Anxiety, Stress and Mental Health in Early Years

Children can feel anxious and worried at different times during their childhood, and many of these worries are completely normal and age appropriate. However, in some cases childhood anxiety and worry can grow to an extent where it takes over their daily lives. According to several studies, children’s mental health in Hong Kong is a rising concern, with estimates as high as 16.4% of children and adolescents facing unsettling mental disorders.

Mulberry House is dedicated to employ all resources to ensure its students don’t become a part of this statistic. For this reason, Principal of Tai Po campus, Susan Ward, gave a remote seminar on anxiety, stress and mental health in early childhood on Thursday March 3rd. With more than 20 years of experience in education, both in Hong Kong and abroad, Ms Ward has a wealth of knowledge to share on combatting mental health issues in the early years.

Ms Ward framed the lecture by outlining the most important factors surrounding early age anxiety and stress;

  • Identifying stress and anxiety in young children.
  • Parents’ role to help their children cope with stress and worry.
  • Tools needed to prevent and lessen stress and anxiety in children.
  • Importance of routines in daily life to provide safety and security.

In this blog post we will summarise the most important points for the seminar. However, we do encourage parents to join future seminars to ensure that they get the full picture of the topics discussed.

Susan Ward, principal at the Mulberry House Tai Po campus, hosting the parent seminar.

Identifying stress and anxiety in young children.

Worry and feeling anxious in certain situations is natural – both among adults and children, which makes it so difficult to spot the difference between age-appropriate worries and serious signs of anxiety and stress. It is one of the most challenging hurdles parents face when it comes to keeping a check on their young children.

Nevertheless, it can be helpful to have some guidelines for what is ‘normal’ behaviour in young children and what is not. Ms Ward put it best in saying, “The marker for anxiety is the proportion. A child suffering from anxiety disorder might be overwhelmed with fear or worry which does not match the situation (…) and this anxiety is getting in the way of everyday activities”. If certain fears are limiting your child to an excessive degree, it could be cause for concern, she notes.

This could show itself in a multitude of ways;

  • Seeking continual reassurance through questions but not finding relief in the answers.
  • Normal, age-appropriate behaviour regresses (e.g. wetting the bed after being toilet trained).
  • Increased sense of danger and watchfulness.
  • Regularly having intense or prolonged temper tantrums.
  • Continual negative thoughts and a pattern of turning positives into negatives.
  • Ongoing physical symptoms like headache or stomachache.

However, Ms Ward highlights the fact that these symptoms can be completely normal in moderation, and it is only when they become a pattern or increase in frequency or intensity that it should be cause for concern among parents.

Parents’ role.

Parents play a crucial role in both the prevention as well as the identifying and treatment of anxiety and stress. “As a parent you strive to make (your child’s) early years a carefree and joyful time. However, even in a safe environment anxiety can rise. “It is hard for us parents to navigate (…)”, Ms Ward says. Therefore, it is crucial that parents play an active role in the mental health of the family. Ms Ward means that this starts with the parents themselves; “Dealing with your own anxiety can be the most powerful thing to do.”, she states, as mental health can have a trickle-down effect on the children of the family. She mentions routines (for parents and their children) not focusing on uncertainties of the future but on the day-to-day, and having time for selfcare can be important measures for parents to ensure their mental health.

When it comes to the direct role parents play in their children’s mental health, one of the best and most simple ways is to be present and in communication with your child. Checking up on how your child is doing is extremely important as children often show signs of stress or anxiety. Therefore, being observant on their behaviour and being available to talk to your child when they express their desire to, is key. When in dialog with your child it is important to use open-ended questions, listen to non-verbal cues, and validate their feelings. “We have to remember that young children don’t have the same understanding of the world as we do. (…) It is not always rational.”, Ms Ward says. By not limiting them or dismissing their worries or fears, you’re able to open them up for further dialog about their emotions.

Tools needed to prevent and lessen stress and anxiety in children.

Lastly, Ms Ward goes into detail on tools that can be employed to help children deal with stress and anxiety. “We can’t always be there to solve their problems or provide reassurance. We need to give children the skills to help themselves” she comments on the importance of developing tools for children.

One of the most impactful ways parents can prepare their children for feelings of stress and anxiety, is by giving them the language to describe their emotions from an early age. Ms Ward cites feeling charts (charts with visualisations of different emotions) as a way to help children to identify and express their feelings. Especially younger children can benefit from feeling charts, as they still have a limited vocabulary. Instead, they are able to point to the emotion they are feeling. Furthermore, it is a good way for parents to start integrating communication about emotion into daily routine and encourages further dialog.

