Both our boys take Mandarin class at a wonderful language school here in Seattle. Although the teachers and their program are quite effective, with only an hour class once a week, we felt strongly that we needed to find additional ways to integrate Mandarin into our daily life and to supplement the weekly language class.
We take Mandarin but the following list can be applied to other languages too. So here is how we do it:
Little Pim – We test drove these videos by loaning the DVDs from the library. We quickly fell in love and ended up purchasing the videos (streaming via Amazon). Little Pim is an adorable cartoon Panda Bear. At first, I wasn't sure if I was too thrilled about this character but he is very likeable and children adore him. There are six videos in the series covering “i can count”, “eating and drinking”, “happy, sad and silly”, “in my home”, “playtime” and “wake up smiling”. Your child will learn hundreds of words for real life situations.
One thing I love about Little Pim products are the companion guides and scripts for parents and teachers. So very, very helpful.
Also, Little Pim does have a few apps for the iphone and ipad. I have been less impressed with these products so far but I am sure they will improve with updated versions.
Journeys to the East: The River Dragon King – An easy win with my son! Tells of two siblings making a trip to ancient China. So the video introduces your child to Chinese culture and slips over 50 vocabulary words into the adventure. There are also very catchy tunes that makes learning words fun and easy for you and your child. The songs are definitely a little cheesy but they do the trick.
Follow Jade – We love Jade. She is sweet and is wonderfully approachable. She has two videos – Let's Go to the Market and Let's Visit a Chinese Kindergarten – that cover many different topics relevant to every day life.
Ni Hao Kai Lan – We love Kai Lan. She is the Chinese version of Dora the Explorer. Nick Jr. has hit it out of the ball park (how is that for a sports analogy?). She and her buddies are sweet and always send a great message in what each show teaches our children. Ni Hao Kai Lan is one way we integrate Mandarin during down time. There are lots of fun activities on the Ni Hao Kai Lan website too.
Books – Our favorite books are Gordon & Li Li Learn Animals in Mandarin. There are three board books including numbers, everyday words and animals. The books are simply illustrated with cartoon characters. More importantly, the books include the pinyin, Chinese letters and phonetic pronunciation (which is hugely helpful for us non native speaking parents!). There are also books that go along with the Nursery Rhymes cd listed below and a Teach Me Chinese cd we recently borrowed from the library.
Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes: Share and Sing in Two Languages– Introduces Chinese and English nursery rhymes. We like to play this cd in the background while we play or eat a meal.
Mandarin story hour – We are so fortunate in Seattle to have Mandarin story hour at our public library and at Twirl Cafe, a play cafe. You could find a way to do story hour at home. There are Chinese childrens' “books on tape”.
YouTube – We know that children love the computer so if you can't beat them, join them. There are many lessons and songs for children on Youtube, a wonderfully resourceful and FREE way to integrate language into your daily routine! Check out videos here and here
IPhone and IPad Apps – We are not afraid to integrate technology into our daily learning and teaching routine. I work with him and guide him as he “plays” with these educational applications. See this post for a list of Chinese Apps that we love to use almost every day. Apple has added to the array of Chinese learning apps for children so we have added to our stock, like this one, for example. I will update this post but also feel free to email me at marnie at carrotsareorange dot com for additional applications.
Finally here is a link to a simple language exercise you and your child may enjoy.
Thanks for reading!