying, “Eres tonto” to Aidan. When Aidan finished his lesson, he was able to return the insult. So saying eres tonto is a thing in my house now. 🙄 😆

After we used eres, soy, and es in conversation, I asked more questions about Poco. I added these details to the story from last time and had them draw the story.

The little mini-stories we create are pretty silly, but they are getting a lot of listening out of it and the conversations have been fun with them.


After completing the listening part of the Movie Talk, we did the reading. They. Complained. So. Much. Alex just wrote random numbers in the spaces. Thankfully, Aidan was actually trying to figure out the correct order of the sentences, so I think Alex felt a little bit of sibling competition.

Aidan pretty much worked on the activities on his own with just a few questions about what some of the words meant. If you want to skip the listening part of Movie Talk, you can just show the video (for context) and do the reading activities.

movie talk reading activity to practice descriptive words in spanish
The Movie Talk reading activities are pretty messy, but they did them!

Alex crossed out the numbers and started again with me sitting next to him. He does not like help unless he asks for it which has been surprising and a bit challenging for me. I’m learning when to wait for him because he’s trying to figure it out and when to help him because he is stuck.

He doesn’t always tell me where he’s at and then gets annoyed with me if I help him when he doesn’t want me to or don’t help him when he does. Unfortunately, I don’t have the gift of reading minds.

Aidan started reading the Poco Story #2 (in the Silly Spanish Stories booklet) and completing the drawing activity while Alex finished up the Movie Talk. His illustrations are kind of a mess but show the story. I sat with Alex and read a sentence of the Poco story in Spanish and Alex translated into English. We did one box at a time. I was hoping he would color it more, but at least his illustrations show the story.

reading activity with second poco story to practice descriptive words in spanish
Alex’s illustrations for Poco, el gato #2.

I love how they took notes on their papers. Today went more smoothly. At least once they settled into the activities and stopped complaining. I think it helped that they are understanding the vocabulary.

The first couple of days I heard a lot of “I don’t know any Spanish” and “I don’t know what you’re saying.” I took a few deep breaths, slapped a smile on my face, and kept going. This is what I did:😁 But this is how I felt:😡

The kids and I also read the story Felipe y las donas. I have a recording that goes with the story as well as a reading activity.

This is the audio recording of the story called Felipe y las donas (Felipe and the donuts) and includes listening comprehension questions.


Aidan and I played Memoria with the flashcards. I said the words in Spanish as the cards were turned over so he could hear the pronunciation and then periodically asked what the word means in English. It was a good review of the vocabulary.

Then the boys played Las carreras which is a reading game. Las carreras means the races and the game consists of reading sentences in Spanish and then translating the sentences into English.

As you translate the sentences correctly, you move your animal on the racetrack. Whoever finishes the race first, wins! I learned this game from an amazing German teacher I used to work with.

I ended up using my word wall/calendar time board for the racecourse and told them to ask me for words they didn’t know since they couldn’t see the word wall. Next time, I’ll give them a copy of those words (located in the Vocabulary document from last week). Since Alex is more of a muchacho than a niño, I used muchacho and muchacha in the game.

beginning of the races activity for reading practice for descriptive words in spanish
This is the start of the race. Alex’s animal is on top and is a mouse, dog, and cat that says mework or bwork. Aidan’s animal is on the bottom and is a giraffe. I used a piece of butcher paper to make the racecourse.
boys playing the races
The boys playing las carreras. They each used a whiteboard to write their translations.
halfway through the races
Halfway through the race and Alex is in the lead.
the end of the races
The race is over, and Aidan won!

It was a close race, but Aidan ended up winning. I have two kids who are sore losers, so Alex was grumpy for a little bit. You can tell because his worksheet for the next activity about family was a wreck. He kept writing English and incorrect information. Alex, my husband, and I are not all 27 years old. 😄

Alex's description of our family using descriptive words in spanish
This is Alex’s description of our family.

After the race, the boys did worksheet #1 in the Mi familia activity. I’m not quite ready to have them try using Spanish on their own. We have a couple of more reading/listening activities to do first. Plus, they just don’t have much vocabulary at this point. I’ll probably wait until after the next chapter to have them write anything or try speaking.

Aidan’s description of Jerry was hilarious! He wrote: Mi papá es alto y un dinosaurio. I’m guessing that means he thinks Jerry is super old! 👴 🤣 I love that he’s being creative with Spanish!

And smiling and continuing with patience paid off! Alex told me that he used casa instead of house when he and Aidan were talking. Apparently, Aidan was talking about building a bigger house in Minecraft, and Alex responded, “I’m going to build a casa too.”

He used Spanish without even thinking about it! 🎉🎉 I know it’s only one word, but I’m very excited that it came out spontaneously without thought. 😁 Another reason why I don’t want to push speaking. I want it to be something that happens naturally.

What Is Movie Talk?

You might be wondering What is Movie Talk? Movie Talk is showing a video (a clip, movie, commercial, etc.) and describing it in the target language. In my case, I describe the videos in Spanish. This gives the learners lots of Spanish with a visual to help them understand what they are hearing.

Movie Talk is part of a system called Focal Skills invented by Dr. Ashley Hastings to teach ESL students. I can’t find any links about him that still work, or I would include one here.

Michele Whaley, a World Language teacher in Alaska, introduced Movie Talk to high school World Language teachers. This is a post on her site that talks about her using Movie Talk when she first started using it in her classes.

Everyone does Movie Talk a little differently. I like to include descriptions about what is happening in the video, questions about the video, and questions about my students in relation to the vocabulary and/or actions in the video.

For example, if the video is about a birthday party, I will ask my students about their birthday parties. I also like to include a reading activity after talking about the video.

The kids and read the first chapter of ¿Dónde está el chocolate? together, and they completed the reading activities for it.

Additional Activities

Reading is really important for learning a language, so I like read books with the kids. I regularly go to Goodwill and other thrift stores and look for Spanish books. I can usually find some, and this has been my number one source to build my Spanish library.

A couple of years ago, I found two books about family: ¿Cómo es tu mamá? by Rosanela Álvarez and Yasushi Muraki and En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza. I’m going to start with reading those and describing the pictures using hay, es, and tiene.

I included a list of questions in Spanish you can ask with any book in the Parent Guide to practice the vocabulary from this chapter.

And last, I have an Arts and Crafts activity but probably won’t have the kids do that at this time. Having them home while I’m working remotely here has been enough of a challenge without throwing a messy project like papier mache into the mix. 🤪

What I Learned

These lessons are taking longer than I thought both with the number of minutes per lesson and the number of days even without them goofing around. This has surprised me a little, but I’m not in a rush like at school so todo está bien (it’s all good).

Using my phone for Movie Talk isn’t great. I was too lazy to get my laptop or search YouTube on the tv so just used my phone. Next time, I will grab my laptop or try using the tv.

How to say meow in Spanish. Full disclosure: I have no idea how to say animal sounds in Spanish. Not something you learn in university language classes. I found this great video, though, to help me.

Do you know anyone who wants to teach their kids high-frequency verbs, family, and descriptive words in Spanish? Feel free to share with the buttons on the left!

How did your kids describe family members? Is anyone a dinosaurio in your family? 🤣 Tell me about it in the comments below!

P.S. Are you looking for a quick and fun way to help your kids start learning Spanish? If so, check out my free Spanish for Kids Starter Guide! You can immediately use any of the 9 simple tips to introduce your kids to Spanish. Know what the best part is? You don’t have to know Spanish to use it!

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