Top 10 Fun Activities to Practice Mandarin Chinese This Summer

Summer is already here…which means an abundance of sun, picnics, water sports and of course, lots of fun! However, with this also comes the worry that children will forget about their Mandarin Chinese language learning that us parents have worked so hard to maintain. Do not fret, we are here to tell you that children can have a splendid summer whilst continuing to learn Mandarin Chinese! We have curated for you a list of top 10 fun activities you can do with your child today.

1.       Dance to a Chinese playlist

It is always good to exercise during the summer, now that children finally have some time off! Why not dance to some Mandarin Chinese songs in the background? Some parents may think that this is passive learning and children will not actually absorb the words, however, it can actually be a super effective way of memorising information. Parents can try to dedicate certain dance moves to certain words so that every time children think of the dance moves, they can relate it back to the new words they have learnt. This association technique is a well-known phenomenon for memorisation. Here is an example of a playlist you could use for your child.

2.       Singing in Mandarin Chinese

Singing songs that are upbeat and that have a recognisable tune can help children to cement their articulation and pronunciation of words. Parents can also sing popular Mandarin songs to their children or have a little Mandarin Chinese family karaoke session. Here is a jolly playlist of sing-along songs for children.

3.       Make some Chinese friends

Although the pandemic has limited our opportunities to travel and learn about new cultures, it does not mean that we cannot gain exposure to Mandarin Chinese through meeting and conversing with some Chinese friends! How about having a summer pen pal? ‘Global pen friends’ is full of children wanting to meet others around the world, many of whom speak and write in Mandarin. You can also find pen pals based on their age or region they are in.

4.       Watch Chinese movies and TV shows

What better time to binge-watch Netflix shows together as a family than when children are free during their holidays? Watching shows is a fantastic way to pick up pronunciation and articulation, not to mention learn about different cultures too. If you are not sure which shows would be developmentally appropriate or suitable for your children, you can head onto our other blog ‘Top 10 Chinese TV Shows for Mandarin Learning (For your children and the whole family!)’ to learn more.

5.       Read Chinese comics and books together

Similar to watching Chinese movies and TV shows, we suggest that parents spend this quality time reading Chinese books together with their children. If children are bored of reading text-heavy material, you can do a family trip of heading to the library or bookstore together to locate some interesting Chinese comics to read together. There are also many audiobooks available on different apps for children to listen to which will help improve their pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese words.

6.       Camping with Chinese Games

I am not sure about you, but this is definitely one of my favourite past times! Camping is always an enjoyable, wholesome outdoor activity to do with friends and family. It is a great way to experience nature and teach children the names of different flowers, plants, insects and animals in Mandarin Chinese. To maximise their language learning in this environment, you can even bring Chinese flashcards and boardgames to play in your tent. For ideas, you can check out our set of carefully curated and hand-illustrated Bilingual A-Z cards here.

7.       Cooking Chinese food together

It is not a summer without some creativity! Why not pick some traditional Chinese recipes to cook with the family? Parents can print recipes written in Chinese and speak to children using instructional Mandarin Chinese. Children will learn lots of new terms and vocabulary in the process, and also gain some functional cooking skills along the way too! They can also follow YouTube recipes with you to improve their oral, listening and language comprehension skills.

8.       Change the language on your technological devices

It is inevitable that children will have some screen time throughout the summer. To facilitate their learning, parents can change the language on their phones to Mandarin Chinese so that they effortlessly pick up new words while they are at it. You can even change this on your laptop screens. Children may struggle with this at first, but will learn the words ‘send, exit, next, delete’ etc very quickly.

9.       Downloading Mandarin Chinese learning games

Following the topic of screen time, there are many effective language learning apps tailored for children specifically. With these, you won’t have to worry about your child seeing inappropriate content or ads, or playing dangerous online games. Bilingual Chinese learning apps such as Miaomiao’s Chinese for kids or Hao-Ming Yeh can allow children to learn vocabulary based on themes such as nature or animals. They are designed for children aged 3-8 and are suitable for parents who may not be native speakers of the language as children navigate these apps themselves.

10.   A trip to the park or zoo

Language learning can be a walk in the park…quite literally! Parents can bring children to parks to stimulate their senses and teach them the names of different animals in Mandarin Chinese. To take this a step further, children can take pictures of the things they see, print these pictures out and document them in Mandarin Chinese as part of a little journal they keep. Kowloon Park is full of plants, different bird species and even flamingos that children will be excited to see.

