In these few weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, Miss 21 months has organically learnt more Chinese vocabulary and now rattles off a couple of phrases in her mother tongue (something she's never done before!) She's mostly communicated in English before now.
The proudest person must be me! I'm really pleased that Miss 21 months genuinely seems more interested in Mandarin Chinese now and no longer returns a blank look/switches off when I speak to her in Chinese lol.
Miss 21 months' interest in Mandarin Chinese started with me reading to her the 'Bringing in the New Year' book by Grace Lin, in preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year.
Leveraging her inclination to learn her mother tongue, I extended the interest by creating a simple bottle cap matching Chinese New Year toddler activity, this time to help her with familiarisation of Chinese characters. Miss 21 months recognises ABCs but has never been exposed to the strokes, lines, curves and shapes of Chinese characters, so I thought this would be a good start for her to register how Mandarin Chinese looks in its written form.
Bottle Cap Matching Chinese New Year Toddler Activity!
The objective of this activity wasn't to have her memorise Chinese characters, but to help her feel familiar with how they look so it wasn't a big deal for me to have the 'matching' done right. You can adjust your own expectations too based on your child's level of Chinese proficiency!
- Recycled bottle caps (cleaned and dried off)
- Colorful sheets of construction paper
- Thicker card stock
- A pair of scissors
- A black permanent marker
- Trace outline of bottle cap on the different sheets of colored construction paper to yield 4 paper circles
- Write the 4 characters 新, 年, 快, and 乐 on each paper circle. 新年快乐 stands for 'Happy Lunar New Year'.
- Trace 4 bottle cap circles on thicker card stock
- Write the 4 characters 新, 年, 快, and 乐 in each circle on the card stock (either vertically from top to bottom or horizontally from left to right)
- Let your toddler figure out the rules of the game
- If your toddler seems unsure, encourage your toddler to match the character on the bottle cap to that on the card stock
- Have a conversation with your toddler about what each of the different Chinese characters means - 新 means 'new', 年 means 'year', 快 means 'fast' on its own, 乐 means 'happiness' while 快乐 as a phrase means 'happy'.
Benefits of this Matching Activity
- Matching work is great for young children's brain development (Being able to group similar items helps them think mathematically and sets the stage for learning more complex mathematical concepts in the future)
- Matching allows for problem-solving and self-correction to take place, honing early thinking and analysis skills
- Fine motor development (With positioning bottle caps within designated circles on thick paper stock)
- Familiarisation and recognition of Chinese characters
- Chinese vocabulary development
- Benefits of billingualism (If your little one is exposed to another language in addition to Mandarin Chinese, more elaborated below!)
What's Good to Know about Billingualism
Between the early years, particularly ages 0 to 3, it is a time when the 'absorbent mind' makes acquiring a second language comes very naturally.
As referenced on Michigan State University's Early Childhood Development site, brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage. In fact, bilingually exposed infants can detect a switch in language as early as 6 months old! Picking up a second language can come as naturally and easily as any other skill, such as walking and learning their primary language.
What's even more amazing is that learning a second language does not negatively impact the child’s comprehension or use of her native language. Parents need not worry that learning two languages will confuse or distract their child.
This is because bilingual children come to terms with the fact that an object stays the same even though it has a different name in a different language (object permanence). For instance, an apple remains an apple in English as well as Mandarin Chinese.
Advantages of Bilingualism in Childhood
Teaching young children a second language has myriad benefits:
Honing cognitive flexibility and control. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and think about multiple concepts simultaneously. As explained on Science Alert, when bilingual children attempt to communicate, the languages they know 'compete' to be activated and used. Bilingual children must select one language and 'ignore' the other in their minds in their effort to craft the communication. In doing so, their brains become accustomed to resolving constant internal conflicts, strengthening its cognitive muscles and selective attention abilities.
Critical thinking. Bilingual children have higher volume of grey matter in their brains and bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, giving it more ability to plan, problem-solve and perform complex tasks.
Creativity. With cognitive muscles strengthened, bilingual children become more adept at thinking out of the box and generating more options and possibilities.
To follow our play adventures, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram), save our pins or join A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.
You might also like:
Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.