Why Mandarin is important for toddlers
As the world’s fastest-growing economy, the rise of China has been much documented over the past few years. This dominance has led to the rising importance of Mandarin for toddlers.
At 898 million speakers (or approximately 70% of China’s population), Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. Thus, it is beneficial that children have a good grasp of the language from a young age as this would open up a world of opportunities for them as they progress in life.
To give your toddlers a head start in learning Mandarin, here are some activities which you can do to develop an interest and love for the language during the toddler years.
Speak more Mandarin yourself
Lead by example and try to speak and read more Chinese so you can be a good role model for your child. Start small with short bursts of 10 to 20-minute chatters, and then increase it as you both get more proficient and comfortable with the language. This will make Mandarin for toddlers a more familiar language
Incorporate Mandarin into your toddler’s daily life
The best way to learn a language is to have continual exposure to it, and you can help your toddler by creating a Chinese-speaking environment at home. Apart from speaking to him or her in Mandarin, some of the things you could do are to introduce kids’ TV shows in mandarin, or listen to songs and watch videos in Chinese.
There are plenty of options for fun Mandarin songs and videos on YouTube that can captivate a toddler’s short attention span with colourful characters and catchy actions. One great example is this video, which teaches children the names of fruits in both English and Mandarin (spoken and with Chinese characters and Han Yu Pinyin):
Label everything in Chinese
You can also hang Chinese idioms or posters around the house, even labelling furniture, household products, with their Chinese names. Another method is to write your child’s timetable in Mandarin and designate “Chinese-speaking” periods in a day. This makes mandarin for toddlers much easier.
Learn through phone apps
There are plenty of applications available that turn learning Mandarin into a fun game for kids. Phone applications are also good for learning on the go and keeping them entertained at the same time.
Reading works wonders
With a galore of children’s books in Chinese that come with interactive features such as sounds and materials to touch, you can read them to your child to immerse him or her in Mandarin.
Children have the capability to hear and process all language sounds and a wide range of non-language sounds, too. As part of its ‘fine-tuning’ process, the brain establishes neural-recognition patterns for the sounds most common in the environment. This helps children pick up Mandarin faster and learn to speak more fluently.
Organise fun activities
Associating Mandarin with fun activities would also help your child love the language as well. You can prepare Chinese dishes and teach them the cultural significance behind the different foods.
You can also take the activities one step further by inviting your toddler’s friends over for a playdate and try to get all the kids to speak only Mandarin during their gathering. It is always more fun to do things with friends, and learning is no exception.
Go on fun excursions
Head out for a day of fun by visiting museums, Chinese teahouses, temples and clan associations to give your toddler a history and Chinese lesson at the same time. There are many historical spots in the Chinatown and Telok Ayer area that make for a fun day out.
Cultivating interest is important as it ensures that kids will grow up loving the language and are more willing to speak the language. Many kids in Singapore learn the language for at least ten years and yet do no not like speaking it, or cannot speak it well. Thus, it is essential that the love for the language is cultivated from young.
Written by Steffi Wee