5 Kid-Friendly Ways to Learn Chinese

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Trying to learn a new language as an adult can be difficult. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn Chinese or other foreign languages during adolescence. Parents often get discouraged because they don’t have any background in Mandarin and feel helpless because they can’t teach their children directly. Here are some tips to get even the most hesitant parents involved and supporting their child!

  1.  Song and Dance

Learning through song is always a great way to pique children’s interest. No matter the language, following a tune will help cement new words into your child’s mind. Choose songs they already know initially, such as music from their favorite Disney film. Because they are already familiar with the lyrics and tune, it will be much easier to identify important words in Mandarin.


Reading is another effective tool you can use to learn Chinese. Picture books are a great resource, especially your child’s favorites. As they grow older, choose more of their most loved stories and novels. Re-reading “The Hobbit” in Mandarin will also let your child appreciate the work in a whole new way. Classic Chinese literature will also open doors to a rich, historical culture!

  1.  Movie Magic

While sticking your kid in front of the TV may not feel like good parenting, it’s actually a very effective way to help them learn a new language. Children’s programming is meant to stimulate while educating, and Chinese versions of popular shows such as “Sesame Street” provide the same edutainment to kids as their English-speaking counterparts. 


There is also a wealth of Chinese shows for kids on Netflix and other streaming platforms to make finding additional content easier. Don’t limit your learning to cartoons, either! As your children grow and are exposed to different media types, you can introduce them to Chinese language films, either dubbed from English movies or Chinese cinema itself. Even watching subtitled media is a great way to watch and learn simultaneously!

  1.  It’s All a Game

There are many ways to make learning fun, but the easiest is to use materials already designed for play! Toys give you a valuable opportunity to explore Chinese culture while learning at the same time. Board games serve the same purpose, especially when it’s one that your child already loves. Breaking out a Chinese version of Candyland will help teach common directional words like “forward” and “backward,” as well as colors and numbers. Some traditional toys and games that may help your family learn Chinese include:


  • Xiangqi Chinese Chess
  • Wei Qi (Go)
  • Chinese Checkers
  • Paper Lanterns
  • Bamboo Dragonfly
  • Badminton
  • Mahjong


There are many more traditional Chinese toys and games to experiment with, so continue exploring until you find one that resonates with your little learner.

  1. Cultural Connection

Keeping kids interested in a new language takes more than conjugation worksheets and English-to-Chinese dictionaries. To spark genuine curiosity, expose your child to the diversity of Chinese culture. Find traditional Chinese recipes that you can cook with your child, and if they are written in Mandarin, you can both translate them. 


Celebrating Chinese holidays as they fall throughout the year is a wonderful excuse to throw a party and have a ton of fun while sneaking in some educational info. Exploring Chinese mythology and folklore will also provide a deeper understanding. The classic tale “Journey to the West” follows the Monkey King and his adventures through various Chinese fables, an excellent story that has strong roots in the culture.

  1.  Create a Learning Community

Babies don’t learn a new language from a textbook; they pick up words and syntax through experience. Observing others speaking in a particular language will help reinforce vocabulary and normalize hearing words and phrases. Try to find other families learning the language to host play dates and events centered around speaking Chinese. Go to local Chinese groceries and restaurants where Mandarin is the preferred method of communication.


The virtual world offers parents whole new ways to create these foreign language learning communities. Remote contacts from around the world can get together and have chat sessions to learn Chinese in real time. Your child can interact with a tutor halfway across the globe or tour Chinese museums from the safety of your living room! A Mandarin-speaking “pen pal” may also motivate kids to practice reading and writing just to keep their long-distance friends up-to-date with American life.

The Power of Parenting

It’s also important to get involved yourself. The best support you can provide is studying with your child. As you start to learn Chinese, you can help them with aspects that may be difficult for them to master. On the flip side, your child will feel even more accomplished if they can help you understand something! Get the whole family on board and you’ll have a shared experience that your kids will keep with them for the rest of their lives.