Ms Ward also points out that calming strategies, like the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique (for older children), the rainbow grounding technique, and the star breathing exercise, can be helpful tools to use once a child starts feeling stressed or anxious. 

These techniques may not work for every child, Ms Ward notes. Feelings are very individual and so is the effectiveness of different techniques. However, by finding the one that fits for your child, you could be giving them a life-long coping mechanism for triggering situations. Moreover, when trained, children are able to develop their ability to self regulate their emotions and stressors.  

Closing thoughts.

At Mulberry House we’re happy to be able to provide parents and teachers with resources and knowledge to better understand and cope with their child’s mental health issues, and we hope to host many similar seminars in the future. However, if you are concerned about your child’s mental health, do not hesitate to contact Mulberry House to seek further action Mulberry House is in contact with Hong Kong based services that can work in partnership to support the best interest for your child.

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,,

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,, 3612 4660,

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,

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,,

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,,

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,

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,

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

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,

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,,

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 more widespread 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 their 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 biliterate. They not only keep their native language but also develop into fluent speakers of another. They will instead gradually become a balanced bilingual individual (having the same amount of understanding in both languages and culture) through more focused methods such as giving more 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, grammars, 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 from/to 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 because language can’t be learned alone without context. It is as if swimming can’t be learnt by practising on land without going 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 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.
  • Given the chance, immersion is the most effective approach to learn 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.
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What to look for when choosing the right primary school for your child

Choosing a primary school can be a challenging and worrisome process! How do we know which Primary school is best for our children? What are the types of things we should look out for when choosing schools? To help parents make well-informed decisions, Ms Susan Ward, our founding principal, along with Ms Becky, our K2 English teacher, share some insight as to the challenges faced by parents and highlight 4 key considerations to take into account when looking for the right school.

Parents often start their Primary school search by listening to the recommendations of friends, relatives, or colleagues. Many of us might have heard things along the lines of ‘my child goes to X and he loves it’, or ‘my friend goes to Y and it’s great!’ Some of us might even have liked what we heard so much we even chose those same schools for our own children. Yet, the problem with this is that when judging a school by the opinions of others, we often get emotional opinions not factual information. How do we know that the school Emily mentioned would be suitable for our own child too? Or what about the one Susan recommended…what is it about that school their child likes? Although recommendations can be useful when researching schools, it is necessary to dive a bit deeper, asking questions like ‘what makes this school my friend mentioned good?’ Or ‘why does my friend like this school in specific compared to other schools? What is it about this school that they like?’ Make sure to get specific information on each individual school as choice of school is often not a one-size-fits-all. Every school has its own merits and downfalls, and must be considered together with the needs of your child. Without further ado, let’s get into some of these considerations…

Consideration # 1: Start with a discussion amongst your family on what you want for your child
First of all, it is very important for you to be thinking about your child and what is right for him/her and not what is right for other people. A good starting point would be looking at what your educational beliefs are. What type of curriculum would suit your child best? What about the language of instruction? Does the school adopt bilingual/dual language presence at school? What homework expectations are there? Are you a parent that wants your child to have more homework or would you prefer the school to have a more equal balance of extracurricular activities with homework? Homework can often affect the home work life balance; would you be available to help your child long term if they are in a school that gives out a big workload? Location considerations are needed too; your child will be at school 5-6 hours a day so it is important to factor in travelling times as your child may be very tired. Budget may also make or break your decision as there may be additional hidden costs involved so try to research this beforehand.

Consideration # 2: School tours and visits
Secondly, it is good to do your research online to find out more. Look at the websites of different schools…what is their philosophy, curriculum, language etc? When you have contemplated these, choose your preferred 3-5 schools and visit them. Prepare some questions to ask on-site and make sure you know everything you need to know about them. Take your child with you and try to see the school from the perspective of your child. There will be things you like and dislike about each school, but what is important is that you look for a balance in these and focus on the right ‘fit’for your child and family. 

Consideration # 3: Year of birth
Each school has a year of birth for admissions. Schools only accept children born within that birth range. If your child was born late in the school year, it could result in non-acceptance. If your child was born early, it could result in him/her not being ready for Primary school socially and/or academically. You can research this information on school websites. Remember that it is not a race and that it is better for a child to be older amongst the year group than the youngest socially and academically.Again, think about the needs of your child and what is right for their learning.

Consideration # 4: Apply to a few schools
Finally, do not put all your eggs in 1 basket. Parents should apply to a few schools so as to make sure there are options to choose from.

So there you have it! The 4 key considerations to take into account when choosing the right school for your child. We all want to give our child the best advantage possible, but it is important to make sure your choice of school is somewhere that is suited to the needs of your child as well as fitting into the values of your family. The right school for your child will differ according to his/her individual case. Importantly, remember to look at where you would see your child being the best version of themselves they can be. Looking at your expectations of education, online websites and info, cut off dates for year of birth and applying to several are all good places to start.

