If you missed teaching your child Chinese during the baby stage, now is the best time to give your 3-5 year old preschoolers the bilingual advantage.
3-5 year olds can learn Chinese easily. They are able to learn Chinese words easily, and now able to form sentences as well. Like babies, they can still also easily distinguish speaking tones totally different from their native language, so starting a language at 3-5 years still has a good chance of them sounding like a native.
They are always at home and can be arranged to take daily Chinese language lessons.
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They are excited to do things with you. If it is established that a favorite adult is scheduled
to spend some time with them to tell stories, sing, color and do puzzles in Chinese, they will
actually look forward to their daily session to learn Chinese.
The biggest advantage of 3-5 year olds learning Chinese (compared to older age groups) is that
they are not afraid to make mistakes. They try new words and new tones and learn
Some Tips for Guiding 3-5 year old Kids to Learn Chinese:
Talk to your 3-5 year old in Chinese. Or, even if you're addressing someone else but your child is around, speak in Chinese as well. If you do not speak Chinese fluently but just learning, you can practice in front of your child as well. All this adds to more exposure to Chinese.
Sing with your preschooler in Chinese. There are Songs CDs in Chinese that kids will like. If you keep on playing this over and over, eventually, you too will be able to get the words as well. Some CDs have Pinyin and English translations. Non-Chinese-speaking parents will find these handy. You can also play these CDs in the car while travelling, so your child eventually absorbs the music and the words.
Read stories to your child in Chinese. Later on, you can read at the same time together. And further on, maybe your child can read the story to you. Again, for non-Chinese speaking parents, there are read-along Chinese books with CDs set that your child can use alone or read along with you as well.
Coloring pages. Have your child color pictures with Chinese words and Chinese culture drawings for extra exposure.
Watch Learn Chinese DVDs. 3-5 year olds will like watching cute animations, puppets and other kids studying Chinese in video.
Use flashcards. Flashcards are fun for 3-5 year olds. You can make up a game with it as well as the plain flashing and recitation type of practice reading.
Note the objects in house, write down the Chinese characters or pinyin equivalents of these objects on big sheets of paper and tape to the object. Your child will be able to eventually learn the matching Character or Pinyin name of all objects lying around the house.
Since 3-5 year olds are excited to go to school but some are not allowed to go yet, they are excited when you set some time for a classroom set up at home for some time everyday. We also have Learn-Chinese textbooks specially written for 3-5 year olds. You can tell your little one you will do "school" at home. If you like, you can prepare a lunch box, a name tag, and a little bag with the Chinese textbooks, pencils and crayons inside that your child can tote about the house.
Arrange for more interaction with Chinese-speaking people. Playdates, caregivers and frequent trips to shops with Chinese-speaking people all help for your 3-5 year old to become fluent in Chinese eventually.
Language milestones for the 3-5 year old Child
(Understanding and expressing)
(Source: "Raising A Bilingual Child" by Barbara Zurer, PhD)
The following are the language development phases your 3-5 year old may undergo soon. Note that kids have different schedules of learning/ doing things so do not feel worried if your child refuses to speak. Watch out for lack of understanding, not necessarily lack of oral expression.
3 years old - SENTENCES.
Child understands more of the language frequently heard.
Beginning to understand language to describe how people think or feel.
Can now follow 2-step instructions.
Can speak in simple sentences, mostly in the here and now. Now able to recount something that happened. Can now talk longer in reciprocal conversation.
5 years old - COMPLEX SENTENCES.
Now understands and speaks the language
Can speak in complex sentences easily
(Now that they can talk, sometimes they don't want to stop :-)
3-5 year olds can still pick up Chinese tones and accents easily.
Let them learn Chinese while young, use our Learn-Chinese materials regularly
and interact with your preschooler in Chinese.