As most kindergarten children tend to communicate with their parents at home in English, their exposure to Mandarin often takes place during Chinese lessons in kindergarten and Chinese enrichment classes during weekends.
Apart from these, Mum and Dad can help their young ones learn and love the language too by doing a fun activity together.
Here are some simple activities that you can do with your kids to nurture a love of learning Chinese.
There are only two rules to keep while doing these activities together with your child:
- Mandarin should be used as the language of communication
- To enjoy yourselves – because after all, they are meant to be fun for the whole family!
1. Take a walk through the Chinese Garden
After going through a whole week of lessons at a Chinese kindergarten, take your child on a relaxing walk at the Chinese Garden on weekends.
Encourage him/her to observe the traditional characteristics of the building and the park scenery, and use Mandarin to speak and interact with others to enhance his/her social skills, as well as to develop his/her skills and confidence to observe and think.
2. Visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre
Apart from the excursions that the teachers at the Chinese kindergarten take your child on, you can plan a trip to various places in Singapore to enrich your child’s learning of Chinese.
The Chinatown Heritage Centre is a great place to start off with, as it allows your child to understand the lifestyle of the early Chinese immigrants through life-like exhibition pieces and statues. Through this outing, you can instil in them the traditional value of gratitude, so that he/she can learn to live happily with a thankful heart.
3. Create a “Passport of Love”
A “passport of love” is a simple booklet which contains a list of activities which your child can complete to show his/her love and concern towards others. You can work on putting this booklet together with your child by brainstorming the content and activities to be included. Have your phone ready to capture the process through photos and videos so that both of you can look at those moments in the future.
You can lead by example by bringing your child to participate in voluntary activities, such as handing out rice or provisions to lower-income families, donating old items to the needy via charity organisations, and visiting the old folks’ home. By setting a good example and leading by your actions, you can influence your child and develop his/her social awareness skills to become more helpful.
4. Fly a kite at Marina Barrage
Here’s a fun art and craft activity to do with your child before you head outdoors!
Sit down with your child to put together and decorate a kite, which you can then take to the Marina Barrage and have a go at flying it. Through the kite-making and outdoor kite-flying activity, your child will learn more about the origins of the traditional kite and its significance in the Chinese culture.
5. Watch “The Ugly Duckling” at the theatre
The theatre production of The Ugly Duckling is one of the top favourite theatre play among preschool kids, so be sure to catch this together with your child. Through this show which is based on a popular children’s classic, both of you can experience the scenes as they are presented on stage and relate to the emotional changes that the characters go through. This also doubles up as a good lesson for children to focus on the beauty in others and to recognise their own weaknesses.
6. Have a go at Chinese folk-art activities
Some Chinese kindergartens such as MindChamps offer the Chinese Culture Appreciation programme to the preschoolers, but you can also delve deeper into the traditional Chinese culture with your child by letting him/her have a go at the different types of folk art.
Some suggested activities that you can both do together include clay modelling, paper dye, origami, pattern-cutting on paper, Chinese knot-tying, blue and white porcelain appreciation, as well as learning Chinese idioms and reciting Di Zi Gui (“discipline rules”).
7. Read Chinese fairy tales
Share and read classic Chinese stories and fairy tales to pass on the traditional Chinese values to your child. Some great examples to start off with include “Sima Guang breaks the jar” (《司马光砸缸》) which instils the value of helping those in need, as well as “Little horse crosses the river” (《小马过河》), and “Kong Rong gives up his pear” (《孔融让梨》).
8. Participate in a parent-child poetry game – “A pot of rice”
By reciting and understanding the ancient poem of “compassion for farmers” (《悯农》), you can play a parent-child poetry game. This is done by conducting activities that promote the understanding of the rice planting and harvesting processes, and cooking a pot of rice. From here, your child will learn to appreciate the hard work put in by the farmers and learn the important lesson of not wasting food.
9. Play board games
Parents can play board games such as Chinese chess and checkers to introduce the elements of the Chinese heritage. By playing these board games together, children learn to focus on the strengths of others while gaining a better understanding of the Chinese culture and customs.
10. Have a mini tea ceremony at home
In the Chinese culture, the tea ceremony is an age-old tradition. Gather the family and walk them through the process of brewing tea, offering tea to the elders and tea appreciation. Through these activities, you can explain the significance of the actions and instil the value of respect in the young ones.
Apart from giving you the opportunity to bond with your children, these simple activities also help them better understand the various aspects of the Chinese culture and traditions as they work on strengthening their foundation in learning the language. These experiences also complement their lessons at the Chinese kindergarten and double up as a great story which they can share with their friends and teachers in class.
Written by Justina Goh