Top 10 Bilingual Primary Schools in Hong Kong

There are countless reputable schools available for parents to choose from, and it can often be difficult to scope out the most suitable one for your child. Parents often come to us for advice on which school to choose for their child, in particular, which through-train bilingual schools are best. We list the top 10 bilingual primary schools alphabetically:

CIS, Dalton, Han Academy, ISF, IMS, KCS, PLKCKY, SIS, VSA, YCIS

Before 2015, only ISF and KCS invested more than 50% of their teaching time in Mandarin. Now we have 10+ primary schools focusing on Mandarin Chinese. Getting accepted into these top bilingual primary schools is not easy, so it is important to start planning early especially by enrolling into bilingual playgroups and kindergartens. We are proud to be one of the few kindergartens that offer a true bilingual programme (50/50 in the morning, and English or Mandarin single language option in the afternoon), and helping children to get into these top bilingual primary schools.


Chinese International School

Founed in 1893, CIS is one of the most desirable and well-established all-through schools in Hong Kong. With only has 88 spots at entry level (4 years old), CIS is highly competitive to get into though this is not without reason. Each primary class has one native English teacher and one native Chinese teacher but students in secondary school are instructed in English, and in Mandarin for electives. When students reach secondary school they are also given the opportunity to study other European languages such as, French and Spanish. The standout feature of this school is that in Year 10, students have the option to attend their sister school in Hangzhou, China to be further exposed to Mandarin. Currently, this is not compulsory but in 2023 it will be.

1 Hau Yuen Path, Braemar Hill, 2510 7288, cis_info@cis.edu.hk, www.cis.edu.hk


Dalton School Hong Kong

Established in 2017, Dalton School offers a dual-language (English/Mandarin) primary school programme, integrating Chinese culture and traditions along with the progressive Dalton Plan. The school has a diverse student population with only 41% of students from Hong Kong and over 20 different nationalities represented. All subjects in Dalton includes a 50/50 dual-language system and incorporates both Eastern and Western principles equally within their teaching framework. Their programme focuses on collaboration, exploration and self-learning. Applying a progressive approach used to enhance well-being, arts and technology, students are encouraged to pursue their passions. Their small class sizes ensure an appropriate student-teacher ratio. Currently Dalton is partnered with Tsinghua University Primary School to provide a greater focus on Chinese culture and values. It follows an alternative day immersion approach, i.e. Monday in English, Tuesday in Mandarin, Wednesday in English and so on.

G/F, Imperial Cullinan, 10 Hoi Fai Road, Kowloon, info@dshk.edu.hk, 3612 4660, www.dshk.edu.hk


Han Academy

Han Academy was founded in 2017 in Hong Kong and offers a Mandarin-Chinese focused programme. In primary school, the main teaching language is Mandarin (80%) with English (20%) and an emphasis on excellent science and mathematic programmes. The language balances out in upper primary, with English being the main spoken language in secondary school. The main student population are from Mandarin speaking families.

33-35 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, 3998 6300, www.hanacademy.edu.hk


Independent Schools Foundation Academy

ISF Academy was established in 2003, using an immersion approach teaching in English 30% of the time and teaching in Mandarin 70% of the time in the early years. It uses all native speaking teachers. The balance of English and Mandarin adjusts slowly until it reaches 50/50 at grade 5, and then it is reversed at Upper Secondary to focus on English and IB tests.

It is a Private Independent School, which request at least 70% of students to be HK Permanent Residents. ISF has opened its kindergarten in 2016 and its children will be prioritised in the primary admission’s process.

1 Kong Sin Wan Road, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong, 2202 2000, enquiry@isf.edu.hk, www.academy.isf.edu.hk


IMS The International Montessori School

IMS is the first and only accredited Montessori Primary School in Hong Kong with multiple campuses on Hong Kong island each catering to children of different ages. They offer a Chinese language program in two streams intertwined with a Montessori approach in the Primary Years. In Stream 1, children are native or near native Mandarin speakers. In Stream 2, children are non-native speakers and there is a focus toward oral fluency here. Stream 2 classes also accommodate those who have not been exposed to Chinese before. Traditional Chinese is taught and every classroom up to Upper Elementary has two teachers; one English-speaking and one Mandarin-speaking. The school has also developed its own specific materials such as levelled readers – a program to help IMS conduct its Chinese language curriculum in line with the Montessori sequence.

