Raising Bilingual Kids 11 Activities for the Year

One of the most commonly asked questions about raising bilingual children is how to encourage kids to speak Chinese, the target language on a day to day basis.  When busy parents focus on the output, that is to speak Chinese, it is very important to look at the Chinese language input that their children receive daily.  One of the most popular articles at this blog is a resource:

15 Chinese Cartoons for Kids

With this post, Raising Bilingual Kids Top 11 Activities for the year,  I want to provide a framework of  Chinese language routine.  This plan will help parents increase the minority language (Chinese) input and strength their bilingual journey.

      Raising Bilingual Kids 11 Activities | Miss Panda Chinese

Raising Bilingual Kids 11 Activities

1. Breakfast Energizer

Listen to Chinese nursery rhymes, music, or songs on a radio station from China, Singapore, Taiwan or even in the U.S using a smart speaker like Echo.  If your family is just starting the Chinese-community language bilingual journey you can use bilingual albums to start the day at breakfast.

2. Commute Booster

Your daily commute is another opportunity to increase Chinese language input.  You can continue listening to the album or the radio from the breakfast.  You can listen to story-based playful teaching resources with audio.  You can also listen to children’s Chinese audio stories.  If your family has a video player in the car you can play Chinese shows.  For non-device activities, you can use topic-focused Chinese printables and let kids trace, copy, color, work on playful activities in the car with a clipboard.

Amazon Echo Dot Chinese songs and Chinese radio | Miss Panda Chinese

3. Chinese Lunch notes

Pack a secret lunch note with a fun picture with one word or a couple of lovely sentences in your child’s lunch bag.  You can use pinyin and Chinese characters to write the notes.  You can use lunch notes printables and add your smiley face.  Even it is only one word it is a way to build Chinese literacy skill.  It is a wonderful surprise for your child and you can even add a special treat to your note from time to time to make it even more fun.

4. Chinese Play Center

Play Center is a designated area at home that is always fun to go to with Chinese language text rich materials such as fun Chinese printables, Chinese-English bilingual worksheets, Chinese book activities, craft items with Chinese words, Chinese word wall, Chinese flashcards with pictures and words,…etc.   There is a monthly theme for the center so you can introduce new concepts or new Chinese vocabulary to the play time.  Check out the 12 Playful Theme calendar printable for ideas you can use right away.

5. Chinese Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt is for kids of all ages.  For young learners who are not reading yet use picture cards with printed Chinese characters. For children who have started reading some Chinese use controlled words to proceed.  This can be done indoors and outdoors.  You can do this in your yard, at the park, or on your walk.  When the weather is too cold to be outside.  You can play Sock Scavenger Hunt.  You can several pairs of socks to play this game.  I insert a note in each sock and the kids need to find the matching pairs of notes or matching pairs of socks.  Same can apply to mittens or gloves.

6. Chinese I Spy

I Spy is for kids with all levels of Chinese proficiency as well.  Focusing on the speaking part with visual tools of word cards with pictures for young learners.  Using word cards and picture cards for early readers.  Having fun is always the key.  I Spy is a great way to practice describing words repeatedly and make them stick.

7. Chinese Reading Tent

This tent can be under the table or in a small play tent.  Be creative and have fun.  This is a cozy winter reading style and it is also a cooling summer reading style.  In the summer you can read by the pool, in the yard,  on the slide or in the park.  For younger kids, I always read to them first.  Then we talk about the characters, pictures, and the story.  For older kids, we read together.  I created Reading Drama for my children and it works like a charm in my classes as well.  It is a lot of fun when kids read with their acting voice.  I also ask questions to check their comprehension.  Reading Drama is my reading version of radio drama.  Read, read and read more in the target language!  It is the best language input for children of all ages.  If you only have time for one activity a day reading is the best one for you and your child.

Raising Bilingual Kids 11 Activities for the Year | Miss Panda Chinese

8. Chinese Game Night

Game night is always a hit in my house.  A Chinese game night is a special event with special treats and prizes.  You can have a game zone in the classroom on designated days for a celebration of your student’s achievement or a completion of a unit.  You can use the games you already have to boost the bilingual spirit at home or in the classroom.

9. Using Technology as a Language Learning Tool and a Connecting Tool

Google Hangouts, Facetime, WeChat, Line… they connect!  They can connect your children with grandparents, relatives, and friends who speak Chinese, who can be a part of your family bilingual journey, and who want to celebrate your success big or small on this adventure.  Parents can make this online connection a routine.  My kids talk to Grandma and Grandpa Panda every week.  It is a connection to the family, the target language, and the heritage culture.  For teachers, this can be done as well.  You can connect your class with a class in China, Singapore or Taiwan via video conferencing.

Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.    -Stephen Krashen, linguist

10. Surprise Field Trips

For parents, this is a really good one.  It is a surprise so no one knows where they are going.  This can generate questions, curious questions from kids.  It is a good time to use the list of question words and give short 1 to 2 words answers.  Use the field trip with the topic you have been working on with your children.  Field trip ideas are Chinese supermarket, Lion Dance school, Bubble Tea shop, museum, Chinese restaurant, a store in the mall, Chinese medicine herb shop, a tea shop and so on.  The focus is to engage children in learning outside of a home and generate conversation in Chinese with you, with the shopkeeper, or with the event performers.

11. Immersion Tour

Chinese immersion trip to China or Taiwan.

  • Chinese immersion summer camps.  These camps are designed for children who are learning Chinese as a second language or as a heritage language.
  • Chinese local summer camps.  For kids, who have been exposed to Chinese language and have been actively using the Chinese language, a local theme-based summer camp for Chinese children will be my recommendation.

My children have experiences with both the Chinese immersion programs for Chinese language learners and the theme-based summer camps.  You can pick a sports camp, a science camp, a cooking camp, an adventure camp or a nature camp that caters to the interest of your child.  It works the best when your child attends a program that s/he is interested in.  The Chinese language is there naturally and they will have fun meeting local friends and learning about the subjects of their interest in Chinese.

Y0u can find a collection of Chinese summer camps in the U.S., China, and Taiwan here.

I hope you incorporate the 11 Activities for the Year into your family’s playful bilingual year!  Raising a bilingual child is an adventure and you are going to make this a wonderful bilingual journey with consistency, smiles, and fun activities that fit your needs.

Happy New Year! 

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and playful bilingual year!

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Raising Bilingual Kids 11 Activities | Miss Panda Chinese

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  1. Some lovely ideas here. I particularly like the ideas of putting a special note in your child’s lunchbox and setting up a language station at home.

    • It is so wonderful to see how kids enjoy a special message in the target language or a bilingual one. Little things make kids feel the target language is around them. The play station is a way to be consistent with the target language input in a playful style. So glad you enjoy it. -Miss Panda

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