According to the 2016 census, at least two million Singaporeans speak Chinese, or Mandarin, in Singapore, regardless of their race.
However, many parents struggle with speaking Chinese themselves or are unsure of how to make Chinese more interesting for children who grow up in an English-speaking household.
What are some ways we can make learning Chinese fun for preschoolers at home?
Read Chinese books together
One of the best ways to introduce simple vocabulary to a child is by reading. Although this is intuitive for most parents with English books, we sometimes forget that we can do the same with Chinese books.
The public libraries in Singapore are useful resources for easy-to-read Chinese books with colorful pictures and interesting stories. The libraries even list Chinese books with hanyu pinyin separately, which can be helpful to parents. Search for favourite titles beforehand using the NLB tool and reserve books if needed.
Bonus: Ask your child’s preschool teachers if your child can bring these books to school for the teachers to read to the class together. Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment and investment in choosing the titles themselves!
Sing along to Chinese songs with your preschooler
Children of all ages enjoy listening and singing along to music, particularly nursery rhymes and other fun tunes. Many songs also have hand actions or moves that they can dance along to.
Try playing Chinese nursery rhymes in the car when moving from place to place, or at home during playtime. These songs are a great introduction to simple vocabulary and encourage children to have fun while singing them. Get involved with your children and sing and dance with them!
There are many useful YouTube channels that specialise in Chinese children’s songs, such as Beva Songs, which has a wide range of catchy tunes with adorable animal illustrations that bring the lyrics to life.
One parent, one language approach
Another way parents can make learning Chinese fun for their preschoolers is to make it a way of life.
Many experts recommend the "one-parent-one-language" method, or OPOL, for a bilingual home, where each parent speaks one language exclusively. This can work well in families where one parent is comfortable with spoken Chinese, particularly in the early years when children’s brains can absorb a new language easily.
With OPOL, children become much more fluent in day-to-day speaking of the language.
Watching television shows and movies in Chinese with your preschooler
If you are a subscriber to Netflix, Disney Plus, or any online streaming service with good children’s shows, did you know that you can switch the language option? If your children are allowed screen time, change the language and let them watch shows like Paw Patrol in Chinese!
This technique kills two birds with one stone - not only will the children enjoy watching their favorite animations, but they can pick up more Chinese at the same time in a natural story-telling manner.
Choose a preschool that has a good focus on Chinese
Our children spend a great deal of time in preschool, and the early years are so important in setting a foundation for languages. It is important to select a preschool that cultivates a love for Chinese and equips them with the tools to both enjoy and learn the language in preparation for primary school.
In Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse, the curriculum is specially designed to be bilingual, with an equal focus on both English and Chinese. The programmes include a Chinese cultural immersion unit that enables children to explore the culture through art, food, festivals and more. There are also reading programmes, supported by educational tools like flashcards, electronic reading pens, and journaling, all of which help to build your child’s confidence and ability to read, write and speak Chinese.
Interested to find out more about our specialised programmes and how we can support your children in their preschool journey?
Book a tour with us at your preferred center today, and we will be more than happy to chat with you about the all-rounded learning experience that all Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse children benefit from.
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