Ma Hang Estate, Stanley (off Stanley Plaza), Hong Kong, 2566 7196, info@ims.edu.hk, www.ims.edu.hk


KCS Kiangsu Chekiang Primary School

This school is the first to use Mandarin as the main medium of instruction. Kiangsu Chekiang Primary school is not the same as Kiangsu Chekiang International School (KCIS), however, which is really different! Kiangsu Chekiang Primary school has a very “local” flavour (it follows the local curriculum) and its campus is also quite old without many facilities. Classes are large in size like most local schools. English – up to an hour a day – is taught by nonnative teachers. The benefits though, are that school fees are very low and the Chinese program is very strong, with traditional Chinese being taught instead of simplified. The brand has three sections – Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary, and all are based in North Point. Although the secondary school offers the UK National Curriculum and students in Year 11 progress from IGCSEs to the IB Diploma, overall it is more like a local school because of its 70% school population make up of Chinese students.

30 Ching Wah Street, North Point, www.kcs.edu.hk


Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau

Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School is a through-train private non-profit school for students aged 7–18. They have about 1,300 students. Interestingly, it does not class itself as an international school nor a traditional local school; it simply strives to offer the best of both Chinese and Western educational practices. The teacher-student ratio is 1:10 and there are about 60% native English speakers alongside 40% native Mandarin speakers. The school provides several scholarships as well and fee assistance schemes for those who need it. During the Primary years, students are provided with a co-teaching experience that is fully bilingual though it can at times, be supplemented with Cantonese too. They complete their IGCSEs at Year 11, following the UK curriculum and continue onto the IB programme in the last two years.

6 Caldecott Rd, Piper’s Hill, Kowloon, cky.edu.hk


SIS Singapore International School

Established in 1991 and following the MOE Singapore curriculum, SIS was designed for Singaporeans in Hong Kong and so its values closely adhere to Singaporean pedagogical philosophy. The school is run by the Singapore Ministry of Education so much of their teachers are from Singapore but there is a highly rigorous selection process to ensure highest quality of teaching available. Citizens of Singapore or Permanent residents are able to apply with a fee subsidy. Students learn simplified Chinese following the Singapore Chinese syllabus with around 20-25% of the teaching time, and rest are kept up with Chinese homework. The majority of classes are conducted in English. Nonetheless, it has a high standard of science and mathematics, and students’ Putonghua is as strong as those in Chinese programmes in HK.

23 Nam Long Shan Road, Aberdeen, 2872 0266general@singapore.edu.hkwww.singapore.edu.hk


VSA Victoria Shanghai Academy

Part of the Victoria Educational Organisation, which operates kindergartens as well. Children attending the kindergartens currently have priority admissions to VSA. As a Private Independent School, at least 70% of students must be HK Permanent Residents.

The primary section offers a bilingual education, with two teachers – one English, one Mandarin in the class most of the time. The secondary curriculum is delivered in English and supplemented by a strong Mandarin programme. Socially, Cantonese is the dominant language among students and parents and some ECAs offered in Cantonese. Class size rather large at 28-29.

19 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen,
3402 1000, www.vsa.edu.hk


YCIS Yew Chung International School

Founded in 1932, this international school provides a bilingual education for children 6 months old to 18 years old. Their local student population is around 55% and they have a curriculum based on the National Curriculum of England, but they do have the bonus of an extensive Chinese Language and Culture Programme as well as a Character Education Programme. In YCIS, students are given the opportunity to choose between Chinese as a First Language (CFL) or Chinese as an Additional language (CAL). Within these there are varying levels to suit their language needs and ability. English is also offered as an Additional language (EAL).

Its early years programme are taught by two native speaking teachers in English and Mandarin; in Primary stages, most subjects taught in English with around 20-25% of the time spent on Mandarin Chinese, in which children are streamed by ability.

3 To Fuk Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, 2336 3443, enquiry@hk.ycef.com, www.ycis-hk.com


We aim to help children to get into these strong bilingual schools where they will acquire English and Mandarin Chinese in all academic areas, and grow up to be bi-lingual, bi-literate and bi-cultural! Do reach out to us if you need more assistance in selecting bilingual schools in Hong Kong.

