Bilingual Children's Books and Toys for Learning a Second Language

I'm Raising a Bilingual Child—These Are the Books and Toys We Love

If you want to raise a global citizen, it’s never too early to start a second language.

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There’s a joke in travel circles that goes something like this: What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. How about two? Bilingual. And one? American.

As a lifelong traveler and barely bilingual US citizen (I eek by with elementary Spanish), that punchline cuts me to my core. Like many friends and colleagues, I didn’t study a second language until the seventh grade. It wasn’t until I visited Europe in my junior year of college that I realized what an anomaly this was. Most Europeans I met spoke at least two languages—and sometimes four or five. My meager command of Spanish, by comparison, was a source of embarrassment.

It’s unfortunate that more schools in America don’t require foreign language instruction from an early age. Research suggests that bilingual children are not only better communicators, they’re more adept at multitasking, decision making, and problem solving. There’s also the benefit of expanded global awareness: Because bilingual children are exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking, it can help them develop a broader worldview and greater appreciation for diversity. 

My husband and I wanted to do better by our son. Since he was 10 weeks old, we have invested in an array of bilingual books and toys. His beloved caretaker is from Cuernavaca, Mexico, and speaks only Spanish with him; together they eat Morelos–style mole, shimmy to CantaJuego, and celebrate traditional holidays like Día de Muertos. Nearly 15 months into it, we’re starting to see the payoff. After “mama” and “dada” and a defiant “no!,” Julian’s fourth word was “agua.”

What follows are some of our favorite Spanish–language books and toys, plus other bilingual children's books and games organized by language.


When our son was around three months old and hating every minute of tummy time, we bought him Baby Einstein’s Glow & Discover Light Bar. The blinking, singing activity station had three language settings (Spanish, English, and French), and while Julian loathed laying on his belly, he delighted at hearing the words pulpo, rana, and tigre followed by goofy sound effects anytime he smacked the cartoonish pictures of an octopus, frog, or tiger. 

Julian can’t read yet, but he is capital-O obsessed with Coco Learns Spanish. There are three sing-along books in the series, each featuring six Spanish lullabies accompanied by English translations. Half of the ditties were familiar to us (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Row Row Row Your Boat”) and half are sourced from Spanish-speaking cultures (“Pin Pon,” “Naranja Dulce,” “De Colores”). Each one is sung twice through by Alba Ponce de León, whose voice is like silk. The books’ pages are thick and durable, too, which is good because my son wants to listen to each song at least 200 times a day.

Now that he’s a bit older, he’s also taken to mashing the buttons on LeapFrog’s Learning Friends 100 Things That Go book. The bilingual sound book dives deep on every form of transportation imaginable: skateboards, scooters, sailboats, you name it. Another book from the Learning Friends series, 100 Words About Places I Go, has more of a travel bent, teaching him common Spanish words for things he might encounter at a beach, farm, or amusement park. To build on that learning, we’ve introduced Lil’ Libros to his library. These beautifully illustrated board books celebrate culture and place through titles such as Vámonos a OaxacaVámonos a San Salvador, and Vámonos a Antigua. In Spanish and English, children learn what makes each destination special. (Also available in the series: BogotáSan JaunSanto Domingo, and Tegucigalpa.)

Baby Einstein Glow and Discover Light Bar

Coco Learns Spanish Vol. 1

LeapFrog 100 Things That Go

Lil' Libros Vámonos à Oaxaca


Peipei Zhou, the Shanghai–born, Brooklyn–based author and entrepreneur behind Julian’s cherished Coco Learns Spanish series, actually launched her musical book business with Mandarin on the brain. As a Chinese American mom, she wanted to be able to sing Chinese nursery rhymes with her children but couldn’t find any books on the market—so she made them herself. The interactive sound books in the Bao Bao Learns Chinese series features six nursery rhymes apiece sung by Zhou. It’s a mix of East and West: think “It’s Bitsy Spider” meets “Two Tigers.”

For kids old enough to study pictograms (around ages six to eight), Taiwanese author ShaoLan Hsueh’s Chineasy for Children is a smart buy. The book uses stick figures to illustrate 100 common Chinese characters, teaching young readers how to build words and phrases. In addition to covering numbers, food, family, and the natural world, it also touches upon hallmarks of Chinese culture such as dragon boat festivals and the zodiac. For children big into pretend play, the faux foods from Tiny Sponge are a delightful way to learn about cooking. The deluxe Asian breakfast set, for instance, includes wooden bao buns, a mushroom momo, tea eggs, youtiao (Chinese fried dough), soy sauce and vinegar bottles, a steamer basket, and easy-to-grasp chopsticks. While you’re at it, throw a Lion Dance marionette puppet in your cart to kickstart a conversation about New Year festivities.

