For many parents in Singapore, a common challenge is convincing their children to proactively learn Chinese.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Children can in fact, genuinely enjoy learning Chinese. What needs to happen first is to cultivate a sense of intrigue in the Chinese language – and this can be done through sharing the many fascinating aspects of Chinese New Year traditions and practices.
Immerse your little ones in all the upcoming festive fun and cheer to get them started on a lifelong path of learning (and loving) Chinese!
#1 - Dusting up a storm (of interest in Chinese culture)
Spring cleaning is an annual activity that precedes every Chinese New Year. According to tradition, the reason for thoroughly cleaning out your home is to “clean out the bad luck” and fill the home with lots of good luck for the coming year.
Practically, spring cleaning just makes sense – after all, your extended family and guests won’t be impressed with dust in the living room and cobwebs greeting them before your pineapple tarts make an appearance!
By turning this activity into a game, you can inculcate this time-honoured tradition in your child’s mind, while getting them interested in Chinese culture. Inspire their imagination by telling them that finding dust is like finding “bad luck”. Now, their mission is to find all the “bad luck” around the house and get rid of it! Play this with your child and this “chore” could turn into an engaging and educational experience for the family.
#2 - A blooming good time
Flowers are synonymous with Lunar New Year, and this is apparent from the rush of families to the flower market (and various flower shops around Singapore) before every new year season. This is another opportunity for you to engage your child in some Chinese culture – as Chinese are often fascinated by the eye-catching blooms that are available only during the Lunar New Year period.
Teach your child the names of their favourite flowers in Chinese, then play a “spot the flower” game with them. As you walk around the flower market, see if your child recognises a particular flower, then ask your child to call out its name in Chinese. As an added bonus, give your little one a prize for answering a certain number of questions correctly – after all, it’s not easy remembering the names of flowers in Chinese!
#3 - Tossing food for good luck
Now here’s an activity that your child may already be an expert at – making a mess at the dinner table! Except this time, it’ll be a welcome mess that will (hopefully) bring luck to everyone at the table. We’re talking of course, about a Chinese New Year favourite, Lao Yu Sheng.
There’s a lot to teach and fascinate your young one with – from learning the names of the individual items in the Yu Sheng dish, to memorising the festive phrases that accompany each ingredient (although most people really only remember the “甜甜蜜蜜” phrase), to the reason why everyone needs to “lao” the ingredients and make a grand mess of an otherwise colourful and tasty dish.
With COVID-19 measures in effect, it’s important to also teach your child how to stay safe during this activity. Remember to mask up, and instead of shouting auspicious phrases, let our adorable children from NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool do it for you! Our children learnt these popular auspicious phrases and recorded each of them – so just visit this page when you’re ready to lohei and tap on the relevant Chinese characters to hear the phrases said out loud.
Your child can also learn these messages and use them to greet relatives during Chinese New Year house visits. Their efforts are sure to be met with bright smiles and praises – further cultivating your child’s love for learning Chinese.
#4 - Hear the lion roar! (Or at least, see them "pluck the greens")
Lion dances are family favourites that kids absolutely enjoy. Whether it’s the energising beat of the drums or the acrobatics of the lion dancers, this is one performance that will get your child interested in Chinese culture – especially if you take the time to explain the reasons why this dance routine is so popularly sought-after by businesses big and small.
Although it’ll be more difficult to see public lion dance performances this year, this shouldn’t stop you and your child from enjoying this activity. You can watch international lion dance performances on YouTube, learn about the origins of this popular tradition, and even have fun with it at home by dressing up like a lion and doing your very own “plucking the cabbage” performance for family members and guests!
Our teachers use Lunar New Year traditions – like the lion dance – to make learning Chinese fun. After all, children absolutely love the fun and energy of lion dances! And at our centres, we take this activity to another level by teaching students a specially created Lunar New Year song which includes many actions for our children to act out and have fun with. Interested in hearing (and learning) and song? Listen to it here.
Through this activity, children develop a love for this boisterous Chinese tradition, while improving their motor skills and teamwork.
Festive seasons are the best times to cultivate interest
Spark your child’s interest in Chinese, as well as culture and traditions – and by extension, the language – by taking advantage of festive seasons such as the Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and others. Ignite their curiosity and get them wanting to learn more about Chinese, so this subject that was once “homework”, now becomes an intriguing journey of discovery.
Your first fun Lunar New Year activity
Here’s an engaging activity that you can practise with your child today – a special Chinese New Year 手指谣, demonstrated by our little ones from My First Skool and their teacher!
Love for Language Matters
Here at NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool, we believe that the most effective way for children to learn a new language, is for them to develop a genuine love for it – and special occasions like the Lunar New Year provide the perfect opportunities for parents and educators to inculcate an interest in the language. Find out more on how Love for Language Matters at NTUC First Campus My First Skool.