How to Raise Chinese and English Bilingual, Biliterate, and Bicultural Kids in Hong Kong

Having the ability to speak several languages is an important skill to instill in our children as globalization grows rapidly in society. Finding the ideal method to do so may be difficult.

Parents, particularly those who are bilingual, sometimes opt to have their children learn other languages through language classes. However, there is a far better method. Learning one or more languages via an immersion approach entails utilizing them in daily life instead of as subjects while studying them. These languages are being utilized as an instructional medium for math, science, and exploration time.

We also can’t overlook the other language. Dual-language programs are one of the most well-researched methods to learn several living languages. A dual language curriculum, for example, would combine learning English and Mandarin in all day-to-day life and academic content instruction.

Children who participate in dual language programs become bilingual, bicultural, and bi-literate. They not only keep their native language but also develop into fluent speakers of another. They will develop into a balanced, bilingual individual (having the same amount of understanding in both languages and culture) through more focused methods such as greater exposure to a weaker language.

“What’s the difference between an immersion and a pure language course?” some parents may ask.

  • Immersion programs are designed to teach students how to communicate in a new language without the need for translation by having them spend time with native (and non-native) speakers and absorbing the language around them. It focuses on how to utilize a new language to learn rather than simply practicing it. The target language serves as the medium of instruction for learning areas. An immersion program develops a child’s linguistic knowledge, cultural and contextual understanding, social benefits, and problem-solving and critical thinking skills in the target language; not just on the technicalities of a language such as vocabulary, pronunciations, grammar, etc.
  • In contrast, this is not the case with language lessons. In a language class, students focus on details such as sentence structure and grammar before becoming fluent in listening and speaking. Translation is frequently used by language schools to achieve faster results by converting to and from another primary language such as English.

Parents also ask “why is immersion the best way to learn a new language?”

  • Jessica Ye Trainor says the simple answer is that language can’t be learned alone without context. It is as if swimming can’t be learned by practicing on land without getting into the water. By living life in the immersion language, learners embrace it just as they learn their first language.
  • The leading brain researcher at the Public Library of Science (PLOS Org) published a study that found those who had learned a new language with the immersion method had brain waves similar to native speakers of a language. Those who trained with the traditional language class also became more native-like in their brain processing, but only the immersion group showed full native-like processing of grammar.

How does dual language and dual immersion work in school?

English and Mandarin language and culture are fully integrated throughout every aspect of a child’s early years learning experience at Mulberry House International Kindergarten. Children effortlessly absorb and enjoy both English and Mandarin as “Living Languages” in their everyday lives. There are two qualified instructors present in each classroom at all times. One leads in English and one leads in Mandarin.

Children’s language exposure takes place at home and in the playground, as well. If a kid missses out on a specific language input at home, we advocate that they make up for it in other ways. During just 2-3 months of continuous immersion, we’ve seen youngsters under the age of six years old close the gap in a weaker target language.

How do we learn in an immersion school?

  • Children will be completely surrounded by the language they’re studying. Full immersion implies that the kid is only hearing and seeing Mandarin and that he or she is interacting with people just in this language. Learners have the opportunity to hear the same words and phrases repeated in natural circumstances, and fluency develops naturally as a result of doing daily activities in Mandarin
  • The ideal situation is to group children with various language skills together so that no single group of kids feels like the odd one out or in charge.
  • The more fluent youngsters will acquire advanced phrases and information, such as how friction works. The less fluent ones will pick up basic words while still being able to learn about the world around them.

What if the child doesn’t understand?

  • Some parents may be concerned that their child will feel left out if he or she does not understand what is going on. It’s quite common for children to take some time to get acclimated to a new setting at first. They may not comprehend everything at first, but as they become interested in the class and motivated by their new friends, they will gradually pick up the tone, facial expressions, body language of teachers and other children. 
  • Students who learn and experience new words in a foreign language also develop the confidence to talk as they increase their vocabulary and knowledge. Students in language immersion programs gain “greater aspirations” for the future, greater self-esteem, perseverance, cognitive flexibility, and ambition.
  • Immersion is the most effective approach to learning a language like Mandarin. Children learn in an appropriate learning atmosphere, with the option to naturally inquire about the world utilizing different languages, as opposed to language lessons.

5 Myths about Developing Bilingualism in the Early Years (Part 1)

In working closely with over thousands of families during the past six years, we have come to notice some myths on bilingualism, especially amongst 1st time parents. In fact, we have been asked about these almost daily!