Bao Bao Learns Chinese

Lion Dance Marionette Puppet

Asian Breakfast Deluxe Wooden Set


Gifting your enfant their own copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince is sweet, but they’ll understand it better if you cover the basics first. Start with Opal Dunn’s Un Deux Trois: First French Rhymes, featuring 25 traditional nursery rhymes with illustrated vocab and an accompanying CD so children can hear lyrically correct pronunciations. Just as popular with the toddler set: Cali’s Books’ French Nursery Rhymes, a press-and-listen singalong book that plays 15-second clips of “Frère Jacques,” “Gentil Coquelicot,” and other well-known tunes. (Similar titles are available in SpanishBrazilianGreekChinese, and Hebrew.)

For more hands-on learning, the delightfully silly Making Faces set from Manhattan Toy teaches kids three and up about all kinds of emotions (happiness, excitement, fear) and how to articulate them in French. The box includes three magnetic boards and 31 punch-out facial features that can be mixed and matched to capture any expression. To really get your kid rocking and rolling, order the French edition of LeapFrog’s Let’s Record! Music Player. Children can push buttons to learn about letters, counting, and weather; record up to 30 seconds of their own caterwauling; or sing along with 20 classic songs such as “Ah! Les Crocodiles.”

Un Deux Trois: First French Rhymes

Cali's Books French Nursery Rhymes

Manhattan Toy Making Faces

LeapFrog Let's Record! French Music Player


There isn’t a baby on earth that doesn’t love blocks, nor a parent who wouldn’t appreciate the thoughtful design of Uncle Goose. These sustainable basswood blocks are handcrafted in Grand Rapids, Michigan, using materials sourced near the Great Lakes. The letters and pictures are printed with non-toxic inks and come in tons of languages: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Chinese Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Hebrew, Persian, and even American Sign Language.

The Minilingo! bilingual flashcards from Worldwide Buddies, meanwhile, use playful illustrations to teach children easy words in German and English: water, milk, book, etc. (Sets are also available in Spanish, French, Greek, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Japanese, Swahili, and Arabic.) BOHS’ German Literacy Wiz spelling game helps older bilingual learners improve their spelling, expand their vocabulary, and practice picture-driven memorization. For an even simpler start, check out Yuki Books’ 100 First Words in German, which uses clear photos silhouetted against brightly colored backdrops to teach the words for dog, flower, ball, and more. Scan the QR codes throughout the book with a smartphone and it will play the proper pronunciation for each word. (The bilingual picture books can be ordered in Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, and Vietnamese as well.)

Minilingo German Flashcards

BOHS German Literacy Wiz

Uncle Goose German Blocks

100 First Words in German

Arabic and more

For toddlers three and up learning their first Arabic letters, this colorful, Montessori–style wooden jigsaw puzzle from Noorie is an excellent starting point. The high-contrast pieces have a smooth finish, making them ultra tactile for little hands. If you have room to spread out, consider Noorart’s Arabic alphabet puzzle mats. The interlocking foam-like squares fit together to spell words or form tunnels, castles, and whatever else your kid can dream up. Noorart also sells a bucket of “fun dough” with Arabic letter cutters for kids to roll and punch out shapes. Keep the learning going with Bachar Karroum’s My First Words in Arabic, a children’s book that includes cheerful illustrations of fruits, vegetables, animals, and more accompanied by English transliterations.

No matter what second language you want to introduce to your child, there’s a Hebrew fidget popperKorean letter-tracing board, or Ukrainian alphabet puzzle that can help. One of the best-reviewed products on the market, which we will get for Julian next year, is the interactive Reading Wand from Habbi Habbi. Synced with the brand’s bilingual children's books, puzzles, and flashcards, it makes Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, and Hindi come alive. Each board book is packed with 60 to 300 audio clips and every square inch—not just the text, but pictures too—is interactive. Free print-at-home activity worksheets keep the learning going—and hopefully inspire a love of language he carries with him for the rest of his life. 

Arabic Alphabet Puzzle

My First Words In Arabic

Blue Ginkgo Korean Alphabet Board

Ukrainian Alphabet Puzzle