In March we will also be giving a live Facebook session on ‘Primary School interview readiness: 5 things you need to know’ so stay tuned to learn more!

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.

How to Manage Screen Time

With the rapid development of technology in the modern day, children are spending more time than ever on electronic devices. A lot of studies have shown that excessive use of the screen can affect the development of children, with studies referencing obesity, a lack of concentration, a lack of sleep, emotional anxiety, social disturbance and other factors. We have also heard many parents complain about their children staying on their phones all day and many seem to be believe electronic products hinder their child’s development too. Yet, internet and social media can also increase children’s interest in reading and learning. So how should parents balance this? What is the appropriate screen time for children? How can we encourage our children to use these devices effectively to learn? Can we prevent them from excessively using them mindlessly? Let us discuss these questions today!

  • What is the appropriate screen time for children 

According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Children, a child under 18 months of age should not have any screen time, though as they get older, the screen time can be increased appropriately. The following is a reference table of screen time for preschoolers.

Age Screen Time
Under 18 months – 
18-24 months accompanied by parents 30 minutes/day
2-5 years old1 hour / day
after 6 years old2 hours / day
  • How to Manage Children’s Screen Time Effectively?

1. Set a good example with your own device use

Children see us as role models, so model the behaviour you want to see in your own children. If you start reading books or newspapers, they may also follow you.

2. Schedule “screen-free” mealtimes

Family mealtimes are important opportunities to connect with each other, and for kids to learn mealtime etiquette and practice conversational skills. For adults too, mealtime is an important time to switch off digital distractions. So, you might decide to enjoy a screen-free dinner with family.

3. Indoor or outdoor activities

Lack of entertainment is one of the reasons why children stick to digital devices. Therefore, parents should provide a variety of games, such as storybooks, musical instruments or sports, etc. In addition, you should enjoy the game with them, explore the fun of various activities, and organize outdoor activities.

4. Set up a shared space

Dedicate one area of the house to electronic devices. Here is where you store your phones, ipads and other devices. That way, you can observe how long children are spending on electronic devices. You may also download some learning games and apps for them or direct them toward educational websites

5. Agree an appropriate length of time that they can use the devices

Put in place a family agreement to set some boundaries and do not break them. For example, screen time is only from 7pm – 8pm, or only after finishing homework. Treat it seriously!!

6. Discuss together about the time they spend online

Parents should accompany their child when they are watching television programmes or using digital devices. You can try to understand what they are doing and explain your concerns. You should respond actively when children have questions during the process.

7. Electronic products belong to you

Children will cry when they cannot get what they want and ask for satisfaction. Before providing the devices, parents should inform children that they are not the owners. They should ask for consent every time and return within the specified time.

The right amount of screen time is an important part. Parents should design methods in response to family conditions and each child’s personality. That way, electronic resources can instead be advantageous in improving children’s learning and growth.

Developing Writing Skills in the Early Years

How young children develop their writing skills, and the different ways in which we can support them with their emergent writing in the early years

What is emergent writing?

Emergent writing is when children use mark-making, as a means of communication. Children as young as 2 years old will start making marks for many reasons; for pure physical enjoyment as they delight in the opportunity to explore and experiment using their senses, and to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings to us. Before they can even use words to express themselves, they use mark-making to make their thinking visible to us.

What can we do to support children in their journey to writing?

Physical activities

The first thing we can do is provide children with lots of physical activities. When children are physically active, they develop their core strength, dexterity and hand-to-eye coordination. Therefore, providing children with lots activities to develop their fine-motor and gross-motor skills will help children to become physically ready for the demands of writing at a later stage.

With fine-motor skills, this involves using smaller movements of the body, such as our hands and fingers. Activities to develop these skills can include threading beads through a piece of yarn, or using tongs to transfer objects from one container to another. With gross-motor skills we are using controlled movements of our whole body, such as our arms and legs. Children enjoy playing games such as ‘throw and catch’ using a ball, which makes use of their whole body as they move and adjust their bodies to catch the ball.

Mark-making through multi-sensory activities

It is important that we provide children with plenty of opportunities to engage in mark-making through multi-sensory activities. Children who engage in these types of activities are less likely to form bad habits in writing at a later stage. Providing children with a range of tools and materials will make these sessions engaging and fun for them. This can include providing children with different coloured paper with different textures, or even interesting mark-making tools to experiment with, such as corks, straws and sponges.