Before we begin to debunk these myths, let us first define bilingualism and language acquisition. Language acquisition is made up of two major parts: oracy (listening and speaking) and literacy (reading and writing). The goal of language acquisition is to understand and communicate with others.

Every parent wants their child to be fully bilingual and biliterate, however, depending on where they live and their expectations, families may want a spectrum of bilingualism, with varying levels of oracy and literacy. The levels of oracy or fluency are dependent on 3 types of exposures: what languages are spoken at home, at school and also at the playground or children’s playdates.

A 3-6 year old child spends their waking hours at school, and 1-3 hours with their friends and playdates, and lots of hours with family. So all these hours spent on multiple languages need to be taken into consideration. It is easily taken for granted what languages each family member speaks, yet, language is a long acquisition process, without planning especially during the early ages, you may have missed the golden window of language exposure.

Now let’s go through the 5 Myths:

  1. Will my child get confused if we start with more than 1 language?

Not at all! Not only does research show it won’t confuse children, research also indicates average exposure time a child needs is 2-3 hours per day. So if your child has 8 waking hours, a child can start with at least 3 languages at birth, provided that later the exposure time can be sustained.

Critical Period of Language Learning: 0-5 Yrs (700 synapses formed per second)

Diminishing Ability After Puberty: 12-16 Yrs+

* Research in 1989 by Charles A. Nelson, PhD. Professor of Paediatrics Boston Children’s Hospital, Published with the Harvard Medical School

This is a brain development chart published by Harvard medical school in 1989. A child’s golden period of language development is between birth to 5 years old. Before they were born, they were already listening to loads of speeches, and when they were born, their hearing senses were constantly absorbing all sounds around them. As they began to develop their tongue muscle, they were typically ready to make sounds and speak words between 8 to 12 months old. Essentially, all the languages exposed to children before 5 years of age can be thought of as native languages and there can be as many as possible.

  1. Will my child experience a speech delay if we start with multiple languages?

Possibly. Research shows that vocabularies for bilinguals frequently seem to perform at lower levels than monolinguals, the reason being that bilingual children have to learn two different labels for everything. Research by Mayo clinic in the US shows a monolingual child has between 200-300 word vocabulary when he/she is 2 years old, and 900-1000 word vocabulary when he/she is 3 years old; this number will need to be halved for each language for a bilingual child. However if a child still prefers to use gestures rather than vocalizations to communicate by the time they are 18-24 months old, parents should seek help from a speech therapist.

  1. Should I translate while teaching my child multiple languages?

If your child is under the age of 5, absolutely not. Children are learning about the world through their senses and social interactions. The best way for them to learn is to immerse themselves in a particular language and build their framework of the world and knowledge system in that targeted language. We have seen young children who are absolutely capable of learning and conversing with an English-speaker as well as a Chinese language speaker.

Follow this great quote: “Tell Me and I Forget; Teach Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I will Learn” So involve them, teach them through interactions rather than feeding them the answers by translating for them.

  1. Should I worry if my child is mixing words from multiple languages [code-switching]?

As long as language learning is done in a consistent way, in the early years a child may code switch and mix words from multiple languages. They are trying their best to express themselves through all vocabularies they have learnt, so they may end up mixing words together as well mixing up both Chinese and English words in a sentence. When this happens, don’t worry. Simply give them the equivalent vocabulary in each language.

If you are introducing a new language to your child, expose them to it for about 10-20 minutes a day, then gradually step up the time, and focus on your child’s interest and engagement rather than instant results.

  1. Should I worry if my child speaks one language more than another?

As with the above, the answer is no. Being a bilingual adult, I have realized that I rarely see a balanced bilingual person. The vocabulary you learn in different languages may not completely overlap, and depending on how much you use each language, you may get more fluent in one language than another.

Periodically reflect and assess how your child’s fluency and literacy level is in each of the languages he/she is trying to acquire. When you realize one language may be behind another, you can look into their language oracy input and output (listening and speaking at home, at school and with their friends), and also their language literacy level (reading and writing in classes). You can adjust these levels as you go, and it will be a process but one that continually improves.

After debunking these myths regarding Bilingualism and Language Acquisition, you may hopefully have a greater grasp of how to develop bilingualism in your child. We will also have part 2 to discuss other problems related to this topic in order for you to understand more about the golden window of language exposure for your child.

× Chat with us!