Every parent wants the best for their children. Whether trying to learn Chinese or celebrating Lunar New Year, there are many ways to help kids increase their cultural empathy and sensitivity. Helping children see the value of other cultures is an essential step in developing communication skills and being more open-minded about change and diversity. Here are a few ways you can develop a child’s interest in past and present cultures around the world!
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The Power of Words
Language is a necessary part of social interaction. Generally, learning a new language gets more difficult as people advance in age. Adolescence is the perfect time to teach kids a foreign tongue since their developing minds are geared toward picking up the complexities of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Even with more complex languages, a child who wants to learn Chinese will have a better chance of grasping its complicated nature at a young age.
Helping a child with a new language can be a difficult venture, especially if you don’t have a history with the dialect yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to be fluent to help kids pick up new words and phrases. Parents may use common Chinese words when discussing everyday topics, helping their children create associations and grow their vocabulary in a subtle, yet effective manner. Key phrases such as “thank you” and “I love you” can be practiced each day while simultaneously supporting positive social interaction.
If there’s one thing kids like, it’s a party. Every culture has its own unique ways to celebrate important days and events. Your family can look to those dates as a way to introduce more diversity into a child’s daily life. They also offer kids the chance to have fun while learning at the same time. Seven of the most important holidays celebrated in China include:
- January-February:Lunar New Year (largest festival)
- March-April:Qingming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day)
- May-June: Dragon Boat Festival
- August-September: Mid-Autumn Festival (Mooncake festival)
Many of these events have equivalents around the globe. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, families gather together to share a meal similar to American Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, observing the Dragon Boat Festival introduces children to Chinese history through the story of the poet, Qu Yuan, and eating delicious zongzi, which are like tamales made with rice.
Eating an Education
Another great way to help a child learn Chinese or another language is by introducing them to foods from other cultures. Cooking has long been an excellent bonding experience between parents and their kids, helping them learn a variety of concepts, including logical progression, following directions, and fractions.
Not only can learning Chinese recipes help kids adapt to the language, but it also exposes them to the cultural significance of food. Different flavor combinations, ingredients, and methods of cooking each offer their own insight into various cultures. These kinds of experiences help kids see the connective power of food and how it relates to community and social identity, especially regarding other cultures.
One Page at a Time
One of the best ways children can learn a language is through reading. Picture books and simple stories offer an excellent path for parents to show kids many different aspects of a nation’s cultural life. While using a picture book written in Mandarin may not be the best way to learn Chinese, it does offer children insight into Chinese culture in a very direct and fun way. Some great options to read with your child include:
- Two of Everythingby Lily Toy Hong: A poor Chinese farmer finds a magic pot that duplicates anything placed inside.
- Mina Learns Chinese by Katrina Liu: This series of books features stories of the character’s life adventures, from her first day of school to a scavenger hunt with her puppy.
- Lotus and Featherby Ji-li Jiang: A wounded crane is rescued by a lonely girl and her wise grandfather.
- The Nian Monsterby Andrea Wang: Young Xingling outwits the legendary Nian monster with Chinese New Year traditions.
- The Story of Chopsticksby Ying Chang Compestine and Yongsheng Xuan: When gluttonous Kùai uses sticks to grab more food, all of China follows his lead.
Children’s books help kids see the variety of world cultures presented in a way they can easily understand. These kinds of interactions develop more than reading skills and language adoption; they offer kids a window into diversity they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Making Learning Fun
The most important part of trying to help a child learn Chinese and other world languages is that they enjoy themselves while doing so. A fun learning experience helps ground lessons in exciting ways, empowering children to use their new skills positively. Take the time to learn alongside your child, and you will develop a lifelong bond to share. Choose fun activities to guide your child’s cultural education, and before you know it, they’ll be having too much fun to realize how impactful it will be on their future!