I Spy is a great game that interests children and encourages them to dig into their vocabulary vault to find words to play the game. My helper, Rebecca and my son, Lucas, play a twist on the traditional game of I Spy to encourage vocabulary exploration in Mandarin. You can play the same game in your second language of choice and watch your child relish in using the words he has learned so far.
I spy is a great game to encourage vocabulary building in a second language while children have fun at the same time. With my younger daughter, my helper plays the traditional game of “i spy” with books to teach her words and have her gain confidence in using the vocabulary that she already knows in Mandarin Chinese (i.e. I spy a cat). However, for my son, we add a twist to the game as an additional challenge.
For him, I spy is a descriptive game where he needs to describe the item that he spies in a book in Mandarin Chinese until my helper figures out which object it is that he has in mind. If he does not know a vocabulary word in Mandarin Chinese for something that he wants to describe, he needs to find other words that he does know to get his explanation complete. Then, my helper takes a turn detailing the object that she spies on the page in Mandarin Chinese. They continue to play until it is time to go to bed!
How do you introduce your child to Chinese characters?
For a child used to English letters (the Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters), the concept of Chinese characters can be hard to grasp. While some Chinese characters are drawn in a way that is similar to the meaning, many characters you simply have to memorize. How do you teach a four year old these characters in a fun way? Sure, I could have her write out the characters over and over again, but I want her to love learning Chinese and have a good first experience with Chinese characters. Check out the video below to watch my daughter’s first lesson with Chinese characters.
Step by step, this is how we kicked off her Chinese character education:
Step 1: English
First, I showed my daughter how to trace the words for dog, cow and bird in English. We went over the colors first and then she watched me write the words on a piece of paper using finger paint. I painted one letter at a time and went over the sound that each letter made. Then, she traced over my letters with her own finger to reinforce the notion that letters make sounds and come together to make words.
Step 2: Chinese
After the lesson in English, our helper taught my daughter how to make the same words (dog, cow and bird) in Chinese using simplified characters. One stroke at a time, my helper, Rebecca, showed my daughter the correct stroke order for each word. My daughter traced each stroke after my helper drew it until the character was complete.
Products To Help Do This Lesson at Home:
My daughter loved playing with the fingerpaint and learned about writing words in both English and Chinese. The following video captures an unrehearsed and unscripted conversation in Mandarin between my child and our helper, Rebecca.
Turns out that learning a second language actually makes you smarter! It was not long ago when pediatricians would counsel parents against teaching their children a second language for fear of speech delays and now studies have shown that the exact opposite is true!
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found major differences in how the bilingual brain processes the sounds of speech compared with the brains of those who speak a single language. A bilingual person is better at picking out a spoken syllable, even when it is hidden within a variety of voices. For the first time, researchers at Northwestern University have documented this kind of distinction between the adolescent bilingual brain and the monolingual one.
Here is a link to the free abstract on the PNAS website for more information – warning though – it is quite heavy on the scientific terminology! If you would like to buy the full PDF it is 10 dollars. (more…)
Summary: Mei-Li is a digital “paper doll” that your child can dress up in different outfits for a variety of occasions. Your child learns basic vocabulary about clothing (i.e. sunglasses, shoes, etc.) to get Mei Li ready for a day at the beach, to head out to school, for cooking in the kitchen, to dance the night away at a party, to celebrate Chinese New Year, to play music, to hang out with friends or to go to bed. (more…)
Languages Offered: US English, UK English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mexican Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Russian or Hindi
Summary: A cute purple monster thinks up a “question” and the child needs to choose the correct answer from three choices.
Review: This app is probably our favorite. The questions reinforce language acquisition by asking from all different categories such as color, number, shape, patterns, math, and others. My child loves the concept of “feeding” this character and does not realize that she is learning at the same time. If the child needs a break from answering questions, she can poke the monster and enjoy a series of cute animations. (more…)