Adult participation and encouragement

Children enjoy the participation of adults, so invite your child to join you with every-day tasks and activities. For example, when you are writing a shopping list or doing other daily writing tasks, encourage your child to watch you write so you are modelling the writing, and ask your child to give you suggestions as to what you should write.

Children are more inclined to think creatively in a secure and trusting environment. By praising children for their efforts and showing an interest in what they are doing, this will encourage them to feel more confident and excited to continue with similar activities.

By providing children with strong foundations during the early years, we are enabling children to develop into confident and able writers. So, let’s celebrate their achievements along the way and help them to develop into independent writers, who write with purpose and joy.

Meanings of Our Name

The Chinese Meaning of


“懋柏禮” is not only the transliteration of our English name “Mulberry”, but we also chose these three characters to convey our hope for our students to embody the great qualities these words have: 

The word “懋” refers to prosperity and hardworking, therefore during the Qing Dynasty in China, the place where the emperor studied was named “懋勤殿”. We wish our students can grow up to be curious, enthusiastic, and resilient learners in the future, and we also hope that Mulberry House will become their favorite place to study.

The word “柏” means cypress in Chinese, people in China speak highly of the cypress for its ability in surviving the coldness of winter. In The Analects, Confucius invokes this phrase: “Only in the cold winter does one know that the pine and the cypress are the last to shed their leaves”, it means that harsh environments can test whether one has a strong mind, perseverance, and noble character. We appreciate this excellent quality and hope it can inspire our students as well as ourselves.

The word “禮” stands for courteous. At Mulberry House, we emphasize courtesy in interactions between people and respect the development of different individuals. Seeking common ground while reserving differences has always been one of our most important educational goals in these years.

This is the origin of the Chinese name of Mulberry House, which contains all our expectations and blessings for this school. We sincerely hope that with our joint efforts, Mulberry House will become an embracing, trustworthy, and quality school for the public.

The English meaning of

Mulberry House”

Mulberry is a tree that has been the sign of nature, faith, and growth. Like most plants, mulberries need full sun and also adequate space to grow and blossom – it is a strong analogy for young learners who need full care and love in early childhood to grow and thrive. 

The word ‘House’ sends a welcoming vibe as a children’s place. It’s a learning environment that has been carefully designed and prepared for children to create, think, explore, and play with peers. We hope to promote relationships, communication, collaboration, and community when a family joins us.  

All of this represents a love for what we do, the importance of high-quality education, and the growth of a child.

Bilingualism opens doors

Our Curriculum

Inquiry Based Learning:

At Mulberry House International Kindergarten, children learn through an inquiry-based curriculum that focuses on hands on, active and self-motivated learning, which develops their love for learning lifelong.

Mulberry House International Kindergarten Opens in Providence Bay, Tai Po, Hong Kong

We are delighted to announce that Mulberry House International Kindergarten will open at the Mayfair By the Sea residential development in Providence Bay, Tai Po on 1st August 2020.

Located in this beautiful setting and designed with young children in mind, this 20,000 sq ft campus has brightly-lit classrooms which open onto a spacious indoor area with a thoughtfully-designed tree house and lots of inviting spaces to play, learn and discover. Complimented by an outdoor area, children can be in their element as they tend to our school garden, play in the sand boxes and enjoy the fresh air and sea breeze as they explore the natural world around them. Mulberry House will offer an inquiry-based bilingual curriculum blended with the Reggio Emilia approach, underpinned by the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (EYFS) for children aged 6 months to 6 years old. This integrated and stimulating programme develops and nurtures children into confident and responsible global citizens. Fluent in English and Mandarin, children become culturally aware of the world around them paired with a lifelong love of learning.

“At Mulberry House, we believe the early years lays a firm and important foundation for a child’s future and we are proud to be a kindergarten that offers this unique blended approach to learning in Tai Po. We are thrilled to have the support of the local community, parents and teachers to enable us to offer this wonderful learning environment to nurture our next generation,” said Founder and Supervisor, Ms Jessica Ye Trainor.

“We have an engaging holistic programme that focuses on hands-on, active and motivated learning. At the same time, we strongly believe that language development is critical so both English and Mandarin will be fully integrated into our teaching approach. This will be delivered by a faculty of talented, experienced and caring early years teachers. We are excited for the opening of Mulberry House and look forward to welcoming our families very shortly,” said Founding Principal, Ms Susan Ward.

Mulberry House will offer K1 to K3 morning and afternoon sessions as well as extended classes and an array of extra-curricular activities (ECAs) such as activities for under 3s as well as STEM Science and Technology, Music, Arts and the Forrest School programme.

For more information, please contact: Ms Faye Lin, Marketing and Communications T: +852 5598 0909 | E:

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