I grew up bilingual and it was actually something I took for granted until I became a mother. You see, we immigrated to this country from the Philippines when I was 4 years old. I was a strictly Tagalog speaker at the time and my mom wanted to make sure that I could keep up, compete and fit in. So she spoke Tagalog to me and I spoke English back to her. It was a way for me to build up my English skills and help her practice as well.

Well, as I grew up, I slowly lost the vocabulary of my native tongue. I could still understand fluently but speaking the words out loud was (and currently is) tough. I felt self-conscious about my American accent so I didn't practice. And I slowly lost that side of me.

When my son was born, I felt a hole in knowing that I couldn't speak Tagalog to him as fluently as my mother could to me. I felt sad that he wouldn't be able to understand his grandma in the same way that I could, and that he wouldn't think in two languages.

I always talk about how thinking in two languages helps me in life. Sometimes there's a Tagalog word that has no English equivalent and I have to reach deep down to express the sentiment I'm trying to say. Sometimes English just has a way of succinctly saying something in one word that Tagalog would take two or three words to express. It's a brain and cultural exercise that has helped me learn about what it really means to clearly communicate, express myself and ultimately make sure that every word I say has the meaning I intend for it to have.

So even though I can't teach my son Tagalog in that way, I still want him to think in two languages. I want him to ruminate on the meaning behind what we say and really think about the what and why of when he speaks.

Since Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world—and since Spanish language resources are easier to find in America than Tagalog—I thought we'd give learning Spanish a try. And when I found Habbi Habbi I knew it would be the perfect first tool for my 4-year-old.

It's a screen-free way to expose him to vocabulary words and the bilingual books and Reading Wand that come with them help guide him along in how to properly pronounce each new word. My son loved seeing how the "magical" wand spoke to him as he tapped it on each page of the book, even finding hidden Easter eggs when he would tap on white space on the pages. The wand truly makes the book come alive and makes the process of learning exciting and fun.

Habbi Habbi starter set: Bilingual books + Reading Wand (English-Spanish)

This starter set has everything you need for your budding Spanish speaker. It comes with five hardcover board books and one reading wand. The books are:

  • Book of First Words
  • Book of First Phrases
  • Book of Emotions
  • Foodie Friends
  • I am Kind

My 4-year-old's favorite by far is the Book of First Words because it contains all the transportation-related vocabulary he loves. It's wild watching him sit with the book and say, "El coche, car" as he taps the wand. And bonus: "coche" is how you say car in Tagalog, too (but we spell it kotse)!